IRIN-West Africa Update 357 for 1998.12.10

IRIN-West Africa Update 357 for 1998.12.10


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

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IRIN-WA Update 357 of Events in West Africa (Thursday 10 December)

SIERRA LEONE: UN sanctions committee chairman ends visit

The Chairman of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone, Hans Dahlgren, ended a four-day assessment tour of the country today (Thursday) designed to guage the effectiveness of sanctions against rebels, UN officials in the country said in a statement sent to IRIN.

Dahlgren met President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, his deputy, other Sierra Leonean officials and the ECOMOG commander to discuss ways of tightening the arms, petroleum and travel embargoes on the ousted military junta and their families. There have been recent reports of white helicopters supplying arms to the rebels who operate mostly in northern and eastern Sierra Leone.

Some government officials told Dahlgren the names of former junta members should be circulated and old passports issued by them retrieved, as a way of making the embargoes more effective. When ECOMOG restored Kabbah to power in February the UN lifted most sanctions on the current administration.

Dahlgren left today for Liberia, which ECOMOG officials say has been supplying the rebels with arms. While Kabbah avoided naming any country, UN officials said, ECOMOG commander Major General Timothy Shelpidi told Dahlgren that Taylor should be confronted with the truth of his support for the rebels.

Resident ministers and members of civil society in the Sierra Leonean towns of Bo and Kenema also told Dahlgren that Taylor should be urged to cooperate in controlling arms in the region, UN officials said. They called on the UN to establish a buffer zone between Sierra Leone and Liberia and monitor the situation at these borders and with Guinea.

Jammeh ready to help broker peace if asked

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has said that if he was asked he would be willing to help broker a peace deal between Kabbah's government and the rebels, a Gambian State House official told IRIN today.

Jammeh was fielding questions at the news conference on Wednesday in the Gambian capital, Banjul, where Kabbah ended a brief visit yesterday (Wednesday), the official said.

The official quoted Kabbah as saying he would welcome any offer to mediate. In October, Jammeh helped negotiate an end to the five-month civil in Guinea Bissau.

Italian Missionary order urges priest's release

In another development, the Brothers of Saint Francis-Xavier Order in Rome called on Sierra Leonean rebels yesterday to release the Reverend Mario Guerra, who was abducted on 15 November, AFP reported quoting missionary sources. It quoted the order as asking the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to take into account Guerra's health and his "important human and Christian contribution" to Sierra Leone. Guerra is 64 years old. The order has also asked the Italian and Sierra Leonean governments and the European Union to try and secure Guerra's release.

NIGERIA: PDP wins local polls

Official results from Saturday's local elections released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday (Wednesday) show the People's Democratic Party (PDP) of General Olusegun Obasanjo has won, with 59 percent of the votes. The results, broadcast by Nigerian radio, gave the PDP 3,342 seats out of 5,629 known so far. Second place went to the All People's Party (APP) with 1,456 seats or 25.8 percent of the votes and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) came third with 744 seats (13.2 percent). INEC chairman Ephraim Akpata said the elections had been held in most local government areas countrywide. Polls that were unable to take place last Saturday will be held this Saturday (12 December), along with run-off voting where necessary, he added.

GUINEA BISSAU: President and rebel leader to meet

President Joao Bernardo Vieira and rebel leader Ansumane Mane are to hold face-to-face talks in the Togolese capital Lome tomorrow (Friday), the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported today. It cited official sources as saying the talks would centre on implementing the country's peace accord signed on 2 November after fighting broke out in June between loyalists and supporters of Mane who was sacked as army chief. The Lome meeting will be hosted by Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema and will also include Guinea Bissau's new premier, Francisco Fadul. The two sides will discuss the planned arrival of an ECOMOG peacekeeping force and the formation of a new national unity government, Lusa said.

LIBERIA: Extradition of Prince Johnson sought

The Liberian authorities have charged former faction leader Prince Johnson with treason. According to the BBC, President Charles Taylor said Liberia would seek his extradition from Nigeria to stand trial. Prince Johnson, whose troops captured and killed the former Liberian president, Samuel Doe, in 1990 has been in exile in Nigeria for the last six years. The BBC said the Liberian authorities were also seeking the extradition of several other Liberians accused of treason following violence in Monrovia in September. They include exiled faction leaders Roosevelt Johnson and Alhaji Kromah.

AFRICA: African countries among world's most undernourished, FAO says

A report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says 800 million people in developing countries are chronically undernourished and two billion more suffer from deficiencies of vital vitamins and minerals. "Globally there is enough food to feed the world, but it is not equally distributed and many people do not have the means to buy it," said Hartwig de Haen, FAO Assistant Director-General. Even when food supplies were adequate at national level, access to food was often a serious problem, he added. The report contains the most recent data on nutrition and malnutrition in 177 countries and shows that the lowest food availability affects countries such as Mozambique, Burundi, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia. The FAO says that to ensure nutritional well-being, every individual must have access at all times to sufficient supplies of a variety of safe, good-quality foods.

AFRICA: Africans criticise UNEP

African delegates at the world conference on desertification in Senegal have criticised the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for not giving enough attention to the UN Convention for the Control of Desertification, PANA reported yesterday.

The African group told the convention's new executive secretary, Klaus Toepfer, that UNEP was not doing all it could in the field of desertification which only strengthened the conviction shared by the most influential members of the convention that desertification came a poor second to the conventions on climate and biodiversity.

According to PANA, Toepfer assured the Africans that he would give greater attention to Africa. "We are presently stabilising, revitalising and developing our activities and Africa is among the five great priorities" for the future," PANA quoted him as saying.

The conference ends tomorrow.

HUMAN RIGHTS: Human rights linked to refugee protection, Ogata says

Human rights violations are still forcing people to flee, worsening the refugee problem in many parts of the world, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said today. In a statement in Paris marking the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she said there had been some progress in finding solutions to refugee problems. "But much more needs to be done. Today, one in every 120 people on earth has been forced to flee because of violence or persecution."

This year alone, 215,000 people had fled from Sierra Leone, where rebel forces had committed terrible atrocities against civilians. Sierra Leoneans were now Africa's biggest refugee population, numbering 440,000 in Guinea and Liberia, she said.

"Promoting respect for human rights values and creating conditions which make it possible for refugees to return home cannot be done by humanitarian agencies alone. Eliminating the causes of refugee flight requires continued commitment and timely political involvement by the international community," she said, adding: "Humanitarian action can save lives, but it can never be a substitute for political action."

AFRICA: Head of UN peace and disarmament centre named

Ivor Richard Fung has been named Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, the UN said in a statement issued yesterday. He took up his post on December 1. The Centre, one of three regional offices, helps regional efforts to improve cooperation and strengthen security and development. Its main objective is to provide advisory services, information and training programmes and capacity building to governments on matters relating to arms control, disarmament, peace, security and development, and to follow and analyze trends in disarmament and international security in the region.

Abidjan, 10 December 1998 1730 GMT


Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 17:57:55 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 357 for 1998.12.10

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,