IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 29-1999 [19990724]

IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 29-1999 [19990724]


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 29 covering the period 17-23 July 1999

AIDS orphans increase in West Africa

Sub-Saharan African children account for 90 percent of the world's eight million AIDS orphans, UNICEF says in its 1999 `Progress of Nations' report issued worldwide on Thursday.

"The number of orphans, especially in Africa, represents nothing less than an emergency situation - requiring an urgent intervention," Rima Salah, the UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa, said in Abidjan.

In West Africa, the number of AIDS orphans has increased in Nigeria from 90,000 to 350,000 between 1994 and 1997. Numbers have trebled in Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

The report also says that teenage girls remain at greatest risk of suffering from AIDS. Half of the 5.8 million infections identified in 1998 in sub-Sahara Africa were in the 15-19 age bracket. A study in Gabon reveals that 7 percent of pregnant teenage girls are infected, while the rate is double for Cote d'Ivoire.

However, the report says, some countries have managed to stem the spread of the virus through education. In Senegal, the use of condoms with "non-regular" partners under the age of 25 rose from 5 percent in 1990 to 60 percent in 1997.

GABON: Libreville seeks aid for refugees

Gabon Prime Minister Jean-Francois Ntoutoume-Emane met twice last week with ambassadors seeking international aid for Congolese refugees who have been arriving in Gabon's southern provinces, Africa No. 1 radio has reported.

The Refugees, mostly women and children who have fled increased fighting between guerrillas and government troops in the Republic of Congo, now number 20,000, the UNHCR said on Tuesday.

Distribution of supplies

The UN agency has distributed limited quantities of medical supplies, food and blankets and is arranging for more local food purchases. UNHCR reported that some refugees had been accommodated by locals, but that many were sleeping in the open or in packed shelters. Some have begun moving to towns such as Libreville , Port Gentil and Franceville. The refugee agency said one of the most urgent needs was for safe drinking water and water purification kits.

SIERRA LEONE: Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme

Efforts to implement a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme for Sierra Leone have taken on added urgency as former rebels continue to arrive in Freetown and other urban centres in the country, local analysts have told IRIN.

"We must not lose momentum," Major Jim Gray, UNOMSIL's military spokesman in Freetown, said on Tuesday.

Analysts said rapid implementation of this aspect of the Lome accord was needed otherwise former rebels might revert to looting villages for food.

Under the agreement signed on 7 July by the government and the rebels - the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) - the encampment, disarmament and demobilisation of combatants must start within six weeks of the deal, meaning by 18 August.

Humanitarian mission set to deliver aid

A United Nations mission to Makeni on Thursday established with rebel leaders in the area procedures to provide humanitarian aid to northern and north-eastern Sierra Leone, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Freetown says in a report.

Humanitarian agencies have been unable to access Makeni since January when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels launched their offensive on Freetown.

Led by the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Sierra Leone, Kingsely Amaning, the team included UN and NGO specialists in health, food aid, human rights and children.

In meetings with the team, rebel commanders pledged "to facilitate assessments and humanitarian interventions" in areas north of Makeni, to return all stolen assets to their respective owners, and to accept the presence of Sierra Leonean relief personnel in areas under their control.

In light of these commitments, it was agreed that Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) and Action contre la Faim would send teams to Makeni within 24 hours to assess the nutritional status of children. Food agencies would send a team within 72 hours to determine requirements. It was also agreed that UNOMSIL would make a human rights assessment in Makeni within a week.

ICRC re-opens Kenema office

The International Committee of the Red Cross will on Thursday re-establish a permanent presence in the eastern town of Kenema six months after closing its office, the head of the ICRC delegation in Freetown, Claudio Baranzini, told IRIN on Wednesday. Last week, ICRC distributed plastic sheeting and roofing materials to between 10,000 and 15,000 displaced people sheltering in the town's Lebanese school camp, Baranzini said.

Released abductees received in Freetown

UNICEF has said that 192 released abductees, mainly women and children, arrived at Cockerill military headquarters in Freetown from Magbeni, 60 km from the capital, on 16 July.

One-third of the 111 children children in the group were under 10 years of age and included several breast-feeding infants. Many were undernourished, tired, poorly clad and suffering from skin diseases, UNICEF said. Several children had the letters AFRC "inscribed" on their chest.

Female members of the group, most of them teenagers said at least a quarter of the girls were pregnant, while seven were lactating adolescent mothers.

The children were received medical check-ups, clothing, toiletries and UNICEF in Freetown said on Monday that about 70 of them were united with their families. UNICEF's experience over the last four months is that about 80 percent of abducted children whose families are in or near Freetown are reunified within 24 hours of their arrival.

NIGERIA: Abuja to withdraw troops from ECOMOG

Most Nigerian troops with the West African Peacekeeping Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, will begin pulling out of Sierra Leone on 26 August, Information Minister Dapo Sarumi said on Wednesday. This announcement followed a recent peace accord between the Sierra Leonean government and the Revolutionary United Front which had been waging a war against successive governments in the country. ECOMOG troops expelled the rebels from Freetown in February 1998.

