IRIN-West Africa Update No 368 for 1998.12.28

IRIN-West Africa Update No 368 for 1998.12.28

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 368 of Events in West Africa (Monday 28 December)

SIERRA LEONE: ECOWAS meets on upsurge of fighting

Foreign ministers of the Ecomomic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were holding an emergency meeting in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan, today (Monday) following heavy fighting in Sierra Leone between rebels and government troops. An ECOWAS statement received by IRIN said the meeting would consider how to halt the fighting, resume peace negotiations and tackle the humanitarian situation.

ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate told the meeting the community deplored the "lack of military back-up" for the West African intervention force ECOMOG and called for an immediate reinforcement of Nigerian-led troops battling the rebels, AFP reported.

Togolese Foreign Ministers Joseph Kocou Koffigoh told AFP that 600 more Nigerian soldiers had arrived in Freetown on Sunday and the Netherlands and the UN had agreed to pay for 400 Malian soldiers and another 100 from Gambia. AFP said Benin, Cote d'Ivoire and Niger had also pledged troops.

An ECOWAS official told IRIN that reports on the situation in Sierra Leone were being presented by the commander of ECOMOG, Major General Timothy Shelpidi, by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in that country, Francis Okelo, and the Sierra Leonean Foreign Affairs Minister, Sama Banya.

The meeting, called by the community's current chairman, President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, is being attended by the foreign ministers of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria, who make up the Committee of Five on Sierra Leone. Burkina Faso, which chairs the Organisation of African Unity, has also sent its foreign minister as has Togo.

Makeni calm, ECOMOG says

Makeni remains calm after a weekend of heavy fighting for control of the northern city between ECOMOG and rebels of the Revolutionary United Front, an ECOMOG source told IRIN today. The source said that although most of the ECOMOG force had withdrawn from Makeni, the town still remained under its control.

The issue of who controls the town has been the subject of claims and counter claims for some days.

The confusion about what precisely was happening in and around the capital Freetown was confirmed by aid workers evacuated to Cote d'Ivoire from Sierra Leone who spoke to IRIN. One said there were unconfirmed reports that the Freetown suburb of Goodridge had fallen to the rebels but another said that in fact ECOMOG had captured men trying to smuggle arms to that area.

The rebels have vowed to march into Freetown by the New Year and ECOMOG has stepped up checkpoints in the city to stop infiltrators.

Suspected rebel lynched

Mobs in Freetown lynched and burned alive a suspected rebel on Saturday as thousands of people thronged the capital in a pro-government demonstration for "freedom and democracy", news reports said.

The crowd attacked a man found to be carrying a pistol and knives, then set him alight. The government, in a statement read over radio, condemned mob justice and said any captured suspects should be handed to the security forces.

Europeans and Americans evacuate their nationals

Britain's Royal Air Force evacuated about 80 European citizens from Sierra Leone on Friday following fighting near Freetown. Two C-130 Hercules transport planes flew the evacuees to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, for an onward flight to London. They included nationals of Ireland, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy and Spain. There was also one Canadian and one Mexican, Reuters reported on Saturday, quoting a British Foreign Ministry official. The US closed operations at its embassy and ordered all US government personnel to leave. The airlifts follow hit and run attacks by rebels near Freetown.

NGOs have also evacuated international staff. The WFP, UNICEF and UNOMSIL still have some staff in Freetown, but other UN agencies have evacuated their personnel to Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire, a UN official told IRIN today.

Troops beef up defences at unfinished dam

Security around Sierra Leone's unfinished Bumbuna Hydro-electric dam has been strengthened as a precaution against rebel attacks, Liberia's Star Radio reported today quoting Energy Minister Thiamus Bangura. The minister said two private security firms and ECOMOG troops were deployed at the dam which is due to be completed by 2000. The report could not be independently confirmed.

GUINEA BISSAU: Togo sends troops to Bissau

Togo has sent troops to Guinea Bissau as part of its contribution to the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, due to be deployed there under a peace accord signed by rival civil war factions, a Togolese foreign ministry official told IRIN today.

He said the ministry could not confirm the exact number of troops sent and how many more would follow. But Reuters reported that the first contingent numbered 80 and the French news agency, AFP, reported later that another 40 were to be flown in today. Reuters said the contingent's first mission will be to open Bissau airport.

The troops are to be joined by contingents from Benin, Gambia and Niger. The total number of troops to be deployed has not been fixed but is expected to be between 1,400 and 1,500. The agreement to send troops was reached in a peace deal in November between the government of President Joao Bernardo Vieira and General Ansumane Mane, his sacked defence chief, in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

NIGERIA: Oil price fall cost Nigeria US $2.3 billion

The fall in crude oil prices has cost the oil-rich west Africa country at least 200 billion naira (US $2.3 billion) in 10 months, military ruler General Abdulsalami Abubakar told the newspaper `This Day' in an interview published today. The report, quoted by AFP, said the fall from an average of around US $22 per barrel when the budget was announced in January to $9.9 by October "has messed up the budget."

Nigeria had projected 424 billion naira as total revenue for the fiscal year which began in January and ends in December 1998. Of this figure, 257 billion naira was expected from the oil sector and 167 billion naira from non-oil revenue.

Nigeria, the sixth largest oil exporter in the World, produces around two million barrels per day and earns about $10 billion annually from the sector.

GUINEA: Conde on television for the first time

Guinea's detained leading opposition politician, Alpha Conde, has appeared briefly on television in what Guinean commentators said today was a measure aimed at dispelling speculation about his health. Local reporters told IRIN that Conde appeared on television last Wednesday. He was smiling and was giving the V for victory sign. But the editor in chief of the `L'Independent', a Conakry newspaper, said that the footage lasted a "fraction of a second" making it difficult to determine Conde's physical condition.

Conde, one of the main challengers to President Lansana Conte in the 16 December presidential polls, was arrested the following day and accused of trying to cross into Cote d'Ivoire when the borders had been closed for the duration of the election. His arrest sparked protests and demands for his release.

Abidjan, 28 December 1998, 17:45 GMT


Date: Mon, 28 Dec 1998 18:11:15 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update No 368 for 1998.12.28

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific