IRIN-West Africa Update 358 for 1998.12.11

IRIN-West Africa Update 358 for 1998.12.11


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

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IRIN-WA Update 358 of Events in West Africa (Friday 11 December)

SIERRA LEONE: Rebels repulsed in attack on Mogbontoso

Pro-government West African troops in Sierra Leone beat back an attack on the town of Magbontoso yesterday (Thursday), less than 60 km from the capital, Freetown, the country's information ministry said, quoting ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jimoh Okunlola.

Okunlola told reporters the attackers were remmants of a rebel band that tried to capture the garrison town of Masiaka, 60 km east of Freetown. "There is no way they can get to Freetown. Our troops are holding all the strategic positions to Freetown," he said. Calm had returned to Mogbontoso, he said, and ECOMOG had regained total control of the area.

WFP chief arrives in Freetown

WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini arrived in Freetown yesterday on a three-day assessment tour of Sierra Leone's food security situation and seek better coordination between her agency and the government, the country's Information Ministry said.

The ministry said nearly one-third of the country was cut off from food and medical supplies and some 670,000 people were either in camps for IDPs or in other facilities in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia. The ministry said malnutrition was widespread.

Bertini's schedule to visit Kenema, a town 240 km east of Freetown, is likely to be cancelled because of rebel activity in the area. However, Bertini will meet President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Foreign Minister Sama Banya and Finance Minister James Jonah.

Citing aid workers, the ministry said a large part of the country north of Kenema through the Loma and Wara Wara mountains had been cut off from food supplies and seed rice for several months.

Over half the country's children without education

Over 50 percent of Sierra Leone's children are without education and the United Nations Children's Fund has difficulty raising enough money to reverse such trends, the agency's representative in Freetown told IRIN today (Friday).

The official, Anthony Bloomberg, first made the assessment at the launch of a UNICEF State of the World's Children Report on Tuesday in Freetown, the capital. At the launch he said in parts of the country seven out of every 10 children were out of school, the country's Information Ministry reported.

Bloomburg told IRIN that UNICEF was providing supplies to schools in secure areas of the country, strengthening supervision of education, providing vehicles and supporting non-formal education. UNICEF has made an emergency appeal for US $2.0 million for 1999 to support basic education at the primary level and the non-formal sector. The appeal is also due to cover the agency's youth and adolescent initiative. This consists of consulting people to learn of their priorities and projects so these could be considered in policy formulation.

Sierra leone "highly unstable", EIU says

The `Economist Intelligence Unit', in its latest country review, has described Sierra Leone as "highly unstable" and warns that the security situation will continue to dominate any forecasting for the country. The report says that at first glance, the restored government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah appears to have made siginficant progress. But, it adds, Kabbah's "deft handling" of plans to restructure the armed forces was "as encouraging as his refusal to negotiate with rebel leader Foday Sankoh was disappointing". The EIU predicts much will be decided in the coming months.

The UN's 1999 inter-agency appeal for Sierra Leone notes that conflict continues to plague efforts to recover from the psychological, economic and humanitarian consequences of the junta period. "The rebels have systematically committed massive human rights [abuses] including mutilations, sexual exploitation and forced recruitment of child soldiers to wage a desperate and senseless campaign of terror on rural civilians," the appeal says. Junta remnants roaming around the bush present a "formidable obstacle" to the provision of humanitarian assistance. [Full report on ReliefWeb at click on Complex Emergencies, then Sierra Leone].

NIGERIA: Electoral commission rejects call for poll cancellation

Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has rejected a call by the All People's Party (APP) for the cancellation of the results of last week's local government polls, state radio reported yesterday. The commission's chairman, Justice Ephraim Akpata, said on the radio "there will be no annulment, not by this body."

Radio Nigeria said that in a communique released on Wednesday, the APP called for the outright cancellation of the entire results because, it said, of several instances of malpractice by some INEC officials.

TOGO: Opposition seek talks with Eyadema on crisis

Togolese opposition parties have told President Gnassingbe Eyadema he should send a formal invitation to the party of his main rival, Gilchrist Olympio, and outside mediators to take part in talks to defuse the political crisis, Reuters reported yesterday. The crisis dates back to June when Eyadema was declared first-round winner in the presidential election, a result contested by Olympio and his Union des forces du changement (UFC). Foreign observers also expressed reservations about the poll and the European Union has since suspended some aid to the country. The UFC is demanding talks on a global political agreement on security and alternation of power.

GUINEA: Conde seeks postponement of poll

Alpha Conde, the leader of one of Guinea's main opposition parties, says next week's presidential election should be postponed for at least one month because voter cards are being distributed "according to political affiliation" in at least two districts, AFP reported yesterday. The leader of the Rassemblement du peuple de Guinee (RPG) told AFP that in Haute-Guinea and Guinea-Forestiere officials and chiefs would not give the cards to opposition supporters.

The opposition as a whole has already called for the vote to be put back, saying that less than half the voters had received cards. AFP quoted the head of the interior ministry's staff, Kiridi Bangoura, as saying that the demand for a postponement was "a last manoeuvre by the opposition to gain attention".

Abidjan, 11 december 1998


Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 17:47:32 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 358 for 1998.12.11

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,