IRIN-WA Update 500 for 5 July [19990705]

IRIN-WA Update 500 for 5 July [19990705]

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 500 of events in West Africa (Monday 5 July 1999)

SIERRA LEONE: Peace agreement would need periodic reviews

If a peace agreement is signed in Lome its provisions should be reviewed regularly, John Hirsch, Vice President of the International Peace Academy (IPA) said on Sunday in an interview on local radio in Freetown.

Hirsch said one of the problems with the Abidjan Accord, signed in November 1996 by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and rebel leader Foday Sankoh, was that no written commitment was made to review its implementation once it was signed. Hirsch was US ambassador to Sierra Leone at the time.

Hirsch said such reviews should include representatives from regional and non-regional states and would help put the "international spotlight on the regional actors".

Civilians arrive in Freetown from Makeni

Humanitarian sources in Freetown said on Monday that small numbers of civilians have been arriving in the capital from Makeni, some 130 km northeast of Freetown.

During the last week around eight or nine people have reached Freetown, sources told IRIN, some with help from rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) who said they wanted peace. The civilians said there were acute food shortages in Makeni, with many people living on mangoes and cassava.

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN on Monday that ECOMOG soldiers had been screening "trickles of civilians" on their way from Makeni to Freetown.

Freed ECOMOG soldiers return to Nigeria

Some 10 Nigerian soldiers arrived in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, at the weekend after being released by the RUF, Nigerian television reported on Sunday.

The former prisoners of war, who had been serving in ECOMOG, were handed over to Liberian intermediaries before being flown to Nigeria. Liberia's deputy information minister, Milton Teahjay, told IRIN on Monday that he hoped it marked the beginning of further releases.

At peace talks in Lome on 2 June, the government of Sierra Leone and the RUF agreed on the immediate release of all prisoners of war and non-combatants.

NIGERIA: The state to sell 60 public firms

Nigeria's current government has earmarked 60 unprofitable state firms for sale under its economic liberalisation policy, Vice President Atiku Abubakar said on Friday.

In a meeting with a delegation led by US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Robert Mallet, Abubakar said the firms for sale included some in the telecommunications, transport and oil sectors.

The power company, NEPA, would receive federal funding and be sold only after it had become more efficient, the`Post Express' newspaper reported Abubakar as saying.

Mallet said the United States would help Nigeria privatise its industries and that the US business community wanted economic reforms sooner rather than later.

Two Indian nationals kidnapped in Delta State

Two Indian nationals working for a Nigerian rubber-processing company in Ughelli, Delta State, have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen demanding a ransom of 10 million naira (US $105,000) for their release, the `Post Express' newspaper reported at the weekend.

Kirti Patel and Kartera Pavan were seized by two gunmen when they stopped to buy eggs on their way home from work. The gunmen passed themselves off as agents of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) checking the two for drugs and arms.

The kidnapping of foreign workers has become a regular occurrence in the Delta region in southeast Nigeria. Last week, youths abducted two foreign helicopter pilots on contract to Shell Nigeria.

Two communities compensated for oil spill

A Federal High Court in Benin, western Nigeria, has awarded 245.81 million naira (about US $2.4 million) to two communities in Rivers State in the southeast in compensation for an oil spill five years ago traced to Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, newspapers in Lagos reported on Monday.

Compensation went to the Dubaro community in the Ken-Khana local council and the Bean community. Ken-Khana lies in the heart of Ogoniland, an area that has been demanding that oil companies clean up environmental damage caused by their activities. The lawyer for Dubaro said in court that the community's main occupations - lumbering, fishing and farming - were disrupted by the oil leak.

Shell blamed the spill on sabotage of one of its flow stations on 31 July 1994 by "third parties, known and unknown", who were sympathisers of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa's Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP.

WEST AFRICA: ECOWAS launches travellers cheques

Travellers cheques for the 16-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), denominated in West African Units of Account (WAUA), officially went on sale on last week, Reuters reported.

The cheques will be in denominations ranging from five to 100 WAUA. WAMA Director of Research and Operations, George Osaka, told Reuters in Freetown that his bureau would fix the exchange rate between national currencies once every two weeks.

Banks, Reuters reported, would be allowed a maximum one-percent spread around the exchange rate when buying and selling the cheques. However, they will not be allowed to charge commissions.

The cheque's launch had been delayed for technical reasons in Cote d'Ivoire, and perhaps in several other countries within the franc zone, an official of the Ivorian branch of their common central bank, the Banque Centrale des Etats d'Afrique de l'Ouest(BCEAO), told IRIN on Monday.

"In Cote d'Ivoire, the UEMOA has not yet received specimens of the cheques," Samuel Meango, the chief of technical studies for the Ivoirian branch of BCEAO, said. However, he said advertisements had been placed in Ivorian newspapers informing the public of the cheques' impending circulation.

The cheque, valid only within West Africa, would enable people to travel within the community without having to seek hard currencies such as US dollars and French francs.

People encountering problems transacting business in the cheques, Meango said, could as a first measure complain to the central bank of the country they are visiting.

The cheques were officially launched on 30 October, 1998, by ECOWAS heads of state meeting in Abuja, Nigeria.

ECOWAS countries are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. All but Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are in the CFA monetary zone.

GUINEA BISSAU: Amnesty calls for justice

Guinea Bissau's new government has a good opportunity to introduce a new culture of respect for human rights, Amnesty International said on Monday.

"Those suspected of human rights violations must be brought to justice - this is the first step in developing a culture in which human rights are protected," Amnesty said. "The Government of National Unity and particularly the government to be elected in November 1999 must give their urgent attention to ensuring accountability.

"They must also reform the institutions which have a vital role to play in protecting human rights - the judiciary, the police and the prisons," said Amnesty, which on Monday released a new report titled `Guinea-Bissau: Human rights in war and peace'.

Amnesty also said it welcomed the inclusion in the UN Peace-Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) of two human rights officers responsible for monitoring human rights and providing technical assistance for measures to protect human rights.

Revised mandate for UNOGBIS

In his latest report on Guinea Bissau to the UN Security Council, released on Friday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has proposed a revised mandate for UNOGBIS in connection with the new situation in the country following the overthrow on 7 May of President Joao Bernardo Vieira.

In addition to its previous tasks, UNOGBIS will now "support national efforts towards national reconciliation, tolerance and peaceful management of differences". Another new task is "to encourage initiatives aimed at building confidence and maintaining friendly relations between Guinea-Bissau and its neighbours and international partners".

UNOGBIS had already been mandated, among other things, to "help create an enabling environment for restoring, maintaining and consolidating peace, democracy and the rule of law and for the organisation of free and transparent elections".

SAHEL: WFP food for Chad, The Gambia, Mauritania

The WFP has decided to provide emergency supplies for various parts of Chad, The Gambia and Mauritania, threatened by food insecurity.

In Mauritania, some 161,690 vulnerable persons in Aftout (southwest) and Affole (south) will initially receive around 6,900 mt of food, WFP said in its latest emergency report, released on Friday.

In The Gambia, 14 percent of the rural population in the districts of Upper Niumis, Fonis, West Wuli, Kiang West and Central and North Bank Upper Plains have been identified as highly food insecure and will receive about 1,000 mt of relief food from the Programme.

In Chad, WFP will initially provide 1,336 mt of food aid, expected to cover two months' food requirement, for 53,690 extremely vulnerable persons in Tandjile, Logone Occidental and Oriental in the southwest of the country.

Abidjan, 5 July 1999; 18:01 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1171

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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