IRIN Update 743 of events in West Africa
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
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NIGERIA: Kano adopts Sharia
Tens of thousands of Muslims chanting Islamic slogans gathered in the central square in the northern city of Kano on Wednesday to welcome the official proclamation of Sharia in the state, news organisations reported.
The crowd, made up almost exclusively of young men, appeared to be peaceful, the BBC reported. However, its sheer size prevented the governor of Kano State from reaching the stage to deliver his speech which was later relayed from State House.
Although Islamic law has now been officially adopted by Kano, it will not be implemented for several months, probably around the beginning of Ramadan in early December, the BBC reported the governor as saying. This is because the state lacks the courts and judges to enforce the law.
The atmosphere in the prodominantly Christian and non-indigene area of Kano city known as Sabon Gari was "tense and quiet," the BBC reported. Shops were barricaded, businesses closes and people stayed at home.
NIGERIA: Lagos judge frees 64 detainees
Lagos State Chief Judge Christopher Segun freed some 64 detainees awaiting trial in Ikoyi and Kirikiri medium prisons on Tuesday as part of activities marking the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Law Week, 'The Guardian' reported.
The chairman of the local branch of the NBA said that he was delighted that the judge had agreed to the association's special request to free the detainees to commemorate its law week, the daily added.
GAMBIA: Detained opposition leader charged with murder
Gambian police have charged opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Ousainou Darboe and 24 of his supporters with the suspected murder of a rival party faithful who died in fighting between the two groups at the weekend, news reports and other sources said on Wednesday.
'The Daily Observer', a Banjul newspaper, reported that lead detective Jai Sowe had completed preliminary investigations into the fighting between supporters of the ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) and the UDP. Darboe, who was arrested on Sunday, is being held in the Basse Police Station, some 300 km east of the capital, Banjul, where he had sought refuge.
[See separate item titled 'GAMBIA: Detained opposition leader charged with murder']
GUINEA-BISSAU: Union claims general strike 70% successful
A 10-day general strike for higher wages by Guinea-Bissau public sector employees that began today has been supported by 70 percent of the workforce, union secretary-general Desejado Lima da Costa told reporters in the capital, Bissau.
The group of independent trade unions, which called the strike, is demanding a minimum wage of 55,000 francs CFA (US $80) from the current 14,000 francs ($20), Lusa reported.
Lima da Costa said the action had been especially supported by the hospital in Bissau and state radio which, as essential services, had maintained minimum services, AFP reported. The country, with a population of one million, has about 35,000 civil servants, including the military, Lusa reported quoting figures for 1999.
SIERRA LEONE: Government asks UN for international tribunal
The United Nations Legal Council is considering a request by Sierra Leone for an international tribunal in Freetown to put rebel leader Foday Sankoh and others on trial for crimes against humanity, UN spokesman Manoel de Aleida e Silva told reporters on Tuesday.
Although he would not reveal details of the request, AFP reported that Sierra Leone Information Minister Julius Spencer said the government wanted the tribunal to operate under a combination of Sierra Leonean and international law. It remains unclear how this would operate.
"The tribunal will be set up to try for crimes past and present," Spencer told AFP.
However, the Lome peace accord signed in July 1999 gave amnesty to all human rights abuses committed before that deal. The provision drew wide criticism from human rights groups.
Since that accord, the RUF has continued to maim, rape and kill innocent civilians. It also detained some 500 UN peacekeepers in May and released them a month later after pressure from Liberian President Charles Taylor, acting on the behest of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
On 8 May, Sankoh supporters fired live rounds into protestors who gathered outside his home. Several people were killed and Sankoh escaped only to be recaptured just over a week later near his home. He is now in government custody and, presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told AFP, could be charged with murder.
At the UN, US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke said his country wanted some kind war crimes tribunal to be set up "swiftly and efficiently" for Sankoh and his supporters.
"We do not believe that Sierra Leone can have a peaceful and stable future until they are brought to justice," Holbrooke said.
SIERRA LEONE: ECOWAS delegation consults with UN Security Council
A six-man delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) began consultations on Wednesday with the UN Security Council on the situation in Sierra Leone.
The UN said the team, from the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council, is headed by Malian Foreign Minister Modibo Sidibe and ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate.
The group has just completed a visit to Sierra Leone where they held talks with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and others involved in the country's crisis. The delegation also met Liberian President Charles Taylor, who wields considerable influence over the rebel Revolutionary United Front.
The UN said that in their meeting with Taylor, the ECOWAS delegates emphasised the need for the RUF to allow peacekeepers of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) complete freedom of movement. Although it has vowed to do so, the RUF continues to detain 21 UNAMSIL troops in the northern town of Pendembu. Another 233 Indian UN personnel remain surrounded by RUF forces in the eastern town of Kailahun.
UN troops now number 12,394 in Sierra Leone, the UN said, following the arrival this week of the remaining soldiers in the Bangladeshi contingent.
NIGER: Nearly 1,000 deaths from meningitis this year
Thousands of people have contracted meningitis in Niger since the beginning of the year and over 7 percent of those have died, a World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesman in the capital Niamey told IRIN on Wednesday.
Some 13,231 cases of the disease have been registered between 1 January and 20 June, of whom 969 have died. With the arrival of the rainy season and vaccination campaigns, WHO added, much of the danger has passed.
Outbreaks of meningitis are associated in the Sahel region in the early months of the year when the dry harmattan winds blow southward.
GHANA: Former prime minister's assets released
The assets of Ghana's late prime minister, Kofi Busia, confiscated by the state well over 20 years ago are to be returned to his family on humanitarian grounds, PANA reported on Wednesday.
The government of President Jerry Rawlings has approved recommendations issued in 1976 by a committee of enquiry that legally acquired assets be returned to the Busia family as part of the process of reconciliation. The committee, set up by the National Redemption Council (NRC) which ousted Busia's party in 1972, was mandated to determine which assets had been legitimately owned by Busia.
Busia, who was prime minister of the Progress Party during its term of office from 1969 to 1972, died in the late 1980s. The military NRC was also removed from power in the late 1970s by other defence chiefs who favoured a return to civilian rule, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Abidjan, 21 June 2000; 18:22 GMT
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