IRIN Update 481 for 8 June [19990609]

IRIN Update 481 for 8 June [19990609]

U N I T E D N A T I O N S 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 481 of events in West Africa (Tuesday 8 June)

SIERRA LEONE: Humanitarian priorities set

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Kinglsey Amaning told IRIN on Tuesday that an initial list of priorities had been drawn up by humanitarian agencies for discussion by the newly formed Implementation Committee (IC).

The three areas identified include the safe transport of food aid to Bo and Kenema in eastern Sierra Leone, access for assessment missions by relief agencies to the north, north-east and north-west and a nationwide polio immunisation campaign coordinated by the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF).

RUF and government nominations for the IC are expected later on Tuesday, said Amaning who is in Lome for the peace talks between the Sierra Leonean government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

The IC was formed after both sides reached agreement on Thursday on guaranteeing "safe and unhindered access" for humanitarian agencies. The IC will assess the security of routes to be used by humanitarian agencies and review complaints that may follow the implementation of the agreement.

Other representatives of the IC, to be chaired by Amaning in coordination with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, include civil society and the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL).

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Monday that it had delivered food aid to Bo, the first such delivery in five months.

Kabbah holds talks on reconstruction

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah held talks on Monday with the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on the situation in Sierra Leone, news organisations reported state media as saying. Sierra Leonean presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told IRIN that the two leaders were possibly "looking towards the future for Sierra Leone and discussing ways of helping to reconstruct the country".

Similarly, Kaikai said, on a recent trip to China, Kabbah visited the Ministry of Agriculture to see how existing resources in Sierra Leone could be used to achieve "sustainable development" including the possibility of cultivating rice two or three times a year.

Kabbah is due to return to Sierra Leone on Tuesday, Kaikai said.

NIGERIA: Curfew in Warri, Obasanjo may visit

Delta State Governor James Ibori has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the troubled eastern oil city of Warri, news reports said.

The curfew, announced Sunday, is effective from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The measure has been taken amidst heavy shooting and destruction of property by rampaging youths armed with bazookas, grenades and automatic rifles, `The Guardian' newspaper of Lagos reported on Tuesday. Ibori warned security agents had orders to "shoot on sight".

Fighting raged last week when Ijaws invaded an Itsekiri town of Arunton near Warri, forcing frightened city residents to flee, many of them airlifted by local and foreign oil firms.

`The Guardian' described Warri on Tuesday as "a ghost town".

Despite the curfew and constant patrols by security forces the youths still manned road barricades on Monday, smashing vehicles and frightening people entering areas they control.

Obasanjo to visit Warri

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe said President Olusegun Obasanjo may visit the strife-torn town on Thursday. Announcement of this followed a briefing Governor Ibori gave Obasanjo on Monday, `The Guardian' reported. Okupe said that after the visit, "major government decisions to bring lasting peace to the area will be announced", AFP added.

President seeks development experts for Delta

In another effort to pacify angry Niger Delta communities, Obasanjo has created a Special Project Division (SPD) to plan the physical and social development of the Niger Delta, `The Guardian' said.

In a statement, Okupu said on Monday the SPD would be headed by a special adviser yet to be named. He will be helped by "master planners of international repute" who will make proposals for the development of a wide variety of services such as electrification, environmental protection, sanitation, education, housing and transport.

The Niger Delta, despite producing much of the nation's foreign earnings through oil sales, remains one of the most underdeveloped areas in Nigeria. Over the past year, militant youths in the area have seized oil flow stations, and kidnapped oil company employees in an effort to press home their demands for development.

Saro-Wiwa group welcomes rights probe

A minority rights group led by the late Ken Saro-Wiwa said on Monday it welcomed plans by Obasanjo to probe recent human rights abuses between 1994 and 1999, describing the action as "a courageous first step", AFP reported. Obasanjo announced on Friday the creation of a panel to be headed by a former Supreme Court judge.

The rights group, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), said Obasanjo needed to give the investigating panel "a mandate to investigate killings which occurred in Ogoni" under the administration of the late General Sani Abacha.

Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were hanged after a trial by a military tribunal on murder charges. The execution provoked worldwide outrage and led to the suspension of Nigeria form the Commonwealth.

GUINEA BISSAU: Vieira's next destination unknown

The ousted Guinea Bissau president, Joao Bernardo Vieira, has three choices for his next destination after leaving the country on Sunday, a diplomatic source in Senegal told IRIN.

