IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 28-1999 [19990717]

IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 28-1999 [19990717]


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 28 covering the period 10-16 July 1999

GUINEA BISSAU: Refugees begin trip home

A first group of 186 Guinea Bissau refugees left Dakar on Monday for their home country on board the UNHCR-chartered Cape Verdian motor vessel Djon Dade, the UN agency reported.

Hundreds of people died in Guinea Bissau's nine-month civil war which ended on 7 May. Some 400,000 others were internally displaced and 5,000 sought refuge in other countries: 1,800 in Guinea, 900 in Senegal, 720 in The Gambia and 600 in Cape Verde.

More POWs handed to civilian authorities

Guinea Bissau's Military Junta, which won the civil war, has handed over some 328 prisoners of war to the interim civilian authorities in a ceremony witnessed by government officials and diplomats, Lusa reported on Monday.

In other developments, the national assembly approved on 7 July a draft constitution which reserves top state posts such as the presidency for citizens whose parents are from Guinea Bissau, humanitarian sources and media organisations said. The document, which needs to be sanctioned by the head of state, also limits the presidency to two terms and abolishes the death penalty, they said.

SIERRA LEONE: Challenges facing humanitarian community

The challenges now facing the humanitarian community in Sierra Leone include improving immunisation coverage, nutrition levels and education, UN and government officials said on Tuesday in Freetown.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sierra Leone Kingsley Amaning said at a news conference that key areas for the humanitarian community, included primary health care, feeding programmes for malnourished children and the rehabilitation of shelter and water supplies. "The needs of children are an especially high priority," he said.

Amaning and the head of the Commission for National Reconstruction Resettlement and Rehabilitation (NCRRR), S.U.M. Jah, said urgent support was also needed for the return, resettlement and reintegration of nearly 500,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea and Liberia.

Jah, whose commission is the government body responsible for coordinating relief activities, said that over 3,000 villages and towns destroyed by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) guerrillas and 1,700 educational facilities, 400 health centres and 3,000 wells needed to be rehabilitated or rebuilt.

ECOMOG soldiers told to maintain vigilance

ECOMOG field commander Major General Felix Mujakperuo has told his troops to remain on high alert, despite the peace deal. He said the accord marked a sensitive phase of ECOMOG's mission and demanded the highest professionalism from his troops.

Rebels, civilians leaving the countryside

Meanwhile, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN on Monday that since the ceasefire on 18 May (preceding the peace deal) people had been leaving the bush for the towns, especially from around Makeni and Lunsar, northeast of Freetown. This has revealed "acute shortages" of food and medicins in Makeni, northeast of Freetown, the police chief superintendent of Port Loko, northeast of Freetown, told IRIN.

ECOMOG unaware of rebels refusing to surrender

RUF guerrillas have reportedly been leaving the bush along with civilians but Olukolade said he was unaware of any fighters refusing to surrender to Nigerian soldiers as reported by news media. A news agency had quoted a 25-year-old rebel "major" as saying that the RUF would not give themselves up to Nigerians and wanted to be disarmed by the United Nations Military Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL).

"I don't know if it's just an isolated incident or a more official stance," Olukolade said.

Under the terms of the peace agreement signed on 7 July in Lome, a neutral peacekeeping force comprising ECOMOG and UNOMSIL will disarm all combatants of the RUF, Civil Defence Force, Sierra Leone Army and paramilitary groups.

Army worms attack crops in the north

Army worms have been destroying rice nurseries and vegetable crops in two chiefdoms near Lungi International Airport, agricultural officials said on Thursday.

An FAO consultant, Mr. J.P. Amara, told IRIN that if the worms have not advanced too far farmers could use chemical sprays or create fire belts to stop them.

Sierra Leone, he added, was prone to outbreaks of these worms every three to four years and that they tended to occur in the main farming areas. The worms have also been detected in Ghana's Upper East Region and in Cameroon.

SAHEL: Rains since late June offset shortfall

Abundant rains have dampened concern over reduced precipitation in early and mid-June that threatened harvests in the Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso and Niger, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) reported.

Rains have started in western Gambia, northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, central and northern Mali, eastern Niger and Chad's Sahelian zone, where planting has started, the FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (FAO/GIEWS) said in its second Sahel report for 1999, issued last week.

In Guinea Bissau, just emerging from a civil war, rains helped desalinate fields where swamp rice seedlings, now in seedbeds, will be transplanted. Cape Verde's first rains for the season fell in early July.

AFRICA: Military rulers given until 2000 to shape up

African leaders who took power unconstitutionally in the past two years have until the next continental OAU summit in 2000 to restore democratic rule, PANA reported on Wednesday.

At the end of the 35th summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on Wednesday in Algiers, the leaders asked OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim to help countries meet the democratic criterion. The affected countries are the Comoros, Guinea Bissau and Niger.

"All those who have taken over power illegally will have to give it up," Salim told PANA.

"The resolution is a bold step. Year two thousand is not far away," Nimi Walson-Jack, executive director of Nigeria's Centre for Responsive Politics, told IRIN. "Let's hope that some military junta does not test the will of the leaders by then."

Salim ordered to convene regional conference on small arms

In a drive to curtail the proliferation of small arms in Africa, the continent's leaders ordered Salim to convene a regional conference on the problem, PANA reported.

Out of this meeting, they said, should emerge recommendations for solving problems related to the use, transfer and manufacture of small arms. The African leaders proposed a preparatory meeting of experts to produce a joint African position on the issue before the regional conference, due in 2000. The leaders also want the OAU, Africa's foremost political body, to seek support from the relevant United Nations institutions.

