IRIN-WA Update 518 for 29 July [19990730]

IRIN-WA Update 518 for 29 July [19990730]

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 518 of events in West Africa (Thursday 29 July 1999)

LIBERIA: Peace forum launched

The Liberia Peace Forum (LPF), a UN-funded project which aims to forge peace throughout the country, was launched this week in Monrovia, the director of the Togo-based UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, (RCPDA) told IRIN on Thursday.

RCPDA Director Richard Ivor Fung said the LPF aimed to prepare a peace education curriculum for schools, colleges and universities in Liberia.

"We like to think that peace can be taught in schools like any other subject, such as history, geography or maths," Fung said. "Educationalists and peace experts, nominated by a preparatory committee set up by the Liberian government, will attend a workshop in Monrovia in November to bring together the elements needed for such a curriculum."

The LPF was launched on 27 July at the University of Liberia.

[See Item: irin-english-1316 titled 'LIBERIA: Peace forum launched'

SIERRA LEONE: Humanitarian crisis in Makeni, NGO says

The humanitarian situation in Makeni district, northern Sierra Leone, is "catastrophic", according to Action Contre la Faim (ACF), which estimated that over 30 percent of children under the age of five surveyed in Makeni town were malnourished.

Of the 95 children under five screened in the town by a team of humanitarian workers, 17 were "moderately malnourished" and 17 "severely malnourished."

The mission, which visited the area on 23-26 July, also made nutritional surveys in four villages surrounding Makeni. It found that the percentage of malnourished children in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the district was even higher.

In Magbenteh camp on the outskirts of Makeni, which has some 2,000 IDPs, 43 of the 97 children surveyed were "severely malnourished."

ACF's Head of Mission in Freetown, Marc Gordon, who was part of the Makeni mission, told IRIN on Thursday that the fact that adults were suffering from malnutrition, which was unusual, was one indication of the gravity of the situation.

[See Item: irin-english-1317 titled 'SIERRA LEONE: Catastrophic situation in Makeni, NGO says']

Sankoh orders RUF commanders to release prisoners

The leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), Foday Sankoh, has instructed his commanders to release all remaining prisoners of war and non-combatants in compliance with a 2 June statement issued jointly with the government and in the spirit of the 7 July peace agreement.

His message was radioed on Wednesday to the United Nations Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) with the request that it be disseminated to the government, the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL), ECOMOG High Command, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the wider community.

Sankoh hoped the ICRC would become involved in the release process, according to the radio message.

ECOMOG Force Commander willing to meet rebel leaders

The new force commander of the Economic Community of West African States Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), Major General Gabriel Kpamber, said the peacekeeping force was willing to meet the RUF/Armed Forces Revolutionary Council leadership as a confidence-building measure, according to an ECOMOG news release.

Kpamber said this in a meeting with UNOMSIL on Thursday as a demonstration of ECOMOG's "sincerity and commitment to the successful implementation of the recently-signed peace agreement."

ECOMOG and UNOMSIL also discussed other points relevant to the implementation of the agreement such as "release of prisoners of war, disarmament and access for humanitarian agencies", ECOMOG said.

At another meeting called by Vice President Albert Joe Demby and attended by government officials, parliamentarians, paramount chiefs, UNOMSIL and humanitarian agencies, Kpamber said "ECOMOG was now concerned with performing peace keeping and security roles through necessary confidence-building measures," according to the news release.

He also assured humanitarian agencies and NGOs of "ECOMOG's preparedness to support efforts aimed at providing relief to the war affected communities in line with the mandate of the force in Sierra Leone."

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade, ECOMOG spokesman in Freetown, told IRIN on Thursday that Kpamber assumed his duties as ECOMOG's 11th force commander on Sunday.

REFUGEES: UNHCR highlights disparity in humanitarian assistance

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, drew the attention of the Security Council this week to disparities in humanitarian assistance on refugee situations, according to a UN news release.

Ogata said the refugee situation in Kosovo, although a serious and large refugee emergency, had been the focus of unprecedented political attention and material support by the international community and particularly by the Western countries.

It was undeniable, she said, that proximity, strategic interests and intense media focus had played a key role in determining the quality and the level of response. However, she said, that had not been and was still not true in other situations, including in Africa.

There are some six million people "of concern" to UNHCR in Africa, Ogata said. She cited recent refugee crises such as Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo as well as older unresolved conflicts in The Sudan, Western Sahara and Angola, the news release said.

