IRIN-West Africa Update 341 for 1998.11.18

IRIN-West Africa Update 341 for 1998.11.18


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 Update 341 of Events in West Africa (Wednesday 18 November)

SIERRA LEONE: Return of refugees suspended

The UNHCR has suspended the repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea after an outbreak of meningitis in refugee camps, an official told IRIN today (Wednesday).

The official said several cases of the disease were reported in camps in the Guinean prefecture of Gueckedou where most of the 350,000 refugees are camped. Others are in the Forecariah camp, 100 km south of Conakry, the Guinean capital.

There is not enough vaccine in Guinea to cover the entire refugee population, the official said, so efforts are being made to obtain additional supplies from the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal.

Since August, at least 3,500 refugees have been repatriated from Gueckedou to Freetown, at the request of the Sierra Leonean government. Before the meningitis outbreak was made public, a UNHCR official told IRIN that a third weekly repatriation flight was likely to be made this week.

Since the operation began in August, 18,000 refugees have been repatriated. The effort was to have ended on 4 December.

Refugees demonstrate for scholarship grants

About 100 Sierra Leone refugees demonstrated outside the UNHCR offices in Monrovia yesterday (Tuesday) protesting against delays in payment of scholarships grants for 11 of their children, Star Radio reported today. Demonstrators carried placards reading "Stop playing with our future, send us to school," the radio said.

The UHNCR office in Monrovia could not be reached for comment but an officer at the Abidjan office in Cote d'Ivoire told IRIN that candidates sometimes failed to meet the criteria for scholarships. This, the official said, often led to protests. The scholarships for the Sierra Leoneans in Guinea are funded by the German government.

The refugees are being moved from camps in Monrovia to a site in Brewerville, 24 km from the capital.

SENEGAL: Guerrillas ambush bus in Senegal, one dead

Suspected Senegalese separatist guerrillas ambushed a bus in the southern area of Casamance on Monday killing one passenger and wounding five others, Reuters reported yesterday. The attack took place near Boutighor, 40 km from the regional capital, Ziguinchor.

Senegal says that rebels of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) operate from bases in neighbouring Guinea Bissau which has just ended five months of civil war. Under a peace accord signed on 1 November between the civil war factions, a West African interposition force will be stationed along the border between the two countries to ensure that guerrillas do not attack from Guinea Bissau.

MAURITANIA: Award to anti-slavery activist

The London-based human rights group, Anti-Slavery International, told IRIN today it would present an annual anti-slavery award to a Mauritanian human rights activist, Cheik Saad Bouk Kamara, in London. Kamara has been active in advocating the eradication of slavery in Mauritania where both indigenous populations, Arab and Black Africans, hold slaves. Kamara told BBC radio in an interview that "slavery is not a thing of the past but is very much alive in Mauritania" and called for an investigation into the problem. He said he had no precise figures but added that thousands of people, mainly women and children, worked without pay and were unable to marry without their master's permission. Slavery has existed in Mauritania for many decades.

Kamara was imprisoned earlier this year because his human rights group, the Mauritanian Human Rights Association, had produced a documentary on slavery in Mauritania.

Slavery was officially abolished in Mauritania for the fourth time in 1981 and the government says the practice no longer exists.

NIGERIA: UN rights envoy to visit Nigeria

The United Nations announced yesterday that the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Nigeria, Soli Sorabjee, was expected in the country on 22 November after the previous hardline government had refused several requests for a visit. Sorabjee, a prominent legal Indian expert, said in a report issued last month that human rights violations continued in Nigeria, though there had been a marked improvement since General Abdulsalami Abubakar had taken power. He added that the Nigerian legal system did not provide effective protection of human rights.

General Abubakar approved the nine-day trip to Lagos which will include trips to four cities in Nigeria, including Abuja and Lagos. Sorajbee's request to visit the country had been turned down several times by the then military hardline ruler, General Sani Abacha.

Authorities appeal to Niger Delta youths

The Nigerian minister of transport called on the restive youths in southeastern Nigeria to stop using violence to back demands for improved living conditions, Nigeria Newsreport reported yesterday. He added that the government was not oblivious to their needs, acknowledged the absence of basic development infrastructure and amenities in the area, and said he was currently examining their demands.

Youths in southeastern Nigeria have been taking increasingly militant action against oil companies and have been challenging the government to provide them with better facilities.

LIBERIA: Taylor assures US Embassy of protection

President Charles Taylor of Liberia has warned his country's intelligence and security officers that he will deal firmly with any violation of the extra-territoriality of diplomatic premises in the country, Monrovia's Star Radio reported today.

Taylor gave his warning yesterday in Buchanan, 100 km east of the capital, Monrovia. Liberia apologised to the US on Friday for an incident in which security forces pursuing Roosevelt Johnson, a former civil war rival leader, fired shots into the embassy compound on 19 September

GABON: Civil servants to strike over pay

Gabon's civil service union, USAP, has announced a general and unlimited strike beginning today to press demands for higher wages, better conditions of service and an overhaul of the government administration, AFP reported. Union Chairman Christian Bitouga told AFP the 36,000-member union was taking the action because the government had ignored its demands.

The strike coincides with campaigning for the first round of presidential elections set for 6 December. The union said the strike had no political motive but missionary sources said the strike was backed by the the main opposition party, the Rassemblement National des Bucherons (RNB), led by Paul Mba Abessole.

Abidjan, 18 November 1998, 18:45 gmt


Date: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 18:57:46 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 341 for 1998.11.18 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific