IRIN-West Africa Update 132, 98.1.27

IRIN-West Africa Update 132, 98.1.27

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Department of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa

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IRIN-WA Update 132 of Events in West Africa, (Tuesday) 27 January 1998

SIERRA LEONE: Convoy ambushed

The ruling Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in Sierra Leone said on Monday 47 people were killed in a Kamajor ambush in eastern Sierra Leone, the BBC reported. The Kamajors, fighters loyal to ousted President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, attacked a government convoy on the main road between the capital, Freetown, and Bo, 170 kms to the east. The BBC quoted an AFRC statement saying three soldiers, 15 civilians and 29 Kamajors were killed in the incident. The report did not say when the attack occurred. In recent weeks reports have shown an increase in skirmishes between the Kamajors and AFRC troops.

Taylor demands release of Sierra Leone leader

In neighbouring Liberia meanwhile, President Charles Taylor called for the release of Sierra Leonean Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel leader Foday Sankoh, news reports said Tuesday. "We have emphasised that Foday Sankoh, who is part of the problem, be released and permitted to enlist his views, and thereby assume his role as part of the solution," Taylor was quoted as telling the national assembly on Monday.

Sankoh, who was detained in Nigeria in March 1997 for possession of arms, was appointed vice-president in absentia of the AFRC military government. He has been held at an undisclosed location and has not been heard from since.

Under the Conakry Peace Accords it was agreed he should be allowed to return to Sierra Leone to participate in the peace process. However, Kabbah has objected to Sankoh's release.

Journalist released

Three Sierra Leonean journalists, who had been detained without charges, were released last week, the press freedom monitoring agency Article 19 reported Tuesday. Desmond Conteh, Anthony Swaray and Michael Danielson were held for allegedly passing information to a clandestine pro-Kabbah radio station.

Two other journalists, Sylvanus Kanyako and David Koroma, were still being detained in an unknown location, the agency said. Both were reported to have been tortured and Koroma was admitted to hospital with "severe" injuries.

Infected food on sale

The authorities in Sierra Leone have been warned that bags of contaminated Corn Soya Blend (CSB) stolen from an ICRC vehicle last week had appeared for sale on local markets in recent days, an ICRC source told IRIN on Tuesday. The ICRC said the 350 bags were part of a consignment of CSB, a protein-rich mix often used to feed undernourished children, brought into the country by an NGO. It was infected with bacteria, which could cause diarrhoea and was thus potentially lethal to children. The ICRC said it had agreed with the AFRC that it should be used as animal feed only.

SENEGAL: African air carrier may block Muslim pilgrimage

Air Afrique workers have threatened to prevent Senegalese Muslims going on the hajj if it does not get the contract to fly pilgrims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported on Tuesday. It quoted Air Afrique union leader, Samba Diarra Seck as saying Saudi Arabian Airlines had apparently been chosen to fly them to Mecca instead.

"If we don't carry passengers to Mecca, there won't be a pilgrimage(from Senegal this year," he said. Meanwhile, the Saudi Airline representative in the Senegalese capital Dakar said he not been officially informed that his airline had been selected as the carrier for Senegalese pilgrims.

Over 2,000 Casamance refugees in The Gambia

More than 2,000 refugees have fled to Gambia in the past three months to escape attacks by the separatist Mouvement des Forces Democratiques de la Casamance (MFDC) in southern Senegal, the IFRC told IRIN on Tuesday. Confirming an AFP report, IFRC sources said rice and medical care had been provided.

Meanwhile, on Monday, as the Gambian government reiterated an offer to help mediate in the Casamance crisis, two children were killed and two others wounded by land mines in the troubled province, AFP reported.

TOGO: Students' strike ends

Student leaders in Togo called an end on Monday to a 72-hour strike at the University of Benin, AFP reported. The strike started last Wednesday to protest the way riot police had broken up an earlier demonstration over academic grants. The dispatch said a student injured during a scuffle with police had been sent to Cote d'Ivoire for treatment, and that 11 others arrested during the demonstration were still in custody.

NIGER: Strikers ransack homes

Irate miners ransacked the homes of two managers at a remote uranium mine in Arlit, 880 km northeast Niger's capital, Niamey, AFP reported on Monday. In the incident at the Compagnie Miniere d'Akokan (COMINAK), it said the army had been called to restore order. The miners have been on strike since 22 January to protest the dismissal of 18 employees allegedly fired for trying to organise a union meeting and inciting a "false strike". COMINAK is one of two major uranium mining companies in the area.

In a related move, civil servants in Niger started a two-day strike on Tuesday January in support of the miners' demands as well as the payment of seven months of salary arrears for civil servants, AFP reported.

LIBERIA: New bank notes promised

Liberian President Charles Taylor said on Monday his government would issue new banknotes by the middle of the year to replace two notes currently in use, Reuters reported. The two Liberian notes to be replaced, the JJ Roberts and the Liberty dollar, were introduced by opposing factions during the course of the seven-year civil war. Both are currently used in different parts of the country. Analysts said they were seen as a potential threat to economic stability.


United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan this week approved a new structure to replace the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs. The department will be headed by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sergio Vieira de Mello. His deputy is Martin Griffiths who was formerly head of DHA's Geneva office. The department has been renamed the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It will handle the coordination of emergency response, policy development and advocacy on humanitarian issues.

Abidjan, 27 January 1998 18:30 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-updates]

Date: Tue, 27 Jan 1998 18:34:20 +0000 (GMT) From: UN IRIN - West Africa <> Subject: IRIN-West Africa Update 132, 98.1.27 Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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