WEST AFRICA: EU gives US $2.03 million to ECOWAS for conflict prevention

West Africa's foremost economic grouping, ECOWAS, will get US $2.03 million from the European Union (EU) for a subregional mechanism for conflict prevention and resolution, Mohamed Diakite, the personal assistant to the ECOWAS executive secretary, told IRIN on Thursday. The agreement, signed in Abuja on Tuesday, will enable ECOWAS to maintain observers at its secretariat to keep track of potential and actual conflicts in the subregion. Observer offices will also be opened in Benin, Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Liberia.

NIGER: Yes votes on new constitution win

Official results announced by Niger's Conseil electoral national independent (CENI) show that 89.57 percent of the 1.3-million voters said yes in a referendum on a new constitution to a power-sharing role between the president and prime minister, Niger's Voix du Sahel radio reported on Tuesday. But voter turnout was 31.16 percent for the 57 constituencies counted. The results will now go to the Constitutional Chamber of the Surpreme Court for endorsement.

Opposition political parties in Niger said on Wednesday they would support the new constitution that guarantees amnesty for former coup plotters so long as the measure led to the restoration of democracy in the landlocked nation, AFP said.

MALI: Strike ends but union demands not met

A two-day nationwide strike by Mali's main trade union, l'Union des Travailleurs du Mali (UNTM), ended inconclusively on Wednesday, media sources in Bamako told IRIN. The union's main demands for a 10-percent pay increase, cuts in water and electricity tariffs and government action on the rising cost of basic foods have not been met, a source said. However, the government did agree to the demand for career structures for civil servants.

10 killed in north

At least 10 people were reported killed and six badly wounded in fighting between Arab communities in the northern Malian regions of Gao and Kidal, AFP reported on 17 July. Quoting a military source, the agency reported that the fighting resulted from political rivalry linked to local government elections in May and from the "control of contraband" in this region.

BURKINA FASO: Authorities started paying soldiers

The government has begun paying soldiers who demonstrated last week in the capital, Ougadougou, over withheld housing allowances, media sources in the Burkinabe capital told IRIN. One source said the government has only paid a proportion of the amount owed to the soldiers and that the balance would be paid in instalments.

The soldiers had threatened to demonstrate again on Thursday if their demand went unmet. Last week's demonstration was sparked by the soldiers' perception that contributions they had made to a national housing fund had been misappropriated. Civilians were exempt from contributing to the fund in 1991.

GHANA: Ashanti Goldfields and union reach agreement on cuts

Ashanti Goldfields (AG) said on Wednesday it had reached an agreement over proposed job cuts with the Ghana Mineworkers Union (GMU), the company's Obuasi workforce and the Ministry of Employment, Reuters reported.

The cuts, at the firm's main Obuasi mine, will affect over 2,000 employees or over 20 percent of the workforce and will be implemented on 1 September, Reuters reported the company as saying. The agreement will mean that 2,000 out of 8,152 shift workers will lose their jobs, as well as 150 of the 942 Ghanaian senior staff and five of the 42 expatriate senior staff.

The redundancy compensation for junior staff has been agreed at 20 percent of current annual basic pay for each year of service. The redundancy plan, put at US $10 million, is expected to reduce Obuasi operating costs by about US $7million, the company said. A company official said it had taken the action because of depressed world gold prices and rising protection cost.

MAURITANIA: IMF approves loan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a three-year loan to Mauritania amounting to some US $56.53 million to support the government's 1999-2002 economic programme, the IMF said in a statement on Wednesday. The first annual loan will be in two instalments with the first, some US $8 million, available immediately.

GUINEA: Chirac says fair trial for opposition leader

French President Jacques Chirac, speaking in Conakary on the first day of a four-nation West African tour, urged Guinea to give detained opposition leader Alpha Conde a swift and transparent trial, news organisations reported on Wednesday.

In a joint news conference with President Lansana Conte, Chirac called for Conde's case to be brought to court quickly. Conte has been in detention since a disputed December presidential election won by Conde.

Chirac arrived in Lome, Togo, on Thursday. He is there at a time when Togolese opposition parties are in talks with the government to try resolve a political crisis over the winner of the 1998 presidential election. The country's main opposition figure, Gilchrist Olympio, says he won the polls.

TOGO: Government ready for rights inquiry

Togo's communications minister, Koffi Panou, told IRIN on Wednesday the government was ready for an international inquiry into alleged human rights violations. In a report published on Monday, the Ligue pour la Defense des droits de l'Homme au Benin, (LDH) said that bodies were found in the sea and on the beaches after Togo's disputed 1998 presidential election.

Abidjan, 23 July 1999; 17:00 GMT


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Item: irin-english-1293

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

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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