IRIN Update 792 of events in West Africa
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SIERRA LEONE: Annan wants UNAMSIL strength hiked to 20,500
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) be increased to 20,500 troops to attain greater operational efficiency and deploy in key areas of the country, the UN Department of Information said on Monday.
"The presence of a robust and determined peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone should be part of a strategy to induce armed groups to disarm, in combination with strong incentives for their reintegration into Sierra Leone society," he said.
In this regard, he called on the international community and the Sierra Leone government to prepare projects offering combatants the chance of a "new and more constructive life". Sierra Leone Information Minister Julius Spencer told IRIN on Tuesday his government was "very optimistic" that the Security Council would agree to an increase in the authorised UNAMSIL strength of 13,000.
Annan's report, released on Monday, comes in the wake of the seizure of 11 British soldiers and their Sierra Leonean army liaison officer by ex-Sierra Leonean soldiers calling themselves the West Side Boys. The abducted soldiers had left their Benguema military training base for Masiaka, some 40 km to the northeast, to coordinate security arrangements with Jordanian UN peacekeepers.
"The British troops completed their mission in the area on Friday the 25th, and on their way back to Benguema they were stopped and detained," Sierra Leone Web quoted Gordon Hughes, the brigadier commanding British forces in Sierra Leone, as saying.
SIERRA LEONE: Senior British officer meets leader of kidnappers
A senior British army officer has held direct talks with a leader of the West Side Boys militia who on Friday abducted 11 British and one Sierra Leonean soldier, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
It quoted a spokesman for the British military training mission in Sierra Leone as saying that Colonel Simon Fordham of the Royal Irish Regiment had met 'Colonel' Kallay, a leader of the West Side Boys. Eight of the 11 British troops were from Northern Ireland, two from the Republic of Ireland and one from Merseyside, in northwest Britain, the BBC said. They are part of over 200 British troops from the 1st Battalion of the Irish Regiment which is training and advising the Sierra Leonean army.
Sierra Leonean Information Minister Julius Spencer told IRIN on Tuesday that the captors had not yet made any demands to the government and that the talks to free the soldiers were continuing. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL, is helping the Sierra Leonean and British governments in their effort to secure their release. UNAMSIL says the detainees were being well treated and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Monday he expected them to be freed "in the near future".
However, he added: "I think the rebels have to be careful not to go around believing that it is easy to take peacekeepers as hostages because they do have robust rules of engagement and they are going to be defending themselves."
SIERRA LEONE: Residents flee RUF-held Port Loko, Kambia
Residents fleeing the RUF-held areas of Port Loko and Kambia Districts say the anti-government force is harassing civilians and causing them to abandon their towns and villages, BBC reported on Tuesday.
They also reported that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters were taxing the residents for food and money. One witness told the BBC that each household in his locale is forced to provide five litres of palm oil and 5,000 leones (about US $2) each week to the rebels. Parents are forced to pay ransoms equivalent to $15 to prevent the conscription of their children into RUF ranks. The Information Ministry told IRIN it was unable to confirm or deny the reports.
CHAD: IFAD lends US $11 million for food security
Chad is to get a US $11-million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the second phase of a food security project in the Northern Guera region, the UN agency said.
The deal, signed in Rome, meets part of the overall project cost of US $17.62 million. The remainder is to come from the Belgium Survival Fund for the Third World ($3.68 million), the World Food Programme ($650,000), the Chad government ($1.16 million) and the beneficiaries ($780,000). In addition, IFAD will donate $650,000 to the project.
Phase two aims to provide equitable participation of women in decision-making and in the allocation of resources to some 15,000 households and 400 villages in the Northern Guera region. The goal of the project is to promote rural grassroots organisations so that their members can improve food security, their nutritional status and, in general, their lives in a sustainable manner.
The first part of the project, IFAD said, covered 298,000 km2 in Northern Guera, a mountainous region. The area is generally savannah with a Sahelian climate characterised by a variety of soils. It is plagued by erosion in the foothills and in the most populated area, IFAD said.
"The Northern Guera region is one of the most disadvantaged areas of Chad, due mainly to its poor endowment of national resources and its landlocked location," IFAD said.
Agriculture accounts for 39 percent of the gross domestic product and, IFAD said, because only 10 percent of the country's arable land is cultivated, there existed "enormous potential" for agricultural development.
Although oil has recently been discovered in the south of Chad, its economy remains vulnerable because of its insufficiently diversified agricultural sector, narrow industrial base, weak trade and transportation sector, and a massive shortage of skills, IFAD added.
NIGER: West African bank funds water scheme
The West African Development Bank has granted Niger two billion CFA (about US $2.9 million) to partially finance a water supply scheme, PANA reported on Tuesday. The project aims to supply 2,432 cubic metres of potable water a day to the city of Tillaberi, about 120 km west of Niamey. The city needs an estimated 3,500 cubic metres per day. The bank has also decided to open an office in Niamey, PANA said.
NIGERIA: Overseas-based doctors plan boreholes in rural communities Nigerian doctors in the Americas say they will start a programme next year to drill boreholes in some local communities and to provide a steady supply of water to residents, 'The Guardian' of Lagos reported.
"I know that it has been agreed that a borehole will be sunk in any community where an ANPA (Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas) medical mission visits," Julius Kpaduwa, one of the doctors, said.
The project is being undertaken by ANPA, founded in 1995, Kpaduwa said at the weekend. He is a Nigerian gynaecologist working in the US city of Los Angeles, and led a group of doctors providing free medical service to Isiala Mbano in Imo State.
He said ANPA's planning had reached an advanced stage to provide better health care to the communities served by the association. ANPA missions, he added, usually donated the equipment and remaining medicines to the health institution in which they provided free treatment.
Nine ANPA missions work in different Nigerian rural communities each year. The association supports each mission with US $10,000 and receives donations in cash and medical supplies from pharmaceutical industries in the United States and individuals. The association has also installed e-mail facilities in some universities, teaching hospitals, and research institutes, including the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research in Yaba, Lagos.
GABON: Government tackles rehabilitation of forestry sector
Gabon is attempting to rehabilitate its forestry sector in an effort to create more jobs and make more diverse use of the country's resources. Gabon has largely relied on petroleum exports to generate income.
A key component of the rehabilitation effort is the construction of a factory in the Moyen Ogooue province that is capable of generating about 800 jobs, PANA reported on Monday. Seven other wood factories are being built throughout the country. They are expected to create more than 1,000 jobs next year.
AFRICA: WHO reports steady progress
Outstanding WHO activities in 1998-1999 included fighting malaria, HIV, leprosy and polio, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported this week.
Leprosy was eliminated in five more African countries in 1998-1999, bringing the total to 31, WHO Regional Director Dr. Ebrahim Samba said in his biennial report, released during the 50th meeting of the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional committee, which opened in Ouagadougou on Monday. And an initiative to roll back malaria was introduced in some 30 countries.
The 1998-1999 period was marked by a capacity to mobilise extra-budgetary resources for the implementation of WHO programmes, Samba's report said.
Abidjan, 29 August 2000; 17:36 GMT
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