IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 27-1999 [19990710]

IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 27-1999 [19990710]


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

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WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 27 covering the period 3-9 July 1999

SIERRA LEONE: Peace deal followed by jubilation, then caution

Civil society representatives in Freetown told IRIN on Thursday that after an initial reaction of excitement and jubilation to the signing of the Lome peace treaty, people were responding in a much more reflective manner 24 hours later.

The coordinator of the non-governmental Campaign for Good Governance, Zainab Bangura, said a mood of solemnity prevailed and people were anxiously waiting to see what would happen next. "We need to be convinced that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) genuinely desires peace," she said, "and the signing of a piece of paper does not guarantee peace."

Wednesday's agreement between the government and the RUF provides, among other things, for the RUF to become a political party and grants it four cabinet posts (one of them senior) and four deputy ministerial positions.

Sankoh, previously sentenced to death for treason, receives amnesty and is to be the chairman of a Board for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development, answerable only to President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

Fighters on both sides are to receive amnesty for offences committed since March 1991.

No amnesty for perpetrators of crimes against humanity, says UN

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Francis Okelo, signed the agreement with a notation that the United Nations would not recognise the amnesty as applying to gross human rights violations, a UN spokesperson said.

"Our view is that the amnesty and pardons shall not apply to international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of humanitarian law," the spokesperson said.

Under the Lome pact, the constitution is also to be reviewed and an independent national electoral commission created. All combatants are to be disarmed and demobilised in an operation supervised by the ECOWAS Peace monitoring group (ECOMOG) and the UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL).

The creation of a new armed force and the reintegration of ex-combatants into society are also included in the agreement, while a truth and reconciliation commission is to be set up.

The General Secretary of the Inter-Religious Council and the Council for Churches, Alimamy Koroma, said he was optimistic for the future. The power-sharing government, he said, was a result of "serious thinking and analysis and we have to embrace it as the only feasible option at the moment".

The programmes coordinator for the Network Movement of Justice and Development, Sahr Gborie, said Sierra Leoneans had been severely traumatised and needed peace so as to have the time and space to grieve and reflect.

Support needed from international community

Gborie and Koroma also emphasised the need for the international community to monitor the situation very closely. People also want to see the RUF take responsibility for human rights atrocities that have been committed and show remorse, the civil society leaders said.

Regional analysts see glimmer of hope

Regional analysts told IRIN on Thursday that, if respected, the accord would spur optimism for stability in the subregion and perhaps reopen the way for economic development for neighbouring nations.

"The accord is extremely important for Guinea," one Guinean analyst said. "If it holds, it will help reinforce stability along the 650-kilometre border with Sierra Leone." Another Guinean analyst told IRIN: "Despite the accord, Guinea will maintain vigilance on the border".

Dividends for Nigeria

The director of studies at the Lagos-based Independent Journalism Centre, Soji Omotunde, said peace would bring financial and material dividends to Nigeria, which has contributed more than any other nation to ECOMOG in Sierra Leone.

International community lauds agreement

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the parties to honour their commitments and saluted the political courage of Kabbah and regional leaders who backed the peace effort.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Emeka Anyaoku said: "Sierra Leone, no less than Kosovo, demands the attention of the world community, and the wholehearted commitment to peace and reconstruction of all those in leadership in Sierra Leone. The people of Sierra Leone, who have borne the brunt of the horrors of this war, will not forgive us if we fail."

The UN Security Council said the signing of the peace agreement in Lome was "a significant achievement for all concerned, and a historic turning point for Sierra Leone and its people".

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Council urged both the government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to do their best to ensure that its provisions are implemented.

Humanitarian mission to Kailahun

RUF field commanders guaranteed the security of humanitarian assessment teams in RUF-held areas at a meeting on Wednesday with a mission of relief officials in the eastern district of Kailahun.

Led by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Kingsley Amaning, the mission included representatives of UN agencies, UNOMSIL and NGOs, according to a source from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The two sides agreed that preparations should begin for a humanitarian assessment in Makeni, an RUF-held town in the north, where acute shortages of food and medicines have been reported.

UN Under-Secretary-General Sergio Vieira de Mello welcomed the assurances for the safety of relief workers which, he said, would allow them to evaluate and address the needs of some 2.6 million civilians who have remained inaccessible since 1998.

GUINEA BISSAU: EU grants 2.9 million euro

The European Union has given 2.9 million euro to Guinea Bissau to meet urgent humanitarian needs over the next six months, the EU said in a statement on Tuesday.

