IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 26-1999 [19990703]

IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 26-1999 [19990703]


Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 26 covering the period 26 June - 2 July 1999

SIERRA LEONE: Disarmament

A team of three World Bank experts on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) told participants in the Lome peace talks that 33,000 to 40,000 combatants in Sierra Leone will need to be disarmed and reintegrated into civil society once the civil war is ended, the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL) said on Wednesday.

The World Bank has opened a multidonor trust fund to solicit contributions towards the US $33 million to $35 million the DDR requires for the programme now under preparation. Britain has pledged US $10 million and the World Bank US $9.1 million to the programme, UNOMSIL said.

Postal employees return to work

Postal employees returned to work on Wednesday after striking for better pay and benefits, AFP reported. The workers, who earn the local equivalent of between US $10 and $20 a month, were also demanding more promotions and medical benefits. Leaders of the Union of Postal and Telecommunications Services, which called the strike, refused to say whether they obtained their demands.

SIERRA LEONE: Malnutrition reported in eastern town

A team from Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) that travelled last weekend to Daru, near Sierra Leone's border with Liberia, saw signs of severe malnutrition in the eastern town, MSF said.

The team went to assess the humanitarian situation in the town, which is controlled by ECOMOG. Visual observation of a small group of children, which was not necessarily representative of the entire population, showed that about 20 suffered from severe malnutrition, an MSF official said on Monday. "This is not an emergency but it is very close," the MSF representative said.

Militia pledges to stop recruiting children

Sierra Leone's pro-government Kamajor militia has pledged to stop recruiting children and will send home those already serving in its ranks, a UNICEF official told IRIN on Tuesday.

UNICEF estimates that 3,000 children are with the anti-government Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and 1,500 with the Kamajors. UNICEF has documented 3,867 children abducted by the RUF when the guerrillas occupied eastern Freetown in January. So far 700 of the children have been returned to their families, UNICEF said.

In another development, the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone, UNOMSIL, has denied a media report that it had received complaints from the Kamajors about 1,000 RUF guerrillas attacking the militia's positions on Saturday in Rima, near the diamond-rich town of Kono.

"We received no complaint," a senior UNOMSIL officer told IRIN on Tuesday. "We will investigate further."

GUINEA: Government denies banning Sierra Leonean men

Guinea has denied a news report published on Thursday that it has banned Sierra Leonean men from entering the country by sea. Alhousseine Thiam, chairman of Guinea's Bureau national de coordination des refugies (National Refugee coordination office) told IRIN on Thursday: "Guinea has never, never restricted (the entry of) Sierra Leonean males."

The French news agency, AFP, had quoted boat operators in Freetown as saying on Wednesday that Guinea had stopped adult males from entering the country, in the wake of a spate of cross-border attacks by a rebel splinter group calling itself the Sierra Leonean People's Army.

AFRICA: Forum recommends strategies for resolving conflicts

The innovative approaches to conflict management that women's groups have developed need to be appreciated, participants in the Third Forum on Governance in Africa, held in Bamako, Mali, from 28 to 30 June, recommended.

It is essential for women to be involved in national affairs at a very early stage and at all levels, they said. This could be done, they added, through measures targeting their economic and political empowerment, and through their participation in governmental decision-making.

The competencies of governments, civil society and regional and subregional organisations in the area of conflict analysis and management need to be consolidated, they recommended.

Governments should intensify their efforts to control illicit arms trafficking, they noted, adding that a moratorium the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has placed on the trade in and manufacture of light arms should be extended gradually to the rest of the continent.

UN urged to do more for African refugees

A United Nations of the 21st Century could make a greater effort to help African countries that face economic and social disruption in hosting large numbers of refugees, participants in a panel discussion at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said.

Participants in the discussion, held at the 24-25 June African Regional Hearing on the Millennium Assembly, noted that the UN's response to the refugee crisis in Kosovo had far outweighed its work in helping Africa's refugees, who make up over a quarter of the world's roughly 12 million refugees.

Inadequate political will, the participants added, meant that international standards were not employed in establishing refugee camps in Africa. The UN, they charged, failed to give the required attention to human rights violations in camps.

The two-day hearing was convened as an open forum to share views and elaborate proposals on the type of United Nations that Africans want to see in the next millennium.

WESTERN SAHARA: Voter identification

Morocco and the Polisario Front have been cooperating with the identification of voters in preparation for a referendum on the future of Western Sahara, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a new report on the situation in the territory.

In May, the two sides accepted a UN-brokered package of measures to allow preparations for the referendum to go ahead. The process of identification of eligible voters for the referendum resumed on 15 June. So far, the total number identified since the process began in August 1994 is nearly 150,000.

The first part of the provisional voters' list will be published on 15 July, after which the appeals process will begin.

Under an August 1998 Settlement Plan, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was set up to monitor a ceasefire and identify and register qualified voters for the referendum on whether the former Spanish colony would gain independence or become part of Morocco.

