IRIN-WA Update 516 for 27 July [19990727]

IRIN-WA Update 516 for 27 July [19990727]

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 516 of events in West Africa (Tuesday 27 July 1999)

GUINEA BISSAU: Bissau airport opened

An Air Portugal jetliner carrying Guinea Bissau Prime Minister Francisco Fadul and other dignitaries landed in Bissau on Tuesday, marking the reopening of the Osvaldo Vieira airport which closed on 7 June 1998 because of military conflict, Lusa reported. Some 60 other Guinean Bissau and Portuguese officials were on board as well as Guinea Bissau refugees who fled to Portugal during the war.

Medical aid for main hospital

The Portuguese/Guinea Bissau Friendship Association said on Monday in Lisbon that its gift of medical supplies bound for Bissau's Simao Mendes Hospital would be on the Air Portugal flight. Association President Jose Manuel Pavao announced that 10 other hospitals from Oporto and Gaia in northern Portugal had contributed to the effort.

UN humanitarian priorities for second half 1999

The United Nations says that implementation of the second phase of an agricultural campaign, refugee repatriation, reactivation of key social services pending the start of rehabilitation programmes and national capacity building are the humanitarian priorities for the second half of 1999.

These are contained in the UN mid-term review of its interagency appeal published last week by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In all, 597,000 people still need humanitarian help, according to the appeal review. These include Bissau residents, some of whom were displaced during fighting in the city, and war-affected populations in rural areas.

About US $4.5 million is needed to implement the humanitarian assistance programme, less than that asked for at the beginning of 1999. This is because some bilaterally-funded projects, which were frozen during the period of conflict, have been reactivated mainly in the water and sanitation, health and education sectors. Food aid requirements have also been met by prior contributions.

The main aim of the humanitarian community in 1999 - as stated in the Guinea Bissau Appeal issued in December 1998 - is "to facilitate the speedy return of war-affected populations to a normal situation". At the same time, the humanitarian community wants to help the new government of national unity "assume its responsibilities" to manage the humanitarian aid programme.

The outbreak of hostilities between 31 January and 7 May slowed the return of displaced people to their areas of origin. However, progress was made in improving the government's capacity to manage the humanitarian aid effort, OCHA says.

Arrest warrant out for former dignitaries

Attorney General Amine Saad issued 10 arrest warrants on Monday for former ranking government officials and businessmen accused of "crimes against the nation" during the military uprising that toppled President Joao Bernardo Vieira, Lusa reported on Tuesday. It said Saad has also asked parliament to lift the immunity of seven legislators who are members of the former ruling Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC). Saad told Lusa that charges against the 10 included financing, incitement and propaganda for what he said was the violation of the ceasefire and peace agreement by Vieira's faction during the war.

SIERRA LEONE: Ogata appeals for resources

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata appealed on Monday for aid to Sierra Leone and other governments in West Africa so they could implement the Lome agreement that ended a civil war in the country.

In her appeal, made in a briefing to the UN Security Council, she said aid for the return and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced people, to their areas of origin, was of "paramount importance".

She said that the Sierra Leonean conflict had created deep divisions and mistrust and that the longer people stayed away from their communities, the more difficult reconciliation would become.

Also she made a special appeal for help for people who have lost limbs, citing her recent visit to a rehabilitation centre as "one of the most shocking experiences of my eight years as High Commissioner".

In her briefing, she said, "the end of the civil war in Sierra Leone may bring about a positive solution to the worst current refugee problem in Africa" but the road to peace would be long and difficult.

LIBERIA: UN Secretary-General welcomes arms destruction

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the burning of weapons in Liberia on Monday, saying it was the largest single public display of conventional weapons destruction carried out in peacetime.

In a message delivered on his behalf by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Kingsley Amoako, Annan spoke of the symbolic value of the destruction.

"Today, with these flames of peace, peace in Liberia burns more brightly, and we can see a glimmer of hope for peace and security across the African continent," Annan said.

A symbolic burning of arms and ammunition surrendered by former warring factions to the UN and the ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) at the end of the civil war, took place on Liberia's 152nd independence day at the Barclay Training Centre in Monrovia.

The burning of the bulk of the weapons began on Sunday in the Bomi Hills near Tubmanburg, some 50km north of Monrovia. Heavy earth-moving equipment and loaders were used to destroy three mt of small ammunition in five steel containers. A German non-governmental agency has been asked to manufacture of farming implements out of the leftover metal and return them to farmers in Liberia.

TOGO: Olympio leaves talks prematurely

Togo's leading opposition figure, Gilchrist Olympio, returned to exile in Ghana just hours after arriving in Lome on Monday for all-party national reconciliation talks, news reports said.

"It is regrettable that he did not stay for a full and profitable dialogue," government spokesman Kofi Panou told IRIN on Tuesday.

Olympio, leader of the Union de forces de changement (UFC) party, told reporters he returned to Ghana because he was unable to meet with the ruling Rassemblement du peuple togolais (RPT) for talks on one of the key issues in dispute, the results of the 1998 presidential elections.

[See separate item titled: TOGO: Olympio leaves talks prematurely

Child traffickers arrested

Authorities in Togo have warned parents to keep their children away from strangers while they investigate whether the country is at the centre of an illegal trade in children, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

The action follows a spate of arrests of suspected child traffickers. On Friday two women were stopped at the Togo-Ghana border with seven children they said had been entrusted to them by their parents, BBC said. Another group of suspected child trafficker was detained at the weekend with 21 children. On both occasions investigators were told that the children had been recruited with the consent of their parents to work on cocoa plantations in Cote d'Iviore, BBC reported.

According to the International Labour Organisation, children provide a readily accessible supply of cheap, unskilled labour, especially in agriculture which employs about 75 percent of West Africa's child labourers.

CARE clean-up in Lome

A new project to collect rubbish from Lome's streets will help to protect the health of some 350,000 people, CARE said on Monday.

"The piles of garbage that litter Lome breed disease-carrying insects and rats, and cause outbreaks of illnesses," Lora Wuennenberg, CARE's deputy director of the Southern and West Africa region said in a news release.

City-wide refuse collection is limited because of "tight public resources". The rubbish collection system will improve the condition of many neighbourhoods, Wuennenberg said.

CARE's urban development project aims to set up a rubbish collection system in the third district in Lome where workers from five rubbish collection associations will be equipped with wheelbarrows, forks, shoes and gloves to help them collect household waste. Refuse will then be transported to temporary dumping areas, built and managed by CARE, from where government services will take it to the final dumping ground.

The associations will receive help in setting up a system to recover the costs of their services from households benefiting from the rubbish collection. In addition families will receive information on the positive impact hygiene and rubbish collection has on their health, CARE said.

NIGERIA: Youths free 64 oil workers

Militant youths in Nigeria's troubled south-east have release 64 oil workers taken hostage two days ago, news reports said on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the giant Royal Dutch/Shell oil company said in London that all the employees were unharmed. Seven of the hostages were expatriates and the rest Nigerian. They were seized on their drilling rigs by ethnic Isoko youths in Ozoro and Ovrode communities demanding money and amenities for the local population, Reuters reported.

Shell, which produces half Nigeria's 1.9 million barrels of crude each day, has cut back output by one-quarter because of the insecurity, Reuters said.

Abidjan, 27 July 1999; 18:23 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1308

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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