The money is to be managed by the EU humanitarian aid agency, ECHO. It will be used to repair or rebuild 5,000 homes damaged during the fighting early May between the Military Junta and forces loyal to ousted President Joao Bernardo Vieira. It will also buy medicines and provide food for the affected population, the EU said.

UN Security Council backs new plan for UNOGBIS

The UN Security Council on Tuesday backed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's modified mandate for the UN Peace Building Office in Guinea Bissau (UNOGBIS) and his decision to set up a trust fund to finance its activities, Council President Hasmy Agam said.

UNOGBIS will now "support national efforts towards national reconciliation, tolerance and peaceful management of differences". Another new task is "to encourage initiatives aimed at building confidence and maintaining friendly relations between Guinea-Bissau and its neighbours and international partners".

UNOGBIS had already been mandated, among other things, to "help create an enabling environment for restoring, maintaining and consolidating peace, democracy and the rule of law and for the organisation of free and transparent elections".

Amnesty calls for justice

Guinea Bissau's new government has a good opportunity to introduce a new culture of respect for human rights, Amnesty International said on Monday.

"Those suspected of human rights violations must be brought to justice - this is the first step in developing a culture in which human rights are protected," Amnesty said. "The Government of National Unity and particularly the government to be elected in November 1999 must give their urgent attention to ensuring accountability.

"They must also reform the institutions which have a vital role to play in protecting human rights - the judiciary, the police and the prisons," said Amnesty, which on Monday released a new report titled `Guinea-Bissau: Human rights in war and peace'.

NIGERIA: Phased withdrawal of troops from Sierra Leone

The Nigerian government is to prepare a gradual and phased withdrawal of Nigerian troops from Sierra Leone, news organisations quoted presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe as saying in a signed statement.

"This action will be in keeping with the electioneering promises of President Obasanjo to get Nigerian troops back home at the soonest possible time, without jeopardy to the peace process" the statement reportedly said.

Obasanjo swears in key advisers

New economic adviser, Chief Philip Asiodu, a former presidential hopeful for the ruling People's Democratic Party, was among 10 presidential advisers to be sworn in on Friday in Abuja, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.

Earlier in the week, the Senate cleared the appointment of the last three ministerial nominees put forward by Obasanjo: Junior Environment Minister Ime Okopido, Minister of National Planning Mohammed Shata and Minister of Women and Youth Hajija Aishatu Ismaila.

Fertiliser subsidy restored

Obasanjo has restored a 25-percent subsidy on some 125,000 mt of fertiliser the state intends to sell to farmers, Reuters reported the Nigerian Television Authority as saying on Wednesday.

Nigeria's previous military rulers scrapped the subsidy in 1997, Reuters said, adding that Obasanjo had often spoken of doing more to help farmers so as to increase national food security and diversify Nigeria's oil-dependent economy.

Nigerians mark first anniversary of Abiola's death

More than 1,000 Nigerians gathered at the home of the late Moshood Abiola on 7 July to mark the first anniversary of his death, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

New guidelines for oil firms

Under new guidelines from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) firms bidding for oil contracts in Nigeria must maintain a minimum annual turnover of US $100 million and have a net worth of at least US $40 million, news organisations reported.

Bidders must be crude-oil end-users, own their refineries and outlets abroad, be established and globally recognised large-volume traders, have built an export oil refinery in Nigeria and post a million-dollar bond through a reputable Nigerian bank.

The government also cancelled 16 oil-prospecting leases awarded by the former military regime to local companies, some of them reportedly linked to military officers, Reuters said.

Oil spill destroys farmlands

An oil spill around the villages of Ole and Olomoro in Delta State in the south has caused damage to crops, fish ponds and lakes, 'The Guardian' reported on Wednesday. The spillage started on 17 June after a nearby flow station was shut by rioting area youths, 'The Guardian' in Lagos quoted a villager as saying.

Two communities compensated for oil spill

A Federal High Court has awarded 245.81 million naira (about US $2.4 million) to two communities in the south-eastern state of Rivers for a 1994 oil spill traced to Shell Petroleum Development Corporation, newspapers in Lagos reported on Monday.

Bonny chiefs accuse oil firms

Traditional rulers in Bonny Island, centre of Nigeria's largest gas and oil production area in Rivers State, have warned firms that area youths might attack their facilities unless they provide jobs and abide by a development deal signed about seven months ago with the community, `The Guardian' newspaper of Lagos said on Tuesday.

CHAD: Government denounces FNTR claims

Chad's government on Thursday denied a claim by the Front national du Tchad renove (FNTR) that the rebel movement had killed eight soldiers and wounded five others in an ambush on 5 July in the eastern prefecture of Ouaddai.

