IRIN-WA Update 515 for 26 July [19990726]

IRIN-WA Update 515 for 26 July [19990726]

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 515 of events in West Africa (Monday 26 July 1999)

LIBERIA: Weapons destruction underway

A symbolic burning of some 1,500 small arms has started at the Barclay Training Centre (BTC) military barracks in Monrovia amid parades and military bands, the BBC reported on Monday.

The 1,500 weapons were cut up, placed in a huge metal basket and incinerated in front of thousands of spectators at the BTC parade ground. The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Liberia, Felix Downes-Thomas, told the BBC that the event, was a contribution to the reduction of arms in the sub-region. He also said the action helped to "lift the veil of suspicion on what Liberia could or.might have done with the weapons".

The burning of the weapons, surrendered by former warring factions to the United Nations and the ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, at the end of the seven-year Liberian civil war, took place with a number of West African leaders present. These included presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and Alpha Konare of Mali. Three former commanders of ECOMOG were also present as well as UN officials, including the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Kingsley Amoako.

The destruction of the weapons, supervised by the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is part of activities marking Liberia's independence anniversary. It also symbolising the end of armed conflict in Liberia, Star Radio said.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the weapons collected after the war, some 30 containers holding thousands of guns and millions of rounds of ammunition, are being destroyed in a disused iron-ore mine near Tubmanburg, some 50 km north of Monrovia in Bomi County. Outgoing ECOMOG force commander Major General Felix Mujakperuo, told the BBC that the arms destruction was "a mess" and behind schedule. He said it was supposed to have been completed on Monday. He warned that with the impending departure of his forces from Liberia this week, there was a chance that undestroyed weapons could be seized by armed groups. According the BBC, the arms destruction will continue in the next few days.

NIGERIA: Scores die in ethnic fighting in Nigeria

Scores of people have died in Nigeria during one week of ethnic clashes in the southern town of Shagamu and the northern city of Kano, officials said on Monday.

Fighting first broke out on 18 July between ethnic Hausas from the north and local Yorubas in Shagamu, a town of about 300,000 inhabitants some 60 km north of commercial capital Lagos, after a Hausa woman was killed for breaking a local taboo.

In the ensuing violence at least 60 people were reported dead and scores of buildings, including shops, a hospital and mosques belonging to the predominantly Muslim Hausas were burnt.

Fighting shifted to Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, on Thursday after some of the dead and the displaced were returned home from Shagamu.

"After the dead were brought back from Shagamu mobs of Hausa youths armed with machetes and clubs attacked Yorubas and other non-indigenes, killing and burning houses," Aliu Musa, a Kano resident, told IRIN. About 10 people were reported killed during the violence on Thursday and Friday.

After the initial fighting, a new wave of violence erupted in Kano again on Sunday. This time at least 30 people, mostly Yorubas, were killed as mobs of youths rampaged through the city.

Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso has declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the city of Kano. He has also directed that food and water be sent to thousands of people who fled to police stations and military barracks for refuge.

[See separate item titled: NIGERIA: Scores die in ethnic fighting in Nigeria]

SIERRA LEONE: Government frees 98 former junta officials

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has ordered the release of 98 former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council officials (AFRC) and collaborators, Sierra Leone Information Minister Julius Spencer told IRIN on

The prisoners were jailed for their role in the military junta, which replaced Kabbah's government for nine months, until its eviction from power by ECOMOG in February 1998.

Those pardoned include the former president, Joseph Momoh. He was serving a 10-year prison sentence on conspiracy charges. Another was Manley Spain, the junta's attorney-general. In the Lome agreement signed by the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) on 7 July, the government pardoned all combatants and their collaborators.

Diamond and gold proceeds for reconstruction

Under an act passed on Thursday by parliament, proceeds from the sale of Sierra Leone's gold and diamonds will enter a special treasury account for development, Information Minister Julius Spencer told IRIN on Monday. He said the new legislation was in compliance with the provisions of the Lome agreement.

This agreement states that money raised from gold and diamond sales would be used for education, public health, rehabilitation, reconstruction and compensation for incapacitated war victims.

The act also lays the groundwork for the creation of the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development to manage Sierra Leone's mineral resources.

Chaired by RUF leader Foday Sankoh, the commission's governing board will also include two government representatives appointed by President Kabbah, two representatives from the RUF, two from other political parties and three from civil society.

Under the Lome accord the Commission will issue monthly reports, including the details of all the transactions relating to gold and diamonds, and other licenses or concessions or natural resources, and its own administrative costs.

Kabbah calls for better conditions for children

The plight of the nation's children, contained in UNICEF's 1999 Progress of Nations report launched in Freetown on Thursday, should spur the nation into improving their condition, Kabbah has said.

"As a president, it is painful to learn that Sierra Leone is the second most risky country in the world for a child to live in," he said in a statement published by UNICEF.

According to the report, Sierra Leonean children stand a 30-percent chance of dying before the age of five years. UNICEF has decided to focus on eradicating polio and Vitamin A deficiency, to provide safe motherhood and to rehabilitate child victims of war.

Launching the progress report, UNICEF representative in Sierra Leone JoAnna Van Garpen appealed for the release of all non-combatants and child soldiers, as well as for their reintegration into families, schools and communities. She also called for the provision of better information to young people on the risks of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

WFP increasing food supplies

Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Monday it was increasing food aid to thousands of child soldiers and war victims expected to be released following the Lome agreement.

"Assisting children directly affected by the war has now become our top priority in Sierra Leone," Paul Ares, WFP regional manager for coastal West Africa, said.

WFP, which is already feeding 140 children at a centre near Freetown, is planning to start deliveries to four more facilities when children captured by the RUF are freed.

SENEGAL: Rebels due to end second round talks

Southern Senegalese separatists are due to end a second round of internal talks in The Gambia on Monday aimed at presenting a common position for planned peace negotiations with the government in Dakar, an official in the Gambian Department of State for Foreign Affairs told IRIN.

"It is a historic event," the official said.

His comment was in reference to the first meeting in six years between the political leader of the Mouvement des forces democratique de Casamance (MFDC), Father Diamacoune Senghor, and the movement's more radical commander, Salif Sadio.

Sadio, who commands the southern front in the war for independence, did not attend the initial conference on 22 June in The Gambia to reconcile the MFDC's internal difference, although he did send representatives.

The opening of the second round of talks, which started on Saturday, was also attended by the commander of the MFDC's northern front Sidi Badji, Senegal's ministers of the interior and agriculture, Lamine Cisse and Robert Sagna and Ansumane Mane, the leader of the Guinea Bissau Military Junta that ousted President Joao Bernardo Vieira.

Abidjan, 26 July 1999; 19:09 GMT


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

Item: irin-english-1301

[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