IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup No 78 for 1998.12.11

IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup No 78 for 1998.12.11


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

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IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup No 78 of Main Events for West Africa covering the period 4-10 December1998

NIGERIA: PDP wins local polls

Official results from Saturday's local elections released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday showed the People's Democratic Party (PDP) of General Olusegun Obasanjo had won, with 59 percent of the votes. The results, broadcast by Nigerian radio, gave the PDP 3,342 seats out of 5,629 known at that point. Second place went to the All People's Party (APP) with 1,456 seats or 25.8 percent of the votes and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) came third with 744 seats (13.2 percent).

INEC chairman Ephraim Akpata said the elections had been held in most local government areas countrywide. Polls that were unable to take place last Saturday will be held this Saturday (12 December), along with run-off voting where necessary, he added.

Electoral teams rate polls as free and fair

Two electoral monitoring teams, the Nigerian-based Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI), rated the local elections in Nigeria as generally credible. The TMG report received by IRIN on Tuesday said it had deployed more than 1,000 observers to monitor the elections nationwide and "noted some serious administrative lapses by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in its preparation for the elections". It pointed to the lack of electoral material in certain polling booths, insufficient training of electoral officials, lateness of officials, lack of civic education and privacy in the voting, and the security situation. But despite the lapses, the elections were "credible" and the voter turnout was "reasonably impressive".

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

The United States on Tuesday 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 blacklist of drug-trafficking countries was a "legal issue". 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." However, the US State Department conceded the local elections had been held "peacefully and professionally" and that this boded well for state, federal and presidential polls early next year.

Six people killed in oil-delta area

Trouble flared during polling in the oil-rich delta region when six people were killed after supporters of two political parties turned up at the same time at a polling station, news organisations reported. The clash took place at Aghalokpe, 50 km southwest of Warri. Witnesses quoted by AFP said police guarding the polling station intervened but had not been able to stop the shooting immediately.

SIERRA LEONE: UN sanctions committee chairman ends visit

The Chairman of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone, Hans Dahlgren, ended a four-day assessment tour of the country on Thursday designed to gauge the effectiveness of sanctions against rebels, UN officials in the country said in a statement sent to IRIN. Dahlgren met President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, his deputy, other Sierra Leonean officials and the ECOMOG commander to discuss ways of tightening the arms, petroleum and travel embargoes on the ousted military junta and their families. There have been recent reports of white helicopters supplying arms to the rebels who operate mostly in northern and eastern Sierra Leone.

Jammeh ready to help broker peace if asked

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh said if he was asked he would be willing to help broker a peace deal between Kabbah's government and the rebels, a Gambian State House official told IRIN on Thursday. The official quoted Kabbah as saying he would welcome any offer to mediate. In October, Jammeh helped negotiate an end to the five-month civil in Guinea Bissau.

ECOMOG beats off attack on Yilleh village

West African intervention troops at the weekend repulsed an attack by rebels on the village of Yilleh, 60 km east of Freetown, an ECOMOG officer told IRIN on Monday. He said that when rebels attacked the village over the weekend ECOMOG troops in the nearby town of Masiaka were called in. The officer said civilians from Masiaka fled, fearing an extension of the fighting. He gave no casualty figures. AFP reported that truckloads of exhausted looking civilians continued to arrive in Freetown on Monday. Rebels also attacked the Port Loko area, 60 km northeast of Freetown, and Kambia, some 20 km farther north over the weekend, AFP reported. However, the ECOMOG officer told IRIN that the West African force was now patrolling the Port Loko highway.

Meanwhile, foreign missionaries were forced to close down a hospital in the northern town of Lunsar last week, before leaving the town as rebels advanced towards it, news reports and the missionary news agency MISNA said. They moved to Makeni, 60 km away, afraid the rebels might try and abduct them, missionary sources added.

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 developpement en Afrique (GERDDES-Afrique), a democracy research body, said the elections were "free, fair and open".

GUINEA BISSAU: President and rebel leader to meet

President Joao Bernardo Vieira and rebel leader Ansumane Mane are to hold face-to-face talks in the Togolese capital Lome soon, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported. It cited official sources as saying the talks would centre on implementing the country's peace accord signed on 1 November after fighting broke out in June between loyalists and supporters of Mane who was sacked as army chief. The Lome meeting will be hosted by Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema and will also include Guinea Bissau's new premier, Francisco Fadul. The two sides will discuss the planned arrival of an ECOMOG peacekeeping force and the formation of a new national unity government, Lusa said. Meanwhile, President Vieira refused to bow to parliamentary pressure to resign before March elections envisaged under the peace accord. He told Radio France Internationale on Wednesday he was still undecided about running for president.

Prime minister designate accuses president of crimes

Guinea Bissau's newly appointed prime minister, Francisco Fadul, has accused President Joao Bernardo Vieira of "assassinations, beatings, slander, defamation and debasement of (political) leaders," news reports said on Monday. News agencies quoted Fadul as saying in an interview with the weekly Portuguese newspaper 'Expresso' that Vieira was one of the richest men in the world whose personal wealth almost equalled that of the country's foreign debt.

WFP begins chartered passenger flights to Bissau

World Food Programme chartered passenger flights are now operating between the capitals of Senegal and Guinea Bissau, the UN agency said in a weekly report received by IRIN on Tuesday. WFP said it had contracted Aeroservice, a Dakar based company, to make the twice-weekly runs: Dakar (Senegal)/Bafata/Bissau/Bafata (Guinea Bissau)/Dakar. WFP said the service would benefit UN agencies, NGO's and donors. WFP prepares the passenger manifest and issues plane tickets.

