IRIN-WA Update 499 for 2 July [19990703]

IRIN-WA Update 499 for 2 July [19990703]

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 499 of events in West Africa (Friday 2 July 1999)

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG, RUF troops want peace, UNOMSIL official says

ECOMOG and RUF troops stationed in rural areas are desperate for peace, the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL)'s military spokesman, Major Jim Gray, told IRIN in Freetown.

"ECOMOG and the RUF are living in close proximity and tolerating each other," Gray said on Thursday. "They are tired of fighting one another and are waiting for positive news from Lome."

Citing an example of the proximity, he said that ECOMOG and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) positions in Laia in the Occra Hills, roughly 50 km from Freetown, were about 1.6 km apart and that UNOMSIL was trying to establish boundaries between them.

Gray said UNOMSIL was trying to negotiate the release of 240 people who had been abducted by the RUF and were being held in Laia. On their release, they would be screened by ECOMOG, then brought to Freetown, he said.

UNOMSIL expands

Gray also told IRIN that UNOMSIL now had a presence in Freetown, Lungi and Bo, capital of the Southern Province. The military observers were deployed in Bo during the past week.

He said UNOMSIL had 29 military observers and was planning to expand to 70 by the end of July. At this stage, he said, a possible total of 150 military observers was being proposed.

A key element of their mandate would be to assist the disarmament process in collaboration with ECOMOG if a peace agreement is signed in Lome. "The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process is the crux of achieving lasting peace," Gray said.

Former soldiers discharged

In a related development, the government's reintegration officer for the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration told IRIN on Wednesday that the government would discharge 509 former soldiers on Thursday and Friday.

The soldiers, who underwent a three-week `pre-discharge orientation' at the Mammy Yoko Hotel in central Freetown, had served under the military junta which ruled in alliance with the RUF after a coup in May 1997.

They were placed in reorientation camps after ECOMOG ousted the junta and restored President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to power in February 1998.

A first group of 254 ex-combatants were discharged on 24 June.

Britain donates 63 vehicles to ECOMOG

The British government donated 30 trucks, 30 land rovers and three land rover ambulances to ECOMOG in Freetown on Wednesday, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN.

The British High Commissioner for Sierra Leone, Peter Penfold, said the contribution would help ECOMOG ensure the required security and stability in the country.

Brigadier General Humphrey Agbevey, ECOMOG's deputy force commander 1, said logistics and adequate mobility would remain crucial to the performance of ECOMOG's role after the conclusion of the Lome talks, whether it was involved in the consolidation of democracy or in facilitating disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration.

Government representative on key committee awaits confirmation

The government's representative on a committee meant to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Sierra Leone has been identified, but not yet confirmed.

The deputy commissioner for National Reconstruction, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Kanja Sesay, told IRIN on Thursday that he knew he had been nominated in Lome to the Implementation Committee but had not yet received official confirmation from President Kabbah.

"If the president asks me I am happy to serve," Sesay said.

The RUF last week nominated Josephine Tengbeh as its representative on the committee, which the two sides had pledged to set up within a week when they signed a joint statement in Lome on 3 June.

AFRICA: OIC kudos for ECOWAS on Sierra Leone

The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) on Thursday "commended the big political and military role played by ECOWAS in bringing back stability and security to Sierra Leone, chasing the rebellion away from the capital and restoring constitutional legality to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah".

In the final recommendations of its 26th ministerial session, held in Ouagadougou from 28 June to 1 July, the OIC also "condemned the rebels' savagery and blatant violations of human rights".

The conference, attended by more than 600 participants, "expressed sustained support to the programme of President Kabbah's government, which aims at reaching a peaceful settlement of the political crisis though negotiations", according to its final communique.

The OIC, 26 of whose 56 member countries are in Africa, "urged all member states and international and Islamic institutions to provide urgent assistance to the government of Sierra Leone to tackle the immense problems affecting the country" and "support neighbouring countries which give refuge to huge numbers of refugees from Sierra Leone".