WEST AFRICA: Equatorial Guinea wants in on Cameroon-Nigeria issue

Equatorial Guinea has applied to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for permission to intervene in the Cameroon-Nigeria border dispute in a bid to safeguard its territorial and oil interests.

It said the purpose of the intervention was "to protect (its) legal rights in the Gulf of Guinea by all legal means" and "inform the Court of Equatorial Guinea's legal rights and interests so that these may remain unaffected as the Court proceeds to address the question of the maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria", the ICJ said in a communique on Wednesday.

All three countries have been exploiting and exploring for oil in the area.

NIGER: Referendum date set for 18 July

Niger's ruling Conseil de Reconciliation nationale (CRN) has announced that a referendum on a new constitution, originally set for 11 July, will be held on 18 July, news reports said. The CRN also said the draft constitution to be decided by the referendum was a semi-presidential one, in which power is shared between the president and prime minister.

SENEGAL: Separatists Want Ceasefire

Some 100 delegates from various factions of Senegal's separatist Mouvement des Forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) agreed on 25 June to negotiate peace with the government in Dakar, according to news reports.

In a communique issued at the end of a four-day meeting in Banjul, The Gambia, they also called on their fighters and the Senegalese army to cease hostilities immediately in Senegal's southern area of Casamance, PANA reported.

The meeting reappointed Reverend Augustin Diamacoune Senghor as leader of the MFDC, who is to name delegates to two new MFDC bodies created to conduct national and international negotiations.

Unions end pay strike

Senegalese unions ended a general strike for more pay and other benefits on Tuesday, following a tentative agreement with government on improved conditions for public and private sector workers, a union leader in Dakar told IRIN.

The accord calls for an increase in family allowances from 1,000 francs cfa to 1,500 fcfa (US $1.66 to US $2.5) per child for the first six children, the establishment of a social security fund and a health insurance scheme, and an end to the system of issuing consumers with electricity bills based on estimates instead of metred consumption.

The strike, by seven unions, started on Monday and was the first in seven years. It halted most economic activity and shut down the international airport in the capital, Dakar.

LIBERIA: Elite troops deployed near US Embassy

Liberia said it deployed elite Anti-Terrorist Unit troops near the US Embassy in Monrovia on Wednesday in response to fears raised by the US State Department of a possible terrorist threat, news reports and diplomatic sources said on Thursday.

However, Sarah Morrison, the head of the US Information Service in Monrovia, told IRIN, "we have quite a bit of security around the embassy", although she also said, "we appreciate the concern of the Liberian government".

Fears of a terrorist attack had prompted Washington to close its embassies in six African countries, including Liberia, on Thursday through Saturday last week.

MALI-MAURITANIA: Herders, farmers clash along border

About a dozen people died in communal clashes earlier this month along the border between Mauritania and Mali, according to various reports.

A media source in Bamako told IRIN the conflict started when herdsmen in Missira-Samoura, a village in western Mali populated mainly by farmers, refused to allow a Mauritanian horseman to use a watering hole. The horseman rode off and returned with some of his clansmen, attacking the village on 20 June. AFP reported that two people died in that raid.

The villagers retaliated two days later by attacking the horseman's village, Naime, in south-eastern Mauritania. According to the media source in Bamako, 11 Mauritanians died in that attack.

Soldiers complete peacekeeping course

Forty-one Malian soldiers concluded a one-month peacekeeping training session at the National Gendarmerie School in Bamako on 25 June, Radio-Television Malienne reported. The training course was part of the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), a programme mounted by the US military and aimed at helping African nations produce peacekeepers capable of facing crises in Africa and worldwide.

NIGERIA: Cabinet sworn in, ethics code for ministers

Nigeria's new cabinet was sworn in on Wednesday after the senate approved the last seven of the ministerial nominees submitted to it by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The approval of the seven had been held up by allegations within the House that nominees had bribed members of some parties so as to secure confirmation.

Earlier in the week, the 42 ministers-designate and 12 presidential advisers whom the senaate had approved previously adopted a code of conduct designed to ensure probity, transparency and accountability in government, news reports said.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo last Sunday described the adoption of the code as "a landmark in the revival of just and honest government in Nigeria".

The precepts of the 14-point code include selflessness, integrity objectivity, openness, honesty and leadership. It comes in addition to a code of conduct for public officers contained in the 1999 constitution, Nigerian radio reported.

Anti-corruption bill before the Senate

Also, Obasanjo has presented an anti-corruption bill to the Senate proposing a seven-year prison term for offenders, news reports said on Wednesday.

If passed into law, any public official who asks for or receives property or favours, or is found to have indulged in other forms of corruption will be guilty of a felony, AFP reported quoting 'This Day', a Nigerian newspaper.

Abidjan 2 July 1999; 17:35 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1159

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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