IRIN-West Africa Update 340 for 1998.11.17

IRIN-West Africa Update 340 for 1998.11.17


Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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IRIN-WA Update 340 of Events in West Africa (Tuesday 17 November)

SIERRA LEONE: Italian missionary abducted

An Italian Xaverian missionary, Reverend Mario Guerra, was abducted on Sunday in northern Sierra Leone by the Revolutionary United Front(RUF) rebels, missionary sources said. They said Guerra, 64, who comes from Reggio Emilia, was kidnapped at Kamalu, in Makeni diocese. The area is under the control of the West African intervention force, ECOMOG. The force was unable to comment on the abduction.

AFP reported yesterday (Monday) that rebels had sharply increased their attacks in the north and east of Sierra Leone since 43 people were condemned to death late October and the public execution of 24 soldiers near Freetown, the capital.

NIGERIA: Oil workers released

A spokesman for the oil company, Texaco, in London told IRIN today (Tuesday) that eight of its workers, who had been taken hostage, last week by a group of militant youths had been released unharmed. The spokesman said the oil workers appeared to have been treated well adding that no ransom had been paid to the kidnappers.

He added that discussions between the Nigerian government, the local communities and Texaco were on-going in an attempt to avoid further incidents and were looking at how to address some of the demands laid down by host communities. They are demanding for amenities, infrastructure and community-based projects.

The spokesman added that Texaco had lost an entire month's production in 1998 following acts of sabotage and other incidents.

The eight, who include seven expatriates and one Nigerian, were taken off an oil rig by youths from the ethnic Ijaw community demanding a greater share of the oil wealth produced in the delta.

Militant Ijaw groups have been taking action against oil companies in protest against environmental damage and lack of amenities.

Security beefed up at Warri air strip

Security was strengthened at the Warri air strip in southeastern Nigeria following the hijack of a helicopter by a group of youths, believed to be mainly Ijaws, who allegedly made away with huge sums of money, the Nigerian daily 'The Guardian' reported yesterday.

Armed mobile police detachments were seen at the weekend at the entrances of the departure and arrival terminals of the air strip. The beefing up of security in the oil-town of Warri follows Nigerian leader General Abdulsalami Abubakar's decision to improve security in the troubled Niger Delta. It was reported last week that youths had hijacked a helicopter carrying bags of money to pay salaries of staff based in Warri.

A local source told IRIN that the airstrip in Warri was vulnerable as it was in the heart of the city and enjoyed little protection.

GUINEA BISSAU: ECOMOG troops not ready, calls for humanitarian aid

General Timothy Shelpidi, the commander of the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, said its troops were not ready to deploy in Guinea Bissau citing financial constraints, media agencies reported yesterday. AFP quoted Shelpidi speaking at a press conference after a three-day reconnaissance mission in Guinea Bissau, as saying that: "We are not like the US who can deploy troops in 24 hours". He added that ECOMOG needed financial support before deploying troops on the ground saying that it was very "expensive to deploy" peacekeepers. ECOMOG troops are expected to replace the Senegalese and Guinean troops according to the Abuja peace accords signed earlier in the month. The Gambia, Niger, Benin and Togo have pledged troops to the ECOMOG force in Guinea Bissau.

Meanwhile, Shelpidi appealed yesterday for international aid for thousands of people displaced by fighting earlier in the year, news organisations reported. Shelpidi quoted by Reuters said: "There is an urgent need for countries and the international community to address the humanitarian crisis in Bissau. People need food, medicines, clothing and tents." He added that life was returning to normal, but there were big problems with displaced refugees who needed urgent assistance.

A UN source in Dakar said the humanitarian needs were great and a UN consolidated appeal, a funding document, would be issued shortly detailing the various needs.

LIBERIA: Senate accuses security services of harassment

Liberia's Senate said on Monday state security forces were responsible for the frequent and widespread harassment of civilians, even judges, news reports said.

In a statement, the senators said yesterday security forces often extorted money from market workers and businessmen at checkpoints and commercial centres, according to the reports. "Even our members have constantly been subjected to harassment by members of the security," the senators were quoted as saying.

Harassment and police brutality has also been extended to judges and court officials, PANA reported. Criminal court Judge William Metzger enumerated, last week, several incidents of maltreatment and even physical violence against the judiciary.

Local newspapers have reported extensively on the brutality inflicted on the public by the Special Safety Unit (SSU), responsible for VIP protection.

Hundreds of refugees relocated

Some 800 Sierra Leonean refugees in Monrovia's Congo-town district are being relocated in compliance with a presidential order to clear the capital of displaced people, Star Radio reported today (Tuesday). It said the Liberian Resettlement Commission moved 200 refugees to Brewerville, yesterday.

In September, President Charles Taylor ordered all camps for the 75,000 internally displaced (IDPs) people closed and for the commission to ensure people returned to their communities to farm. The agency said it needed US $500,000 to resettle IDPs and that the government needed to make this a priority.

GABON: President mulls closing borders to combat arms flow

Gabonese President Omar Bongo said he feared "urban guerrilla" warfare could be mounted by the losers of forthcoming elections slated for December and had considered closing his country's borders, according to the weekly magazine 'Jeune Afrique'.

He said the 1997 war in Congo-Brazzaville had caused the "spread of a large number of arms in the country" through the southern border. He said he would write to the heads of state of all neighbouring countries to warn them that after a certain date, the borders would be closed.

Bongo reiterated his warning to opposition groups that he would be "ruthless" if violence erupted after the elections. Opposition parties have reportedly said that if they lost in the elections, they would take up arms.

Elections are slated for 6 December.

MAURITANIA: New prime minister appointed

Mauritanian President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya has appointed the current foreign minister, Cheik El Avia Ould Mohamed Khouna, as prime minister and asked him to form a new government, Reuters reported yesterday.

Quoting state radio, the agency said that Khouna, a close associate of the president, replaced Mohamed Lamine Ould Guig, who has held the premiership since December 1997. The radio gave no explanation for the change.

The BBC quoted correspondents as saying that Khouna, who is an economist, might have been reappointed to help debt relief negotiations with the IMF and World Bank.

NIGER: UN calls for flood aid relief to Niger

The United Nations General Assembly has called on the international community to provide relief and rehabilitation aid to Niger's flood victims, the UN said in a statement yesterday.

The General Assembly's 53rd session was responding to an appeal for international help made by the Niger government on 19 August. The Assembly called on specialised agencies and UN bodies as well as financial institutions and NGOs "to extend generous assistance" to Niger. It called on the UN Secretary-General to mobilise and coordinate the humanitarian relief effort.

Abidjan, 17 November 1998, 18:00 GMT


Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 12:26:54 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 340 for 1998.11.17 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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