IRIN-West Africa Update 365 for 1998.12.22

IRIN-West Africa Update 365 for 1998.12.22

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 e-mail:

IRIN-WA Update 365 of Events in West Africa (Tuesday 22 December)

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG says it still holds Waterloo

ECOMOG forces are in control in Waterloo, 34 km south of Freetown, an ECOMOG source told IRIN today (Tuesday), contradicting reports that rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and military renegades had forced their way into the town centre.

The source, speaking from Freetown, said the capital was also safe, despite the rebel presence nearby. AFP reported that police and security forces were put on full alert yesterday (Monday) to prevent rebel infiltration during the Christmas season. ECOMOG announced on Sunday an expanded curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. (22:00-06:00 GMT) for Freetown. The ECOMOG source described this as a precautionary measure.

In action 40 km east of Freetown, the source said ECOMOG dislodged rebels from Sumbuya and Songo after an artillery barrage that started on Sunday.

ECOMOG confirms presence of white mercenaries in Koidu

ECOMOG sources in Freetown have confirmed the presence of white mercenaries during an attack on the diamond town of Koidu on Saturday in which rebels took the northern part of the town. Missionary sources said the mercenaries were "supposedly from the Ukraine" but ECOMOG said the nationality of the mercenaries was not known.

One source said the rebels were using women and children as shields during attacks. ECOMOG has asked civilians to leave the town and tens of thousands have made their way to Makeni, 160 km west of Koidu.

Polio vaccination successful

A two-day campaign which began Saturday to vaccinate 500,000 children under five years old has ended successfully, the WHO in Freetown told IRIN today although vaccinations could not take place in the north of the country because of rebel activity. The programme was conducted by the Sierra Leone health ministry in collaboration with WHO and UNICEF. AFP reported that a second phase of the programme would be undertaken in February and children would receive Vitamin A tablets to protect them against night blindness.

LIBERIA: Liberia determined to stay out of Sierra Leone fighting

Liberia has reiterated its determination to stay out of Sierra Leone's civil war, Star Radio reported yesterday. The radio quoted two presidential advisers as saying yesterday that the recent border closure with Sierra Leone was a precautionary move. Speaking at the Executive Mansion, official home of the Liberian president, National Security Adviser Tambakai Jangaba denied rumours that the measure was a precursor to an invasion of Sierra Leone. The presidential aide on political and domestic affairs, Lewis Brown, said Sierra Leonean refugees in border areas would be moved at least 50 km further inland for their safety.

GUINEA: Demonstrations continue over opposition leader's detention

Thierno Diallo, editor-in-chief of the weekly `Le Lynx' in Conakry told IRIN today that protests took place yesterday and today in the capital, Conakry, and other parts of the country, demanding the release of the chief opposition leader, Alpha Conde. He was detained last week by police who said he was attempting to cross the border into neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire.

Diallo said 20 women were arrested yesterday when a group embarked on a protest in the nude in the outskirts of Conakry. It is unclear whether they have been released. He added that many markets and shops were closed in Conakry today because owners feared looting. Diallo said the situation was fairly tense in the capital and joint police and military units continued to patrol the streets. In the north-eastern towns of Kankan and Siguiri, several demonstrations took place and an unconfirmed number of people were killed in subsequent clashes with the police.

Diallo also quoted a statement issued today by a local NGO, l'Organisation Guineenne de la defense des droits de l'Homme, which denounced Conde's arrest, stating that his alleged attempt to cross the border into Cote d'Ivoire was not a crime. The NGO called on the authorities to respect Conde's parliamentary immunity and release him with immediate effect. Diallo said nobody had been allowed to visit Conde since he has been in detention.

Conde, the leader of the opposition party the Rassemblement du Peuple de la Guinee (RPG) came third in presidential elections held on 14 December.

CHAD: Chad denies attacks in north

Chad's Ministry of Communications denied today reports of armed attacks in the north of the country by the Mouvement pour la democratie et la justice au Tchad (MDJT). A ministry official told IRIN there had been no instability in the north. But diplomatic sources told IRIN yesterday there had been sporadic attacks in the north, which is desert and populated by about 85,000 people.