WEST AFRICA: Red Cross/Red Crescent set region's priorities

Malaria, diarrhoea and vaccine-preventable diseases are among the top priorities Red Cross and Red Crescent (RC/RC) societies in West Africa set themselves for the coming decade at an 11-14 July planning meeting in Abidjan.

Other top priorities for RC/RC intervention in the subregion, based partly on information received from health ministries, include acute respiratory infections and malnutrition. The others are accidents and injuries, STDs/HIV/AIDS, pregnancy-related issues, illiteracy, non-transmissible diseases, schistosomiasis, leprosy, eye diseases, substance abuse and sickle cell anaemia.

The meeting, attended by RC officials from 16 West African countries, was part of a process of developing the African Red Cross and Red Crescent Health Initiative (ARCHI 2010), a proposed health strategy for Africa.

West Africans rank lowest in human development report

West African states rank amongst the lowest in this year's United Nations report on human development, which was released on Monday.

Half of the 10 countries with the lowest development scores are in West Africa. Sierra Leone ranks 174th, preceded by Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau and Mali. The other five are Ethiopia, Burundi, Mozambique, Eritrea and Central African Republic.

The next 12 lowest-ranking countries include The Gambia (163th), Chad (162), Guinea (161), Benin (155), Cote d'Ivoire (154) and Senegal (153). Nigeria, the regional giant, ranks 146th.

MALI: Germany promises some five billion francs CFA

A German Embassy spokesperson in Bamako told IRIN on Thursday that Germany would contribute some five billion francs CFA (US $7.8 million) to ending Mali's energy crunch. The energy crisis has been worsened by a fire in April that damaged the control centre of a Bamako power station and a water shortage has shut the hydroelectric station that normally supplies half the city's power. The result has been frequent power cuts, some lasting 72 hours in certain districts, Reuters said.

SENEGAL: IMF approves loan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved on Monday the second annual payment of some US $18.92 million from a US $141.94 million three-year loan under the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) to support Senegal's economic and financial programme, according to an IMF news release.

CAPE VERDE: Portugal to aid police force

Accords to help strengthen Cape Verde's police force were signed on 9 July at the end of a three-day visit to the archipelago by Portugal's Internal Administration Minister, Jorge Coelho, Lusa reported. The Portuguese news agency said areas to benefit from the agreements included criminal investigation, passport control and the setting up of an anti-terrorist police unit. Coelho also delivered equipment to the police, fire fighting and civil defence forces, it reported.

NIGER: Debt repayments before salaries

Niger's military government said on Monday it could not afford to pay wage arrears demanded by 43,000 state employees because it had to make debt repayments, Reuters reported.

Government spokesman Captain Djibrilla Hima told reporters that the administration needed two billion francs CFA (US $3 million) to service the debt, at a time when donors had frozen grants and lending because of April's coup.

Reuters put the country's monthly civil service wage bill at about 4.5 billion francs CFA (US $7.1 million) and administrative costs at two billion francs CFA.

BURKINA FASO: EU grants for education and agriculture sectors

The European Union (EU) has given Burkina Faso some 24 billion francs CFA (US $37 million) for its education and agriculture sectors, an EU official in Ouagadougou told IRIN on Wednesday. Another grant of some 13 billion francs CFA (US $20 million) is for a regional conservation programme in Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger, the official said.

Soldiers in street protest

Soldiers demonstrated on Thursday in Ouagadougou for the reimbursement of withheld housing allowances but suspended their protest after receiving assurances that the matter would be settled, sources in the Burkinabe capital told IRIN.

However, they threatened to demonstrate again on 22 July if their demands were not met. Thursday's demonstration was sparked by the perception among soldiers that the housing funds had been misappropriated.

In 1984, the government cut public servants' housing allowance, using it instead to finance a national housing fund. In 1991, civilians were no longer required to contribute to the fund. However, this is still mandatory for the military.

CAMEROON: Alleged rebels claim to have confessed under torture

Members of a group accused of armed attacks in northwest Cameroon in 1997 in which 11 people reportedly died told a military court in Yaounde on Tuesday that they had confessed under torture, news media reported. The gendarmerie has denied the accusation.

A media source in Yaounde told IRIN the men claimed they were tortured after being detained in connection with attacks on 27-28 March 1997 on the gendarmerie and other targets in Jakiri, Kumbo, Bamenda and three more localities in western Cameroon.

Some 60 people, suspected of belonging to the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), a group seeking independence for Cameroon's English-speaking western and north-western provinces, were arrested in connection with the attacks. Their trial, which opened on 25 June, has been adjourned to 27 July.

The two provinces formed the former British Southern Cameroons, which opted at independence in 1961 to join what was then French Cameroon. British Northern Cameroons became part of Nigeria.

GUINEA: Opposition leader for trial September

Prominent Guinean opposition leader Alpha Conde will stand trial in Conakry on 7 September, Justice Minister Zobelemou Togba announced on Tuesday, media organisations said.

Conde, head of the Rassemblement du peuple de Guinee (RPG), is charged with "attempting to destabilise the regime, fraudulent transfer of foreign exchange and violence against officials", AFP said.

Foreign politicians and humanitarian bodies have for months been demanding his release. As a presidential candidate in the 1998 elections, he was arrested on 15 December - the eve of the vote - near the border with Cote d'Ivoire.

Abidjan, 16 July 1999; 18:25 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1250

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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