IRIN-West Africa update 349 for 1998.11.30

IRIN-West Africa update 349 for 1998.11.30


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

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IRIN-WA Update 349 of Events in West Africa (Monday 30 November)

GUINEA BISSAU: Diplomats say call for Vieira's resignation not binding

Efforts by Guinea Bissau's parliament to force President Joao Bernardo Vieira to resign are contrary to the Abuja peace accord which ended five months of civil war, African diplomats told IRIN today (Monday).

"This is interfering with the Abuja Accords. If anything, it disrupts this schedule," one diplomat said.

Under the accord Vieira, who has refused to resign, is to head a government of national unity, which has still to be formed, until elections in March 1999 which he will not contest.

The diplomat said the parliament was a marginal force and another diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the parliamentary motion was non-binding.

The motion, which accused Vieira of violating the constitution by declaring a state of siege and by calling in Senegalese and Guinean troops to put down an army revolt without consulting parliament, was adopted unopposed on Friday at the parliament's first session since the mutiny on 7 June.

Parliament contends that there are no joint defence agreements between Senegal and Guinea and Guinea Bissau which Vieira invoked when he called in the foreign troops.

EU pledges reconstruction aid

The European Commissioner, Joao de Deus Pinheiro, assured a delegation from the Guinea Bissau parliament on Thursday that the EU would help the country rebuild once a firm peace was re-established, Lusa reported. The four-member delegation, composed of ruling party and opposition legislators, also asked the EU to press Vieira to implement that part of the Abuja Peace Accord that calls for the withdrawal of foreign troops shoring up the government.

Immunisation campaign to begin today

A UNICEF immunisation effort, disrupted by fighting, is due to resume in Guinea Bissau today, OCHA said in a report outlining the current military, political and humanitarian situation in the country.

The full report OCHA report can be found on

The campaign, which will run through 10 December, is being undertaken with MSF and will benefit 10,625 children, 10,000 pregnant women and 16,500 women of childbearing age.

As of 26 November, 2,000 litres of kerosene needed for the cold chain for the immunisation campaigns were to have been moved from Senegal to Guinea Bissau.

UNICEF has also cleaned five wells and built seven public latrines in Safim, five km north of Bissau. As a result, the agency said, there has been a "considerable improvement" in sanitation for the estimated 12,000 displaced from Bissau, the Guinea Bissau capital. In addition, a UNICEF contractor is repairing the water supply system in Bafata, 100 km east of Bissau. Meanwhile, UNICEF continues to provide water to the town's hospital by truck from Gabu, 60 km farther east.


OCHA said the WFP has flown 50 humanitarian daily rations to Bafata for trial in two schools. UNICEF has agreed to provide food to encourage teachers and schoolchildren to return, OCHA said, and 114 mt of UNICEF humanitarian dry rations (HDR) and other basic foodstuffs in Dakar will be transported to Guinea Bissau by WFP. This follows meetings in Gabu and Bafata to re-establish parent/teacher associations and mobilise community leaders to reopen primary schools, OCHA said.

UNICEF returns to Guinea Bissau

All UNICEF national staff have returned to their duty stations in Guinea Bissau and most other UN agencies now have a continued presence in the country, OCHA said. It said that all UN agencies would share common premises which will help coordination and make the collective response more effective. The agencies are WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP and OCHA.

Situation of refugees

Outside Guinea Bissau, in the Senegalese town of Thies, 903 registered refugees are being provided with health, educational and nutritional needs. Students are being taught from local administration buildings which, OCHA said, were not in good condition. However, there are enough school books and other educational materials.

A breakfast service has been re-established with twice weekly standard rations and sugared rice porridge for the other days. However, OCHA said, milk was still required.

NIGERIA: Electoral chief casts doubts on voters list

The head of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Ephraim Akpata, said yesterday many of the names appearing in a newly compiled electoral list for the forthcoming local government elections slated for 5 December were "fictitious", news organisations reported, quoting the Nigerian press. AFP quoted Akpata as saying that " ... I have a strong suspicion that quite a number are fictitious names, because of the malpractices that marked the registration exercise". It said that nearly 60 million names were on the list, while the electoral commission had estimated that the total electorate would not exceed 40 million. AFP reported that during the registration exercise, INEC officials and others had complained about the attempted bulk purchase of voter cards by representatives of political parties.