The MDJT said in communique, published on Saturday in Paris by AFP, that its attacks against government forces started in October in Tibesti, in the north, and that 100 government soldiers had been killed, 12 captured and weapons seized.

NIGERIA: Hospitals discharge patients as doctors' strike continues

As a doctors' strike entered its second week, government hospitals in Nigeria have been turning away new patients while providing a minimum service for the critically ill, a medical source in Lagos told IRIN today. At the Lagos hospital, patients have been discharged in droves, according to the Nigerian daily `The Guardian'. No casualties have been reported. The secretary of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) in the eastern town of Port Harcourt, Charles Ngeribara, was quoted as saying: "Every doctor below the rank of consultant is on strike. The casualty ward, labour, children and emergency wards are empty." In the southeastern city of Benin, people have started moving their sick relatives to private hospitals.

The doctors are demanding better pay and working conditions.

UNITED NATIONS: Security Council calls for unity government in Guinea-Bissau

The Security Council called yesterday on the parties in Guinea-Bissau urgently to form a government of national unity and to hold elections not later than the end of March 1999.

The Council unanimously adopted resolution 1216 (1998) calling for the full implementation of the agreements between the government of Guinea-Bissau and the military junta signed in August, November and December, the UN said in a press release. The agreements provide for respect for the ceasefire, the immediate opening of the airport and seaport in Bissau, the withdrawal of all foreign troops in the country and the simultaneous deployment of the interposition force of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Military Observer Group (ECOMOG).

The Council also called on all concerned, including the Government and the junta, to ensure safe and unimpeded access by international organisations to people who need help because of the conflict.

The full text of the press release is available on the IRIN-Extra service.

AFRICA: Food situation improved in sub-Saharan Africa, FAO says

Sub-Saharan Africa can look forward to a generally improved food supply situation, according to a special UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report released in Johannesburg. A press release on the report received by IRIN today says the improvement reflects "substantial increases in food production in several areas, particularly western Africa where above average to record harvests are anticipated in several Sahelian countries, and in eastern Africa where the year's output is satisfactory in several countries."

"As a result, the sub-region's cereal import requirements are anticipated to be lower than last year," the FAO said.

The FAO report, `Food supply situation and crop prospects in sub-Saharan Africa', lists 13 countries in the region facing exceptional food emergencies caused in some cases by civil strife. They are: Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia. Last year at this time 20 countries in sub-Saharan African were listed in this category by FAO.

In western Africa, according to the report, "a bumper crop is anticipated in Sahel, with record harvests in the main producing countries of the region." In coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, harvest prospects are said to be generally favourable in Benin, Nigeria and Togo, but less favorable in Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. Liberia and Sierra Leone remain heavily dependent on international food assistance, despite some improvement in food production. In Liberia, despite improved security and favourable weather conditions, the 1998 cereal output is only expected to be close to last year's because of a severe seed shortage.

FAO forecasts record crops in Chad, Mali and Niger, with above-average output in The Gambia and about average in Burkina Faso and Senegal. The report foresees below average output in Cape Verde and Mauritania.

The full report is available on the FAO web site at: and a copy of the press release is on the IRIN-Extra service.

SAHEL: Bumper crops expected in Sahel

A bumper crop is anticipated in the Sahel with record harvests in the main producing countries of the region, according to a summary of the latest FAO/GIEWS report `Preliminary Assessment of 1998 cereal production in Western Africa' received by IRIN today. The report, which covers the findings of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions in the Sahel, was presented during the annual meeting of the network for Prevention of Food Crises in the Sahel organised by Club du Sahel and CILSS in Dakar in early December.

The report estimates the 1998 aggregate cereal production of the nine CILSS countries at a record 10.6 million mt, which is 31 percent higher than in 1997 and 17 percent above the average of the last five years, the summary says. Record crops are anticipated in Chad, Mali and Niger. Above-average output is anticipated in The Gambia, while output is close to average in Burkina Faso and Senegal but below average in Cape Verde and Mauritania.

The full report can be consulted on the World Wide Web server which gives access to GIEWS publications, at the following address: then click on "Sahel Weather and Crop Situation" and "Final report". The summary is available on the IRIN-Extra service.

Abidjan, 22 December 1998, 17:30 GMT


Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 18:01:39 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 365 for 1998.12.22

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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