IRIN-West Africa Update 360 for 1998.12.15

IRIN-West Africa Update 360 for 1998.12.15


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 360 of Events in West Africa (Tuesday 15 December)

GUINEA BISSAU: Civil war rivals strike deal on government

Rival factions in Guinea Bissau's civil war agreed today (Tuesday) on the composition of a transitional government of national unity, a major plank in a peace accord that ended five months of civil war, news agencies reported. The deal was struck between Guinea Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira and rebel leader Ansumane Mane after hours of discussions that ended early today, Reuters said.

AFP reported that the self-styled Military Junta, the rebels, got its much sought after Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs. It also got the key economic and finance ministry, and those of social facilities, and internal administration. The Junta will also provide four of the seven secretaries of state. Vieira's government gets the ministries of foreign affairs, justice and labour; agriculture, fisheries and natural resources; education, youth, culture and sport, as well as health and social welfare.

Reuters said that another major issue in the talks, the size of the West African intervention force, ECOMOG, to be deployed in Guinea Bissau, was still to be decided. The agency said the rebels want just 500 troops rather than the 1,500 stipulated in the Abuja peace accord. Deployment of ECOMOG would mean the immediate departure of Senegalese and Guinean troops that fought on the government side against the Junta.

Bonino visit set for 4-7 January

Emma Bonino, the European Commissioner responsible for humanitarian affairs, will visit refugee camps and humanitarian aid projects funded by the European Union's humanitarian aid office ECHO during a four-day visit to Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Senegal, her spokesman told IRIN today. Pietro Petrucci, contacted by telephone in Brussels, said Bonino would fly from Dakar to Bissau on 4 January to meet field workers and local officials. An OCHA situation report on Guinea Bissau received by IRIN today said she would in particular visit the Danish-run Bandim Health Project and other NGOs. She will fly to Freetown on 5 January to see projects backed by ECHO and on 6 January to Kissidougou, in southern Guinea, to visit refugee camps along the border with Sierra Leone. The same day she will fly to Conakry for meetings on 7 January with government officials. j She will leave later the same day for Dakar where she is expected to meet government officials and possibly President Abdou Diouf, Petrucci said. She will give a press conference before flying back to Brussels.

NIGERIA: Three political parties meet poll requirements

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced yesterday (Monday) that three of the nine political parties that contested the Nigerian local elections on 5 December would be allowed to participate in state and national elections early next year, news organisations reported. The three parties are: the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the All People's Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The AD, which drew most of its support from the Yoruba people in the southwest, did not meet the required level of votes from all areas of the country. But INEC invoked a clause whereby if only two parties qualified the party which finished third would be qualified for the next round. Under INEC guidelines, qualified parties had to score at least five percent of the votes in 24 states.

INEC chairman Ephraim Akpata said 26.6 million voters out of 57 million registered cast their vote, which is higher than the 1993 elections turnout estimated at 35 percent.

The PDP of former head of state General Olusegun Obasanjo is made up of politicians opposed to the late military hardline ruler, General Sani Abacha. Their votes alongside those of the APP, comprising former Abacha supporters, accounted for three-quarters of those polled, the BBC said.

Government denies PDP funding

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Information minister, John Nwodo, denied allegations that the government had funded the PDP or any other party contesting the council polls, the Nigerian daily 'The Guardian' reported yesterday. Nwodo was quoting as saying: "We have said that we are not interested in any party except the party that Nigerians want and we are not interested in any candidate". He added that the elections had been monitored by foreign observers as well as local monitors and the issue of government funding would have arisen if there had been any misconduct.

Government to regain Commonwealth seat, FM

Nigeria hopes to regain its seat with the Commonwealth before May 1999 when a civilian government is expected to be ushered in, according to 'The Guardian'. It quoted Ignatus Olisemeka, the Nigerian Foreign Minister, as saying the situation in Nigeria had improved with the restoration of civil liberties, repeal of certain "obnoxious" laws, the release of political prisoners and the general movement towards genuine democracy in Nigeria.

