IRIN West Africa Update 352 for 1998.12.3

IRIN West Africa Update 352 for 1998.12.3


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 352 of Events in West Africa (Thursday 3 December)

GUINEA BISSAU: ECOWAS denies dragging its feet over troop deployment

The 16-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) today (Thursday) denied news reports that it was dragging its feet over the deployment of peacekeeping troops in Guinea Bissau.

Reuters quoted the president of Guinea Bissau's parliament, Malam Bacai Sanha, yesterday (Wednesday) as saying "practically nothing" had been done to send the troops. But an ECOWAS official told IRIN that countries that had promised troops had still to make them available. Benin, The Gambia, Niger and Togo are expected to provide troops. Even when the soldiers are available for transport to the field of operations there could be logistics problems. The official said the community did not have the means to move men and material in great numbers and support was being sought from other nations.

General Timothy Shelpidi, the commander of the community's Peace Monitoring Force ECOMOG said on a recent inspection tour of Guinea Bissau that there was still no money available for an immediate troop deployment. Deployment of ECOMOG troops is one of the items of a deal signed by Guinea Bissau's rival civil war leaders and is a condition for the immediate withdrawal of Senegalese and Guinean troops in that country.

Bafata gets safe water supply

The people of Guinea Bissau's second largest town, Bafata, can look forward to clean, safe drinking water now that relative calm has returned to the country.

The logistics officer for the emergency department of Oxfam in Britain, Frazer Murray, told IRIN yesterday from Bafata that the NGO had been able to instal safe water supply systems for the town and at the village community level. "We hope this will cut the diarrhoeal and cholera [incidences] below the national levels," he said.

Oxfam is also renovating Bafata's main water tank and pumping station in Trisilin, a Bafata neighbourhood. Once this work is complete and electricity restored, Murray said, the town's 125,000 residents will be assured of clean drinking water. Various other organisations were handling the repairs to some of the town's dilapidated water supply systems before the civil war in June. Oxfam, an emergency response NGO, was called in three months ago and has since taken over the work. Hospitals have been provided with water pumps and Oxfam has installed similar systems in Gabu, Cacheu and Bambadinca about 125 km east of Bissau. Murray said that Oxfam, in conjunction with Plan International, MSF and CARITAS had taken over all water supply-related activities.

Rebel candidate appointed country's new prime minister

An official of Guinea Bissau's military junta, Francisco Fadul, has been appointed the country's new prime minister, BBC reported today. Fadul was political adviser to junta leader General Ansumane Mane. Fadul also represents the junta on the Executive Joint Commission set up after the Abuja Peace Accord last month to oversee implementation of the deal. OCHA reported on 26 November that President Joao Bernardo Vieira had said he wanted to choose the prime minister. Reuters' report did not say how, by whom or when Fadul was appointed. He will head a government of national unity, an element of the Abuja agreement.

Residents return to three Bissau neighbourhoods

Most residents of Bissau's three neighbourhoods - Badim, Belem and Mindara - have returned to their homes after fleeing fighting between government troops and army mutineers which began in June in the capital, an official of the Swedish Embassy told IRIN.

Citing figures by the Bandim Health Project, the official said 75 percent of the residents of the three neighbourhoods, which account for 20 percent of the city, had returned from surrounding villages and towns. The Bandim Health Project distributed 1.5 kg of rice per person and corned beef to area residents over two weeks, accounting for one-quarter of normal consumption.

NIGERIA: Militant Ijaws threaten to disrupt local elections

Militant ethnic Ijaw youths have threatened to disrupt local elections in the southern town of Warri on Saturday unless their demand for a separate local government is met, Reuters reported. In a statement, they also said the area's nominated candidates were not credible "since the recent exercise to register voters did not take place in the Ijaw areas of Warri".

Their organisation, the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), further warned it was "wishful thinking" to believe the Ijaws would not react "proportionately" if local polls went ahead without their demands being met. Reuters notes the dispute, which pits the Ijaw against their Itsekiri neighbours, is part of an upsurge of violence in the country's main oil-producing region where residents accuse the government and oil companies of denying them a say in local administration and access to oil revenue.

