IRIN-WA Update 513 for 22 July [19990723]

IRIN-WA Update 513 for 22 July [19990723]

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 513 of events in West Africa (Thursday 22 July 1999)

AIDS orphans increase in West Africa

Sub-Saharan African children account for 90 percent of the world's eight million AIDS orphans, UNICEF says in its 1999 `Progress of Nations' report issued worldwide on Thursday.

"The number of orphans, especially in Africa, represents nothing less than an emergency situation - requiring an urgent intervention," Rima Salah, the UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa, said in Abidjan.

In Nigeria, the number of AIDS orphans has increased from 90,000 to 350,000 between 1994 and 1997. The number of orphans trebled in Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

Socially isolated because of the stigma of AIDS, these children are less likely to be immunised, more likely to be malnourished and more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation than other children, the report says.

It also says that teenage girls remain at greatest risk of suffering from AIDS. Half of the 5.8 million infections identified in 1998 were in the 15-19 age bracket. A study in Gabon reveals that 7 percent of pregnant teenage girls are infected, while the rate is double for Cote d'Ivoire.

However, the report says, some countries have managed to stem the spread of the virus through educational programmes aimed at young people. In Senegal, the use of condoms with "non-regular" partners under the age of 25 rose from 5 percent in 1990 to 60 percent in 1997.

WEST AFRICA: EU gives US $2.03 million to ECOWAS for conflict prevention

West Africa's foremost economic grouping, ECOWAS, will get US $2.03 million from the European Union (EU) for a subregional mechanism for conflict prevention and resolution, a senior ECOWAS official told IRIN on Thursday.

The agreement, signed in Abuja on Tuesday, will enable ECOWAS to maintain observers at its secretariat to keep track of potential and actual conflicts in the subregion. Observer offices will also be opened in Benin, Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Liberia.

[See separate item titled: EU gives US $2.03 million to ECOWAS for conflict prevention violations]

NIGERIA: Abuja to withdraw troops from ECOMOG

Most Nigerian troops with the West African Peacekeeping Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, will begin pulling out of Sierra Leone next month, Information Minister Dapo Sarumi said on Wednesday.

"We expect that as from August 26 our troops will be returning," he told reporters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

This announcement followed a recent peace accord between the Sierra Leonean government and the Revolutionary United Front which had been waging a war against successive governments in the country. ECOMOG troops expelled the rebels from Freetown in February 1998.

SIERRA LEONE: Britain pledges support for peace deal

British International Development Secretary Clare Short promised the people of Sierra Leone on Wednesday Britain's "absolute commitment " to ensure lasting peace in the troubled former colony.

"None of us has succeeded unless this peace process succeeds," she said at meeting with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah two weeks after the peace deal between his government and rebels. "Success will be its own reward."

In Freetown Short visited Connaught Hospital, Murraytown amputees camp, a school and a community project. The school and the community project are funded by her Department of International Development (DFID). Short, who also visited Masiaka, about 150 km east of Freetown, is the first British minister to tour Sierra Leone since rebels occupied Freetown, the capital, in 1997. Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd visited in March 1998.

DFID has given Sierra Leone at least 20 million pounds sterling in aid since Kabbah's reinstatement in March 1998. Aid is focused on the key areas of: humanitarian assistance, peace education, restoration of governance, police and security sector reforms, human rights and economic improvements.

[CORRECTION: In the IRIN separate titled Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme and the Update 512 of 21 July referring to Sierra Leone - Please note the demobilisation centre in Makeni will be for the RUF and members of the former Sierra Leone Army and not for the Kamajors.]

BURKINA FASO: Authorities started paying soldiers

The government has begun paying soldiers who demonstrated last week in the capital, Ougadougou, over withheld housing allowances, media sources in the Burkinabe capital told IRIN.

One source said the government has only paid a proportion of the amount owed to the soldiers and that the balance would be paid in instalments.

"It's a lump-sum payment which amounts to a relief measure," a military official was quoted by AFP as saying on Wednesday.

The soldiers had threatened to demonstrate again on Thursday if their demand were unmet. Last week's demonstration was sparked by the soldiers' perception that contributions they had made to a national housing fund had been misappropriated. Civilians were relieved of the obligation to contribute to the fund in 1991.

GHANA: Ashanti Goldfields and union reach agreement on cuts

Ashanti Goldfields (AG) said on Wednesday it had reached an agreement over proposed job cuts with the Ghana Mineworkers Union (GMU), the company's Obuasi workforce and the Ministry of Employment, Reuters reported.

The cuts, at the firms's main Obuasi mine, will affect over 2,000 employees or over 20 percent of the workforce and will be implemented on 1 September, Reuters reported the company as saying. The agreement will mean that 2,000 out of 8,152 shift workers will lose their jobs, as well as 150 of the 942 Ghanaian senior staff and five of the 42 expatriate senior staff.

The redundancy compensation for junior staff has been agreed at 20 percent of current annual basic pay for each year of service. The total cost of the redundancy plan is estimated at US $10million. The plan is expected to reduce Obuasi operating costs by about US $7million, the company said.

According to Reuters the union said AG had already made some 500 casual workers redundant. The cuts are a result of the fall in world gold prices aggravated by the announcement by the Bank of England in May that it would auction its gold reserves.

A Ghanaian associate professor at Northeastern University in the United States, Kwamina Panford, told IRIN on Tuesday that as long as employees received "decent severance packages" and the agreement was reached in a "mutually respectful manner" then it should all pass off peacefully.

MALI: Strike ends but union demands not met

The nationwide two-day strike by Mali's main trade union, l'Union des Travailleurs du Mali (UNTM), ended inconclusively on Wednesday, media sources in Bamako told IRIN..

The union's main demands for a 10-percent pay increase, cuts in water and electricity tariffs and government action on the rising cost of basic foods have not been met, a source said. However, the government did agree to the demand for career structures for civil servants.

The strike, called after talks with the government failed, disrupted schools, public offices and businesses in Bamako on Tuesday, news organisations reported. According to the BBC, union leaders said up to three-quarters of union members had stayed away from work in the capital.

NIGER: Opposition considers backing new constitution

Political parties in Niger said on Wednesday they would support a law, introduced by the military government, that guarantees amnesty for former coup plotter so long as the measure led to the restoration of democracy in the landlocked nation, AFP said.

"Our objective is restoring democracy so for the moment we can't afford to squabble over the little details," Ibrahim Ary, the assistant secretary-general of the Democracy and Social Convention told AFP.

"We have embarked on a process of national reconciliation," said Amadou Hama, secretary-general of the National Movement for Societal Development. Some 89.57 percent of the 1.3-million voters said yes to the new constitution in a referendum on Sunday, which provides for a power-sharing deal between the president and the prime minister.

GUINEA: Chirac says fair trial for opposition leader

French President Jacques Chirac, speaking on the first day of an African tour, urged Guinea to give detained opposition leader Alpha Conde a swift and transparent trial, news organisations reported on Wednesday.

Addressing a joint news conference with President Lansana Conte, Chirac called for Conde's case to be brought to court quickly. Conte has been in detention since a disputed December presidential election won by Conde.

Chirac arrived in Lome, Togo, on Thursday on the second leg of his tour.

MAURITANIA: IMF approves loan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a three-year loan to Mauritania amounting to some US $56.53 million to support the government's 1999-2002 economic programme, the IMF said in a statement on Wednesday. The first annual loan will be in two instalments with the first, some US $8 million, available immediately.

ABIDJAN, 22 July 1999, 18:42 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1285

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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