New head for narcotics agency appointed

Nigerian military leader General Abdulsalami Abubakar has named a new head for the country's National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), news agencies reported yesterday, quoting a statement issued by the presidency. The statement said O. O. Onovo, a police commissioner, was replacing Major-General Musa Bamayi, who was appointed by Abacha's adminstration.

Nigeria remains "decertified" by the USA since it is perceived as not doing enough to curb drug trafficking. This means that the Nigerian government does not benefit from any US development aid.

SIERRA LEONE: UNHCR completes repatriation flights

The last of 4,556 Sierra Leonean professionals and students living as refugees in Guinea have been airlifted to Freetown, their capital, the UNHCR reported yesterday in a statement.

The last 110 refugees arrived on Thursday on board aircraft chartered for the operation which began on 9 August, at the request of the Sierra Leonean government. The professionals included doctors, nurses and teachers urgently needed by the government to rebuild the war-torn country. Students were also included in the airlift which operated out of Kissidougou, in Guinea's southern forest region.

The returnees, among the estimated 350,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea, were taken from camps in Guekedou, about 30 km from Sierra Leone's eastern border. UNHCR said that another 90,000 Sierra Leoneans refugees remained in Liberia. "Their voluntary repatriation is not foreseen for the time being as the areas in Sierra Leone from which they originate are largely unstable," it said.

Judiciary hampered by lack of lawyers, judges

Sierra Leonean Attorney General Solomon Berewa said yesterday that the country lacked lawyers and judges. The government employed just 20 lawyers, about half the number it needs, AFP reported. He said the lower courts needed 27 magistrates and only 12 were available. The High Court, he added, was short of two judges and the Court of Appeal five judges. The Supreme Court had only four judges whereas the minimum requirement was five, he said.

Vice President tells Taylor Liberia harbouring dissidents

Sierra Leonean Vice President Albert Demby said in Monrovia yesterday that rebels from his country had safe havens in Liberia and moved freely across the border to launch raids, independent Star Radio reported.

The broadcaster said today Demby was speaking after delivering a special message to Liberian President Charles Taylor. Demby said the message from Sierra Leonean President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was in response to Taylor's offer to mediate an end to Sierra Leone's civil war. Demby said Freetown would pursue negotiations and the military option simultaneously in an effort to end the conflict.

Liberia and Sierra Leone are founding members of the Mano River Union, a subregional economic grouping but relations between them have been strained by mutual accusations of subversion.

LIBERIA: Government denies allegations of training child soldiers

The Liberian government has rejected allegations that it was training child soldiers in a camp near Monrovia, news agencies reported. A Liberian child rights' advocate, Kimmie Weeks, said children were being recruited and trained as soldiers at the Camp Schiefflin barracks located on the outskirts of the capital. Weeks quoted responsible sources as saying that they had seen as many as 500 children between the ages of 10 and 17 on a base doing combat drill and light rifle training, according to the Liberian paper 'The Inquirer'. He added that he went to the base but was unable to speak to the children as he did not have adequate identification. Justice Minister Eddington Varmah said the recruits on the base where not under age but in their early twenties.

SAHEL: Good food security prospects in the Sahel

Prospects for food security in the Sahel in 1998/99 are good following the rains which ended in October, according to the USAID Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) bulletin dated November 30. The annual FAO/Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) pre-harvest assessment in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad pointed to above-average production in each country.

Despite below-average rainfed crop production, Mauritania could experience its best overall production year on record if recessional sorghum and irrigated rice crops produce to expectations, FEWS said. Mali was likely to have another record year of rice production, while Burkina Faso and especially Niger expected bumper harvests of rainfed crops. Chad also expected plentiful supplies of cereals in Sahelian zone markets throughout the dry season, but Sudanian zone residents could face serious food insecurity from below-average production.

The bulletin and detailed reports on the five countries are available on the FEWS website at :

Abidjan, 15 december 1998 1730 gmt


Date: Tue, 15 Dec 1998 17:48:59 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 360 for 1998.12.15

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,