IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 83 covering the period 27 Jul - 3 Aug 2001
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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LIBERIA: NGOs draw attention to IDPs' plight
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has appealed for more funds for its effort to help people displaced from Lofa County, northern Liberia, while Amnesty International called for international pressure against armed groups to stop abuses against civilians in Lofa.
ICRC said on Tuesday that it had increased its 2001 budget from the equivalent of about US $1.18 million to just under US $2.79 million to cover new protection activities for the internally displaced persons (IDPs). "To meet the needs of the displaced, the ICRC urgently requires substantial additional financial contributions for its operation in Liberia which so far faces a considerable funding shortfall," the committee said.
ICRC said about 35,000 IDPs were in Bong and Gbarpolu counties. The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Wednesday it had completed the delivery of food to over 30,000 in Bong.
The IDPs were forced from their homes by fighting between pro- and anti-government forces in Lofa. ICRC said population movements from Lofa had stabilised temporarily but "about 10,000 people are thought to be on the road or gathered in inaccessible areas".
The war in Lofa has led to "widespread and gross abuses against unarmed civilians", according to a new report by Amnesty International which has urged both sides to end such practices. Many civilians have been killed, arbitrarily detained, tortured and raped, Amnesty said in the report, titled 'Liberia: Killings, Torture and Rape Continue in Lofa County'. http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/AFR340092001?OpenDocument&of=COUNTRIES\LIBERIA
Amnesty recommended that influential governments and organisations condemn and put pressure on Liberia's armed groups. It called on the UN to deploy human rights observers and urged the international community to provide aid, including medicine and psychosocial assistance, to victims.
Liberian Information Minister Reginald Goodridge denied on Wednesday that government forces had committed atrocities. He called Amnesty's report "a malicious lie and an attempt to tarnish the image of Liberia", the Panafrican News Agency (PANA) reported.
SIERRA LEONE: Setbacks in disarmament, police deployment
Efforts to reduce insecurity in Sierra Leone experienced another hitch on Wednesday when the anti-government Revolutionary United Front (RUF) barred the Sierra Leonean Police from deploying to the central towns of Makeni and Magburaka, a police spokesman told IRIN.
There was no confrontation between the two forces as the convoy of 700 police reached the town of Lunsar, at least 59 km from its nearest destination, Makeni. The RUF gave no reason for reneging on a previous agreement, but Police Inspector Dominic Kargbo said the prison death of RUF War Council head Solomon Rogers could have been the motivating factor, news organisations reported.
Meanwhile, the RUF said on Tuesday it would help the UN hunt down renegade RUF commander Demba Marrah, blamed for the death of 22 people and the burning of 25 to 40 homes on 19 July in Henekuma, a village in the northern district of Koinadugu. UNAMSIL Force Commander Lt-Gen Daniel Opande, who visited the area, promised to have Marrah and other culprits "brought to book".
Opande's deputy, Maj-Gen Martin Agwai, also visited the area and appealed to the pro-government Civil Defence Forces (CDF) defending the village to refrain from retaliating.
In the eastern district of Kono, disarmament was to have ended on 31 July but has been extended by one week because of the initial slow pace of the exercise. However, UNAMSIL remains optimistic that the new deadline will be met, mission spokeswoman Margaret Novicki told IRIN on Tuesday.
"Disarmament has picked up considerably," she said. There has been an "enormous improvement" in the disarmament rate and ceasefire violations have ended because Kono chiefs and elders joined Agwai on his daily visits to supervise the process, she said.
The disarming of the RUF and the rival CDF in diamond-rich Kono, which began on 2 July, was dogged by mutual suspicion and some fighting. Up until 30 July, 752 RUF and 910 CDF fighters had handed over their weapons whereas some 1,000 RUF and 2,500 CDF were to have done so, Novicki said.
Donations to disarmament and the overall peace process continued this week with Sweden approving on Tuesday a six-million krona (US $566,824) grant to the World Bank Multidonor Trust Fund. It had earlier given the equivalent of US $330,647 for a UN war crimes tribunal to be set up for Sierra Leone. Canada announced on Tuesday a pledge for US $2.25 million to the fund.
GUINEA: UNICEF operations underfunded
UNICEF's operations in Guinea have remained largely underfunded six months after an appeal for money, the UN agency said on 27 July. Despite this, UNICEF has conducted numerous humanitarian activities in Guinea to ease the plight of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities affected by insecurity in Guinea and neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, it said.
Water-sanitation and child protection programmes have received no new money since UNICEF appealed in February for US $2.39 million for its operations. The agency has been able to conduct its health and nutrition activities with funds amounting to 48 percent of the US $1.76 million it had asked for.
"If new additional resources are not mobilised, there is a risk of increasing mortality rates for the next months," UNICEF said. "Efforts to maintain education for 30,000 children will also be in jeopardy."
