IRIN-West Africa Update 338 for 1998.11.13

IRIN-West Africa Update 338 for 1998.11.13


Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa tel: +225 21 73 54 fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail: irin-wa

IRIN-WA Update 338 of Events in West Africa (Friday 13 November 1998)

WEST AFRICA: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone sign peace pact

Leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone signed a non-aggression pact yesterday (Thursday) at their summit in Conakry, capital of Guinea, news reports said.

Under the pact, the three countries, which make up the economic grouping known as the Mano River Union (MRU), will ensure their territories are not used as bases for attacks on others, the BBC reported.

The summit also agreed to revive the MRU, which was disbanded in 1989 after the outbreak of the Liberian civil war. In addition, the leaders agreed to put in place a "concerted and permanent mechanism" so that the union would attain its objectives of socio-economic integration and security.

The meeting was attended by the US special envoy, Jesse Jackson, who met separately with all three leaders to try to end the tension among the countries, Reuters reported. Jackson left on Friday for Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

LIBERIA: Treason trial begins

The trial of 32 Liberians charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government of President Charles Taylor opened yesterday at a Monrovia criminal court. Only 15 of the 32 people charged appeared. The others, including their alleged leader, Roosevelt Johnson, are abroad. The Liberian government has said it will seek Johnson's extradition.

PANA said seven of the accused asked Judge William Metzger to provide them with additional lawyers to help defence attorneys from the local Centre for Law and Human Rights Education (CLHRE).

The trial stems from a two-day outbreak of violence in Monrovia in September between government security forces and Johnson's supporters. Johnson, a former faction leader and rival of Taylor, is now in Nigeria, AFP reported.

President announces anti-polio drive

Liberian President Charles Taylor on Wednesday officially announced a national campaign against polio targetting children under the age of five, media reports said. He said the campaign had received full support from the international community and is targetting an estimated 600,000 children.

NIGERIA: New board appointed to develop oil areas

Nigerian military ruler General Abdulsalami Abubakar set up a new board yesterday for a commission charged with developing oil-producing areas, Reuters reported.

The board is to be headed by Rear Admiral Dan Omatsola. Abubakar told the board to ensure that residents of the oil-producing areas got a fair share of their areas' oil wealth. Militant youths in the Delta region have seized facilities of multinational oil firms, taken hostages and attacked the government over the lack of development in their communities recently.

The Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) was established in 1992 to ensure development in the Delta. Reuters said its formation was an attempt to stem violence there.

Texaco says hostage oil workers well

The US oil giant Texaco said today (Friday) that the eight hostages taken by armed Ijaw youths off a rig in southeastern Nigeria were well, Reuters reported. It quoted a senior company official in Lagos as saying "we have information they are in good condition."

The youths abducted the oil workers on Wednesday while they were on their way to the rig. Those taken hostage were three Americans, a Briton, a Croat, an Italian, a Nigerian and a South African.

The Texaco official told Reuters that the kidnappers had made no money demands for the release of the hostages. He said negotiations were under way to obtain their freedom.

Abubakar wants new constitution by end 1998

Abubakar has told a newly inaugurated committee they must conduct a national debate and produce a new constitution by the end of the year, PANA reported. He inaugurated the 25-member committee on Wednesday to conduct the debate, listing 11 contentious areas which the committee had to address to ensure a smooth transition to a durable democracy by the time the military handed over power in May 1999.

A national conference convened by Abubakar's predecessor, General Sani Abacha, produced a controversial draft constitution in 1995 which was never made public, PANA said.

The executive director of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Abdul Oroh, criticised the membership of the committee, the Lagos daily, 'The Guardian', reported yesterday. He described some members as "military apologists and advisers", adding he was disappointed at the non-appointment of "fresh people".

Civil liberties body urges probe of government finances

Meanwhile, the CLO has called on the government to investigate the management of Nigeria's finances since 1983, 'The Guardian' newspaper reported yesterday.

"The amount spent on transition to civil rule by Generals Ibrahim Babagida and Sani Abacha should be known," the paper said, quoting Oroh. He said a Judicial Commission of Inquiry should be empowered to summon and compel all public officers, their wives and children to explain their personal resources, wealth and assets. He urged all ministers, state administrators and public officers to publish their assets.

Earlier this week, the government announced the recovery of US $750 million from a close aide of the former military ruler, General Sani Abacha.

CHAD: Opposition calls for withdrawal of troops from DRC

A leading Chadian opposition figure, Jean Alingue, has called on his government to withdraw its troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the BBC reported today. The call follows reported high casualties suffered by Chadian forces in Congo.

Alingue said Chad did not have a defence agreement with the DRC and that there was no legal basis for the deployment. He also said Chadian President Idriss Deby had not consulted parliament on the matter, as required by the Chadian constitution.

Meanwhile, the DRC said on Wednesday it would be probing the reports of heavy casualties, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

GUINEA BISSAU: Joint commission to meet today

A joint commission to oversee Guinea Bissau's peace accord signed early this month is due to meet today (Friday) in the capital, Bissau, the Portuguese agency, Lusa, reported, quoting the rebel spokesman, Major Zamora Induta. Induta said the meeting, the commission's first, would take place in the European Union delegation building. He did not disclose the issues to be discussed.

In a related development, Senegalese Foreign Minister Jacques Baudin appealed on Thursday for national reconciliation in Guinea Bissau, Reuters reported. Addressing diplomats in Dakar, he added that Senegal did not consider rebels in that country as enemies. Senegal sent troops to help the Guinea Bissau government against an army rebellion in June..

Portugal announces more humanitarian aid

Portugal's Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday it was sending an additional 137 mt of humanitarian aid to Guinea Bissau, Lusa reported yesterday. The items consist of staple foods and 11 mt of medicines. Lusa said the aid, already in Cape Verde, should arrive in Bissau by ship on 21 November.

SIERRA LEONE: More refugees return home from Guinea

A UNHCR official told IRIN today that some 100 Sierra Leonean refugees had arrived in Freetown from Guinea. The official said repatriation began two days ago with two flights a day carrying 100 refugees. A third flight is likely to be added next week. The 1,800 refugees selected for return are mostly professionals who have asked to be repatriated.

This is the second part of an operation which began in August 1998. The operation will continue until 4 December, the official said. So far, 14,000 refugees have been repatriated.

BURKINA FASO: Presidential campaign slated for Sunday

President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso is expected to face little contest in the presidential polls slated for Sunday, 15 November, as the key opposition umbrella coalition, the Groupe de 14 Fevrier, has decided to boycott the elections, media organisations reported. His challengers are Ram Ouedrago, leader of le Parti des verts du Burkina (PVB) and Frederic Fernand Guirma, leader of the Front de refus-Rassemblement democratique African (FR-RDA).

[This update is accompanied by an IRIN special brief on the presidential elections in Burkina Faso. Subscribers who may not have received this report can request it by e-mail to with "burkina faso elections" in the subject line.]

SAO TOME E PRINCIPE: Observers said elections fair

International observers of the legislative elections in Sao Tome e Principe said on Tuesday that the balloting was "just, free and transparent", Lusa reported.

Counting is still under way, but the Movimento de Libertacao de Sao Tome e Principe-Partido Social Democrata (MLSTP-PSD) had so far won 31 of the 55 seats in parliament, Lusa said.

Abidjan, 13 November 1998, 20:00 gmt


Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 20:23:14 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 338 for 1998.11.13

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific