IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup No 73, 1998.11.6

IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup No 73, 1998.11.6

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

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IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup No 73 of Main Events for West Africa covering the period (Friday - Thursday) 30 October - 5 November 1998

GUINEA BISSAU: Accord signed ending civil war

Guinea Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira and rebel leader Ansumane Mane signed a pact on Sunday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, ending five months of civil war.

The accord provides for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of all foreign troops and the simultaneous deployment of a West African peacekeeping force along the border with Senegal and in Guinea Bissau, the opening of a humanitarian corridor, and the re-opening of the airport and port still under rebel control. The accord also called for the formation of a government of national unity and the holding of legislative and presidential elections before March 1999.

International reaction to the deal has been upbeat and was welcomed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama said Lisbon supported the agreement and would do "everything possible to help consolidate the peace".

However, humanitarian sources told IRIN in Bissau reaction to the accord was "restrained". A diplomat in Bissau, quoted by AFP, said people were "waiting before they believe in the accord... and those who fled would not come home until they are sure that peace is in sight".

Humanitarian situation

The UN reported that the food supply situation in Guinea Bissau was not dramatic as the ongoing harvest was providing an additional input. The forecast for the 1998 harvest was also good. However, a UN humanitarian report said 70,000 to 80,000 internally displaced people in Prabis and Cumura, some 20 km west of Bissau, needed help urgently and lacked food, water and sanitation.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told IRIN on Thursday that by the end of the week it would have delivered non-food items to some 20,000 internally displaced in Prabis and Cumura. Bafata, some 120 km east of Bissau, would receive food next week, an official said.

Meanwhile, WFP had not yet resumed its food distribution in the country and other humanitarian activities were limited in scope. WFP suspended its programmes on 18 October.

The ICRC office in Dakar told IRIN on Tuesday that it was conducting assessment missions around the country to re-evaluate needs in view of the large number of people displaced by the recent fighting.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (IFRC) in Abidjan said its main focus during the conflict in Guinea Bissau was emergency programmes in the management of water resources and community health services. It was in the process of building and rehabilitating 1,200 latrines in Guinea Bissau, while it launched a public campaign on hygiene and proper use of water. Its activities were conducted under the ICRC's umbrella.

Refugees in Guinea border area

The WFP, which recently completed a two-day mission to Koundara prefecture in Guinea (Conakry), some 40 km from the border, said there were 2,071 Guinea Bissau refugees in the region, 87 percent of whom since the outbreak of the civil war in June. The refugees had been unable to grow food in July since they had no seeds and tools. They also did not have any money to buy food and were therefore vulnerable to famine. They were sharing food with the local population.

WEST AFRICA: Leaders sign conflict resolution treaty, launch cheque

Leaders attending the two-day ECOWAS summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on 30 to 31 October signed a conflict resolution treaty, launched the ECOWAS travellers' cheque and adopted a three-year moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of small arms.

The treaty provides for a regional mechanism for conflict prevention, management and resolution, as well as peacekeeping and security.

The leaders also called on the international community to support Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Mali and Niger to provide additional troops to the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, in Sierra Leone.

UN anti-malaria campaign launched

WHO launched a campaign called "Roll Back Malaria" last Friday at the UN headquarters in New York to cut the number of deaths from the disease by 40 percent through use of new drugs and bed nets impregnated with the new insecticide, permethrin. The programme, sponsored by four UN agencies, will focus on Africa, where 90 percent of all malaria cases occur. About one million African children die from malaria each year.

NIGERIA: Former finance minister on missing US $1.3 billion

A former Nigerian finance minister, Anthony Ani, alleged that US $1.3 billion was irregularly withdrawn from government funds under the rule of the late military leader, General Sani Abacha, news organisations reported on Wednesday. A Lagos daily, 'The Guardian, quoted Ani as saying that withdrawals were made by Abacha's security adviser, Ismaila Gwarzo. Ani said he had recovered US $700 million and had traced some of the money to Lebanon.

Ani said the missing money was discovered while reconciling state accounts for the handover to the new military ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, in June.

Shell flow stations still under Ijaw control

Militant Ijaw youths continued to hold all flow stations in the West Division of Royal/Dutch Shell operations around the Nigerian oil-city of Warri, a company spokesman told IRIN on Thursday.

A spokesman for the firm in London said no exports were leaving the Forcados terminal near Warri. However, Shell's East Division continued to export oil normally from the eastern city of Port Harcourt.

The militants, represented by the Federated Niger Delta Izon Communities (FNDIC), said last Sunday they would immediately leave the sites run by Royal/Dutch Shell and the US company, Chevron. The youths also promised to re-open waterways in the delta which they had seized on 8 October.

However, the Shell spokesman said it appeared there were several factions among the militants with some defying directives from elders to end the occupations.

Government allocates US $10 million to curb AIDS

The Nigerian government has allocated US $10 million to curb the rising spread of AIDS in the country, PANA reported on Wednesday. The funds would strengthen monitoring of the disease. Meanwhile, Health Minister Debo Adeyemi said at least 200,000 Nigerians were expected to die of the disease in 1998, according to the Nigerian newspaper, 'The Abuja Mirror'.

The UNAIDS office in Abidjan told IRIN that there were an estimated 590,000 adults and children with AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic in Nigeria.

Obasanjo to run for presidency

Former military ruler Olusegun Obasanjo, 61, announced on Tuesday he would run for the presidency in next February's elections, media organisations reported.

