IRIN-WA Update 512 for 21 July [19990722]

IRIN-WA Update 512 for 21 July [19990722]

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

Tel: +225 21 73 54 Fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail:

IRIN-WA Update 512 of events in West Africa (Wednesday 21 July 1999)

SIERRA LEONE: Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme Efforts to implement a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme for Sierra Leone have taken on added urgency as former rebels continue to arrive in Freetown and other urban centres in the country, local analysts have told IRIN.

"We must not lose momentum," Major Jim Gray, UNOMSIL's military spokesman in Freetown, said on Tuesday.

Analysts said rapid implementation of this aspect of the Lome accord was needed otherwise former rebels might revert to looting villages for food.

Under the agreement signed on 7 July by the government and the rebels - the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) the encampment, disarmament and demobilisation of combatants must start within six weeks of the deal, meaning by 18 August.

[See separate item titled SIERRA LEONE : Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme ]

ICRC re-opens Kenema office

The International Committee of the Red Cross will on Thursday re-establish a permanent presence in Kenema six months after closing its office, the head of the ICRC delegation in Freetown, Claudio Baranzini, told IRIN on Wednesday.

ICRC staff have had a partial presence in the eastern town for the past two weeks. Last week, ICRC distributed plastic sheeting and roofing materials to between 10,000 and 15,000 displaced people sheltering in the town's Lebanese school camp, Baranzini said.

He said that ICRC, together with other relief agencies, would continue to review the type of non-food items needed by Kenema's displaced population. He added that the ICRC would send a medical team to the town, in two weeks, to perform reconstructive and corrective surgery at the government hospital.

Kabbah dismisses policy adviser

President Kabbah has sacked Peter Tucker as chairman of the National Policy Advisory Council "because of the contrary opinion he has taken on the Togo peace accord", Reuters quoted Information Minister Julius Spencer as saying on Tuesday.

Tucker wrote to parliamentarians asking them to reject ministerial RUF nominees when their names were presented for ratification, Reuters said.

Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told IRIN that Tucker was dismissed a week ago. Kaikai added he did not know the reason for the measure and was unaware of any other disagreements between Kabbah and Tucker.

TOGO: Government ready for rights inquiry

Togo's communications minister, Koffi Panou, told IRIN on Wednesday the government was ready for an international inquiry into alleged human rights violations.

In a report published on Monday, the Ligue pour la Defense des droits de l'Homme au Benin, (LDH) said that bodies were found in the sea and on the beaches after Togo's disputed 1998 presidential election.

The report, based on interviews with fishermen and residents in a dozen coastal villages, alleges that corpses were washed up along Benin's beaches, and on one occasion, fishermen counted at least 60 bodies floating in the sea.

The report, which called for "an independent international commission of inquiry," resembles allegations made in early May by the human rights pressure group, Amnesty International (AI). The London-based body said that hundreds of people were killed in a wave of repression by the security forces during the 1998 elections in Togo. The government denied the AI allegations and has said it will sue AI for slander and libel.

Government expresses shock and anger

On Tuesday the government expressed "shock and anger" at the LDHs accusations saying that it had "obviously decided to put its humanitarian status at the service of the political battle launched by Amnesty International against Togo", according to state radio monitored by the BBC.

The government also said that when the AI affair surfaced in May, the Togo's national human rights commission contacted the LDH in "its concern for objectivity" towards establishing the truth, state radio said. In a working session on 21 May between the two organisations, the chairman of the LDH, Julien Togbadja, said that his organisation was in permanent contact with Togolese refugees but "none of them has given us such information", state radio reported.

However, the LDH said that it would conduct its own independent investigation into the allegations, the results of which were published on Monday.

Meanwhile another organisation, Benin's Commission beninoise des Droits de l'Homme, said its own investigation into the AI allegations showed no no evidence of such corpses.

WEST AFRICA: Chirac arrives in Guinea

French President Jacques Chirac arrived in Guinea on Wednesday at the start of a four-nation African tour that will also take him to Togo, Nigeria and Cameroon, news organisations reported.

Officials say that his agenda covers bilateral cooperation, trade, regional security as well as the need for democracy and the rule of law to take root in Africa, Reuters said.

Guinea's links with France were cut in 1958 after Conakry refused General Charles de Gaulle's offer of membership of a French African community and in October of the same year Guinea became independent. French support was withdrawn and nationalist leader Ahmed Sekou Toure set about constructing a new economic and administrative system based on Marxist principles. Chirac's predecessor, Francois Mitterand visited Guinea in 1987, Reuters said.

NIGER: 83.6 vote yes on new constitution

Official results announced by Niger's Conseil electoral national independent (CENI) show that 89.57 percent of the 4.2-million voters said yes in a referendum on a new constitution to a power-sharing role between the president and prime minister, Niger's Voix du Sahel radio reported on Tuesday. But voter turnout was 31.16 percent for the 57 constituencies counted. The results will now go to the Constitutional Chamber of the Surpreme Court for endorsement.

Abidjan, 21 July 1999; 18:51 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1280

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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