IRIN-West Africa Update 361 for 1998.12.16

IRIN-West Africa Update 361 for 1998.12.16

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

tel: +225 21 73 54 fax: +225 21 63 35


IRIN-WA Update 361 of Events in West Africa (Wednesday 16 December)

GUINEA: Opposition leader detained

Thierno Diallo, the editor of the Conakry-based weekly `Le Lynx' told IRIN today (Wednesday) that the opposition leader and presidential candidate, Alpha Conde, was detained yesterday (Tuesday) at the Guinean-Ivorian border and was being escorted to the capital, Conakry.

The Ministry of Interior cabinet director, Kiridi Bangoura, said Conde was attempting to leave the country "disguised as a marabout", a Moslem cleric, in contravention of a law which sealed all borders, news organisations reported. Reuters quoted Bangoura as saying that the government was shocked "that a man who aspires to rule the country would try to flee even as results of presidential elections in which he took part are awaited".

Meanwhile, Diallo told IRIN that there had been attempts to provoke opposition leaders and supporters into taking action that would be seen as against the interests of the Guinean electorate. He said there had been unconfirmed reports of guns and ammunition found in the homes of opposition supporters. Diallo added that Conde's detention would probably escalate tensions in Guinea and security forces were patrolling in opposition strongholds in Conakry.

The Guinean government sealed all it borders from 5 to 20 December in view of presidential elections held on 14 December. The radio station Africa No. 1 reported that following initial trends, it appeared that President Lansana Conte was in the lead in the polls.

GUINEA BISSAU: Deployment of ECOMOG hinges on logistics

ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate told IRIN today the speedy deployment of ECOMOG troops in Guinea Bissau, foreseen in a peace accord between rival civil war factions, depended on logistical and financial support from the international community and donors.

Speaking from Lome, where he attended talks between the rival leaders in Guinea Bissau on this issue and on the formation of a government of national unity, he said France was the lead country being solicited for logistical support. He said Portugal could also play a very important role in finding money, and he was "cautiously optimistic" about the outcome.

Until logistics and money were received, he said, it would be impossible to say exactly when troops could be deployed. Under the Abuja peace accord deployment is to be completed by the end of December, allowing for the simultaneous withdrawal of Senegalese and Guinean troops in the country. Benin, The Gambia, Niger and Togo, Kouyate said, had offered troops which could number 1,450. But rebel leader Ansumane Mane is reported to want only 500. Kouyate said there was nothing fixed about the number that could be sent and he was sending emissaries for further talks with the government and Mane on this issue.

GUINEA BISSAU: Portugal, welcomes national unity government

Portugal said on Tuesday that now cabinet posts had been agreed for a national unity government in Guinea Bissau, it was time to begin rebuilding the country, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported yesterday. Portugal's assistant secretary for foreign affairs, Luis Amado, told Lusa that Tuesday's agreement between the self-styled Military Junta and the government was timely since the political and military impasse could not have gone on much longer. Portugal, the former colonial power in Guinea Bissau, was instrumental in getting rival factions to sue for peace.

EU gives 1.85 million ecus in aid to Guinea Bissau

The European Commission has set aside 1,850,000 ecus (US $2.19 million) in emergency humanitarian aid for the victims of the fighting in Guinea Bissau. The European Union's humanitarian aid office ECHO said in a statement received by IRIN today that the money would fund projects run by NGOs in the country to help IDPs still in the interior of the country and those who had already returned to the capital, Bissau.

The humanitarian situation had progressively stabilised since the Abuja peace accord was signed on 1 November, the statement said, and the NGOs estimated that 70 to 75 percent of the IDPs had already returned to their homes. The funds will mainly be used to provide food and water, health services and purification projects. The NGOs concerned by the aid are: Comunita Internazionale Volontari Laici-Cuneo (LVIA), OXFAM-UK, Association Francaise des Volontaires du Progres (AFVP), Assistencia Medica Internacional, Caritas Deutschland, Dan Church Aid, Oikos in association with CIC et AVSI in association with VIDA.

BURKINA FASO: Demonstrators take to the street after journalist dies

A UN source in Ouagadougou told IRIN today that a huge crowd was attending the funeral today of a respected and outspoken journalist, Norbert Zongo, who died in a car accident over the weekend in unclear circumstances. There was some fear that the situation could turn violent at the end of the ceremony.

Zongo's body was among "four charred corpses found in the car", while the outside of the car was not burnt, a Reporters Sans Frontieres statement received by IRIN said. It added that the car's rear door had several holes in it which "could have been caused by gunfire". The RSF, a Paris-based press watchdog, called for an investigation saying that the circumstances surrounding Zongo's death were "troubling and require clarification".

Zongo was the publisher of a weekly `L'Independant' and a staunch supporter of the rights of the downtrodden, another source told IRIN, adding that he was apparently investigating some improper conduct within government circles.

On Tuesday hundreds of students took to the streets in the capital to protest about Zongo's death and looted partially the office of the ruling party, the Congress pour la Democratie et le Progres (CDP). Police used tear gas on the crowd and arrested an unknown number of students.

NIGERIA: Ijaw youths ask oil firms to leave

The new "All Ijaw Youths Conference", bringing together all the Ijaws in the Niger delta area in southwest Nigeria, have given a joint ultimatum to multinational oil firms to leave their land this year or face unspecified action, Reuters reported. "We demand that all oil companies stop all exploration and exploitation activities in the Ijaw area. We are tired of gas flaring, oil spillages and blowouts and being labelled saboteurs and terrorists," a statement released on Monday said.

The new group rejected Nigerian military leader General Abdulsalami Abubakar's plan to end military rule in May saying it failed to address the fundamental demand to restructure the Nigerian federation.

Disgruntlement among local youths in the oil-rich area has increased dramatically since the 1995 hanging of human rights activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight other Ogoni activists, who had campaigned against the alleged pollution by the oil giant, Shell.

A Shell spokesman in London told IRIN today that the Ijaws' accusations against multinational oil companies were "factually inaccurate", but the company "sympathised with the political grievances and developmental concerns". He added that Shell had invested US $30 million a year in the region in rehabilitating schools, supplementing wages of teachers and doctors, providing drinking water and other development oriented projects. For further information on Shell in Nigeria, please consult, click on information resource and then people and the environment.

US congratulates Nigeria on court appointments

The US government congratulated the Nigerian government for appointing six new associated judges to the country's supreme court bringing that body to a full complement for the first time in its history, a USIA statement said yesterday. It said the action should promote the rule of law and improve the judicial system. The US encouraged the Nigerian government to lift the Decree Two, which provides for arrest without charge and prevents judicial review of "security" cases.

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG kills 80 rebels, captures 50

ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone killed at least 80 rebels and captured 50 others in Magbontoso on Tuesday in a mopping up operation near Freetown, the capital, the country's Information Ministry reported. But ECOMOG officials in Freetown told IRIN today that the casualty figures could not be immediately confirmed. The ministry quoted an ECOMOG spokesman in Sumbuya, close to Magbontoso, as saying: "We are mopping up in the hills. We have crushed the rebel threat to Freetown."

Aid workers from the area around Magbontoso said the bodies of dead rebels were being washed downstream.

Abidjan, 16 December 1998 17:00 GMT


Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 17:46:39 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 361 for 1998.12.16

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,