IRIN-WA Update 508 for 15 July [19990716]

IRIN-WA Update 508 for 15 July [19990716]

IRIN-WA Update 508 of events in West Africa (Thursday 15 July 1999)

BURKINA FASO: Soldiers stage street protest

Soldiers demonstrated on Thursday in Ouagadougou to press their demand for the reimbursement of withheld housing allowances but suspended their protest after receiving assurances that the matter would be settled, sources in the Burkinabe capital told IRIN.

However, the soldiers threatened to demonstrate again on 22 July if their demand for the repayment of the allowance is not met.

A media source told IRIN that Armed Forces Chief of Staff Kouame Lougue said in a radio broadcast that President Blaise Compaore had issued instructions for the rapid implementation of measures to resolve the crisis. The source said the government had promised to repay the money in tranches.

In 1984, the government cut public servants' housing allowance, using it instead to finance a national housing fund. In 1991, civilians were relieved of the obligation to contribute to the fund but members of the military continued to make payments.

Thursday's demonstration was sparked by the perception among soldiers that the housing funds had been misappropriated.

NIGERIA: AI seeks facts for rights panel

Nigerians must produce facts on rights violations committed during the last three administrations and submit them to the recently formed Human Rights Abuses Panel to ensure that culprits are punished, Amnesty International (AI) said on Wednesday at a news conference in Lagos.

An AI spokesman told IRIN that the organisation also presented its report for this year at the news conference.

He said AI warned that if facts were not presented to support claims of human rights abuses it would mean that perpetrators would escape prosecution. It welcomed the setting up of the panel to investigate human rights abuses and said Nigerians would cooperate with the panel by submitting facts that would help it carry out its work.

The investigating panel, set up on 4 June just one week after President Olusegun Obasanjo's inauguration, is headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court.

NIGERIA: Parliament calls for release of Delta hostages

The Nigerian parliament has passed a resolution calling for the immediate, unconditional release of all hostages in the Niger Delta area, state television reported on Tuesday.

In addition, it said, a parliamentary peace delegation will visit the area to inform people there of government measures to facilitate the return of peace to the region.

Meanwhile kidnappers have released two Indian nationals held since 29 June, Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted Indian embassy officials as saying on Wednesday.

The two work for a Nigerian rubber processing company, Obedafe Holdings Nigeria Limited, in Ughelli, Delta State and were seized by armed men just outside their residence, AFP said.

SIERRA LEONE: Army worms attack crops in the north

Army worms are destroying rice nurseries and vegetable crops in two chiefdoms in northern Sierra Leone, agricultural officials said on Thursday.

The former chief agriculturalist in charge of crop protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, J.P. Amara, told IRIN that he had first heard reports of the outbreak of the army worms in these two chiefdoms near Lungi International Airport in Port Loko district last Friday.

Amara, now an FAO consultant, said that these reports had been confirmed to him in a meeting today with Paramount Chief Komkanda from the Lungi area. He said the FAO planned to make a rapid assessment of the site when an official request was received from the Ministry of Agriculture.

"If the army worms have not spread too far we can encourage farmers to take appropriate measures such as weeding, the use of chemical spray or the creation of fire belts," Amara said.

He said Sierra Leone was prone to outbreaks of army worms every three to four years and that they tended to occur in areas of regular cultivation of crops.

FAO's Deputy Regional Representative for West Africa, George Mburathi, told IRIN recently that army worms, which reduce harvests by attacking crops before they mature, had also been detected in Ghana's Upper East Region and in Cameroon.

WEST AFRICA: Human Rights Watch awards to writers

African writers have received nearly half of this year's Hellman/Hammett grants, which are given annually by the rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution, HRW said on Wednesday in a statement.

Of the 32 awarded grants, 14 are from Africa and include the following from West Africa: Alex Redd (Liberia), Adinwumi Adesokan (Nigeria), Lanre Arogundade (Nigeria), Niran Malaolu (Nigeria), Gremah Boucar (Niger), Alieu Sheriff (Sierra Leone and Gambia). Writers from other West African countries including Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Togo also received awards but cannot be named because of the dangerous circumstances in which they are living, HRW said.

MALI: Germany promises some five billion francs CFA

An embassy spokesperson in Bamako told IRIN on Thursday that Germany would contribute some five billion CFA francs (US $7.8 million) to Mali's energy sector.

