IRIN-WA Update 501 for 6 July [19990707]

IRIN-WA Update 501 for 6 July [19990707]

IRIN-WA Update 501 of events in West Africa (Tuesday 6 July 1999)

CHAD: Ex-rebel returns home after peace deal with government

The exiled leader of the armed opposition group, the Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD) returned to Chad on Monday after signing a reconciliation accord with the government, Chad's communication minister, Moussa Dago, told IRIN on Tuesday.

Moussa Medella signed the agreement with the government in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, at the weekend. Following the signing of the accord, Dago said, there will be an amnesty and a general disarmament of MDD fighters as well as a reintegration of MDD military and civilian personnel into the army and administration.

In return the MDD has agreed to end its rebellion and work with the government to encourage the return of all opposition militants living abroad, Dago said.

However there are reports of splits within the MDD and challenges to Medella, AFP said on Monday. The MDD's interim president and secretary general, Gaileth Bourkoumandaha, said that he had expelled Medella from the party denouncing the Khartoum accord as a treacherous act that did not reflect the position of the MDD.

Asked if these splits within the party would have any implications for the accord, Dago said "none whatsoever, as far as we are concerned Medella signed the agreement as leader of the MDD".

The MDD operates in the western region of Lake Chad and is one of the oldest armed opposition groups fighting the government of President Idriss Deby, according to AFP.

MAURITANIA: Army officer accused of torture arrested in France

Mauritania's government decided on Monday to expel all French military advisers, recall its military officers undergoing training in France and reintroduce visas for French citizens visiting the country, news reports said.

The measures follow the arrest on Saturday of a Mauritanian army captain, Ely Ould Dha, who was attending a course at a French army college in Montpellier, according to AFP.

Ould Dha was arrested after human rights organisations including the Federation Internationale des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH) filed a formal complaint with the police in Montpellier. They accused him of torturing at least two Mauritanians in a prison near Nouakchott in 1990 and 1991.

French and international human rights organisations have distributed the names of hundreds of officials alleged to be responsible for the death of over 400 people between 1986 and 1991, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

Amnesty International described the move to investigate Ould Dha as "a positive step in ensuring justice for the victims of gross human rights abuses committed in Mauritania over the years".

"The culture of impunity for human rights violations has gone unchallenged for decades in Mauritania," Amnesty said. "Action by the international community is crucial in ensuring that those responsible for gross human rights violations do not escape justice."

According to Amnesty, widespread human rights violations, including political killings, disappearances and torture, were carried out by the Mauritanian authorities over many years.

"In 1986, mass arrests of suspected government opponents from both black and Arab-Berber communities began and a high level of human rights violations continued to be recorded in the early 1990s," Amnesty added.

Victims of such violations included black Mauritanians suspected of being members of the opposition and civil servants. Between 1989 and 1991 hundreds of black villagers, particularly those from the Senegal River Valley, were targeted by the Mauritanian authorities, who are mainly Moors, and many were expelled to neighbouring countries, Amnesty said

Tens of thousands more fled to Senegal and other neighbouring countries, it said, adding that those responsible for these crimes have remained unpunished.

SIERRA LEONE: Mini summit in Lome

West African heads of states were due to meet on Tuesday afternoon in Togo's capital, Lome, to try to finalise a peace plan to end the civil war in Sierra Leone. The talks were expected to include the leaders of Burkina Faso, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the press spokesman for Togo's president told IRIN on Tuesday.

In a speech broadcast to the nation on Monday, the president of Sierra Leone, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, said he was travelling to Lome to "finalise a comprehensive peace agreement, which, with God's grace will lay a solid foundation for sustainable peace which has eluded us over the past nine years".

According to AFP, Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh said on Monday that the rebels' People's War Council had reservations about key elements of the draft agreement and wanted seven cabinet posts including the Ministry of Mines in a transitional government as well as the vice-presidency. The government had offered four cabinet posts.

By late afternoon the BBC reported that the leaders of Burkina Faso, Liberia and Nigeria had arrived in Lome but Kabbah was experiencing some "flight and communication difficulties".

RSF says rebels deliberately targeted journalists

Following their invasion of Freetown in January, the RUF rebels employed a "deliberate and systematic policy to eliminate journalists who represented a free press" according to a communique published on Monday from the Paris-based organisation, Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF).

