IRIN-West Africa Update 351 for 1998.12.2

IRIN-West Africa Update 351 for 1998.12.2


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

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IRIN-WA Update 351 of Events in West Africa (Wednesday 2 December)

NIGERIA: Electoral decrees pave way for local elections

Nigerian leader General Abdulsalami Abubakar signed into law yesterday (Tuesday) four decrees crucial to local elections on 5 December and guaranteeing the independence of the electoral commission, news organisations reported. The decrees signed were: the Transition to Civil Rule decree (Political Programme), the Local Government decree (Basic constitutional and transitional provisions), the Political Parties decree (registration and activities) and the Independent National Electoral Commission amendment decree. The council polls are the first of a series culminating in presidential elections in February 1999.

The polls could be disrupted in southeastern Nigeria if civil servants in the area carry out a threat to start an indefinite strike, the BBC reported today. Many are expected to be serving as electoral officers. The civil servants are demanding the implementation of the minimum wage and the payment of overtime and salary arrears.

Borders closed before elections

Nigeria has said it will close its borders for Saturday's poll to forestall rigging and other fraud, news organisations reported yesterday. The Nigerian internal affairs minister, Musa Yakubu, was quoted by Radio Nigeria-Lagos as saying that "all officers of the Nigerian immigration service have been directed to be extra-vigilant to prevent foreigners from coming into the country to vote". The borders will be closed from noon on Friday 4 December to Saturday at 6 p.m..

Abubakar tells the army to prepare to lose power

Abubakar warned his fellow soldiers to be prepared to relinquish power once a civilian government was installed, news organisations reported yesterday.
In a strongly worded address to the armed forces and police, Abubakar said coup-making had long ceased to be fashionable and undermined the cohesion of Nigeria's army. AFP and the BBC quoted Abubakar as saying that: "Whatever might have been the merits of military interventions in earlier years, there is now overwhelming evidence that the coup-makers no longer enjoy any acceptance". Since Nigeria's first coup in 1966, the country has been ruled by soldiers for all but four years.

US Congressman says important for Nigerian transition to succeed

US Democratic Congressman Donald Payne said on Monday it was important for Nigeria to make a success of its transition programme since it would have a positive impact on Africa as a whole. Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, Payne acknowledged that there were "good signs here on the political front. There certainly appears to be a real determination by the government and the people to move towards an elected government."

Human rights situation better but more needs to be done, UN envoy says

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Nigeria has acknowledged an improvement in the country's human rights situation but says more remains to be done, news organisations reported. Soli Sorabjee told a news conference in Lagos yesterday there was a "noticeable change in the political atmosphere and in the attitude of the administration". He said he had no doubt that military ruler General Abdulsalami Abubakar was "sincere and serious". However, there were still many repressive decrees that had to be abolished, he added. "It is a mixed record," he said. "The important thing is to keep up the momentum." Sorabjee was appointed special rapporteur in 1997 but this is the first time he has been allowed to visit the country, following the death of former leader General Sani Abacha.

GUINEA BISSAU: Humanitarian situation satisfactory, UNICEF says

The humanitarian situation is still satisfactory in Bissau, the Guinea Bissau capital, but few city residents are returning, UNICEF reported today (Wednesday). An OCHA official in Dakar told IRIN today that residents were still hesitant to return because the West African intervention force ECOMOG had not yet arrived to replace Senegalese and Guinean troops in the country, as required under the Abuja Peace Accord signed on 1 November in Nigeria.

In a regular report today giving an overview of the situation in the country, UNICEF says Bissau residents are still crowded in small towns near the capital, such as Safim. An official at the Swedish Embassy in Bissau told IRIN today that some people were returning and that cars were now allowed to use the main road, reopened on Monday, from the airport to the city centre.

