IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup no. 79 for 1998.12.18

IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup no. 79 for 1998.12.18


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

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IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup No 79 of Main Events for West Africa covering the period 11- 17 December 1998

GUINEA BISSAU: Civil war rivals strike deal on government

Rival factions in Guinea Bissau's civil war agreed on Tuesday on the composition of a transitional government of national unity, a major plank in a peace accord that ended five months of civil war. The deal was struck between Guinea Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira and rebel leader Ansumane Mane after 10 hours of discussions that began on Monday.

The self-styled Military Junta, the rebels, got the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs, the key economic and finance ministry, and those of social facilities and internal administration. Vieira's government gets the ministries of foreign affairs, justice and labour; agriculture, fisheries and natural resources; education, youth, culture and sport, as well as health and social welfare.

Deployment of ECOMOG

Another undecided and major issue in the talks was the eventual size of the West African intervention force, ECOMOG, to be deployed in Guinea Bissau. Reuters reported that the Junta wanted just 500 troops rather than the 1,500 initially mooted. However, the Executive Secretary of the Ecomonic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Lansana Kouyate told IRIN on Wednesday that there was no fixed limit to the number of troops to be sent. He added that the speedy deployment of the troops - expected to come from Benin, The Gambia, Niger and Togo - as foreseen in a peace accord between rival civil war factions, depended on logistical and financial support from the international community and donors.

He said France was the lead country being solicited for logistical support and that Portugal could play a very important role in finding money.

EU gives 1.85 million ecus in aid to Guinea Bissau

The European Commission has set aside 1,850,000 ecus (US $2.19 million) in emergency humanitarian aid for the victims of the fighting in Guinea Bissau. The European Union's humanitarian aid office ECHO said in a statement received by IRIN on Wednesday that the money would fund projects run by NGOs in the country to help Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and those who had already returned to the capital, Bissau.

The humanitarian situation had progressively stabilised since the Abuja peace accord was signed in November, the statement said, and the NGOs estimated that 70 to 75 percent of the IDPs had already returned to their homes.

AFRICA: UN appeals for 1.3 billion in humanitarian aid

United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Sergio Vieira de Mello appealed on Wednesday for US $1.3 billion in humanitarian aid for countries in crisis, the world body said. The appeal is for 13 countries, among them Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone.

The appeal for 1999, on behalf of UN agencies and programmes, was the first made on a single occasion by the UN in its annual humanitarian programme, reflecting the Secretary-General's efforts to achieve a coherent approach in dealing with humanitarian crises.

Vieira de Mello, who is also the Emergency Relief Coordinator, said by rationalising the consolidated appeals process the UN had reduced its relief aid requirements from $2.2 billion for 1998. He said the challenges to providing humanitarian aid were enormous, ranging from safety problems to the need for a high level of coordination among humanitarian partners, within and outside the UN system.

WEST AFRICA: Bonino visit set for 4-7 January

Emma Bonino, the European Commissioner responsible for humanitarian affairs, will visit refugee camps and humanitarian aid projects funded by the European Union's humanitarian aid office ECHO during a four-day visit to Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Senegal, her spokesman told IRIN on Tuesday. Pietro Petrucci, contacted by telephone in Brussels, said Bonino would fly from Dakar to Bissau on 4 January to meet field workers and local officials. An OCHA situation report on Guinea Bissau received by IRIN on Tuesday said she would in particular visit the Danish-run Bandim Health Project and other NGOs. She will fly to Freetown on 5 January to see projects backed by ECHO and on 6 January to Kissidougou, in southern Guinea, to visit refugee camps along the border with Sierra Leone. The same day she will fly to Conakry for meetings on 7 January with government officials. She will leave later for Dakar where she is expected to meet government officials and possibly President Abdou Diouf of Senegal, Petrucci said, before returning to Brussels.

SIERRA LEONE: Bertini says expects food shortages for 1999

Sierra Leone will experience serious food shortages by mid-1999 unless peace returns, World Food Programme Executive Director Catherine Bertini said in Freetown last Saturday, after making a three-day food assessment tour. In a report on Monday, Sierra Leone's Ministry of Information quoted Bertini as saying this year's harvest was likely to be good but "there could be problems" by the next.

