IRIN-WA Update 504 for 9 July [19990710]

IRIN-WA Update 504 for 9 July [19990710]

IRIN-WA Update 504 of events in West Africa (Friday 9 July 1999)

AFRICA: World Bank helping to fight AIDS

Africa, which has two-thirds of the people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, needs to take "drastic action" to check the alarming spread of the pandemic, World Bank specialists concerned by the phenomenon said on Friday.

"Africa is the epicenter in the world, Cote d'Ivoire the epicenter in West Africa," Hans Binswanger, director of rural and environmental development at the World Bank, said at a news conference in Abidjan.

Last year, 1.5 million Africans died of the disease, among them doctors, engineers, researchers, farmers. They died because of the "unique concentration" of the HIV in Africa and because governments and their international partners have been slow to act, the World Bank says in a document titled `Intensifying Action Against HIV/AIDS in Africa: Responding to a development crisis.'

The World Bank says it has crafted a strategic plan to tackle HIV/AIDS head-on, along with development partners and African governments, because of its impact on development and the loss of key professionals it causes. It has called on African leaders, civil society and the private sector to put HIV/AIDS at the centre of their agendas.

[See separate item titled 'World Bank helping to fight AIDS']

NIGERIA: Phased withdrawal of troops from Sierra Leone

The Nigerian government is to prepare a gradual and phased withdrawal of Nigerian troops from Sierra Leone, news organisations quoted presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe as saying in a signed statement.

"This action will be in keeping with the electioneering promises of President Obasanjo to get Nigerian troops back home at the soonest possible time, without jeopardy to the peace process," the statement reportedly said.

A communique issued in Lome on behalf of the signatories to Wednesday's agreement stated that the parties had agreed that ECOMOG's mandate should be adapted to "new exigencies of peace and national reconciliation".

"The assignment of ECOMOG will be centred around reconstruction, disarmament, mobilisation and integration of the citizenry, training of the Sierra Leonean Armed Forces, and providing security of VIPs in that country," Okupe was quoted as saying on Nigerian Television on Thursday.

The Lome agreement states that "a neutral peacekeeping force comprising UNOMSIL and ECOMOG shall disarm all combatants" from rebel, civil defence, former army and paramilitary groups.

Obasanjo swears in key advisers

Philip Asiodu, a former presidential hopeful for the ruling People's Democratic Party, was among 10 presidential advisers sworn in on Friday in Abuja, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported. His portfolio is the economy.

According to an AFP report based on information from the presidency, other key advisers are S.K. Babalola (Education), Ango Abdullahi (Food Security), Titi Ajanaku (Women's Affairs), Patrick Cole (International Relations), Mahmud Waziri (Inter-party relations), Rilwanu Lukman (Petroleum and Energy), Aminu Wali (National Assembly), Liel Imoke (Utilities) and A. Nwosu (Political), AFP reported.

SIERRA LEONE: Security Council reaction

The UN Security Council said the signing of the peace agreement in Lome was "a significant achievement for all concerned, and a historic turning point for Sierra Leone and its people".

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Council urged the government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to do their best to ensure that its provisions are implemented.

The Security Council paid tribute to the key role played by ECOMOG in Sierra Leone. It said the United Nations would have a crucial role to play in the implementation of the agreement, in close coordination with all those involved on the ground, especially in the areas of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration.

Humanitarian mission to Kailahun

RUF field commanders, including Sam Bockarie, guaranteed the security of humanitarian assessment teams in RUF-held areas at a meeting on Wednesday with a mission made up of relief officials in the eastern district of Kailahun.

Led by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Kingsley Amaning, the mission included representatives of UN agencies, UNOMSIL and NGOs, according to a source from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

At the meeting, Bockarie - the RUF's most senior field commander - said that although RUF past relations with the humanitarian community had been strained, he was eager to welcome aid agencies to RUF-held areas.

Amaning emphasised at the meeting that the relief community had "worked long and hard to maintain its impartiality in a humanitarian context", the source said.

It was agreed that preparations should begin for a humanitarian assessment in Makeni, an RUF-held town in the north, as early as next week. A senior police officer in Port Loko, west of Makeni, told IRIN last week that he had heard reports of "acute shortages of food and medical supplies" in Makeni.

In the peace agreement signed on Wednesday in Lome, the government and the RUF agreed to guarantee "safe and unhindered access" for all humanitarian organisations throughout Sierra Leone.

UN Under-Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello welcomed the assurances for the safety of relief workers which, he said, would allow them to evaluate and address the needs of some 2.6 million civilians who have remained inaccessible since 1998.

At a meeting with UN officials in Freetown on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he "encouraged a swift and vigorous humanitarian response" in Sierra Leone.

COTE D'IVOIRE: police receive humanitarian law training

Fifteen Ivoirian police officers were trained in basic provisions of international human law applicable to maintaining order at a seminar in Abidjan, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported.

The seminar, led by five ICRC-trained Ivoirian instructors, included field exercises which illustrated the elementary rules of conduct in law enforcement, ICRC said Thursday in a statement.

It also focused on the principles governing the work of the Red Cross. There were discussions on ICRC neutrality, its role as guardian of the Geneva Conventions, the protective value of the red cross emblem, the applicability of international humanitarian law in situations involving internal disturbances and the issue of how to ensure that those who violate humanitarian law are punished.

The seminar, held on 22-25 June, formed part of the ICRC's ongoing work to teach international humanitarian law to law enforcers.

SENEGAL: Food security council installed

Prime Minister Mamadou Loum this week inaugurated Senegal's Conseil national sur la Securite alimentaire (National Food Security Council).

The aim of the CNSA is to diagnose the general food security situation in Senegal, identifty the main causes of insecurity and come up with the most effective prescriptions possible for tackling its causes.

Loum recalled that Senegal has committed itself to halving malnutrition by the year 2015.

GHANA: Spain aids rural electrification project

Spain has agreed to lend Ghana nearly US $5 million for a project to provide people in the countryside with electricity under a Self-Help Electrification Programme, a Spanish Embassy spokesperson in Accra told IRIN on Friday.

Abidjan, 9 July 1999; 17:34 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1201

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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