IRIN-WA Update 517 for 28 July [19990729]

IRIN-WA Update 517 for 28 July [19990729]

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 517 of events in West Africa (Wednesday 28 July 1999)

CHAD: Opposition leader held in the south

Chadian opposition leader Michel Mbailemal, arrested on Monday for allegedly fomenting a rebellion, is being held in Moundou, some 600 km south of Ndjamena, Chad's Communication Minister, Moussa Dago, told IRIN on Wednesday.

Mbailemal, leader of the Comite d'action pour la Liberte et la Democratie, two of his aides and two senior army officers were arrested after a shoot-out between his group and government troops.

The soldiers were escorting government officials who had approached Mbailemal for talks about the rebellion he was allegedly planning in southern Chad, Dago said. Mbailemal's followers opened fire, wounding one soldier while one of his men was killed in the exchange, according to Dago.

[See separate item titled 'Opposition leader held in the south']

GUINEA BISSAU: UNHCR completes repatriation from Senegal

A final batch of Guinea Bissau refugees left Dakar for home by boat on Tuesday, ending the UNHCR's repatriation of these nationals from Senegal, a spokesman for the UN agency told IRIN on Wednesday.

The UNHCR regional public information officer, Khassim Diagne, said the 159 refugees had been living in towns and cities. There were 57 children among them. The group, escorted to Bissau by officials of the UNHCR, its partners and the Senegalese Ministry of the Interior, were the last of 802 Guinea Bissau nationals who fled to Senegal during a military uprising that began in 1998.

Diagne also said that 310 out of 720 Guinea Bissau refugees registered in Cape Verde had signed up to return home, and that 175 of them had already gone back.

Fifteen former officials arrested

Guinea Bissau Attorney General Amin Saad said on Tuesday that 15 associates of ousted president Joao Bernardo Vieira have been arrested. AFP reported that the 15, who include former prime minister Carlos Correia, have been charged with incitement to war and giving financial support to Vieira, who was toppled on 7 May.

Citing a statement signed by Saad, AFP said others under arrest included Francisco Conduto Pina, a son-in-law of the former president.

On Monday, Saad had issued 10 warrants for the arrest of former pro-Vieira officials and businessmen accused of "crimes against the nation", according to news organisations.

SIERRA LEONE: Kamajors returning home

Sierra Leone's Kamajor militiamen have started returning to their farms and villages following the peace agreement signed on 7 July by the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), according to various sources.

Keith Martin, a Freetown-based adviser on demobilisation issues for the British Department for International Development, told IRIN he was "aware that the Civil Defence Force (CDF) were returning spontaneously to their villages".

The CDF comprises militia groups such as the Kamajors, which supported the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah against the RUF.

[See Item: irin-english-1312 titled 'Kamajors returning to their home areas']

UNOMSIL welcomes prisoners' release

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) has welcomed the release of 41 prisoners over the weekend by the Sierra Leonean government.

In a statement issued on Monday, UNOMSIL also welcomed the release on 18 June of 14 people held by the Economic Community of West African States Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and the release by the RUF of 10 ECOMOG soldiers, on 30 June, and 190 abductees on 16 July.

However, UNOMSIL said it was disturbed that of the thousands of men, women and children behind RUF lines, only a limited number had been freed despite numerous efforts by UNOMSIL to secure their release.

Under the Lome agreement, the government and the RUF agreed to the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of war and non-combatants. Sierra Leone Information Minister Julius Spencer told IRIN on Monday that Kabbah had ordered the release of 98 former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) officials and collaborators.

The AFRC was the military junta ousted by ECOMOG in 1998.

Contact Group makes commitment to lasting peace

Participants in a meeting of the Sierra Leone Contact Group (SLCG) welcomed the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement and committed themselves to work towards lasting peace, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said on Wednesday.

The SLCG meeting, held in London on Wednesday, was attended by senior representatives of 23 countries, the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Commission, the Commonwealth, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Following a presentation by Kabbah on the current situation, the meeting agreed on a number of immediate priorities for the future, including addressing impunity and breaking the cycle of violence in the country.

They also agreed on an action plan for the government of Sierra Leone, the RUF and the international community.

Britain announces new assistance

At the Contact Group meeting, Foreign Officer Minister Tony Lloyd announced further British help for building lasting peace and democracy in Sierra Leone, to be spearheaded by Paul Harvey who is to be appointed the UK Special Representative for Peace in Sierra Leone.

Some 4.5 million pounds sterling would be spent training and equipping the new, democratically accountable Sierra Leone army with the support of about 80 British servicemen and other UK officials.

According to the Foreign Office, Britain's contribution of officers to UNOMSIL would be doubled from 10 to 20.

Among other things, Britain would also continue to support programmes for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, governance, rehabilitation, reconciliation, police training, media development and the creation of an anti-corruption Unit, Lloyd said.

NIGERIA: Former speaker to face prosecution

The former speaker of Nigeria's lower house, Salisu Buhari, will face prosecution after admitting to forgery and perjury, news organisations reported on Tuesday.

The Justice Minister, Kanu Godwin Agabi, told journalists in Abuja that Buhari would be charged after police investigations. "We must obey the law," Agabi said. "I'm of the considered view that in the best interest of the nation and Buhari, it will be justified to have him charged in court."

Buhari resigned as speaker of the House of Representatives last week after owning up to accusations by a weekly news magazine that he had lied about his age and academic qualifications to hold the post.

He admitted that he was only 29, not 36 as he had said, and that he did not have a degree from the University of Toronto in Canada, 'The Guardian' reported.

The position of speaker is fourth in Nigeria's constitutional hierarchy after the president, vice president and speaker of the senate, news reports said

Obasanjo aims to slash budget deficit

President Olusegun Obasanjo said he aimed this year to slash by more than 90 percent the budget deficit he inherited from the previous regime, news organisations reported.

Presenting a revised budget on Tuesday at a joint session of the National Assembly, Obasanjo said the amended budget, calculated on the basis of US $15 per barrel of oil, would leave a deficit of 24.7 billion naira by the end of this year compared to the 256 billion naira he inherited from the previous military regime.

(US $1 is equivalent to 100.3 naira)

His government also plans to increase crude oil production from two to three million barrels a day during its four-year term of office. "Government will maintain a tight fiscal stance despite increased oil revenue," Obasanjo said.

Commitment to education

Obasanjo also restated his administration's commitment to re-introducing compulsory universal primary education, which he said was one of his key aims. He told parliament it would mark the start of efforts to overhaul the education system and make sure that "our youth will be educated at all levels to the standard of the 21st century", according to AFP.

Food security

Obasanjo said the government was committed to attaining food security for all within the shortest possible time. Encouragement would be given to facilitating large investments in agricultural production, storage, transportation and marketing, he said, while the government would assist small- and medium-scale farmers in "making various agricultural inputs and implements available at affordable prices," the Guardian reported.

WEST AFRICA: UEMOA to Meet On Food Security

Agriculture ministers from the Union economique et monetaire ouest-africaine (UEMOA) are to meet on 2 August in Ouagadougou to adopt a regional programme for food security, PANA reported this week.

Eight countries with a combined population of about 70 million make up UEMOA - Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

Abidjan, 28 July 1999; 18:32 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1315

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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