The United States decided on 26 July to earmark US $12 million for refugees, IDPs and host communities in Guinea and Sierra Leone affected by fighting along the common borders of the two countries.
NIGERIA: Shell pipeline spill
A major oil spill that began five weeks ago following a failure along a Shell pipeline at Ikwerre in southern Nigeria's Niger Delta is still spreading, Environmental Rights Action (ERA - the Nigerian affiliate of Friends of the Earth) said on Thursday. ERA said oil was still leaking from the pipeline and that Shell had not begun cleaning up the spill, which has devastated farmland and the surrounding ecosystem, including swamps, rivers and streams.
A Shell spokesman in Lagos told IRIN the transnational moved as soon as the spill was reported to control its spread by putting in place devices known as "booms", but that local people eager to claim compensation cut the booms to make the slick spread. "We're in the process of cleaning up the spill, but it wouldn't have spread this far if the booms were left intact," he said.
NIGERIA: Queela bird invasion
Huge flocks of queelas, tiny birds which eat grain and leaves, have invaded northern Nigeria's Kano State for the first time in 10 years, devastating many farms around the city of Kano, an official of the state's Ministry of Agriculture told IRIN on Tuesday. He said the invasion was likely to spread in coming weeks. Kano's commissioner for agriculture, Yusuf Ado Kibiya, said last week that the birds had invaded more than 700 farms around the city.
NIGERIA: Communities face annual flooding
People living along the Kaduna River face the threat of floods every year unless they are relocated before the construction of a hydroelectric dam in Zungeru, northern Niger State, 'ThisDay' newspaper reported the assistant general manager of the National Electric Power Authority as saying.
Abdullateef Raji was speaking during a tour by parliamentarians of areas affected by floods because of their proximity to Nigeria's three dams, the daily reported. He said most communities downstream of Zungeru, some 50 km northwest of the state capital, Minna, were likely to be submerged after the building of a proposed fourth power station and would need to be relocated.
GHANA: Two held with arms cache
Ghanaian police arrested two men on 29 July after finding 35 fireams and ammunition hidden under the seats of a car in an Accra vehicle workshop, news organisations in Ghana reported. The 'Daily Graphic' reported that the detained men included the driver of the car, which had a Nigerian registration number. Police quoted him as saying they were about to leave for Nigeria to sell the guns.
COTE D'IVOIRE: Ex-junta leader, gendarmes set free
An ex-member of Cote d'Ivoire's former ruling military junta, General Lansana Palenfo, was released from jail on Wednesday after the Supreme Court overturned a one-year prison sentence which a military tribunal imposed on him in March. Palenfo had been accused of threatening state security in connection with an attack in September 2000 on the home of former junta leader General Robert Guei.
On Friday, a court at one of the main gendarmeries in Abidjan acquitted eight gendarmes accused of murder in connection with the discovery in October 2000 of 57 bodies in a field in the suburb of Yopougon.
SAO TOME/PRINCIPE: Opposition candidate wins presidential poll
Businessman Fradique de Menezes won Sunday's presidential election in Sao Tome and Principe, obtaining 56.3 percent of the votes while 38.7 percent went to Prime Minister Manuel Pinto da Costa, news organisations reported, quoting the national electoral commission. About 37.65 percent of the archipelago's 61,159 voters abstained.
Fradique de Menezes was supported by a number of parties, including the biggest opposition group, Independent Democratic Action (ADI). Prime Minister Pinto da Costa was backed by the ruling Movement for the Liberation of Sao Tome and Principe - Social Democratic Party (MLSTP-PSD). There were three other candidates.
WEST AFRICA: Swedish official becomes EU special envoy
The European Union (EU) has appointed Hans Dahlgren, the state secretary of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as its special envoy to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Swedish government reported on Tuesday.
It said Dahlgren would be responsible for framing a coordinated EU policy on the three countries, which "will include measures aimed at alleviating the serious humanitarian and political situation in the area".
Dahlgren will maintain close contact with the leaders of the three countries and promote cooperation with the UN and the Economic Community of West African States. He will support efforts at reconciliation among the three countries as well as conflict prevention, reconstruction and the nurturing of democracy.
WEST AFRICA: Small arms training
About 25 persons, mainly police and military officers, from four West African countries are to participate in a training course on small arms control organised in Freetown, Sierra Leone, by the UN Programme of Coordination and Assistance for Development (PCASED).
The training-for-trainers course, which will run from 13 to 18 August, is aimed at upgrading the participants' skills and theoretical knowledge on small arms control, Napoleon Abdulai of PCASED told IRIN.
PCASED, which operates within the framework of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, is financed by UNDP and bilateral donors. Its brief is to help the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) attain the objectives of peace, security and stability set by ECOWAS leaders when they agreed to a three-year moratorium on small arms in 1998.
Abidjan, 3 August 2001; 15:50 GMT
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