IRIN Update 1052 of events in West Africa
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
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LIBERIA: Dissident attack reported outside Lofa
Liberian dissidents attacked Amtel, a logging site about 190 km north of Monrovia on Tuesday, according to humanitarian sources, but were reportedly repelled by government forces. Amtel is in Gbarpolu, which adjoins Lofa, the county where fighting between dissidents and government forces has been concentrated. The sources said on Thursday that people in and near Amtel fled the area but later returned although, according to reports, some were still unaccounted for. This was at least the second attack reported in Gbarpolu in less than a month. The first was during the second week of August.
NIGERIA: Law suit accuses drugs giant of rights violations
A lawsuit filed against the US company Pfizer alleges that it violated international law by testing an experimental drug on children during a meningitis epidemic in northern Nigeria in 1996, news organisations reported on Thursday.
The suit, filed on Wednesday in a federal court in New York on behalf of 30 Nigerian families, alleges that the world's largest pharmaceutical company "exploited the chaos" caused by the epidemic in Kano and performed risky drug trials on children, news organisations reported.
Some 200 children were subjected to clinical trials of a Pfizer antibiotic known as Trovan without their knowledge or consent, the 'Washington Post' first reported in December 2000 after an 11-month investigation. Eleven children died during the test and others suffered injuries including brain damage, paralysis and deafness. In response to the 'Washington Post' article, a company spokeswoman said the trial was "sound from medical, scientific, regulatory and ethical standpoints", and that it may have saved lives.
The families are seeking an unspecified amount in punitive damages and an order barring Pfizer from conducting illegal experiments. They say Pfizer violated UN human rights standards and the Nuremberg Code of 1947, enacted in part to prevent the horrors of medical experimentation performed during the Jewish Holocaust from happening again.
CAPE VERDE; Luxembourg to give 6,000 mt of wheat
Luxembourg says it will provide 6,000 mt of wheat as supplementary food aid to Cape Verde, PANA reported on Tuesday.
The decision followed a joint mission by officials of the Cape Verdean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Luxembourg's agency for cooperation. Officials of a joint technical commission are due to meet again in October in Luxembourg.
Over the last decade, Luxembourg has financed educational and health infrastructure in Cape Verde, as well as rural electrification projects, PANA reported.
EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Minors grounded, prohibited from working
The government of Equatorial Guinea has banned all children under the age of 17 years from being on the streets later than 1100 pm and from working, AFP reported on Tuesday, quoting state radio.
The Ministry of the Interior said it took the measure to curb growing levels of prostitution, delinquency and alcoholism among young people. It said adults had been employing children to work in bars and grocery stores and as street hawkers.
Violators will be arrested and parents will be fined between 50,000 and 500,000 francs CFA (US $70 and $700), the radio reported.
WEST AFRICA: Benin, Nigeria launch joint border patrols
Beninese and Nigerian police on Thursday began joint patrols along a 70-km stretch of their border in a bid to stamp out armed cross-border crime, news organisations reported.
The operation was launched by the two countries' interior ministers. Nigeria has donated six police cars equipped with radios to the joint patrol team and two others to the Beninese police, PANA said. The patrollers have also been issued bulletproof jackets, AFP reported.
Citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to which both countries belong, are allowed to travel without visas within ECOWAS. Criminals have taken advantage of this to expand their areas of activity, police in Benin and Nigeria say.
Inspector-General of Police Musiliu Smith said in Lagos that operations offices would be established in each country to coordinate the activities of the patrols, 'ThisDay' reported. Both police forces would also be involved in crime detection, according to the Lagos daily, which reported Smith as saying that he planned to extend the patrols to Nigeria's other borders - with Niger and Chad, to the north, and Cameroon to the east.
TOGO: Opposition threatens fight over third term
Exiled opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio said in a BBC interview on Friday that he would challenge attempts to change Togo's constitution to allow President Gnassingbe Eyadema to stand for another term.
Togo's prime minister, Agbeyome Kodjo, had said on Thursday that he was in favour of changing the constitution to enable Eyadema to stand in elections due in 2003, news organisations reported.
Eyadema seized power from Nicolas Grunitzky in 1967. Four years before, Grunitzky had become president as a result of a coup organised by the former army sergeant in which Togo's first president, Sylvanus Olympio, was killed. Eyadema won multiparty elections in 1993 that were boycotted by the opposition. He was re-elected in 1998 at polls considered by international observers and the Togolese opposition as heavily flawed.
Gilchrist Olympio, the son of the slain president, said Eyadema had such a grip on power that it was difficult for the opposition to function "in a peaceful way."
Abidjan, 31 August 2001; 18:54 GMT
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