A delegation from RSF, an organisation which defends the right to a free press, met a group of some 20 Sierra Leonean journalist refugees in Guinea at the end of June. According to RSF, the testimonies they heard confirmed a report they had published in April entitled "Sierra Leone: janvier noir pour la presse."

>From the moment the RUF entered Freetown on 6 January, the RSF press statement said, they decided to "physically eliminate journalists who criticised them or supported President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's government". According to several testimonies, the rebels had lists of journalists considered pro-government, RSF said.

Sheku Saccoh, a journalist from the Sierra Leonean 'Standard Times' and correspondent for the UK-based publications, 'Africa Analysis' and 'New African', told RSF how the rebels came to his house and found only his wife. When she refused to say where he was hiding, they killed her and burned the house, he said.

AFRICA: US announces US $350-million fund

Encouraging direct investment in Sub-Saharan Africa is the aim of a new US $350-million US fund, George Munoz, chief executive of the US Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC), said on Monday.

The fund will finance telecommunications, transportation, electrical power, water and sanitation projects and create at least 7,000 jobs, Munoz said at a news conference in Durban, South Africa, where he was attending the World Economic Forum of Southern African states. It is to be managed by the Sloane Financial Group, with offices in Johannesburg, West and East Africa.

"These funds work because they are linked to fixed direct investment and the creation of jobs," Munoz said.

OPIC defines itself as "an independent US government agency that sells investment services to assist US companies investing in some 140 emerging economies around the world".

WEST AFRICA: Army worms arrive

Army worms have been detected in Ghana's Upper East Region, according to news reports confirmed to IRIN by the FAO's Deputy Regional Representative for West Africa, George Mburathi.

News organisations have reported that some 130,000 ha of cereals are threatened by the caterpillars, which have also been detected in significant numbers in Cameroon.

Mburathi told IRIN that, as far as he knew, Ghana and Cameroon were the only two West African countries where the presence of the caterpillars, which reduce harvests by attacking crops before they mature, had been reported so far.

East and Central African countries such as Kenya, Sudan and Chad have already been attacked by the pest.

NIGERIA: New guidelines for oil firms

Firms bidding to new oil contracts in Nigeria must be major global players in the business and willing to invest in the country, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has said.

Under new NNPC guidelines released on Monday, firms bidding for new contracts must maintain a minimum annual turnover of US $100 million, according to news reports citing the state company. Firms must also have a net worth of at least US $40 million.

Further, bidders must be crude-oil end-users, own their refineries and outlets abroad, be established and globally recognised large- volume traders, and have built an export oil refinery in Nigeria.

Competing firms are also required to invest in community development projects in the oil-producing areas, which have been protesting violently against the underdevelopment of their impoverished communities.

Each bidder will post a million-dollar bond, through a reputable Nigerian bank, which will be cashed if investment is not made within six months of signing of a contract.

These conditions eliminate from the competition many small operators which, AFP said, used to have contracts and close links to the military.

Bonny chiefs accuse oil firms

Traditional rulers in Bonny Island, centre of Nigeria's largest gas and oil production area in Rivers State, have warned firms that youths in the area might attack their facilities unless they provide jobs and abide by a development deal with the community, `The Guardian' newspaper of Lagos said on Tuesday.

In a statement on Monday, the Bonny Chiefs Council said islanders had not seen any improvement in their lives in the seven months since they entered into a memorandum of understanding with the companies - the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited, Shell and Mobil.

The chiefs accused them of failing to consult the Bonny Kingdom Development Committee, of not employing qualified residents who are frustrated by repeated interviews, and of not agreeing to have the council represented on the Bonny Environmental Consultants Committee, the newspaper said.

The chiefs also said the firms disregarded an Environment Impact assessment report done on the liquefied gas project, and "warned that it was becoming difficult to restrain the frustrated youths in the area from taking the law into their own hands".

The chiefs claimed the oil firms had destroyed their traditional historical heritage, Reuters reported. Reuters also said that new investments had increased by at least US $5 billion in recent years with the liquefied natural gas plant due to begin production in October. Mobil Corp, it said, commissioned its gas plant in 1998.

Abidjan, 6 July 1999; 18:26 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1177

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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