IRIN-West Africa Update 348 for 1998.11.27

IRIN-West Africa Update 348 for 1998.11.27


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

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IRIN-WA Update 348 of Events in West Africa (Friday 27 November)

NIGERIA: Return to democracy faces rough ride

Nigerians are scheduled to cast their ballot on 5 December to elect their local government council members in a first step towards democracy in Nigeria. Akin Akingbulu of the Independent Journalist Centre in Lagos told IRIN today (Friday) that preparations were in full swing and unfolding "smoothly". He said there was good collaboration between the registered political parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in addressing problems and concerns on the preparation of the elections.

Akingbulu said INEC had made some concessions on the age requirement for the chairman of local councils and fought down a decree on elections to be promulgated by the Nigerian supreme ruling body, the Provisional Ruling Council. The electoral body also extended the deadline for the submission of the list of candidates. Election monitors have begun a training programme on their roles and responsibilities during the polls, he added. The local government elections are crucial to the political parties as they have to receive 20 percent in a majority of states to qualify for the next phase.

However, the electoral process has been marred by logistical problems such as the lack of enough registration cards, the Nigerian newsreport said today. It quoted the Nigerian Information Minister, John Nwodo, as saying that the main problem was logistics. He said everybody was making an effort but Nigeria was a big country and organising elections was not easy. Other sources feared that the chronic fuel shortage in the country could hamper the transport of voters.

The three main political parties are the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the Alliance for Democracy and the All People's Party (APP).

The local government elections would be followed by the state assembly and gubernatorial elections then by parliamentary and presidential elections.

Advance Commonwealth party team arrives

A 17-strong team of officials from the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth local government forum would be present in Nigeria to monitor the local elections, according to a Commonwealth press release received by IRIN today. An advance team arrived in Lagos earlier in the week to meet with INEC officials and complete practical arrangements prior to the arrival of the full team.

The release quoted the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, as saying that he hoped that "the important electoral phase of Nigeria's transition phase which opens on 5 December, will culminate in a credible transition to civilian democratic rule... The Commonwealth will continue to do all it can to assist Nigeria realise that objective".

In a related development, the Nigerian High Commission (embassy) in Canada reopened its doors more than two years after it was closed in 1996 following strained relations over the execution of nine human rights activists, according to the Voice of Nigeria external service.

SIERRA LEONE: Some 120,000 infected with HIV

Some 125,000 Sierra Leoneans are infected with AIDS, the national coordinator for the control of the disease, Dr. Andrew Kosia, has said, AFP reported yesterday (Thursday).

He said the figure represented 5.5 percent of the sexually active population in this nation of 4.5 million people. He said 300 people had died of the disease since 1987, when it was first reported in the country.

However, in a country fact sheet published in June, WHO estimates that 68,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 1997. The UN agency puts the number of dead at 54,000 since the beginning of the epidemic. Kosia said the government and WHO were running a public educational campaign on the disease.

Bishop makes radio contact with abducted priest

The Roman Catholic bishop of Makeni, in northern Sierra Leone, Giorgio Biguzzi, made radio contact today with the abducted priest, Mario Guerra, missionary sources said.

Guerra, 64, was abducted on 15 November from his Kamalo home in the Makeni diocese, some 140 km northeast of Freetown, by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The rebels are demanding a satellite telephone and medical supplies and their commander, Solomon Musa, to be allowed to speak to his wife, who is in Freetown, over radio telephone before they release Guerra.

An Italian delegation arrived recently in Freetown, the capital, to try to secure Guerra's release. However, Sierra Leone Deputy Defence Minister Hinga Norman has ruled out negotiating with the kidnappers.

WEST AFRICA: Drought body meets to plan sharper focus for agency

Ministers of the Inter-State Committee on Drought Control in the Sahel, known by its French acronym CILSS, end a two-day extraordinary meeting today in Banjul, The Gambia, called to plan for sharper focus in the agency's activities in 1999-2001, the Gambia News Agency (GAMNA) reported.

The news agency said CILSS coordinator Musa Mbenga told participants from the nine member countries that the sub-regional body wanted to streamline its methods and promote its image without departing from its traditional rigour and flexibility.

He added: "We still need the dedication, determination and know-how of our populations and states in order to reach the goal we have set for the Sahel: a green Sahel that is democratic, peaceful, productive and competitive."

Mbenga, The Gambia's secretary of state for agriculture (minister), was speaking at the opening of the meeting yesterday. The meeting was due to adopt new staff rules, a special programme with the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), and discuss the appointment of the director-general of the Agromet Regional Centre and the Sahel Institute.

CILSS, based in the Malian capital of Bamako, groups Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.

WEST AFRICA: Press watchdog denounces human rights violations

The Paris-based press watchdog, Reporters Sans Frontieres, in an open letter received by IRIN today, called on French President Jacques Chirac to use his influence during the Franco-African summit to release detained journalists and advocate for the freedom of the press. The statement cited 10 countries where journalists were being detained for carrying out their job. In West Africa, it singled out Togo, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania as violating the freedom of expression.

The two-day Franco-African summit, attended by more than 35 African heads of state, began in Paris today.

Abidjan, November 27, 1998 1730 GMT


Date: Fri, 27 Nov 1998 17:46:06 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 348 for 1998.11.27

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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