IRIN-West Africa 49, 98.5.15

IRIN-West Africa 49, 98.5.15

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 of Main Events 49 in West Africa covering the period (Friday-Thursday) 15-21 May 1998

SIERRA LEONE: World bodies condemn terror

The United Nations and Amnesty International this week denounced the wave of atrocities in northern Sierra Leone which have been blamed on rebels loyal to the ousted Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) military regime and its Revolutionary United Front (RUF) allies. Daily reports by news organisations cited cases of people having their eyes gouged out, and limbs, genitals and breats amputated in what Radio France Internationale has called "campaign of mulitation".

In New York on Wednesday, the UN Security Council condemned the atrocities as "gross violations of human rights" and expressed its "grave concern" about reports of military assistance reaching the AFRC and RUF. It also called on neighbouring states, which it did not identify, to "observe strictly" the provisions of resolutions on Sierra Leone, and "avoid any action which might further destabilise the situation" and provide all the "technical and logistical" support necessary to help the West African ECOMOG intervention force bring an end to the atrocities.

Meanwhile, two Amnesty International officials visiting Sierra Leone told AFP on Thursday that the atrocities committed by forces loyal to the ousted junta were "the worst of their kind in Africa".

Refugee flight continues

The UNHCR reported on Tuesday that up to 300 people were crossing daily into Guinea from Sierra Leone to escape rebel forces. The number of refugees in Guinea and Liberia had now been swelled to over half a million. It reported high levels of malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea among the refugees, especially children.

"The new arrivals reported that thousands of Sierra Leoneans were hiding in the bush in the eastern part of their country for fear of being caught, tortured and maimed by rebels," it said, adding that up to 50,000 more people might be fleeing towards the Guinean border.

Rebels killed in weekend battle

About 50 supporters of the ousted military regime were killed in northern Sierra Leone at the weekend when they were attacked by a civilian militia group, AFP reported on Tuesday. In a dispatch quoting journalists, it said the fighters were killed in an attack on their base in the Mandaha Forest, some 50 km from the town of Makeni. It also quoted missionary sources as saying that fleeing junta supporters then attacked the nearby villages of Kassassi and Mabuya "mutilating" some 17 civilians, including mothers and children. Ten homes were also set alight.

Former AFRC officials held

AFP reported on Wednesday that 48 officers of the ousted military regime and civilian collaborators had arrived by boat in Freetown under ECOMOG escort and sent to detention centres. The 48, who had been extradited from Guinea, included AFRC secretary general, Colonel Abdul Sesay and its transport minister, Cecil Williams.

Britain thanked for helping Kabbah

In the capital, Freetown, at the weekend parliament uninanimously approved a motion thanking the British government "for supporting the country's struggle for democracy". News organisations reported that thousands of people had marched through the streets on Saturday in a show of support for the British High Commissioner, Peter Penfold, even though his exact role in Kabbah's re-installation remains unclear.

NIGERIA: African American leaders seek tougher stance

A coalition of African American leaders wrote to President Bill Clinton this week urging him toughen his policy towards the government of Nigerian leader, General Sani Abacha. They sought the introduction of oil sanctions and an end to the policy of "constructive engagement". They also urged him to reject publicly the current transition to civilian rule as "fatally flawed and illegitimate". The signatories included the Congressional Black Caucus Chair Maxine Waters, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Kweisi Mfume, the former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, Congresswomen Carolyn Kilpatrick and Cynthia McKinney, and Wyatt Tee Walker, president of the American Committee on Africa.

"There is growing evidence that the White House is tilting towards an accommodation with the dictatorship, an accommodation that is a betrayal of the Nigerian people and an abandonment of principle in U.S. policy towards Africa," Walker said. "The African American community cannot and will not stand idly by while our sisters and brothers in Nigeria are marching and dying for freedom. We support their struggle. The Clinton Administration should do the same."

Representatives of Mobil Corp in the United States told IRIN on Friday that they had stepped up a campaign with the company to seek the release of two oil union leaders in Nigeria. They also backed a campaign by Amnesty International seeking guidelines on investment in countries "where there is a pattern of human rights abuse". IRIN was also told that similar meetings had been held recently at the Royal Dutch/Shell Group headquarters in The Netherlands.

Fuel rationing

The military administrator of Lagos State, Colonel Mohammed Buba Marwa, imposed fuel rationing on Monday in the latest attempt to tackle petrol shortages and reduce chronic queuing at petrol stations, according to news organisations. AFP reported that Marwa told a meeting of government officials and representatives of transport unions that rationing was necessary "to bring sanity to the marketing and distribution of fuel". .

More than fifty percent of the country's cars are reportedly located in Lagos, the economic capital. Nigeria is the sixth largest oil producer in the world.

Catholic bishops raise concern

In Nigeria itself this week, Reuters reported that Catholic bishops expressed "grave" concern at political tension after five registered political parties last month chose Abacha as the sole candidate in the August election. A group of 34 veteran politicians, including former civilian vice-president Alex Ekwueme have urged him not to accept the nomination

The bishops said in a statement: "The latest developments in our long and tedious transition programme are leading us in a direction that gives us grave cause for concern. Now our worst fears are coming to pass before our very eyes. And so we call on all Nigerians - watch out, there is danger ahead." Recalling the visit of Pope John Paul II in March and his appeal for the release of political prisoners, the bishops also urged "all Nigerians" to "embrace the path of true reconciliation".

Protests to be banned

Meanwhile, Nigerian police have said that a series of planned "mass action" protests against the Abacha government would be banned, AFP reported on Sunday. The protests were planned by the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), a coalition of 35 human rights and pro-democracy organisations. The first protest was scheduled for 4 June. Others were set for 12 June to mark the 1993 anniversary of the civilian presidential election which was annulled by Abacha, and for 1 August, when the presidential election is scheduled under Abacha's pledged return to democratic rule in Nigeria.

