IRIN-WA Update 502 for 7 July [19990708]

IRIN-WA Update 502 for 7 July [19990708]

IRIN-WA Update 502 of events in West Africa (Wednesday 7 July 1999)

GUINEA BISSAU: EU grants 2.9 million euro

The European Union has given 2.9 million euro to Guinea Bissau to meet urgent humanitarian needs over the next six months, the EU said in a statement on Tuesday.

The money is to be managed by the EU humanitarian aid agency, ECHO. It will be used to repair or rebuild 5,000 homes damaged or destroyed during the fighting early May between the Military Junta and forces loyal to ousted President Joao Bernardo Vieira.

The rebuilding of homes, which started at the end of May, will enable at least 100,000 residents to regain access to minimal housing and hygiene conditions.

The money will also buy medicines and meet the nutritional needs of the affected population, mostly in Bissau, the EU said.

Security Council backs new plan for UNOGBIS

The UN Security Council on Tuesday backed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's modified mandate for the UN Peace Building Office in Guinea Bissau (UNOGBIS) and his decision to set up a trust fund to finance its activities, Council President Hasmy Agam said.

Agam said Guinea Bissau, especially the capital, suffered much destruction during the war but lacked money to make a quick recovery. He thus urged the international community to continue helping its healing process and reconstruction effort.

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".

NIGERIA: Government cancels leases to 16 local firms

The government has cancelled 16 oil-prospecting leases awarded earlier this year by the former military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubukar, news organisations reported an official statement as saying on Tuesday.

The decision followed an interim report by a panel President Olusegun Obasanjo set up to look into contracts awarded in the last days of Abubakar's regime, Reuters reported the statement as saying. It added that a new procedure for bidding and allocating licences and acreages was being worked out and would be made public soon.

'The Guardian' newspaper reported that the revoked licences were the first casualties of the drive against corruption launched by Obasanjo in an effort to right some of the perceived wrongs by past administrations.

Some of the companies are reportedly linked to retiring and serving military officers, Reuters said.

Senate clears last three ministers

The Senate has cleared the appointment of the last three ministerial nominees put forward by Obasanjo, Reuters quoted state officials as saying on Wednesday.

The three are Ime Okopido as junior environment minister, Mohammed Shata as minister of national planning, and Hajija Aishatu Ismaila as minister of women and youth, Reuters said.

Oil spill destroys farmlands

An oil spill around the villages of Ole and Olomoro in Delta State in the south has caused damage to crops, fish ponds and lakes, 'The Guardian' reported on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the oil company Shell told IRIN on Wednesday that a spill had taken place in the region but that its cause and volume were still not known. A joint investigation team including Shell officials, police, members of environmental protection groups and state petroleum officials visited the area on Tuesday. Their report will be made public soon, the spokesman said

The spillage started on 17 June after the flow station was shut by rioting youths from the area, 'The Guardian' quoted a villager as saying. The damage became extensive after heavy rain caused the oil to overflow through farmland and waterways, he said.

There have been several reports in recent months of flow stations being closed in the oil-producing Delta region following riots or sabotage attempts by local youths who accuse the transnational oil companies of exploiting the region and its people.

Code of conduct for civil servants

Further moves by Obasanjo's new government to stem corruption have resulted in a new "Code of Conduct" for civil servants, 'The Guardian' reported on Wednesday.

The paper reported Minister of Commerce Musa Bello as telling senior officials of his ministry, that the code would be signed by every public servant. He also said that, to curb the leakage of government secrets, all ministry staff were to sign an oath of secrecy, and that those who broke it would be dealt with severely.

SIERRA LEONE: UN Secretary-General urged to reject blanket amnesty

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday to reject any peace agreement for Sierra Leone that includes a general amnesty, and released fresh evidence of ongoing rebel atrocities in Sierra Leone.

"The atrocities committed in Sierra Leone have shocked the world," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director of HRW's Africa division. "The United Nations must not sponsor a peace agreement that pretends they never happened."

The testimonies released by HRW refer to abuses by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, including executions of civilians and gang rape of children in violation of a ceasefire agreement that went into effect on 24 May.

HRW urged all parties at the Togo peace talks to insist on the inclusion of mechanisms of accountability, including trials and punishment for those who have committed the worst atrocities in the final peace accord.

It also suggested that Annan use his visit to Freetown to call for greater international support for the peacekeeping effort by the mainly Nigerian ECOMOG forces in Freetown. It also called on ECOMOG to respect international humanitarian law.

GABON: Congolese (Brazzaville) refugees arrive

The first wave of Congolese refugees fleeing to Gabon was reported at the weekend with some 1,500 Congolese crossing into three provinces along a 1,000 km-stretch of the border, UNHCR announced on Tuesday in Geneva.

The refugees, reportedly malnourished and in poor health, were pushed out by the ongoing fighting and unrest in the Republic of Congo, the UNHCR spokesperson said. Some 650 people were reported to have crossed into the southern provinces of Nyanga and Ngounie, with another 800 arriving in Haut Ogooue, to the north. Refugees said many more Congolese might trek through forests in search of aid in Gabon, UNHCR reported.

Aid workers from the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UNHCR are bringing first aid supplies and making arrangements to fly in blankets and buy food locally.

Gabon is the second country to receive refugees from the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) since rival forces reopened the conflict in late 1998. Some 32,000 have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the spokesperson said.

WEST AFRICA: UN Secretary-General begins five-nation visit

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan met Senegalese President Abdou Diouf on Wednesday, the second day of a West African tour which will also take him to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. On Sunday he travels to Algeria to attend the opening of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)'s summit.

Abidjan, 7 July 1999; 18:00 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1184

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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