Diplomatic sources in Lagos told IRIN today that the international community was encouraged by all the changes ushered in by the Nigerian leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. One of the sources said it did not expect a perfect poll but so far as it reflected the will of the people in its choice of a new leadership it would be "acceptable". The source said that Nigerians seemed more satisfied with the electoral process now than in 1993 and that INEC's openness in dealing with problems and concerns had given the organisation credibility.

Special Rapporteur on human rights meets president

The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Nigeria, Soli Sorabjee, was scheduled today to meet Abubakar, in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. An official with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva told IRIN today that Sorabjee's visit was continuing smoothly. He had visited the northern Nigerian cities of Kaduna and Kano over the weekend and was in the eastern city of Port Harcourt on Thursday last week where he visited Ogoniland and the parents of the executed human rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa, an advocate for the Ogonis' rights to a clean and safe environment in southeastern oil-rich Nigeria, was executed in November 1995,

The Nigerian daily 'The Guardian' quoted Sorabjee as saying of the relationship between the host communities and oil companies that: " I am here to see that the damage is being minimised, and to persuade the oil companies to get more into development projects in consultation with the community leaders and let them have a sense of participation."

However, Nigerian human rights organisations criticised Sorabjee for being too lenient with the military authorities' stand on human rights in Nigeria, radio station Africa No. 1 said on Friday. Gani Fawehinmi, coordinator of the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), and Abraham Adesanya, deputy chairman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), accused the UN Rapporteur of being too close to the military and declined to honour any invitation extended by the UN. JACON and NADECO, both southern-based organisations, have been fighting for the return to democracy.

The UN official in Geneva said the purpose of Sorajbee's first trip to Nigeria was to strike a balance between establishing good contacts with the government and being open to a wide-range of civil society representatives. He was "opening the way" for further contacts and discussions, the official added.

Carter Center to send observers

The US-based Carter Center announced that the former US president and head of the center, Jimmy Carter, would lead a team of international electoral monitors to Nigeria, AFP reported, quoting the 'Post Express Wire' on Monday. The team is expected to monitor the elections on Saturday and then return for the state governorship and state assembly elections in January. It would also monitor the national assembly and presidential elections scheduled for February.

GABON: Presidential candidate accused of gun running

A representative of a Gabonese opposition coalition, the Haut Conseil de Resistance (HCR), has accused presidential candidate Pierre Mamboundou of bringing arms into the country and to be preparing for an urban uprising during the presidential election slated for 6 December, AFP reported on Friday last week. Aloise Obame said "under Mamboundou's instructions, he had personally participated in the purchase of 50 containers of small arms in the neighbouring country of Congo (Brazzaville)". He added that the intent was to destabilise and discredit the current government. Mamboundou, leader of the Union du peuple gabonais (UPG), denied the accusations which he described as a "pack of lies". AFP quoted him as saying that: "he was under fire because he was the only credible candidate who could challenge" the incumbent President Omar Bongo who has been head of state since 1967.

Meanwhile, the Gabonese National Communication Council banned the publication of opinion polls from today to 6 December, PANA reported. The council, whose mandate is to ensure media balance towards the country's political groups during election campaigns, said the publication, distribution and commentaries on opinion polls would be prohibited during the given period.

In a related development, PANA reported that a national seminar intended for local observers and monitors opened today in Libreville, the capital of Gabon, to finalise arrangements for the smooth running of elections.

WEST AFRICA: Annan appeals for settlement of Africa's crises

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has told the France-Africa summit that "collective efforts" are needed to settle Africa's wars so the continent can get on with economic and social development, the UN has said.

"In too many parts of the continent, ethnic divisions continue to obstruct economic progress and good governance, making every peace fragile and every division explosive," he told the Paris summit on Friday.

Nigeria, Annan said, offered an example of an African country working constructively to solve its internal problems. He said Nigeria's ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, had "chosen the route of genuine democracy and the rule of law."

MAURITANIA: EU grants US $3.4 million in food aid

The European Union has allocated food aid worth US $3.4 million to Mauritania to cover the next three years, AFP reported on Sunday, quoting official sources in the capital, Nouakchott. The sources said the sum was the first part of a total payment whose value had still to be decided. The allocation is designed to ensure food security for the largely desert country of some 1.03 million square km.

Abidjan, November 30, 1998, 1730 GMT


Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998 09:24:32 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa update 349 for 1998.11.30

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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