In a related development, 37 Nigerians detained after anti-government demonstrations on May Day in the southwest city of Ibadan were charged on Monday with subversion, conspiracy, rioting and arson, news organisations reported. The BBC said three other people, including a prominent newspaper editor, Femi Adeoti of the 'Sunday Tribune', were charged with subversion. After appearing in court, they were remanded in custody.

In first public remarks, Babangida speaks out

General Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria's former strongman, has attacked military rule as "unfashionable, authoritarian and without appeal", Reuters reported on Thursday. In what were described as his first public remarks since he relinquished power in 1993, Babangida, who ruled the country for eight years, did not mention Abacha by name. "Personalisation of state power, abuse of human rights, violation of the rule of law, failure to exhibit accountability and transparency, and the inability to meet the welfare and basic needs of the people are now seen as undemocratic and are also regarded as bad governance." Meanwhile, an opposition politician, Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko Yusufu, a former Nigerian police chief, called on Abacha to follow the Indonesian example and resign like President Suharto, news agencies reported. Yusufu is suing his own Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) for nominating Abacha as its presidential candidate.

High Court fines government

The Federal High Court in Lagos this week ordered the Nigerian government to pay 1 million naira (12,000 U.S. dollars) damages to an opposition official whose reception last year for the outgoing American ambassador was broken up by security agents.

LIBERIA: Taylor denies involvement in Sierra Leone

Liberian President Charles Taylor acknowledged this week that Liberian soldiers were fighting alongside rebel fighters in Sierra Leone, but denied his government's involvement, according to AFP. The report quoted Taylor as saying: "Those Liberian fighters in Sierra Leone crisis are involved on their own". ECOMOG, has repeatedly accused Taylor of helping the rebels.

Taylor seek relocation of ECOMOG

Taylor also said he will ask the summit meeting next month of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to relocate the headquarters of the ECOMOG peacekeeping force, Star Radio reported on Sunday. He would only ask ECOMOG to maintain its headquarters if it clarified its role.

Ex-soldiers paid

The Liberian government said it had started paying retirement benefits to an estimated 2,500 disgruntled former solidiers and fighters, some of whom were blamed for shooting in Monrovia last week, Reuters reported on Friday. Taylor's military advisor, Thomas Doeway, said cheques had been handed to them at an army barracks. Two people were killed last week when ex-soldiers wielding knives and machetes clashed with security forces in a protest demanding their benefits.

Road to be repaired

The World Food Programme will repair a 30 km stretch of road linking Pleebo near the capital Monrovia to Grand Kru, independent Star Radio reported on Wednesday.

SENEGAL: Parliamentary elections this weekend

Ousmane Tanor Dieng, first secretary of the governing Parti Socialiste (PS) in Senegal, said this week he expects the party to win at least 100 seats of the 140 seats being contested in the 24 May parliamentary election. In an interview published by the daily, 'Sud Quotidien', Dieng said faith in party, which has ruled Senegal since independence in 1960, "remains high", even among young people whom he had noticed attending party rallies in "large numbers".

Once the election was over, and assuming the PS won again, he said there was no reason why President Abdou Diouf would not invite the leaders of defeated opposition parties into his cabinet in keeping with tradition.

Security tightened

Meanwhile, AFP reported that the interior ministry, which is organising the election, announced the deployment of 6,000 police in and around the capital Dakar to ensure security in the run-up to Sunday's election. Last week, news agencies reported that a man had been stabbed to death in Bembey, 123 km east of Dakar where rival factions were holding campaign rallies.

Special Report

IRIN has released a special report on the parliamentary election in Senegal. It looks at the issues, the personalities and the parties involved.

NIGER: Newspaper crisis eased

President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara last week ordered the country's national lottery to bail out 10 private newspapers closed down for failure to pay their taxes. News organisations said the decision followed a meeting with newspaper executives at which Mainassara said that the newspapers would carry free advertisements for the Niger National Lottery in exchange for its payments of their tax arrears.

The closure ordered on Wednesday marked an increase in tension between the authorities and independent newspapers with some journalists calling the tax issue a political ploy by the authorities to reign in the press. Africa No 1 Radio said that although the affair had a "happy ending", the measure had been "strongly criticised in media circles in Niger and abroad as a deliberate attempt by the government to put an end to the existence of the independent media, which it accused of being in the pay of the opposition".

TOGO: Six presidential candidates confirmed

The Constitutional Court in Togo this week confirmed the applications of six opposition candidates to run in the first round of the presidential election on 14 June, AFP reported. The current head of state, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, has been in power since 1967.

Those running against him include Gilchrist Olympio, the son of Togo's first president who was assassinated in 1963, and president of the Union des Forces de Changement (UFC). The others are: Leopold Gnininvi, president of the Convention Democratique des Peuples Africains (CDPA); Zarifou Ayeva, president of the Parti DÈmocratique pour le Renouveau (PDR); and Jacques Amouzou, president of the Union des Liberaux Independants (ULI).

BENIN: New cabinet appointed

President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin last week named a new 18-member cabinet following the resignation of Prime Minister Adrien Houngbedji, AFP reported. It quoted a government spokesman as saying the new team included 13 newcomers of whom three had served under an earlier Kerekou government from 1972 to 1989.

Abidjan, 22 May, 1998, 14:15 gmt


[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN West Africa, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN-WA Tel: +225 21 73 66 Fax: +225 21 63 35 e-mail: for more information or subscription. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this report, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the Web at: or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to Mailing list: irin-wa-weekly]

Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 14:18:16 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa 49, 98.5.15 Message-Id: <> O

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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