Refugees in Guinea

WFP said it will help feed almost 10,000 Guinea Bissau refugees in the neighbouring state of Guinea. The refugees are in the locations of Boke, Sabsale, Koumbia, Foulamori and Sareboido, the agency said. It said that in a visit to these areas in Guinea between 24 and 27 October, a joint WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF and IFRC delegation recommended that the refugees and returnees be regrouped in two major camps around Boke and Gaoual (Koumbia).

EU's Bonino to visit Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone

Emma Bonino, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, will visit Guinea Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone early in January, her spokesman in Brussels told IRIN on Tuesday. The dates for the visit have still to be finalised, Pietro Petrucci said. He said Bonino would fly to Dakar, Senegal, where she would pick up one of the regular flights run by the EU's humanitarian aid arm ECHO to Bissau. The main object of the visit was to boost the peace process. The commissioner wanted to encourage the two sides to respect the humanitarian aspects of the Abuja accord which ended the fighting in Guinea Bissau, he added. She would visit refugees in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

LIBERIA: Extradition of Prince Johnson sought

The Liberian authorities have charged former faction leader Prince Johnson with treason. According to the BBC on Wednesday, President Charles Taylor said Liberia would seek his extradition from Nigeria to stand trial. Prince Johnson, whose troops captured and killed the former Liberian president, Samuel Doe, in 1990 has been in exile in Nigeria for the last six years. The BBC said the Liberian authorities were also seeking the extradition of several other Liberians accused of treason following violence in Monrovia in September. They include exiled faction leaders Roosevelt Johnson and Alhaji Kromah.

Timber companies to rehabilitate roads and bridges

Representatives of logging companies operating in Liberia agreed to rehabilitate roads and bridges around the country during a three-hour meeting with the Liberian president, Charles Taylor, Independent Monrovia-based Star Radio reported on Tuesday. Taylor named the ministers of public works and rural development as well as a representative of the Forestry Development Authority to sit on a coordinating committee on road repairs. The first phase would consist of building bridges made out of "ekke", a local but rare variety of wood.

WEST AFRICA: WFP chief visits Burkina Faso

WFP executive director Catherine Bertini, on a three-day inspection tour of Burkina Faso, is due to leave for Sierra Leone on Wednesday, an official of the agency told IRIN on Tuesday. In Burkina Faso, she met Prime Minister Desire Ouedraogo and with Foreign Minister Ablasse Ouedraogo inaugurated the regional WFP office for the Sahel in Ouagadougou, the capital. In the Sahel, WFP aids the poorest areas and those most susceptible to food scarcity, notably in the central and southeast plateaux. WFP aid generally goes to education, health and rural development.

AFRICA: African countries among world's most undernourished, FAO says

A report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says 800 million people in developing countries are chronically undernourished and two billion more suffer from deficiencies of vital vitamins and minerals. "Globally there is enough food to feed the world, but it is not equally distributed and many people do not have the means to buy it," said Hartwig de Haen, FAO Assistant Director-General. Even when food supplies were adequate at national level, access to food was often a serious problem, he added. The report contains the most recent data on nutrition and malnutrition in 177 countries and shows that the lowest food availability affects countries such as Mozambique, Burundi, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia.

Africans criticise UNEP

African delegates at the world conference on desertification in Senegal have criticised the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for not giving enough attention to the UN Convention for the Control of Desertification, PANA reported on Wednesday. The African group told the convention's new executive secretary, Klaus Toepfer, that UNEP was not doing all it could in the field of desertification which only strengthened the conviction shared by the most influential members of the convention that desertification came a poor second to the conventions on climate and biodiversity. According to PANA, Toepfer assured the Africans that he would give greater attention to Africa.

A new report by the World Bank pointed out that desertification, which affects 900 million people in 100 countries, can only be halted by making economic and social changes aimed at tackling its underlying causes. The report says desertification, which costs the world an estimated US $42.3 billion a year in economic losses, is not just a physical phenomenon. Rapid population growth and inappropriate economic policies that undervalue natural resources and encourage misuse are also contributing factors. The full news release is available on IRIN-WA-EXTRA and the World Bank website at

HUMAN RIGHTS: Human rights linked to refugee protection, Ogata says

Human rights violations are still forcing people to flee, worsening the refugee problem in many parts of the world, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said on Thursday. In a statement in Paris marking the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she said there had been some progress in finding solutions to refugee problems. "But much more needs to be done. Today, one in every 120 people on earth has been forced to flee because of violence or persecution." This year alone, 215,000 people had fled from Sierra Leone, where rebel forces had committed terrible atrocities against civilians. Sierra Leoneans were now Africa's biggest refugee population, numbering 440,000 in Guinea and Liberia, she said.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, speaking on the occasion at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, said the UN would continue to make human rights a development priority and not just a political one. The human rights organisation Amnesty International on Tuesday presented Annan with more than 10 million pledges of support for the UDHR signed by prominent personalities and ordinary people.

Abidjan, 11 December 1998, 11:20 GMT


Date: Fri, 11 Dec 1998 12:27:42 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup No 78 for 1998.12.11

Editor: Ali B. Dinar,