He told reporters he would be running on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket if he wins the primaries later this year, Reuters said. Few other well-known figures, except for former Foreign Minister Alex Ekwueme, also running for the PDP, have yet declared their intention to run, according to AFP.

Obasanjo, who ruled Nigeria from 1976 to 1979, is the only Nigerian military leader to have handed over power voluntarily to an elected civilian government. He served three years of a 15-year sentence for allegedly plotting to overthrow the late military leader, General Sani Abacha, who died suddenly on 8 June.

UN says human rights continuing

Meanwhile, a UN report last Thursday said human rights violations had continued in Nigeria despite gains made under Abubakar's administration. Soli Sorabjee, a UN special rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Commission, said while the government had released several political prisoners, trade union leaders, human rights advocates and journalists, others were still in detention, including those convicted in connection with previous coups. He added that the Nigerian legal system did not provide effective protection of human rights because of the suspension of the human rights provisions.

Sorabjee added that he had been unable to visit Nigeria despite requests to the present Nigerian government.

SIERRA LEONE: Fifteen sentenced to death

The High Court in Sierra Leone sentenced 15 people to death for treason on Thursday, news organisations said. Former president Joseph Momoh was sentenced to ten years in prison. Five people including the spokesman of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) Jibril Massaquoi, were acquitted. Momoh was cleared of treason.

The defendants have 21 days within which to appeal. According to Reuters, the condemned included Matilda King, a former deputy health minister, Manley Spain, justice minister and attorney-general, as well as health minister Bailor Leigh and deputy energy minister Hassan Bairie.

President warns against corruption

In a nationwide broadcast, Sierra Leone President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah warned civil servants on Tuesday against demanding bribes before serving local and foreign businessmen, Reuters reported. He also urged the public to wage a "decisive war" against corruption. He added that corruption was one of the major impediments to development.

Civil Defence Force seals border with Liberia

Sierra Leone's Civil Defence Force (CDF), including Kamajor hunters, has sealed off the eastern border with Liberia after a battle with insurgents in which 150 people were killed, media reports said quoting Colonel Eddie Massallay.

Massallay, the CDF district coordinator, quoted by AFP, said a combined force of his men and the Nigerian-led ECOMOG force killed 150 rebels and 50 Liberian "intruders". The battle took place three weeks ago along the River Mano near Sulima in Sierra Leone's southeast.

Massallay said his forces had occupied 50 villages along the border from Sulima to Jegbema in Pujehun District and more would be taken. The Kamajor had also created a buffer zone along the eastern Pujehun and Kailahun districts, adjacent to the border with Liberia.

LIBERIA: Government denies firing into US Embassy

Liberia denied its forces deliberately fired into the US Embassy in Monrovia, the capital, when government troops tried to arrest former faction leader Roosevelt Johnson, news organisations said. The denial was carried in an official report on the shooting 18 September, issued on Tuesday.

The United States has maintained that government troops fired into the embassy compound in pursuit of Johnson, injuring two US officials. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Vicki Huddlestone, who was in Monrovia on Wednesday, demanded an apology. She also called for UN involvement in investigations into the incident.

The fighting broke out in Monrovia on 18 September, when government forces sought to arrest supporters of Johnson, an ethnic Krahn and the main rival of President Charles Taylor. Over 50 people were killed during two days of clashes.

Human Rights NGO denies coup plot involvement

The Monrovia-based human rights NGO, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), rejected allegations by Senator Thomas Nimely that its director was involved in a plot against the government. A JPC official told IRIN that the allegations against Kofi Woods remained unsubstantiated and exposed its staff to insecurity and harassment. The JPC also called for the UN to investigate the September fighting.

In similar development, former presidential candidate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, described as a "diabolical lie" allegations that she had committed treason by meeting former faction leaders Johnson and Alhaji Kromah in Sierra Leone, 'The Analyst' reported quoting her open letter to the media.

Liberian Justice Minister Eddington Varmah denied Johnson-Sirleaf had been named in an indictment along with 32 persons charged with treason, Star Radio reported on Wednesday.

NIGER: Government clamps down on media

Officials in Niger last week temporarily banned all relays of international broadcasters on private Niger stations, news reports said.

Daouda Diallo, the president of Niger's media authority, Le Conseil superieur de la communication (CSC), said the ban would remain effective until international broadcasters signed contracts with the government, AFP reported. This "regularisation" would make it possible to establish who would be held legally responsible in the event of legal action, he said. Another possibility was for the private stations to preview the content of bulletins of international broadcasters before airing them.

The two Niger private FM broadcasters singled out for restriction, Anfani and R et M, broadast news from Voice of America, Radio Deutsche Welle and the BBC, AFP said. The owners of the radio stations have accused the CSC of "muzzling" the media.

New Press cards introduced

The CSC also renewed its warning to newspaper editors and journalists last week that they must obtain new press cards by the end of October or face closure, the media reported. Newspapers whose editors fail to obtain the cards would face suspension, Diallo said last week.

To qualify journalists must have a university degree in journalism or five years' experience. Most local journalist do not meet these requirements, the weekly, 'Camel Express', said.

Media watchdog appeals to president

The international press watchdog, Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) petitioned Niger President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara last week asking him to withhold implementation of the CSC measures. RSF said implementation would result in the closure of many independent publications and reduce freedom of expression.

Abidjan, 6 November 1998, 19:00 gmt


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Date: Fri, 6 Nov 1998 19:19:05 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup No 73, 1998.11.6 Message-Id: <>

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