GHANA: IFAD funds for land conservation

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is lending Ghana US $11.5 million for a five-year project to improve food security by developing irrigated farming, rehabilitating and building dams and wells and strengthening community organisations, IFAD announced this week.

The Upper Region Land Conservation and Smallholder Rehabilitation Project is designed to support 34,000 people in the Upper East region, which has the lowest standard of living and school enrollment, and highest maternal mortality and illiteracy rates in Ghana.

BURKINA FASO: Grain surplus

Burkina Faso has registered a grain surplus of more than 340,000 mt, equivalent to 16 percent of its annual cereal needs, during the 1998/1999 agricultural season, according to an official communique issued on Thursday.

The country's cereal production increased by 32 percent over 1997/1998 to reach a record 2.656 million mt, 12 percent higher than the average for the past five years, the government said.

"Cereal production (millet, maize, sorghum and rice) fared well in all the provinces, particularly those that traditionally have deficits," the communique said.

NIGERIA: President sends bill on Niger Delta to assembly

PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo has presented a draft bill in the National Assembly seeking the establishment of a Niger Delta Commission, `The Guardian' newspaper in Lagos reported on Friday.

The daily quotes Obasanjo's Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Doyin Okupe, as saying that the bill, presented on Wednesday, was in line with a pledge by the president to start acting to redress the developmental problem of the Niger Delta area.

Okupe said that in letters to the President of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Obasanjo had reiterated his belief that the major cause of the agitation in the Niger Delta area was its neglect in the past and its lack of development.

He urged parliament to approve the bill soon since the setting up of a commission on the Delta, included in its provisions, would help correct the neglect suffered by the region.

Parliament moves to relocate military

The House of Representatives has adopted a motion to relocate all military formations from around the presidential villa, the Supreme Court and the National Assembly, Voice of Nigeria reported on Wednesday.

Moving the motion, parliamentarian Segmi Segbe said the legislature suffered most whenever there was a coup in the country. He said the barracks should be relocated since Nigeria was a coup-prone country.

British banks urged to return money looted by Nigerians

The UK-based Jubilee 2000 Coalition has urged banks in Britain to freeze and help return an estimated US $55 billion in ill-gotten gains banked abroad by Nigerians, AFP reported a Jubilee 2000 official as saying on Thursday.

"The Coalition is pressurizing such financial institutions to freeze and release the looted funds, which rightly belongs to Nigerians," Jubilee 2000's Adrian Lovett told Nigeria's Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

The main objective of Jubilee 2000, a global NGO, is the cancellation of the debts of the world's poorest countries.

Abubakar called for the international community's help in solving Nigeria's debt burden and complementing efforts by the government "to retrieve all stolen money stashed away by its citizens in foreign banks", according to AFP.

He said the government had already recovered some of the stolen money and was gathering information to recover more.

GUINEA BISSAU: Commercial banks reopen, new foreign minister

Guinea Bissau's two commercial banks, the Banco Internacional de Guine-Bissau (BIG) and the Banco Totta e AÁores, reopened to the public on Thursday for the first time since the outbreak of the June 1998 military rebellion, Lusa reported.

Lusa quoted a spokesman for the banks, Tavares da Cruz, as saying that operations ran smoothly and that withrawal amounts were for the most part within expectations.

New foreign minister, Supreme Court head

Interim President Malam Bacai Sanha on Wednesday appointed a new foreign minister and chief of the Supreme Court to replace those who had been appointed by ex-president Joao Bernardo Vieira, deposed by a military junta on 7 May.

The new foreign minister is Jose Baptista, until now the country's representative to the United States and the United Nations. He replaces Hilia Barber. Emiliano dos Reis, former head of the national media council, takes over from Mamadu Djalo Pires as head of the Supreme Court, Lusa reported.

Abidjan, 2 July 1999; 18:33 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1160

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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