IRIN-West Africa Update 356 for 1998.12.9

IRIN-West Africa Update 356 for 1998.12.9


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

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IRIN-WA Update 356 of Events in West Africa (Wednesday 9 December)

NIGERIA: Nigeria needs to do more to get sanctions lifted, US says

The United States on Tuesday (yesterday) told Nigeria that further steps were needed to ensure US sanctions were lifted, despite moves to restore democracy, AFP reported. US Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering said restrictions on direct flights between Nigeria and the US were based on "technical and safety issues", while Nigeria's place on a US black list of drug-trafficking countries was a "legal issue". A US team had concluded a number of cooperation agreements with the Nigerian government on fighting transnational crime in October, but Pickering said more needed to be done before the US could "revisit the issue of narcotics".

Gabriel Sam Akunwafor, Nigeria's deputy representative to the UN in New York, said the Nigerian government was embarking on reform but "but we are given at all times a list of what to do. We want to see some kind of recognition." Akunwafor said the restoration of direct flights was a high priority for Nigerians and it was "unfair" to hide behind technical problems. Regarding drug trafficking, he said the Nigerian government had taken action to curb the problem and the US statement was against "evidence on the ground".

Direct flights between the two countries were discontinued during the administration of the late General Sani Abacha on grounds of poor security and corruption at Nigerian airports. The US placed Nigeria under sanctions after the execution of human rights activists in November 1995, but lifted some of its restrictions earlier this year.

US hails local elections

US State Department spokesman James Foley said the success of recent "peaceful and professional elections in Nigeria bodes well for the state, federal and presidential elections early next year," a USIA report said. The US-based International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), in a report received by IRIN today (Wednesday), said it was "encouraged" by the Nigerian electoral commission's commitment to Nigeria's transition to democracy. IFES said it hoped the following months would be marked by a further commitment to a credible and transparent poll. It recommended the dissemination of a detailed instruction manual for poll officials as well as better training of political parties. Local government elections were held on 5 December.

Shell to build world's biggest crude terminal

The Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell is planning to make its Bonny crude export terminal in Nigeria the biggest in the world in 10 years time with a US $500 million upgrade programme, Reuters reported today quoting company officials. The terminal's superintendent, Harry Bolton, said the construction contract for the new terminal would double its current crude storage of 7.2 million barrels a day. He added that it would "bring the terminal to the largest in the world... with state-of-the-art technology."

Industry analysts said Shell's upgrade of its most important terminal in Nigeria was part of strategic positioning in a key area for coming years.

GABON: Bongo re-elected President

Gabonese President Omar Bongo won another seven-year term in presidential elections on Sunday according to official results announced late on Tuesday. Interior Minister Antoine Mboumbou Miyakou announced the result over state television on Tuesday giving Bongo, who has ruled for 31 years, 66.65 percent of the votes cast.

Bongo's closest rival, Pierre Mamboundou, won 16.54 percent of the votes and the Reverend Paul M'ba Abessole came third with 13.43 percent. Abessole, who ran on the Rassemblement national de bucherons (RNB) ticket, spoke of a level of "state fraud unique in the electoral history of Gabon". But the Groupe d'Etudes et de Recherche pour la democratie et le developpment en Afrique (GERDDES-Afrique), a democracy research body, said the elections were "free, fair and open".

GUINEA BISSAU: President says he will not resign

Guinea Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira has refused to bow to parliamentary pressure to resign before March elections envisaged under the Abuja peace accords ending five months of civil war, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported.

Vieira told RFI in an interview broadcast yesterday that he was still undecided about running in the presidential poll.

Parliamentary deputies passed a non-binding motion last month calling for Vieira's resignation. They said he had violated the constitution by inviting Senegalese and Guinean troops to shore up his government which was facing a major army mutiny.

Bissau airport to be opened before Christmas

Guinea Bissau's Joint Executive Commission of government and military junta officials, overseeing the implementation of the Abuja peace deal, said yesterday that Bissau's international airport may open for commercial flights before Christmas, media reports said. "We are working towards obtaining the minimum conditions to open the airport," the commission's spokesman, Nicandro Barreto, was quoted by LUSA as saying. In a weekly report received by IRIN yesterday the WFP said it would soon begin twice-weekly passenger flights from Dakar, capital of Senegal, to Bissau, via the second city Bafata.

Joint Executive Committee argue over ministerial appointments

In another development, the Commission failed on Tuesday to agree on two cabinet appointments to the government of national unity, LUSA reported today. The impasse is over who will get the ministries of National Defence and Veteran Affairs, and of Territorial Administration. Since the government and junta signed the Abuja accord on 1 November, the media has reported that the junta's would like to get the defence portfolio.

HUMAN RIGHTS: 50th anniversary of universal declaration marked

The human rights organisation Amnesty International yesterday presented to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan more than 10 million individual pledges of support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in connection with the 50th anniversary of its signing which is marked tomorrow (Thursday). Signatories to the pledge include Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians including Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, French President Jacques Chirac, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Religious leaders, actors and singers have also pledged their support alongside millions of ordinary people.

Speaking at UNESCO headquarters in Paris yesterday to mark the anniversary, Annan described the UDHR as a milestone in the history of human rights. "Brave and nameless citizens" were the real heroes of human rights, he said, adding that by protecting the human rights of one individual, "we promote the peace of all humanity". The UN would continue to make human rights a development priority, and not just a political one, he said.

WEST AFRICA: Link desert control to other envrionmental issues, UNEP says

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has asked governments to link solutions to the problems caused by the world's ever-expanding deserts to biodiversity, climate change and water issues.

In a news release the agency quoted Klaus Toepfer, the Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNEP, as telling the ongoing UN conference on desertification in Dakar, Senegal, that by linking actions to prevent dry land degradation and protection of biodiversity, governments could "heighten the impact of their national investment while boosting their fund-raising potential".

Ministers and other ranking officials attending the conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification are discussing ways to get more money and technical support to fight desertification.

Biodiversity and desertification are related, the release said, in that dry land degradation affected agricultural production, natural vegetation, wildlife and soil fertility. These issues, it added, were also linked to common solutions. For example, fighting deforestation reduced net carbon dioxide emissions, land degradation and the loss of biodiveristy. Similarly, introduction of renewable energy technologies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ease pressure on the land and forests by providing an alternative to fuel wood supplies.

Global Environment Facility (GEF) to fund anti-desertification projects

Senegal and Mauritania will benefit from a US $12.2 million GEF-funded project over five years to rehabilitate the degraded land along their common border, the UNEP news release said. The project seeks to protect biodiversity by targetting five critical ecosystems encompassing 60,000 sq km of territory.

UNEP also said that a joint desertification project was being undertaken in pastoral areas of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. It said that because plants absorbed and stored atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, restoring dry land vegetation simultaneously enhanced "carbon sinks" and thereby reduced climate change.

Abidjan, 9 December 1998 17:15 GMT


Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 17:37:36 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 356 for 1998.12.9

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,