IRIN-West Africa Update 343 for 1998.11.20

IRIN-West Africa Update 343 for 1998.11.20

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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IRIN-WA Update 343 of Events in West Africa (Friday 20 November)

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG capture 35 rebels on island near Freetown

The West African intervention force, ECOMOG, has killed five rebels and captured 35 others in an attack on the island of Tasso, 20 km from port capital of Freetown, Reuters reported yesterday (Thursday).

The island's 5,000 residents fled into the surrounding bush following Monday's attack by ECOMOG, the report added.

Tasso, a farming community, is the closest rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have come to Freetown since they and their allies, the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), were expelled from the capital in February by ECOMOG. The rebels have been mostly active in the east and north of the country.

Tasso lies 13 km from Lungi, the main ECOMOG base and site of the country's only international airport.

Authorities consider amnesty for rebels

Sierra Leonean authorities say they are considering amnesty for rebels who lay down their arms, the BBC reported yesterday. It said this measure would allow the rebels to leave the country.

However, President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah told the BBC that rebels who commit very serious offenses would be tried in court. The leader of the RUF, Foday Sankoh, is currently appealing a death sentence.

The government executed 24 military officers for treason on 19 October because of their active support for the ousted AFRC military junta and the RUF.

NIGERIA: Military to repeal detention law

Nigeria's government will repeal a security decree that authorises detentions without trial as part of the on-going political liberalisation process, AFP reported yesterday.

The agency quoted military ruler General Abdulsalami Abubakar saying in the western city of Ibadan that "all Draconian decrees would be expunged". He said since coming to power on 2 June none of the decrees had been applied. Abubakar's successor, General Sani Abacha, had dozens of human rights campaigners arrested under the decrees.

The government has asked political exiles to return home and take part in the democratisation process. However, many have felt it unsafe to do so without the repeal of the decrees.

Abubakar announces development plan for delta

Abubakar announced a big development programme for the troubled Niger Delta which would include the building of new roads, BBC reported yesterday. Abubakar was speaking in the eastern city of Port Harcourt on Wednesday, a day after Ijaw militants released eight Texaco oil workers they held hostage.

Ijaw youths have been seizing oil flow stations and taking hostages in a bid to press the government develop the deprived, but oil-rich region. Abubakar told residents in the area to exercise more patience because the region's problems could not be solved quickly.

This was his first visit to the area since coming to power.

Senior British military officer visit

Britain's assistant chief of defence staff, Major General Christopher Drewry, leaves Nigeria today (Friday) after a three-day visit to demonstrate Britain's support for the ongoing democratic transition in the country, a British Defence Ministry official told IRIN.

The official said that Drewry was also to offer a place to one Nigerian officer for a course in January at Britain's Royal College of Defence Studies. The course fits into an European Union (EU) common position that supports respect for democracy, the official said.

An EU ban on military contacts and combat training with Nigeria has been in force since 1995 and will not be reconsidered until just before the country returns to civilian control in May 1999, the official said. However, high-level contacts of military personnel are now permitted following Nigeria's progress in respect for human rights and its efforts to return the country to democracy.

Campaigners seek greater access to safe abortions

Health campaigners said on Thursday Nigerian women needed greater access to safe abortions to reduce deaths and complications caused by unsafe practitioners, AFP reported.

It quoted a report by the Nigerian Campaign Against Unwanted Pregnancies (CAUP) and the US-based Alan Guttmacher Institute that shows 610,000 abortions, 25 per 1,000 women aged between 15-44, are performed every year in Nigeria.

The report says Nigeria's abortion rate is higher than in the United States.

Of this number of abortions, the report says, 60 percent are performed by non physicians often under unsanitary conditions.

Although abortion is illegal in Nigeria, unless it is to save a woman's life, the practice is widely tolerated.

The CAUP report was published in December 1998 issue of International Family Planning Perspectives. It was based on a survey of practices in 672 hospitals and private practices across Nigerian from May 1996 to October 1997, the group said. Its findings were endorsed by the Nigerian Medical Association and the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, it said.

GUINEA BISSAU: Truce holding but fragile

Rebel leader Ansumane Mane warned in a radio address yesterday that one violation of the ceasefire could trigger a fresh round of fighting, Lusa reported. Mane complained about the deployment on the front of 350 young recruits "forcibly enrolled in the government troops" who had fired gunshots last night in Bissau.

President of Guinea Bissau Joao Bernardo Vieira said he had no plans to quit power, AFP reported, quoting a Senegalese daily 'Le Soleil'. "I am an elected president and my mandate is still running. It is still too early to talk about leaving. What if the people ask me to stay." Vieira said.

UNITED NATIONS: Security Council adopts resolution on treatment of refugees

The UN Security Council yesterday adopted unanimously two resolutions, one on the status and treatment of refugees and the other on the flow of illicit arms, in particular small arms, in a bid to promote peace and sustainable development in Africa.

The resolution on the protection of refugees supported the use of military and police units, and personnel trained for humanitarian operations, as well as related equipment, to help maintain the security and the civilian character of refugee camps and settlements.

The Council also called upon African States to further develop institutions and procedures to implement international law on the status and treatment of refugees. The Council called on the need to relocate refugees at a reasonable distance from the frontiers of their country of origin and the separation of refugees from persons who did not qualify for international protection.

The second Security Council resolution urged nations to restrict arm sales to African countries embroiled in conflict and urged African governments to pass laws restricting the possession and use of arms.

Governments to assess progress against desertification

A UN press release announced that officials from 150 countries were scheduled to meet in Dakar, Senegal, from 30 November to 11 December, to report on their activities to curb land degradation and reduce the effects of drought.

The UN estimates that approximately US $42 billion was lost in annual income in areas affected by desertification. Desertification has its greatest impact in Africa where two-thirds of the continent is desert or dryland.

Arba Diallo the Executive Secretary of the Convention said: "Reversing desertification is going to be a hard long struggle, but progress will come quicker through the public scrutiny of governments". According to the 1994 Convention, affected countries must promote "bottom-up" participation and adapt their legal, institutional and policy frameworks so that local communities could engage actively in national efforts to combat dryland degradation.

Abidjan, 20 November 1998 17:00 GMT


Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1998 17:07:56 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> ubject: IRIN-West Africa Update 343 for 1998.11.20 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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