GUINEA BISSAU: Learning to live with mines

A total of 35 people received training on mine awareness in two courses conducted this month in Guinea Bissau, the programme officer of the Swedish NGO Radda Barnen, Nikolas Jerkedal, told IRIN.

The training sessions, organised by ANDES, a local NGO, and run by a consultant hired by Radda Barnen (Save the Children - Sweden), were held on 1-6 July in the northern town of Suzana and on 6-11 July in Bissau.

The objective was to teach people how to live with mines, OCHA said in its Humanitarian Situation Report for Guinea-Bissau, covering 1-15 July 1999.

[See Item: irin-english-1320, titled 'Learning to live with mines']

Fadul says he will not run for election in November

Guinea-Bissau's caretaker prime minister, Francisco Fadul, said Tuesday that he would not run in general elections planned for November, according to a LUSA report confirmed by a humanitarian source.

LUSA reported Fadul as saying that his only political plans were "to fulfil my transitional mandate". A humanitarian source told IRIN he made the statement at a press conference in a restaurant in Bissau.

Fadul, a political independent, was appointed five months ago to head a caretaker cabinet to prepare presidential and legislative elections. His appointment was a key part of a peace accord aimed at ending an armed forces rebellion against then-president Nino Vieira. However, the pact collapsed when the Military Junta overthrew Vieira in May.

SENEGAL: Rebels kill two in bus attack

Senegalese separatist guerrillas, suspected to be renegade members of the Mouvement des forces democratique de Casamance, attacked a bus on Wednesday in Samine, near Senegal's border with Guinea Bissau, killing two people and wounding nine, news reports and NGO sources said.

"This attack was probably by uncontrolled elements," Alieu Tine, of the Senegalese human rights body, RADDHO, told IRIN on Thursday.

He described the attack as an isolated incident, but said two or three more incidents could break the lull in fighting between the army and the MFDC.

Since the attack, troops have launched a sweep of Samine, in Senegal's southern area of Casamance.

This is the first reported attack by any element of the splintered guerrilla force since talks in The Gambia in June and July to sort out internal differences before proposed peace talks with the government in Dakar.

Radical elements within the MFDC, those of the southern front led by Salif Sadio, prefer to continue the war of independence. Those of the northern front, commanded by Sidi Badji, and the overall leader of the MDFC, Father Diamacoune Senghor, prefer peace talks with the government in Dakar.

BURKINA FASO: Japan helps fund anti-polio fight

The Japanese government and UNICEF have signed an agreement under which Japan will give Burkina Faso 106 million yen (about US $910,000) toward the purchase of vaccines against poliomyelitis, according to the Japanese embassy in Abidjan.

This donation will enable enough vaccines to be purchased to immunise the roughly two million children aged four years and under in Burkina Faso, the embassy stated in a news release faxed to IRIN. It is aimed at supporting WHO's goal of eradicating polio in Africa by the year 2000, it said.

NIGERIA: Ex-Speaker Convicted

A court in Abuja has convicted the former speaker of Nigeria's House of Representatives, Ibrahim Salisu Buhari, of perjury and forgery and is to pronounce sentence on 3 August, PANA reported on Thursday.

PANA quotes legal experts as saying that Buhari, who pleaded guilty to the charges on Wednesday, risked up to 14 years in jail for furnishing the Independent Electoral Commission with false information on his age and educational qualifications in his bid to be elected to the House of Representatives.

PANA said a major backlash of Buhari's case was a decision by the electoral commission to re-screen all assembly members to ascertain their correct ages and educational qualifications.

By law, candidates for election to the federal parliament must be no younger than 30 years old and have at least a secondary school certificate.

WEST AFRICA: Development via the internet

Some 23 specialists in institutional communications attended a seminar on 'The Internet as a Tool for Development' held recently in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, according to the UN Department of Public Information.

Participants in the seminar, organised by the United Nations and the Francophone Institute, represented ministries and institutions in the fields of education, information/communication and development from nine countries in French-speaking West Africa.

It aimed to promote the use of the Internet as a tool of economic and social development in the region, the DPI said.

Participants were trained to set up web sites and to present their institutions and activities. They were also introduced to information resources on the United Nations, the UN system web sites and those of the francophone organisations.

Participants came from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Others represented UN Information Centres in Dakar and Ouagadougou and the Abidjan office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).


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Item: irin-english-1321

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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