IRIN-West Africa Update 353 for 1998.12.4

IRIN-West Africa Update 353 for 1998.12.4


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 353 of Events in West Africa (Friday 4 December)

NIGERIA: No voting in troublespots, electoral commission warns

Voting in tomorrow's (Saturday) local elections will not take place in likely troublespots, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced yesterday (Thursday), according to news organisations. Speaking during a visit to the southwest Osun state, Commission chairman Ephraim Akpata said voting in troubled areas would take place at a later date. Reuters said probable flashpoints were the oil-producing Niger Delta, Ife-Modakeke in the southwest and Taraba state in the northeast where ongoing conflicts have been triggered by disputes over local government boundaries. Rival communities in the Delta state town of Warri have already threatened to disrupt polling, with the Ijaw calling for the poll to be scrapped and the Itsekiri insisting it should go ahead. Local authorities fear the elections could be used as an excuse for more violence in the area.

An independent media source in Lagos told IRIN today (Friday) the affected communites had welcomed the decision not to hold polls in their areas, while the government stressed it would continue to try and resolve the problems so that elections could eventually be held. The source described the mood in Lagos as calm and said people were looking forward to casting their vote.

Speaking over Nigerian television yesterday, Akpata pronounced the electoral commission "fully prepared" to conduct free and fair elections. However, the independent Nigerian 'Guardian' daily today reported that despite the commission's moves to ensure hitch-free polls, a strike over pay by teachers and civil servants (who make up the bulk of electoral personnel) in Oyo is threatening elections in that state.

Movement throughout the country will be restricted between 0800 and 1430 tomorrow to enable voting to go ahead and about 1,850 foreign observers are in the country to monitor the polls, the 'Guardian' said.

Nigerian opposition radio meanwhile reported that 65 pro-democracy and human rights groups, making up the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), had been instructed to boycott Saturday's elections. JACON's chairman Chief Gani Fawehinmi said Nigerian leader General Abdulsalami Abubakar should "terminate the dangerous ruse called the transition as the consequences of the election under it may lead Nigeria to the precipice of disintegration". He added that JACON's members had agreed to reject the transition programme. [For more details on Nigeria's elections see separate IRIN background brief of 3 December ]

SIERRA LEONE: Missionaries evacuate Lunsar ahead of rebel attack

Foreign missionaries were forced to close down a hospital in the northern town of Lunsar this week before leaving the town as rebels advanced towards it, news reports and the missionary news agency MISNA said. They moved to Makeni, 60km away, afraid the rebels may try and abduct them, missionary sources added. However, the West African ECOMOG intervention force played down any threat to Lunsar, claiming its troops were in full control of the town. Some reports said the town came under attack today. A humanitarian source in Freetown confirmed to IRIN the villages around Lunsar had been attacked by rebels and the population had fled the town. ECOMOG troops are trying to neutralise pockets of rebels - loyal to the military junta which temporarily overthrew President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah last year - who are still active in parts of the country.

Anxiety as fighting nears Freetown

The source also told IRIN rebel movements had been reported in Kambia and in Port Loko, close to Freetown, which is creating anxiety in the capital. Elsewhere, people are said to be fleeing fighting in the southeast of the country near Tongo Field and Koindu. The source added it was possible that the rebels' strategy was to attack rice fields ahead of the harvest. An international NGO has also reported that in the eastern part of Kono district, some 6,000 displaced people have arrived, many of them in a malnourished state.

LIBERIA: "Lean" budget to focus on security, education

The proposed national budget for 1999 will focus on security, with education the second priority, independent Star radio reported from Monrovia yesterday. The 2.6 billion Liberian dollar budget (US $64 million) is up from this year's US $41 million budget, the radio pointed out. For 1999, 13 percent of the budget will be devoted to security and 11 percent to education. In his letter submitting the budget proposal to parliament on Wednesday, President Charles Taylor warned that the finance ministry was the only government agency authorised to collect taxes, receive revenue and carry out expenditures in order to ensure transparency of transactions, the Liberian daily 'Inquirer' reported. Another Liberian newspaper, the 'New Democrat' weekly, said Taylor described the new budget as "small, lean and trim" with the emphasis on self-reliance.

GUINEA BISSAU: Amnesty International urges action on human rights

The parties to the Guinea Bissau peace agreement have a responsibility to ensure that human rights are protected in the country, the international human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a statement. "Despite the fact that there is no reference to human rights in the peace agreement, it is still possible for those involved to agree on special measures to protect human rights which are necessary to the success of any peacekeeping operation," AI said in the statement dated yesterday. The 1 November peace agreement between President Joao Bernardo Vieira and Brigadier Ansumane Mane, who led a mutiny by a large part of the army in June, was backed by ECOWAS, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity. The full text of the AI statement is available on IRIN-WA-EXTRA.

SENEGAL: Desert control crucial for food security, World Bank says

Desertification, which affects 900 million people in 100 countries, can only be halted by making economic and social changes aimed at tackling its underlying causes, the World Bank says in a new report, 'New Opportunities for Development: The Desertification Convention'. "Addressing desertification is essential for poverty reduction and food security in developing countries," Ian Johnson, World Bank Vice President for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development, says in the report. It was issued to coincide with the Second Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification now being held in Dakar. The report says that desertification, which costs the world an estimated US $42.3 billion a year in economic losses, is not just a physical phenomenon. Rapid population growth and inappropriate economic policies that undervalue natural resources and encourage misuse are two other contributing factors, it says according to a World Bank news release dated yesterday. The full news release is available on IRIN-WA-EXTRA and the World Bank website at

NGOs say Africa should get more from GEF

A year after it was set up, the global financing needed to make the UN Convention of Desert Control operational has still not been finalised, a group of 450 NGOs at the Dakar conference says. Mass Lo, a spokesman for the NGOs, told PANA yesterday they wanted African countries to make better use of the funding possibilities offered by the Global Environmental Fund (GEF). They called on the international community to extend the GEF, which currently only supports the Convention on Biodiversity and Climatic Change, so that it becomes directly involved in funding the fight against desertification.

Abidjan, 4 December 1998, 1730 GMT


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN West Africa, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN-WA Tel: +225 21 73 66 Fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail: for more information or subscription. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this report, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the Web at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to <> - mailing list: irin-wa-updates]

Date: Fri, 4 Dec 1998 17:35:43 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 353 for 1998.12.4

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,