IRIN-WA Update 498 for 1 July [19990701]

IRIN-WA Update 498 for 1 July [19990701]

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 498 of events in West Africa (Thursday 1 July 1999)

WEST AFRICA: Equatorial Guinea wants in on Cameroon-Nigeria issue

Equatorial Guinea has applied to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for permission to intervene in the Cameroon-Nigeria border dispute in a bid to safeguard its territorial and oil interests.

It said the purpose of the intervention was "to protect (its) legal rights in the Gulf of Guinea by all legal means" and "inform the Court of Equatorial Guinea's legal rights and interests so that these may remain unaffected as the Court proceeds to address the question of the maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria", the ICJ said in a communique on Wednesday.

In support of its application, which it submitted on 30 June, Equatorial Guinea said one of the claims Cameroon presented in a 16 March 1995 memorial "ignore(s) the legal rights of Equatorial Guinea in the most flagrant way because it disregards the median" whereas Cameroon had never indicated that it did not accept the median line as the boundary between the two countries.

The median line is the line that divides maritime zones between two states in such a way that the border is always equidistant from the coasts of each of the states.

All three countries have been exploiting and exploring for oil in the area.

Equatorial Guinea said "any judgement extending the boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria across the median line with Equatorial Guinea (would) be relied upon by concessionaires, who would likely ignore Equatorial Guinea's protests and proceed to explore and exploit resources to the legal and economic detriment" of that country, ICJ reported.

The ICJ said it had immediately communicated Equatorial Guinea's application to Cameroon and Nigeria and fixed 16 August as the limit for them to file any written observations on it.

"It will be for the Court to decide whether the Application ... should be granted," the ICJ noted.

NIGER: Referendum date set for 18 July

Niger's ruling Conseil de Reconciliation nationale (CRN) has announced that a referendum on a new constitution, originally set for 11 July, will be held on 18 July, news reports said.

The CRN also said the constitutional system to be proposed to the electorate on 18 July was a semi-presidential one, in which power is shared between the president and prime minister.

However, the ruling junta, which came to power in a coup on 9 April, rejected a proposal made by the country's main politicians for the formation of a government of national unity, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported.

It also ruled out other proposals such as the establishment of a senate, a supreme religious council, and a supreme traditional council, RFI said.

SIERRA LEONE: Disarmament

A team of three World Bank experts on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) briefed participants in the Lome peace talks on a DDR Programme for Sierra Leone currently under preparation, UNOMSIL reported on Wednesday.

The programme assumes that 33,000 to 40,000 combatants in Sierra Leone will need to be disarmed and reintegrated into civil society once the civil war there is ended, the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) said.

The World Bank has opened a multidonor trust fund to solicit contributions towards the US $33 million to $35 million the DDR requires. Britain has pledged US $10 million and the World Bank US $9.1 million to the programme, UNOMSIL said.

Postal employees return to work

Postal employees returned to work on Wednesday after striking for better pay and benefits, AFP reported. The workers, who earn the local equivalent of between US $10 and $20 a month, were also demanding more promotions and medical benefits.

Leaders of the Union of Postal and Telecommunications Services, which called the strike, refused to say whether they obtained the workers' demands.

The managing director of the postal service, Kanji Darame, said the service had been paying workers despite the bloody rebel invasion of the capital on 6 January which destroyed public infrastructure and which, analysts said, left the country broke.

Guinea denies banning Sierra Leonean men

Guinea has denied a news report published on Thursday that it has banned Sierra Leonean men from entering the country by sea.

Alhousseine Thiam, chairman of Guinea's Bureau national de coordination des refugies (National Refugee coordination office) told IRIN on Thursday: "Guinea has never, never restricted (the entry of) Sierra Leonean males."

Thiam said there had been cases of boats coming to Guinea with some people requesting refuge and others - businessmen - saying they had no intention of staying. Those requesting asylum, Thiam said, were handed over to the appropriate local agency.

The French news agency, AFP, had quoted boat operators in Freetown as saying on Wednesday that Guinea had stopped adult males from entering the country, in the wake of a recent spate of cross-border attacks by a rebel splinter group calling itself the Sierra Leonean People's Army.

LIBERIA: Elite troops deployed near US Embassy

Liberia said it deployed elite troops near the US Embassy in Monrovia on Wednesday in response to fears raised by the US State Department of a possible terrorist threat, news reports and diplomatic sources said on Thursday.

However, Sarah Morrison, the head of the US Information Service in Monrovia, told IRIN, "we have quite a bit of security around the embassy", although she also said, "we appreciate the concern of the Liberian government."

Fears of a terrorist attack had prompted Washington to close its embassies in six African countries, including Liberia, on Thursday through Saturday last week.

Morrison confirmed news reports quoting Liberian National Security Adviser Tambakai Jangaba as saying his government informed the embassy before deploying the recently formed Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) in the diplomatic quarter at Mamba Point.

In September 1998, a two-day gun battle broke out outside the US Embassy in which Liberian security forces shot at supporters of former faction leader Roosevelt Johnson, who sought refuge in the embassy. The shooting soured relations between Monrovia and Washington.

Jangaba said that the ATU was a component of the elite Special Security Service, or presidential guard, and had trained for 14 months "under the most exacting and state-of-the-art techniques by foreign, Western security experts".

The ATU specialises in sabotage deterrence, repelling acts of terrorism on buildings, buses, aircraft, trains and inner-city locations, as well as defusing explosives.

Liberia's security forces are regularly accused of harassing or brutalising civilians, public employees and judicial officials. Nevertheless, Jangaba said the ATU was well disciplined and asked for public comment on their behaviour and effectiveness.

"Liberia is sincere in wanting to know how the troops behave," Morrison said, "and we will give them our honest feedback."

NIGERIA: Anti-corruption bill before the Senate

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has presented an anti-corruption bill to the Senate proposing a seven-year prison term for offenders, news reports said on Wednesday.

If it is passed into law, any public official who asks for or receives property or favours, or is found to have indulged in other forms of corruption will be guilty of a felony.

Obasanjo presented the bill last week, AFP reported. Quoting 'This Day', a Nigerian newspaper, AFP said the bill also proposes a 13-member anti-corruption commission which will investigate complaints and prosecute offenders.

That commission would be empowered to seize the assets of any offender, AFP added.

AFRICA: Forum recommends strategies for resolving conflicts

The innovative approaches to conflict management that women's groups have developed need to be appreciated, participants in the Third Forum on Governance in Africa, held in Bamako, Mali, from 28 to 30 June, recommended.

It is essential for women to be involved in national affairs at a very early stage and at all levels, they said, adding that this could be done through measures targeting their economic and political empowerment, but also through their participation in governmental decision-making.

The competencies of governments, civil society and regional and subregional organisations in the area of conflict analysis and management need to be consolidated, they recommended.

In a message to the Forum, organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that "in the past three decades, more than 30 civil wars have been fought in Africa".

The Forum recognised the need to maintain a balance between justice and reconciliation so as to avoid the risk of falling into a vicious cycle of violence and instability.

Governments should intensify their efforts to control illicit arms trafficking, it noted, adding that a moratorium the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has placed on the trade in and manufacture of light arms should be extended gradually to the rest of the continent.

Abidjan, 1 July 1999; 17:50 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1149

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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