IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup no 66, 98.9.18

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup no 66, 98.9.18

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

Tel: +225 21-73-54 Fax: +225 21-63-35 e-mail:

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup of Main Events 66 for West Africa covering the period (Friday-Thursday) 11 - 17 September 1998

GUINEA BISSAU: New talks scheduled after deadlock

Foreign ministers representing West African and Portuguese-speaking nations this week failed to reach a compromise aimed at consolidating the ceasefire between government forces and army rebels in Guinea Bissau. Diplomats told IRIN that a further attempt to find a consensus would be made in fresh talks on 18 October.

They also cited "significant" troop manoeuvres in Guinea Bissau after the talks in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. The three-month conflict, which ended with a truce in July, started after President Joao Bernardo Vieira sacked his armed forces chief, General Ansumane Mane, on charges of smuggling weapons to separatists in Senegal's southern province of Casamance. Senegalese forces immediately responded to a call by Vieira to help support him against the mutineers.

Consensus on observer team but not buffer force

Senegal's position was that it would only withdraw if specifically asked to do so by the Vieira government. The talks between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP), only reached consensus on sending a small ECOWAS/CPLP observer team, diplomats said. The main objective of a larger joint "interposition" force failed because of differences between the two blocs over what role, if any, should be played by Senegal and Guinea (Conakry), which also sent troops to support Vieira.

BURKINA FASO: Burkina sets seal on international landmine ban

Burkina Faso this week became the 40th nation to ratify the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines. Statements by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Burkina's signature would now enable the treaty to become binding under international law by 1 March 1999. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan hailed it as "historic".

Although the treaty was signed last December by 130 nations, UN officials pointed out at the time that it had to be ratified by 40 nations and their parliaments before it could come into force. It requires countries to stop the use and production of landmines, destroy their stockpiles over the next four years, and clear mined areas within the next 10 years.

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG re-captures eastern towns

Troops from the Nigerian-led West African intervention force, ECOMOG, and loyalist Kamajor hunter militia have recaptured four towns in eastern Sierra Leone. Star Radio said West African ECOMOG peacekeepers and the Kamajors reportedly captured Joru, Made-Kalema, Tokunbu and Nyama in a surprise attack.

A Kamajor commander was quoted as saying the rebels had suffered heavy casualties. Some 300 captive civilians had also been freed, he said. ECOMOG and forces loyal to civilian President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah have been engaged in a protracted campaign to dislodge members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and its allies from the former Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) from Sierra Leone's dense northern and eastern bush regions since February.

Rebels kill 16 in weekend raids

Meanwhile, in a related development, rebels in northern Sierra Leone killed at least 16 civilians in attacks on three villages last weekend. Reuters quoted witnesses and church sources as saying RUF and AFRC soldiers had also abducted scores of people in a joint raid. Civilians were now fleeing Yebaya, Kakula and Kathatinah, near the northwestern town of Kambia.

Cholera outbreak

Humanitarian sources in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, told IRIN this week that cholera has claimed the lives of 47 people since July. Robert Painter of the UN's Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) said: "The Pasteur Institute in Abidjan has confirmed samples from the recent outbreak of severe diarrhoea in the Freetown area as cholera." During the period 19 July to 9 September, he said, 1,441 cases were recorded, 47 of which resulted in death from classic cholera.

NIGERIA: World Bank discusses debt relief

The Nigerian head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, has urged the World Bank to work with his country on its new economic programme. Speaking after talks with Jean-Louis Sarbib, the visiting World Bank vice president for Africa, Abubakar reiterated his promise to liberalise the economy and privatise key state-run industries. The Nigerian finance minister, Ismaila Usman, appealed to the World Bank to unfreeze lines of credit frozen in 1995 and accept Nigeria's demand for debt relief.

Abubakar to meet Blair and Chirac

In the latest signal of Nigeria's return to the international fold, Abubakar is scheduled to meet the British prime minister, Tony Blair, and French President Jacques Chirac during a visit to Europe next week. Meanwhile, Canada announced the resumption of full diplomatic relations with Nigeria two years after ties were downgraded over the human rights record of Abubakar's hardline predecessor.

Nigeria denies Bakassi deployments

Nigeria defence ministry this week reports that it had deployed fresh troops in the disputed Bakassi peninsula bordering Cameroon. AFP quoted the Nigerian defence spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Tella, as saying that "We will not do anything to escalate tension in Bakassi and will continue to seek peaceful means to resolve the Bakassi issue". Nigeria and Cameroon have clashed several times over the peninsula, which is thought to contain significant reserves of oil. The International Court of Justice in The Hague is currently considering the dispute over sovereignty.

Prison conditions

The head of the national prison service told the state-owned News Agency of Nigeria this week that the government was striving to improve what he called "highly deplorable" conditions in the country's prisons. Mohammed Jarma said steps were being taken to improve food, limit the number of inmates per cell and provide better medical and sanitary conditions for prisoners. There are more than 45,000 inmates in Nigerian jails, most of which were built over 70-80 years ago.

LIBERIA: Smaller army recommended

The Armed Forces of Liberia chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Prince C. Johnson, has recommended that the country reduce the size of its army to a more streamlined, better paid and better disciplined force a third of its current size. Independent Star Radio quoted General Johnson as saying he envisaged an army of no more than 5,000 men.

Heavy rains leave thousands homeless

Star Radio also reported this week that heavy rains in Liberia's eastern Grand Cape Mount county had left thousands homeless. The commissioner for Cape Mount's Garwula district, Mabu Soni, said torrential downpours had submerged towns and villages after Lake Piso burst its banks. He said some 2,000 people from 19 local villages and towns had been made homeless.

Dutch give US$ three million

The Dutch government has donated US$ 3 million to support health, education and youth projects following the end of Liberia's civil war. Liberia's planning minister, Amelia Ward, said The Netherlands had agreed to make the money available as soon as the government had finalised project plans.

WEST AFRICA: Sahel region reports good rains

An FAO early warning report this week said there had been good rains during July in key farming areas of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. The report also said despite reduced rains in July in Senegal and Gambia, precipitation had been regular, thus improving crop conditions.

"Reflecting generally good rainfall since late July, crops are developing satisfactorily in most producing areas of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. Crop prospects improved in Senegal and The Gambia but rains need to last until October to cover the crop growing cycle, following the late start of the rainy season and subsequent reduced rains," the report said.

[Please note this report is available on the Internet World Wide Web at the following address: then click on English and Sahel Reports]

World Bank talks with Chad and Cameroon

The World Bank has announced it would be holding talks later this month with Chad and Cameroon to discuss the environmental impact of a planned oil pipeline between the two countries. The Bank's representative in Cameroon, Robert Lacey, said the project offered a "unique opportunity" to pump oil from landlocked Chad to the sea and cut poverty in Chad, while also generating income for Cameroon. Lacey said help from the Bank was dependent on strict respect for environmental and compensation concerns.

ECOWAS sets up regional drug fund

The United Nations Drugs Control Programme (UNDCP) office in Abidjan told IRIN this week that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had agreed to set up a regional fund to tackle the increasing drug problem in the region. The ECOWAS Anti-Drug Fund (ECODRUG) would support institutions established to fight the scourge of narcotic drugs and train laboratory technicians in drug analysis methods. ECOWAS has allocated US $150,000 for start-up costs. The ECOWAS meeting, held earlier this month under UNDCP auspices in Banjul, The Gambia, also agreed to implement a new anti-drug strategy adopted last year by ECOWAS heads of state.

Abidjan, 18 September, 1998, 15:30 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, 18 Sep 1998 16:00:10 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> To: Subject: IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup no 66, 98.9.18 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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