Lagos increasingly paralysed by fuel crisis

The Nigerian 'Guardian' daily said today economic activities in Lagos were virtually paralysed yesterday by the worsening fuel crisis. Less than 20 percent of filling stations in the city have fuel and these were jammed by motorists queuing "haphazardly", the newspaper wrote. Commuters have been badly hit as commercial transporters have increased fares by up to 200 percent on some routes. Observers say the continuing fuel problems could affect Saturday's polling if there is no transport in the bigger areas. The national electoral commission has sent electoral material throughout the country for use in Saturday's poll, Nigerian television reported this week.

Former ministers, Abacha relatives implicated in major fraud

Two former Nigerian ministers and relatives of the late military ruler General Sani Abacha are being investigated in connection with a US $2.5 billion financial scandal, news reports said. Chief presidential press secretary Mohammed Haruna told reporters yesterday the unnamed individuals were involved in siphoning off funds linked to the failed Ajaokuta steel project. He said the money had been disbursed via the finance ministry and power and steel ministry during Abacha's rule.

SIERRA LEONE: Anti-corruption unit in the making

Sierra Leone is to form a corruption prevention unit to fight public and private sector fraud, Attorney-General Solomon Berewa told a news conference on Tuesday in the capital, Freetown.

"We are now on the warpath against corruption," AFP quoted him as saying. The unit, which will include foreigners, will investigate fraud from the presidency down, he said. The level of corruption is much higher now than before the May 1997 coup that ousted President Alhaji Ahmad Kabbah, Berewa said. The government, he added, had uncovered a US $170,000 fraud scam at the Income Tax Department. Police have arrested three employees and are looking for two others. Berewa said the government would apply "emergency regulations" to allow courts investigate economic crime in government and in state owned firms.

Catholic Mission evacuates Malekure

The Roman Catholic Mission of Lunsar, 60 km northeast of Makeni, has been evacuated following reports of an advancing rebel column in the area, the Bishop of Makeni, Monsignor Giorgio Biguzzi, said yesterday. He described the measure as precautionary since Lunsar is defended by ECOMOG and civil militia troops.

Rebels attack Mange in the west

Rebels in western Sierra Leone armed with rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons attacked the strategic town of Mange on Monday killing at least 35 people, AFP reported, quoting aid workers. Mange and its bridge, 140 km north of the capital, Freetown, lies on the road to neighbouring Guinea. It was the second attack on the town in two months. The attacks have prompted most of the town's 20,000 residents and another 5,000 from Port Loko, 20 km south of Mange, to flee.

GABON: Francophonie sends electoral monitors

Voters will vote on Sunday in the first round of presidential elections against the backdrop of a severe economic crisis and a tense political atmosphere, media agencies reported. Incumbent President Omar Bongo, who is standing again, has repeatedly charged that the opposition has been preparing to "sow the seeds of violence" and ordered that the country's border be closed before the polls. AFP reported that opposition candidates have accused the ruling party, the Parti democratique gabonais (PDG), and its allies of organising "massive fraud".

An official working with the Paris-based cultural organisation, La Francophonie, told IRIN today it was sending a team of electoral observers to monitor the elections. The 10 observers would collaborate with several parliamentarians from French-speaking countries as well as local and international teams.

Bongo won the 1993 elections claiming 51 percent of the vote in a contested victory that sparked violent riots in Libreville.

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General seeks end to slavery

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan wants pressure put on governments to pass and enforce laws to end modern forms of slavery, the world body said today. In a message on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, Annan also asked civil society to conduct consumer campaigns and raise public awareness to end "vast and widespread" practices such as bonded labour, trafficking in women and forced conscription of children into military service.

Abidjan, 3 December 1998 16:15 GMT


Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998 16:39:41 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN West Africa Update 352 for 1998.12.3

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,