RIN-WA Update 507 for 14 July [19990715]

RIN-WA Update 507 for 14 July [19990715]

IRIN-WA Update 507 of events in West Africa (Wednesday 14 July 1999)

MAURITANIA: President meet French minister over deepening row

The President of Mauritania, Maaouiya Ould Taya, has met the French minister of co-operation, Charles Joslin, to discuss a deepening row between the two countries over the arrest in France of a Mauritanian army captain accused of torture, according to the BBC.

Their meeting at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit in Algiers this week follows a decision by Mauritania to expel all French military advisers, recall its military officers undergoing training in France and reintroduce visas for French citizens.

A Mauritanian government official told IRIN on Wednesday that despite media reports to the contrary, some 40 French military advisers who had been on a cooperation mission in Mauritania, were still in the country. He said a date for their expulsion had not yet been set.

The Mauritanian officer, Ely Ould Dha, was arrested while undergoing military training in France and is alleged to have tortured two people in prison near Nouakchott in 1990 and 1991.

The human rights organisation, 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".

NIGER: Niamey asks Nigeria for help

Niger has appealed to Nigeria for help in defence and agriculture, according to Radio Nigeria, which reported on Monday that the appeal was made by Niger's ambassador to Nigeria, Ibrahim Mohammed, during a courtesy call on Kaduna State Governor Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi.

However, the report did not state the kind of military and agricultural help needed by Niger, which has very close religious and ethnic ties with its southern neighbour.

Debt repayments before salaries

Niger's military government said on Monday its obligation to make debt repayments meant it could not afford to pay wage arrears demanded by workers, Reuters reported.

Government spokesman Captain Djibrilla Hima told reporters that the administration needed two billion CFA francs (US $3 million) just to service the debt, at a time when donors had frozen grants and lending because of April's coup.

The government owes 43,000 employees eight months in salary arrears, Reuters said. It put the country's monthly civil service wage bill at about 4.5 billion CFA francs (US $7.1 million) and administrative costs at two billion CFA francs.

CAMEROON: Alleged rebels claim to have confessed under torture

Members of a group accused of armed attacks in northwest Cameroon in 1997 in which 11 people reportedly died told a military court in Yaounde on Tuesday that they had confessed under torture, news organisations reported.

A media source in Yaounde told IRIN the men claimed they were tortured by gendarmes after being detained in connection with attacks on 27-28 March 1997 on the gendarmerie and other targets in Jakiri, Kumbo, Bamenda and three more localities in western Cameroon. The gendarmes have denied the reports of torture, the source said.

Some 60 people, suspected of belonging to the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), a group seeking independence for Cameroon's English-speaking western and north-western provinces, were arrested in connection with the attacks.

Their trial opened on 25 June after a vain attempt by the defence in late May to have the military tribunal declared incompetent to try their cases. It has now been adjourned to 27 July.

The two provinces formed the former British Southern Cameroons, which opted at independence in 1961 to join what was then French Cameroon. British Northern Cameroons became part of Nigeria.

SAHEL: Rains since late June offset early June shortfall

Rising concerns over reduced precipitation in early or mid-June, particularly in Burkina Faso and Niger have eased with abundant rains over most producing areas of the Sahel since late June, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Rains have started in western Gambia, northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, central and northern Mali, eastern Niger and Chad's Sahelian zone, where plantings have started, the FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (FAO/GIEWS) said in its second Sahel report for 1999.

Further south, above-normal rains benefited recently planted crops and compensated for the below-average rains of early to mid-June, according to the report, issued last week. In Guinea Bissau, they helped desalinate fields where swamp rice seedlings, now in seedbeds, will be transplanted. Cape Verde's first rains for the season were registered in early July.

Satellite imagery indicates that during the first 10 days of July, precipitation remained normal to above normal throughout the Sahel except in the south of Chad.

The dry spell of early to mid-June in Burkina Faso and Niger delayed plantings and necessitated replantings in some areas. This might reduce production if rains do not continue late in the season, FAO/GIEWS said.

[The full report is available on GIEWS Web site at the following address: ]

GUINEA: Opposition leader for trial September

Prominent Guinean opposition leader Alpha Conde will stand trial in Conakry on 7 September, Justice Minister Zobelemou Togba announced on Tuesday, media organisations said. AFP reported Togba as saying in a brief statement that the trial would be "equitable and without interference from the authorities".

Conde, head of the Rassemblement du peuple de Guinee (RPG), is charged with "attempting to destabilise the regime, fraudulent transfer of foreign exchange and violence against officials", AFP said.

Foreign politicians and humanitarian bodies have for months been demanding the release of Conde, a presidential candidate in the 1998 elections, who was arrested on 15 December - the eve of the vote - near the border with Cote d'Ivoire.

SENEGAL: IMF approves loan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday approved the second annual payment of some US$18.92 million from a US$141.94 million three-year loan under the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) to support Senegal's economic and financial programme, according to an IMF press release.

The IMF's deputy managing director, Alassane Ouattara, said directors welcomed Senegal's continued macroeconomic stability under the ESAF programme, citing its strong growth and low inflation. "Economic performance in 1998 had been strong, with relatively high growth, low inflation, and a decline in the external current account deficit," he said.

However, more work was needed on privatisation and on liberalising the energy and transport sectors to sustain growth. "Acceleration and deepening of structural reforms remain central in removing impediments to private enterprise and sustaining economic growth," Ouattara said.

The IMF said Senegal had successfully used fiscal policy to raise revenues and create room for social expenditures without threatening financial stability

SIERRA LEONE: Challenges facing humanitarian community

The challenges now facing the humanitarian community in Sierra Leone include improving immunisation coverage, nutrition levels and education, UN and government officials said on Tuesday in Freetown.

"As agencies gain access to previously inaccessible areas, mass immunisation campaigns are needed to prevent epidemics," UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sierra Leone Kingsley Amaning said.

Amaning and S.U.M. Jah, head of the Commission for National Reconstruction, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (NCRRR), spoke at a press conference in Freetown on the challenges facing the relief community now that the Lome Peace Accord has been signed.

Amaning referred to a number of key areas for the humanitarian community, including primary health care, feeding programmes for malnourished children and the rehabilitation of shelter and water supplies. "The needs of children are an especially high priority," he said, "whether in the area of health, education, family reunification or demobilisation."

Both Jah and Amaning said urgent support was also needed for the return, resettlement and reintegration of nearly half a million Sierra Leonean refugees in neighbouring countries.

Jah, whose commission is the government body responsible for coordinating relief activities, said that "over 3,000 villages and towns wiped out by the rebels are expected to be rebuilt".

"We also expect to rehabilitate and reconstruct community infrastructures, including about 1,700 educational facilities, 400 health facilities and 3,000 water wells," he said.

The humanitarian community has been planning a series of missions to previously inaccessible areas to assess the specific needs of war-affected populations, starting with Makeni in the north.

BURKINA FASO: EU grants for education and agriculture sectors

The European Union (EU) has given Burkina Faso two grants worth some 24 billion CFA francs (US $37 million) for its education and agriculture sectors, an EU official in Ouagadougou told IRIN on Wednesday.

Some 15 billion CFA francs will go towards improving agricultural performance while nine billion CFA francs will help improve the quality of basic education, the official said.

A third grant amounting to some 13 billion CFA francs (US$20 million) for a regional conservation programme in Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger was also agreed, the official said.

Abidjan, 14 July 1999; 18:15 GMT


[IRIN-WA: Tel: +225 217366 Fax: +225 216335 e-mail: ]

Item: irin-english-1227

[This item is delivered in the "irin-english" service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information or free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or fax: +254 2 622129 or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific