IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 117 covering the period 23 - 29 Mar 2002
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
GHANA: Two ministers resign over fighting in north
Two ministers have resigned over the feud for power in Ghana's Northern Region where the paramount chief of the Dagomba Traditional Area, the Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II, has been confirmed killed, the Ghana News Agency (GNA) reported.
The minister of information and presidential affairs, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, announced on Friday that Northern Region Minister Prince Imoru Andandi and Interior Minister Malik Al-Hassan Yakubu had resigned. President John Kufuor has accepted the resignations "with regret and without prejudice", GNA reported. Both men denied involvement in the clashes in Yendi, which pitted two rival camps in the Dagomba chieftaincy dispute.
The Andani group had called on Wednesday for Yakubu's resignation, the dismissal of Yendi District chief executive Mohammed Habibu Tijani, and for the detention of Accra businessman Aminu Amadu, for their alleged roles in the crisis. Yakubu, who is also the MP for the Dagombo area, said he resigned to avoid being seen as "an impediment to any government investigations" into the events.
It remains unclear what sparked Monday's fighting in which the chief and several other people were killed. There had been conflicting reports of the chief's death; with the counsel for the Andani camp in the crisis, Ibrahim Mahama, telling the GNA that Andani was still alive. Mahama had said hired assassins had mistakenly beheaded the wrong man.
However, the government said on Friday that Andani was dead. President John Kufuor has imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the conflict area and ordered a full-scale operation to arrest the perpetrators of the killings. He warned individuals or groups against taking advantage of the situation, saying they would be "swiftly and decisively dealt with under the full rigours of the law".
LIBERIA: Five rights workers detained
Liberian police detained five staff members of the National Human Rights Centre on Thursday but gave no reason for their arrest, the organisation reported.
Aloysius Toe, project officer; Tunny Zeogar, administrative secretary; Peter Nickoson, office assistant; John Okai, dispatcher; and Field Monitor Sam Nimely were arrested at the organisation's offices in the capital, Monrovia.
Toe, who is currently acting executive director of the Movement for the Defence of Human Rights, a member of the National Human Rights Centre, condemned on Wednesday the arrest without charge of opposition politician, Nigba Wiaplah.
Wiaplah, the acting national chairman of the New Deal Movement party, was arrested because of a recent statement he made to a Monrovia newspaper, The News, in which he allegedly said that "arrogance" was the reason for the present war between rebels and the Liberian government.
Anti-government forces, known as Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, have been fighting to overthrow the government of President Charles Taylor since 1998. The government declared a state of emergency on 8 February and since then, journalists; rights activists and opposition leaders have been under increased pressure from the authorities resulting in arrests and detention without charge, Amnesty International reported.
SIERRA LEONE: Sankoh barred from presidential elections
Imprisoned former rebel leader Foday Sankoh will not be allowed to stand as a presidential candidate for the newly registered Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) in forthcoming elections, news organisations reported Sierra Leone's National Electoral Commission (NEC) as saying on Thursday.
Chief Electoral Commissioner, Walter Nicol, told reporters that Sankoh was not registered to vote, and was therefore, under Sierra Leone's electoral laws, ineligible to stand as a candidate. The RUFP received its registration certificate, allowing it to participate in May's presidential and parliamentary elections, earlier this week.
Sankoh told a court in the capital, Freetown, on Monday that he had no case to answer in murder charges levelled against him, news organisations reported. The case has been adjourned again until 2 April. It is the third time that Sankoh, along with dozens of other former rebels, has appeared in court since he was charged with murder and related offences on 4 March. The charges relate to an incident on 8 May 2000 when a peaceful demonstration outside Sankoh's home in Freetown turned violent, and at least 20 people died. He was detained shortly after the incident and has been kept in an undisclosed location ever since.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council announced on Thursday that it was extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) by six months until 30 September.
Council said it was important that UNAMSIL support the government in consolidating peace and security beyond the presidential and parliamentary elections due on 14 May. UNAMSIL has established, within the mission, an electoral component and recruited 30 additional civilian police advisers to support the government and the police in preparation for the polls.
Five Bangladeshi UN peacekeepers died following a road accident last week outside the capital, Freetown, UNAMSIL said on Monday. No other vehicle was involved in the incident that took place on Thursday afternoon at Waterloo, some 25 km southeast of Freetown. The cause of the accident was still being investigated, the UN said. Bangladesh contributes some 4,200 soldiers to UNAMSIL, which currently stands at over 17,000 making it the largest UN peacekeeping operation in the world.
The World Bank said this week that it had agreed to allocate over US $140 million over the next two years to support reconstruction and development efforts and to fight against HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone.
MANO RIVER UNION: Meeting calls for peace dialogue
Representatives from several UN agencies and the Mano River Union (MRU) have called on the international community to encourage dialogue among the leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in an effort to bring peace to the subregion, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) reported on Monday.
Participants in last week's two-day meeting in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, called for intensified efforts to "translate the spirit of the recent MRU summit in Rabat, Morocco, into positive momentum for peace in the subregion", UNAMSIL said.
Meeting under the umbrella of the UN Inter-Agency Working Group, a forum that brings together UN agencies operating in MRU member states, delegates recommended several "fast-track" projects to be carried out by UN agencies in the subregion. These include the revitalisation of the MRU secretariat so that it can resume normal activities within member states and several others that support civil society organisations in the subregion, including the Mano River Women's Peace Network.
The UN Department of Political Affairs and the UN Economic Commission for Africa convened the 21-22 March meeting.
NIGERIA: Islamic court frees woman from death by stoning
An Islamic court of appeal in Nigeria's northern Sokoto State freed on Monday a 35-year-old woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.
Safiya Huseini Tunga-Tudu, who has been at the centre of the controversial case that has drawn international outrage from rights advocates and raised religious tension in Nigeria, was acquitted by the Sharia Court of Appeal in the city of Sokoto on procedural grounds.
Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, of 120 million people, is almost evenly divided between a largely Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south. The country has witnessed outbursts of sectarian violence since the application of strict Sharia began in a number of northern states. At least 2000 people were killed in the northern city of Kaduna early in 2000, in clashes between Christians and Muslims over plans to introduce Sharia in the state.
CAPE VERDE: International forum links desertification to poverty
Environmentalists and government officials have produced a unified position among countries most affected by desertification following a recent four-day international forum in Cape Verde's capital, Praia, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) reported on Monday.
The 'Praia Declaration', which will be presented at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in August in Johannesburg, South Africa, says, "The poverty nexus is tied with desertification and drought in a vicious circle characterised by land degradation and loss of resources."
The declaration recommends that the summit consider fighting desertification and promoting natural resources management as a main strategy to reduce poverty. It also urges more cooperation at subregional and regional levels to ensure cross-border sharing of skills and resources in the management of arid ecosystems.
Environmentalist and government officials from some 60 countries attended the 5-8 March meeting.
COTE D'IVOIRE: Trial of alleged coup plotters postponed
The trial on Wednesday of 31 people accused of participating in last year's failed coup has been postponed until 13 May because the state needs to update its jury list, Cote d'Ivoire's Justice Ministry announced.
The coup suspects - civilians and soldiers - have been charged with "threatening state authority and belonging to an armed gang". The charges relate to an armed attack on 8 January 2001 on the national TV station in Abidjan, President Laurent Gbagbo's home, and the country's largest gendarmerie base.
TOGO: Government and opposition resume talks
A national commission set up to resolve Togo's political crisis that followed the 1998 presidential elections resumed its work on Tuesday after months of inactivity.
The commission, known as the Comite Paritaire de Suivi (the Joint Follow-up Commission), comprises a coalition of the country's five leading opposition parties and another of parties supporting the ruling Rally for the Togolese People (Rassemblement du peuple Togolais). It met in the capital, Lome, to organise legislative elections, which have been delayed because of disagreement within the commission.
New legislative polls are due to replace those of 1999 that the opposition boycotted on grounds that presidential polls, the previous year, were rigged. The lingering political rift led to the adoption of the Lome Framework Agreement that created and mandated the follow-up commission to solve the crisis.
CAMEROON: Government launches anti-HIV programme
The Cameroon government has unveiled a three-year programme against HIV-AIDS with the objective of lowering the national prevalence rate to less than 10 percent.
Drawn up by the National Committee against AIDS (Comite national de lutte contre le sida), the programme will focus on providing educational information on prevention and treatment to young people who are hardest hit by the disease. Official statistics put the current prevalence rate at 11 percent with some 600 people infected each day. At least 12 percent of 20-24-year-olds are HIV positive, and some 10 percent of 25 to 29-year-olds, the committee said.
Meanwhile, the police in Cameroon have been accused of abusing the rights of innocent people in their bid to fight rising crime. Operation Harmattan, launched by the police just over two weeks ago, aims to rid Cameroon's main cities - Yaounde, its capital, and Douala, its commercial hub - of bandits, the authorities said. However some sources accuse the police of subjecting people to arbitrary arrests and humiliation during sudden police raids, security and identity checks. Just fewer than 3,000 people have been questioned and at least two people have been killed since the operation began, the authorities said.
BURKINA FASO: EU gives US $310.8 million to fight poverty
The European Union announced on 22 March that it would give Burkina Faso the equivalent of some US $310.8 million - from 2002-2007 - to support the government's anti-poverty drive. The aid will be ploughed into rural development and food security, basic education, health, economic reform and road building.
AFRICA: Leaders say African ownership vital in NEPAD
African leaders who held a daylong summit on Tuesday on the implementation of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) resolved that the initiative must be "owned" by Africans.
"African ownership is central to the NEPAD process, which must be retained and strongly promoted so as to meet the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples," leaders said in the final communiqué at the end of the meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
The summit identified key areas requiring priority attention to achieve accelerated development in Africa. These include peace and security, agriculture and market access, infrastructure, capital flows and human development.
The meeting brought together heads of state and representatives of 13 countries that form the implementation committee of NEPAD. Also in attendance were top officials of the Organisation of African Unity, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Meanwhile, a four-day meeting to articulate policies to reduce poverty among women and stimulate their participation in development in West Africa opened on Monday, also in Abuja. The meeting was jointly organised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and drew delegates from ECOWAS states as well as international governmental and non-governmental organisations.
Discussions were also aimed at aligning regional development programmes to the objectives of NEPAD, an ECOWAS official told IRIN.
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