Health situation improves

UNICEF says the cool dry weather prevalent in this part of West Africa at this time of the year has reduced risks of diarrhoeal and vector borne diseases. It says measles and meningitis are now the greatest threat to health. Otherwise, the agency says, the generally satisfactory humanitarian situation can be ascribed to timely action by UN agencies and NGOs during Guinea Bissau's five-month civil war. UNICEF maintained a continued presence in the country, providing health services, clean water, sanitation and encouraging the resumption of primary education. Drugs to treat tuberculosis have been delivered in Gabu, Oio, Bafata and Cacheu/Sao Domingos health areas, the agency says, and the water supply system in Bairro 4 in Bafata has been rehabilitated. The WFP delivered food promptly, the FAO provided seeds for households and several NGOs have been active in the country continuously, UNICEF says.

Government and Rebels agree on new political structure

Guinea Bissau's Executive Joint Committee, made up of officials from the government and military junta, has approved the structure of the government of national unity, an element of the Abuja Peace Accord. News reports and diplomats said the cabinet would comprise a prime minister, nine ministers and seven secretaries of state. OCHA reported last Thursday that President Joao Bernardo Vieira had said he wanted to choose the prime minister.

UNITED NATIONS: WFP increases security for personnel

In a bid to protect its employees against deliberate attacks, the Rome-based World Food Programme announced yesterday it had launched a new drive to increase the security of its field personnel. The head of WFP's task force on security, Arnold Vercken, told UN Radio that the main object would be to heighten security awareness among field employees. He said the task force was ensuring that basic security guidelines, already developed by the Security Coordinator, were enforced at all staff levels of the WFP.

LIBERIA: Violence on the increase in Monrovia

The Liberian capital Monrovia has been hit by a wave of security incidents and increasing police harassment. Travellers arriving from the city told IRIN today the situation was tense and as a result, movement had been severely restricted. Increasing lawlessness has led to a series of murders, the latest occurring in the Paynesville suburb, AFP reported. According to eyewitness accounts, a male resident was killed by "heavily-armed men wearing masks". An identification card belonging to a member of the presidential Special Security Service was reportedly found at the scene of the murder, but no arrests have been made.

WEST AFRICA: Campaign to curb malaria

The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched a campaign dubbed 'Roll Back Malaria' last month in a bid to grapple with a "re-emerging disease" in Africa, where more than 3,000 children die every day of malaria. The disease especially affects the poor, killing the young and the weak in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the WHO Director General, decided in July 1998 that malaria would be one of the WHO's top priorities and needed to have enough financial support to renew efforts to curb the disease.

Malaria continues to put a strain on the economic and social development of many countries, with some studies indicating that malaria could hold back income by as much as 12 percent, according to a WHO fact sheet. It emphasised that the campaign would focus on significantly "reducing mortality and morbidity" stemming from malaria, and not its eradication which had succeeded in some continents and "failed severely on others".

'Roll Back Malaria' would be an opportunity to develop health care systems in countries where malaria is endemic and strengthen their ability to cope with malaria with inexpensive and appropriate technology. It would also look at the preventive aspect of containing the spread of the disease by advocating the use of impregnated bednets. The simple use of treated nets would save scores of children from the death-carrying mosquitoes, the report added.

The campaign pulls together UN expertise from UNICEF, UNDP and the World Bank. The World Bank will focus on establishing private-public partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry on the development of new malaria products and the UNDP will continue to support the UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special programmes for Research and training in tropical diseases (TDR), which focuses on the development of drugs and tools for malaria control and adapting research in local settings.

AFP quoted French scientific sources which reported that resistance to chloroquine, the main drug used to fight malaria in Africa, had increased and led to a rise in deaths.

The full report on the Roll Back Malaria campaign is available on

CAPE VERDE: EU, West Africa states discuss Cape Verde development

The European Union and 15 west African states are meeting in Praia, the Cape Verde capital, this week to discuss regional integration, international cooperation in the fight against poverty and environmental issues, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported today. The meeting will also deal with regional solutions to economic and social problems.

Abidjan, December 2, 1998 17:00 GMT


Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 17:09:05 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 351 for 1998.12.2

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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