Communications Minister Moussa Dago told IRIN the governement had received no information about an ambush or soldiers' deaths.

The rebel group also accused the government forces of summarily executing two women and 10 men suspected of being pro-FNTR between 3 and 6 July. Dago said the accusation was "completely false".

Meanwhile the exiled leader of the armed opposition Movement for Democracy and Development (MDD), Moussa Medella, returned to Ndjamena on Monday after signing a reconciliation accord in Khartoum with the Chadian government, Dago, told IRIN on Tuesday.

Under the accord, Dago said, MMD fighters will be amnestied, disarmed and integrated into the army, while MDD civilians are to join the administration.

However, MDD secretary general Gaileth Bourkoumandaha said he had expelled Medella from the party. He denounced the Khartoum accord as a treacherous act that did not reflect the position of the MDD, which operates in the western region of Lake Chad.

MAURITANIA: Army officer accused of torture arrested in France

Mauritania's government decided on Monday to expel all French military advisers, recall its military officers undergoing training in France and reintroduce visas for French citizens visiting the country, news reports said.

The measures follow the arrest in France on 3 July of Mauritanian army captain Ely Ould Dha after French and international human rights organisations filed a formal complaint with the police accusing him of torturing at least two people in a prison near Nouakchott in 1990 and 1991.

Human rights organisations have distributed the names of hundreds of officials alleged to be responsible for the death of over 400 people between 1986 and 1991, the BBC reported.

Amnesty International described the move to investigate Ould Dha as "a positive step in ensuring justice for the victims of gross human rights abuses committed in Mauritania over the years".

According to Amnesty, widespread human rights violations, including political killings, disappearances and torture, were carried out by the Mauritanian authorities over many years. Victims included black Mauritanians suspected of being members of the opposition and civil servants. Between 1989 and 1991 hundreds of black villagers were targeted by the Mauritanian authorities, who are mainly Moors, and many were expelled to neighbouring countries, Amnesty said

AFRICA: US announces US $350-million fund

Encouraging direct investment in Sub-Saharan Africa is the aim of a new US $350-million US fund, George Munoz, chief executive of the US Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC), said on Monday in South Africa. It will finance water and sanitation, telecommunications, transportation and electrical power projects and create at least 7,000 jobs, Munoz said.

GABON: Congolese (Brazzaville) refugees arrive

The first wave of refugees - some 1,500 - to flee to Gabon from the Republic of Congo since civil war broke out there in late 1998 arrived at the weekend, UNHCR said on Tuesday. Another 32,000 are living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, UNHCR said.

GHANA: Army worms arrive

Army worms have been detected in Ghana's Upper East Region, according to news reports confirmed to IRIN by FAO Deputy Regional Representative for West Africa George Mburathi. The reports said the caterpillars threatened some 130,000 ha of cereals.

Spain aids rural electrification project

Spain has agreed to lend Ghana nearly US$5 million for a project to provide people in the countryside with electricity under a Self-Help Electrification Programme, a Spanish embassy spokesperson in Accra told IRIN on Friday.

SENEGAL: Food security council installed

Prime Minister Mamadou Loum this week inaugurated Senegal's Conseil national sur la Securite alimentaire (National Food Security Council).

The aim of the CNSA is to diagnose the general food security situation in Senegal, identify the main causes of insecurity and come up with the most effective prescriptions possible for tackling its causes.

Loum recalled that Senegal has committed itself to halving malnutrition by the year 2015.

WEST AFRICA: ECOWAS launches travellers cheques

Travellers cheques for the 16-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), denominated in West African Units of Account (WAUA), officially went on sale last week. The cheques will be in denominations ranging from five to 100 WAUA.

UN Secretary-General visits

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea between Tuesday and Thursday as part of a five-nation West African tour which was also scheduled to take him to Nigeria on Friday. He was expected to leave on Sunday for the Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in Algeria.

SAHEL: WFP food for Chad, The Gambia, Mauritania

The WFP has decided to provide emergency supplies for various parts of Chad, The Gambia and Mauritania, threatened by food insecurity.

In Mauritania, some 161,690 vulnerable persons in two areas in the south and southwest will initially receive around 6,900 mt of food, WFP said in its latest emergency report, released on 2 July.

In The Gambia, 14 percent of the rural population in six districts have been identified as highly food insecure and will receive about 1,000 mt of relief food from the Programme.

In Chad, WFP will initially provide 1,336 mt of food aid, expected to cover two months' food requirement, for 53,690 extremely vulnerable persons in the southwest.

Abidjan, 9 July 1999; 18:20 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1203

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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