Reuters reported that before the May 1997 coup that ousted President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the government had predicted the attainment of self-sufficiency in rice by 2001. But the rebels have been mutilating the rural population, hacking off people's arms and legs and sending survivors fleeing to town, making farming difficult.

Bertini, on the last stage of her two-nation West African tour that also took her to Burkina Faso, said she made the visit to Sierra Leone in part to raise morale among WFP staff, particularly local employees whose security situation was worrying.

The ministry said nearly one-third of the country was cut off from food and medical supplies and some 670,000 people were either in camps for IDPs or in other facilities in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia. The ministry said malnutrition was widespread.

UNHCR Completes repatriation flights

The last 110 of 4,556 Sierra Leonean professionals and students living as refugees in Guinea have been airlifted to Freetown, their capital, the UNHCR reported on Monday. They included doctors, nurses and teachers urgently needed by the government to rebuild the war-torn country, and students. There are an estimated 350,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea.

LIBERIA: IDPs unable to return home

Nearly 11,000 IDPs are unable to return to their homes in Liberia because the government has not provided any money for their repatriation, the head of the Liberian Refugee Repatriation Commission, Adezana Kullu, has said, according to a report on Monday by Star Radio. Most of the IDPs are from Grand Geddeh County, home region of former minister Roosevelt Johnson. President Charles Taylor had ordered refugees and IDPs out the capital by the end of this year.

SUDAN: African countries urged to tackle refugee issues

A three-day OAU conference on refugees, returnees and displaced persons ended in Khartoum on Monday with a call on African countries to tackle the root causes of the problem, the Pan African News Agency (PANA) reported. An 18-point `Khartoum Declaration', adopted by 42 participating countries, expressed grave concern over the continent's refugee problems and called for measures to strengthen protection of refugees. The declaration also expressed concern over the presence of "armed elements" among civilian refugees and stressed they should be separated in the camps.

UNITED NATIONS: Insufficient meningitis vaccine in Africa, WHO says

The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Wednesday that there were not enough vaccines for the forthcoming meningitis season in African countries affected by the disease. The Geneva-based organisation said in a statement that a minimum global stock of seven million doses was needed, but only six million were available to deal with the current epidemic which began in 1996. In West Africa, there have been 300,000 cases of meningitis in Senegal alone.

The director of WHO's Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response, Lindsay Martinez, warned that given that several African countries affected by meningitis had not yet experienced an upsurge in this epidemic cycle, the number of cases might increase dramatically in the near future. Approximately 280 million people are at risk across the "meningitis belt", which extends from Ethiopia in the east to Senegal in the west. WHO said that the countries worst affected so far included Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.

SAHEL: Good food security prospects in the Sahel

Prospects for food security in the Sahel in 1998/99 are good following the rains which ended in October, according to the USAID Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) bulletin dated November 30. The annual FAO/Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) pre-harvest assessment in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad pointed to above-average production in each country.

FEWS said Mali was likely to have another record year of rice production, while Burkina Faso and especially Niger expected bumper harvests of rainfed crops. Chad also expected plentiful supplies of cereals in Sahelian zone markets throughout the dry season, but Sudanian zone residents could face serious food insecurity from below-average production.

The bulletin and detailed reports on the five countries are available on the FEWS website at :

OAU summit deadlocked

An African summit aimed at ending the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ended without "any substantive results" on Thursday in the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, the BBC reported on Friday.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which convened the meeting, said it would meet again in the Zambian capital, Lusaka. OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim told a news conference that a meeting of defence and foreign ministers would be held on 27 December, and heads of state would meet the following day.

The Ouagadougou summit brought together the main players from seven African nations embroiled in the conflict and a host of other African leaders.

NIGERIA: Three political parties meet poll requirements

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced on Monday that three of the nine political parties that contested the Nigerian local elections on 5 December would be allowed to participate in state and national elections early next year, news organisations reported. The three parties are: the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the All People's Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD).

Abidjan, 18 December 1998 17:30 GMT


Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 17:53:34 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Weekly Roundup no. 79 for 1998.12.18

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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