The announcement, made on Wednesday at the end of a four-day official visit by the minister for overseas development, will go some way towards alleviating the electricity crisis which Mali has suffered in recent months, news organisations said.

According to Reuters, the control centre of a Bamako power station was damaged by fire in April, while a lack of water has closed down the hydroelectric power station that used to supply half of Bamako's power. As a result, there have been frequent power cuts since April, some lasting as long as 72 hours in certain districts, Reuters said.

AFRICA: Nigerian, Ghana troops for DRC

African leaders are aiming to thrash out an understanding with the UN this week over the deployment of a peacekeeping force to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe presidential spokesman George Charamba told IRIN on Wednesday.

"The thrust of the OAU (Organisation of African Unity meeting in Algeria) is making the UN make a commitment and do so timeously," Charamba said. "The indications we are getting are fairly promising."

Troop contributions for a peacekeeping force have already been pledged by among others Ghana and Nigeria, the spokesman said. A UN funding commitment would enable the mobilisation of an interposition force and its deployment within the four months stipulated in the ceasefire agreement, he added.

[See separate Item: irin-english-1232, titled 'DRC/AFRICA: Nigerian, Ghana troops for DRC']

AFRICA: Military rulers given until 2,000 to shape up

African leaders who took power unconstitutionally after a summit two years ago have until the next continental meeting in 2000 to restore democratic rule, PANA reported on Wednesday.

Highlighting resolutions at the end of the 35th summit on Wednesday in Algiers, the leaders asked OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim to help countries meet this criterion. The affected countries are the Comoros, Guinea Bissau and Niger.

"All those who have taken over power illegally will have to give it up," Salim told PANA.

"The resolution is a bold step. Year two thousand is not far away," Nimi Walson-Jack, executive director of Nigeria's Centre for Responsive Politics told IRIN. "Let's hope that some military junta does not test the will of the leaders by then."

Salim ordered to convene regional conference on small arms

In a drive to curtail the proliferation of small arms in Africa, the continent's leaders ordered Salim to convene a regional conference on the problem, PANA reported.

Out of this meeting, they said, should come recommendations for solving problems related to the use, transfer and manufacture of small arms. The African leaders, meeting at their 35th summit, which ended in Algiers on Wednesday, proposed a preparatory meeting of experts to produce a joint African position on the issue before the regional conference due in 2000.

The leaders also want the OAU, Africa's foremost political body, to seek support from the relevant United Nations institutions. The summit welcomed the moratorium on small arms by West African States, the destruction of small weapons surpluses and obsolete guns in South Africa and the suppression of illegal arms in Mozambique.

WEST AFRICA: Red Cross/Red Crescent set region's priorities

Malaria, diarrhoea and vaccine-preventable diseases are among the top priorities Red Cross and Red Crescent (RC/RC) societies in West Africa set themselves for the coming decade at an 11-14 July planning meeting in Abidjan.

Other top priorities for RC/RC intervention in the subregion, based partly on information received from health ministries, include acute respiratory infections and malnutrition. The others are accidents and injuries, STDs/HIV/AIDS, pregnancy-related issues, illiteracy, non-transmissible diseases, schistosomiasis, leprosy, eye diseases, substance abuse and sickle cell anaemia.

The meeting, attended by RC officials from 16 West African countries, was part of a process of developing an African Red Cross and Red Crescent Health Initiative (ARCHI 2010), a proposed health strategy for Africa.

ARCHI 2000 aims to improve the impact of RC/RC basic health support on the most vulnerable, and to strengthen the capacity of national RC societies to respond to the basic health needs of their populations in 2000-2010, according to a background document from the International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent (IFRC).

National societies "should give priority to those health issues where RC/RC action could have a significant impact with clearly defined and agreed areas of intervention with a process and methodology that guarantees quality activities on behalf of the more vulnerable," the meeting recommended.

They also recommended the development of a potential partnership with ministries of health, UN agencies and other actors. That partnership, they said, "should respect our identity and independence and help to achieve our objectives".

Inputs from this week's meeting and similar ones in other African subregions will be used by a committee of experts to define, at a meeting in Geneva by the end of 1999, a proposed health strategy for the continent's RC societies.

ARCHI 2010 will come up for adoption at a meeting in September 2000 in Ouagadougou to which Africa's 53 national RC societies and ministers of health will be invited.

Abidjan, 15 July 1999; 18:20 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1238

[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

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