"Either he will remain in The Gambia, or he will travel directly to Portugal or he will go to France for medical treatment," the source said on Tuesday. These options were being discussed "at a very high level", the source added.

Vieira was initially granted political asylum by Portugal after seeking refuge in its embassy in Bissau, in May. The Gambia also granted him asylum on Monday for medical reasons.

Gambian Secretary of State for External Affairs Sedat Jobe, who mediated Vieira's safe passage from the Portuguese Embassy in Guinea Bissau, had said Vieira would return home to face trial after medical care, according to Reuters. The proviso that Vieira return for trial was a condition the Military Junta had set for him to seek medical treatment outside Guinea Bissau.

The Junta has been under international pressure to allow Vieira to seek exile in a country of his choice, a call echoed by West African foreign ministers at a meeting in Togo on 24 May, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said in a statement on Monday.

Last ECOMOG troops leave

The last of 712 ECOMOG peacekeeping troops from Benin, The Gambia and Togo have left Guinea Bissau for home, ECOWAS said in a statement on Monday.

A French diplomat in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, told IRIN that France had provided logistical support for the troop withdrawal. The troops were deployed in Guinea Bissau in February to implement a peace agreement reached in November 1998 between the self-styled Military Junta and forces loyal to Vieira.

The ECOMOG troops replaced Guinean and Senegalese forces who intervened in June 1998 to help Vieira quell the army uprising. ECOWAS decided recently to withdraw its troops following Vieira's downfall.

Army chief warns

Meanwhile, Guinea Bissau's new armed forces chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Verisimo Siabra Correia, said on Monday the government would not tolerate any attempt by outside forces to destabilise the country. He was speaking at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the army mutiny that finally ousted Vieira, AFP reported. Local analysts interpreted this remark as a reference to the intervention by Guinea and Senegal in 1998.

CHAD: Rebel leader vows to take capital by end of year

The Chadian rebel leader, Youssouf Togoimi, of the Mouvement pour la democratie et la justice au Tchad (MDJT) said this week that his forces will be in the capital N'Djamena by the end of the year, according to an interview in the weekly 'Jeune Afrique' magazine.

The rebel leader, who has held the portfolios of justice, defence and interior in former president Idriss Deby's government, said that his forces had taken over a number of towns and military outposts in the north of the country and controlled all access to the mountainous Tibetsi region, according to 'Jeune Afrique.' He said that his troops were in a position to take the towns of Bardai or Zouar in the north but preferred to wait for the government troops to surrender.

However, Chadian Communications Minister Moussa Dago told IRIN on Tuesday that his government was "not worried as Togoimi has made several similar declarations in the past".

COTE d'IVOIRE: Regional peacekeeping school opened

A Franco-Ivoirian centre to train African peacekeepers was inaugurated on Monday in Zambakro, some 220 km north of Abidjan, a senior Ivorian army officer told IRIN.

The official said on Tuesday that the FF 16-million centre was paid for by France and consisted of command and communications centres, classrooms, and mess halls. The centre, which is within the Zambakro army base, will initially accommodate 20 officers to be trained as peacekeeping observers and later others as battalion and brigade headquarters chiefs of staff. Although soldiers will initially be invited from West African countries, the official said, personnel would later be accepted from any African country.

"There are no restrictions," another military source said.

The centre, the first of its kind in Africa, is part of France's programme to increase Africa's capacity at peacekeeping.

LIBERIA: Meeting to prepare for weapon destruction

The presidents of Nigeria and Liberia have asked ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate to make preparations for the destruction of 30 containers of arms and ammunition seized at the end of Liberia's civil war, the community said in a statement on Monday.

Kouyate will attend a meeting about this on Thursday in Monrovia. The arms destruction falls within the framework of moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of light arms in West Africa which was adopted at an ECOWAS summit on 31 October 1998, ECOWAS said. The moratorium aims principally to reduce the proliferation of such weapons which pose a threat to the stability of the region.

Liberian President Charles Taylor announced last Thursday in a nationwide address that a special committee would be set up to implement the decision to destroy the weapons. The weapons were collected from various Liberian warring factions after the civil war by ECOMOG and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL). The arms are stored in the former ECOMOG base in Monrovia.

Abidjan, 8 June 1999, 19:55 GMT


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Item: irin-english-986

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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