IRIN Update 558 of events in West Africa
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
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AFRICA: Nigeria calls for repatriation of stolen wealth
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has called for an international convention that would ensure the repatriation of money stolen from Africa and other developing countries by corrupt regimes and unpatriotic individuals working in collaboration with foreign partners.
"Such an international convention or agreement is legally feasible and morally sustainable," he told the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
He said the convention would compel banks to disclose the source of illegal accounts and repatriate capital to the countries of rightful ownership. He also called for the guilty parties to be punished by national and international law.
Many African countries, he said, would be able to pay much or their debt if they could recover some of the stolen capital. Obasanjo has already written to some European governments and that of the United States in an effort to recover stolen public funds.
He also called for the cancellation of Africa's US $300 billion debt, terming this as "the biggest monetary and financial obstacle confronting developing countries". He said in sub-Sahara Africa every person owed $357 in a continent where millions live in abject poverty earning around 27 US cents a day.
President Nguema of Equatorial Guinea
The president of Equatorial Guinea, Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, said there was no political basis for North-South cooperation. Rather, he said, there was one of confrontation of selfish interests where the strongest or richest always succeeded. This unequal economic distribution worldwide had given rise to social and political insecurity in many parts of the world.
He told the Assembly that there was a lack of political will to foster economic development in Africa as its population suffered from hunger, poverty, war and epidemics. The continent, he said, needed economic input and the transfer of technology so that democracy could flourish.
GHANA: Experts discuss arms register for the continent
Delegates from 20 African countries, subregional economic groupings, the UN and research institutions are due to end their discussions today on setting up an arms register and database facility in Africa.
The UN body organising the meeting, the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNRCPDA), said the two-day workshop that began on Thursday would debate details on a 'Light Weapons Arms Register and Database' as a mechanism for greater transparency.
Opening the workshop in Accra, Ghanaian Vice President John Atta-Mills said: "Let us all join in the crusade to silence the guns of war, to make our streets, schools and homes free of violence, banditry and armed robbery."
Annan calls for global push to halt spread of arms
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been calling for regional and subregional registers of small arms to complement the international conventional weapons register, which covers major weapons systems.
He told a ministerial-level meeting of the UN Security Council in New York on Friday that the world must seize every chance to reverse the global spread of light weapons.
"Our larger efforts to promote peace and security - whether through conflict prevention, development, diplomacy or, when necessary, intervention - depend to a great extent on how we tackle the smaller, more specific challenges of limiting the tools of war and violence," he said.
NIGERIA: Militants force closure of gas plant
Militant youth in Nigeria's southeastern oil town of Bonny forced the closure of the country's US 3.8 billion liquefied natural gas plant on Thursday that is designed to launch the nation as a major exporter of the commodity, news reports said..
The shutdown, just six days after the start of production, came despite earlier assurances by LNG Deputy Managing Director Abba Gana that shipments to Europe would begin on 1 October.
However, the company said in a statement that the systematic shutdown of the plant began at about 9 a.m. (08:00 GMT) on Thursday, "following continued occupation of access roads and other outlying facilities by the demonstrators".
Protesters are demanding jobs, and social amenities. Reuters reported on Thursday that the militants also wanted seats on the LNG board, connection of Bonny to the national electricity grid, the immediate payment of 500 million naira (US $5 million) and monthly payments of 100 million naira. The news agency said although traditional rulers of the protesting communities agreed to lift the blockage, the militants refused.
Production level before shutdown
Prior to the shutdown the plant was producing 6,000 mt of LNG daily into storage to meet its shipment schedule. Now, it is unclear when this will begin. The Lagos daily newspaper, 'The Guardian', said the company was due to ship some 5.78 million mt of LNG yearly to five European costumers.
SIERRA LEONE: Progress in relief programmes in Makeni area
Significant progress has been made in the implementation of humanitarian programmes in the Rogberi, Lunsar and Makeni areas, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Freetown reported on Thursday.
However, it said access to the Occra Hills area and beyond Lungi, site of the international airport, continues to be "problematic" due to insecurity.
Makeni and Lunsar are perceived to be "relatively safe" and recent interventions have improved the health and nutritional status of the civilian populations in these areas. However, malnutrition is still evident among vulnerable groups, especially children, OCHA reports. Foods such as cassava and potatoes are readily available but protein-based commodities are scarce and costly.
