IRIN-WA Update 505 for 12 July [19990713]

IRIN-WA Update 505 for 12 July [19990713]

IRIN-WA Update 505 of events in West Africa (Monday 12 July 1999)

WEST AFRICA: Nigeria ponders its role following Lome accord

With the signing of the Sierra Leone peace accord, Nigeria quickly announced a programme for the phased withdrawal of its estimated 12,000 troops serving in the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).

Does this mean the end of intervention by the regional giant in West Africa's conflicts? Many analysts think that is neither the case nor desirable, even if Nigeria is keen to drop what has been a costly burden.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan conveyed much the same message at the weekend when he visited Nigeria for two days en route to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit in Algiers.

"I am here to thank Nigeria for its efforts in the region on peacekeeping and trying to make sure that we are able to calm the waters and settle the crisis in the region from Liberia to Sierra Leone," Annan told reporters during his visit.

He said the United Nations planned to expand its peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in Sierra Leone towards the implementation of the peace agreement and would work with ECOMOG for that purpose.

[See separate item titled 'AFRICA: IRIN Special report on Nigeria and peacekeeping']

Abuja asks United Nations to be more active in Africa

Meanwhile, Radio Nigeria reported at the weekend that the Nigerian government had asked the United Nations to be more active in African affairs and urged it to engage in the implementation of the Sierra Leone accord.

Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar made the call in talks with Annan. He said the United Nations was paying more attention to conflict in Europe to the detriment of more complex ones in Africa, the state-owned radio said. The United Nations, Abubakar said, needed to give more logistical and financial help to support the peace process in Sierra Leone.

The United Nations has said that, by the end of July, it will increase its military observer mission in Sierra Leone, UNOMSIL, from 29 to 70.

At a news conference in Monrovia on 8 July, Annan said his presence in West Africa was a show of support for the peace processes in the subregion. In addition, he said, the United Nations and the international community "had an obligation to work closely with Liberia and Sierra Leone in reconstruction and development".

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG soldiers told to maintain vigilance

West African peacekeepers in Sierra Leone have been told to maintain a state of vigilance after the signing of the peace treaty between the government and rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Lome last week, according to an ECOMOG press release.

ECOMOG Force Commander Major General Felix Mujakperuo told his troops the accord should not be used as a reason to lessen the level of the force's commitment to its duties in ensuring maximum security.

Mujakperuo added that the peace agreement signalled a sensitive phase of ECOMOG's mission in Sierra Leone and demanded a display of extreme professionalism on the part of its soldiers to achieve the ultimate intention of peace.

On the question of internally displaced people (IDPs) returning to their homes, he said security should continue to be followed while making allowance for IDPs to receive necessary assistance from aid agencies.

Rebels and civilians continue to leave bush

Meanwhile ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN that people have been continuing to leave the bush, especially from around Makeni and Lunsar, northeast of Freetown, but that it was often difficult to tell rebels from civilians.

He was reacting to a media report that rebels and civilians had been streaming out of the bush.

Olukulade said people had been leaving the bush ever since the signing of the ceasefire agreement on 18 May. The chief police superintendent in the town of Port Loko, northeast of Freetown, told IRIN recently there had been reports "of acute shortages of food and medical supplies in Makeni".

RUF field commanders guaranteed last week the security of humanitarian assessment teams in RUF-held areas and preparations are underway for a team to visit Makeni on Wednesday, according to a humanitarian source in Freetown.

ECOMOG unaware of rebels refusing to surrender

Olukolade also told IRIN he was not aware of instances of rebels refusing to surrender to Nigerian soldiers as reported by news organisations.

A news agency had quoted a 25 year-old rebel "major" as saying that the rebels would not give up to Nigerians and wanted the United Nations to disarm them. Olukolade said he had heard a report to that effect "although I am not aware of it myself".

"I don't know if it's just an isolated incident or a more official stance," he said.

Under the terms of the peace agreement signed last Wednesday in Lome, a neutral peacekeeping force comprising ECOMOG and the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) will disarm all combatants of the RUF, the Civil Defence Force, the Sierra Leone Army and paramilitary groups.

CAPE VERDE: Portugal to aid police force

Accords to help strengthen Cape Verde's police force were signed on Friday at the end of a three-day visit to the archipelago by Portugal's Internal Administration Minister, Jorge Coelho, Lusa reported.

The Portuguese news agency said areas to benefit from the agreements included criminal investigation, passport control and the setting up of an anti-terrorist police unit. Coelho also delivered equipment to the police, firefighting and civil defence forces, it reported.

Abidjan, 9 July 1999; 17:30 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1214

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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