Plans to expand humanitarian activities
In the coming weeks aid agencies will intensify efforts to gain regular access to rebel-controlled areas, particularly Kono and Kailahun districts in eastern Sierra Leone and Kambia District in the north-west.
At present humanitarian activities in these areas are limited. In Kailahun District MSF-France is providing medical services. Save the Children Fund (SCF) is supporting the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration camp at Daru, OCHA said. MSF-Holland is providing medical care in some parts of Kambia District and efforts are underway to expand the range of activities in these locations.
Road and other infrastructural repair is a key part of gaining regular access to rebel-controlled areas, OCHA said. The humanitarian community is reviewing its preparedness to care for released prisoners of war. The Waterloo transit camp on the outskirts of Freetown is now ready to cater for 500 POWs and another site has been identified by the government in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone.
Nigeria gives food aid to ex-combatants
A consignment of 5,000 bags of rice and medicines donated to Sierra Leonean ex-combatants by Nigeria was handed over and distributed at ECOMOG headquarters in Freetown on Tuesday, according to an official statement from Nigeria.
During the handing over ceremony the Nigerian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Alhaji Abubakar, appealed for the ex-combatants to lay down their arms and for peace to prevail. ECOMOG Force Commander Major General Gabriel Kpamber said that 4,000 bags of rice would be given to the RUF/AFRC and 1,000 bags of rice to the Civil Defence Force (CDF).
SIERRA LEONE: Koroma contacts his troops through ECOMOG
ECOMOG, the West African peace monitoring force, says it has handed rebel representatives in Freetown a "reconciliatory" message from the leader of Sierra Leone's ousted military junta, Johnny Paul Koroma.
"The message suggests a highly reconciliatory effort which would address virtually all the crucial issues in the ongoing peace process," ECOMOG Force Commander General Gabriel Kpamber said when handing over an audio tape containing the message.
After listening to Koroma's message the rebel representatives said that it dispelled the notion of any division between their two leaders: Foday Sankoh of the Revolutionary United Front and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council led by Koroma, according to ECOMOG. Representatives of the government's Civil Defence Force (CDF), that once fought the rebels, also described the message as conciliatory.
Kpamber met rebel representatives at a security assessment meeting in ECOMOG's Freetown headquarters.
NIGER: Government needs US $89,227 for disaster victims
Niger says it needs 55.9 million franc CFA (US $89,227) in disaster relief for some 19,565 people made homeless by heavy rains as of 31 August in this semi-arid landlocked country.
A request by the office that coordinates emergency aid, Le Secretariat Permanent du System d'Alerte Precoce et de Gestion des Catastrophes, says the money would go to providing lamps, mats, blankets and food.
The office said rains this year damaged or destroyed crops of rice, millet, sorghum, cassava, sugar cane, granaries and dikes. The result has been increases in the number of cases of malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea for which drugs are urgently needed for treatment. In 1998, 42,000 people suffered damage to their homes and property.
Reuters reported on Monday that the minister for works and infrastructure, Ousmane Ahmed Abani, told the government daily newspaper, the 'Sahel', that Niger needed at least 7.5 billion francs CFA (US $11.9 million) in aid to repair flood damaged roads and buildings.
The climate in this Sahalian country is characterised by periods of either heavy rains or drought.
LIBERIA: Government troops in "complete control" of Lofa County
Liberian Government troops are fully in "complete control" of Lofa County in north-west Liberia following weeks of fighting with armed dissident insurgents, Defence Minister Daniel Chea said on Thursday.
"The security situation is well improved," he said in Monrovia, news agencies reported.
President Charles Taylor said last week that several hundred people had been killed in the fighting including women, children and the elderly.
Early this month Taylor accused Guinea of allowing dissidents to attack Liberia. Guinea denied its involvement.
AFRICA: New FAO press club for UEMOA states
A new FAO press club dedicated to member countries of the largely French-speaking West African economic and monetary group, the Union economique et monetaire ouest-africaine (UEMOA), was inaugurated in Rome on Thursday, the FAO said .
Presided over by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, the ceremony was also attended by the presidents of Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal, Henri Konan Bedie and Abdou Diouf.
Inaugurating the facility, financed by UEMOA, Jacques Diouf said the club was an indication of the importance attached by West African leaders to "the struggle against world hunger". UEMOA comprises Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Niger, Senegal and Togo. Portuguese-speaking Guinea-Bissau is the only non-Francophone member of the group.
Abidjan, 24 September 1999; 18:31 GMT
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