IRIN Update 566 of events in West Africa
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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SIERRA LEONE: Bus reportedly seized by armed men
Around 40 people were missing on Wednesday, according to AFP, after unidentified armed men seized the bus in which they were travelling on Monday.
AFP quoted a transport official as saying that an armed group stopped the bus near Masiaka, about 40 km north-east of Freetown, robbed its passengers and forced some of them to carry the stolen goods into the bush.
The bus was reportedly driven into the bush, where it was abandoned by the armed men.
A humanitarian source told IRIN that the incident was a "resource-motivated hijacking", a euphemism for banditry.
Sources in Freetown had told IRIN soon after the peace agreement signed in July in Lome that the disarmament of ex-combatants and their reintegration into society were crucial to peace since they could otherwise continue to loot.
In a report issued at the end of September, UN Secretary-General estimated that there were 45,000 fighters in Sierra Leone waiting to be disarmed, demobilised and reintegrated.
SIERRA LEONE: Northern town reportedly burnt and looted
There have been unconfirmed reports that a village near Kamakwie, some 50 km north of Makeni, was burnt and looted on Tuesday by armed elements, a humanitarian source in Freetown told IRIN. The source said the looting may have been connected to the fact that rice is being harvested in the area.
The Sierra Leone Human Rights Committee (SLHRC), a consortium of local and international human rights organisations, said in its most recent bulletin - issued on 27 September - that there were "frequent reports" that food distributed in the Makeni area was being taken from civilians by fighters.
"The 'food tax' is reported to still operate in areas under control of RUF/AFRC," SLHRC said.
LIBERIA: Police chief warns his men to stop extortion
Police Director Paul Mulbah has warned policemen to stop extorting money from civilians, especially at checkpoints, independent Star radio reported on Tuesday.
Mulbah's warning on Sunday came in a meeting with commercial drivers in Monrovia. Drivers complained that police often forced them to pay money at the Mount Barclay checkpoint, some 19 km east of the capital.
There have also been frequent complaints of brutality against civilians by Liberia's many security agencies.
On Monday the assistant director of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, James Cervier, told IRIN the organisation sometimes received two or three complaints of arbitrary arrests a month.
LIBERIA: Government appeals for help to rebuild economy
Liberia needs international help to rebuild its war-shattered economy, institutions and infrastructure, Foreign Minister Monie Captan told the 54th UN General Assembly on Saturday. He appealed to donors to honour a pledge to provide US $230 million toward this effort.
Captan also said the government's determination to rejuvenate the economy, engender productive activities, restore social infrastructure and improve living standards would remain elusive without relief from Liberia's US $3-billion debt.
Each Liberian owes US $1,200 in a country where per capita income barely reaches US $275, Captan said, adding, "it may never be possible to fully repay this colossal financial obligation".
According to Captan, an arms embargo the UN Security Council imposed on Liberia in 1992 is no longer necessary because its original aim of containing the war and halting the proliferation of arms has been achieved.
"The government reiterates that the continued refusal by the Security Council to lift the arms embargo is a clear infringement upon Liberia's sovereignty, which the charter of the United Nations defends," he said.
The embargo, he added, has led to insecurity and suspicion, which could breed instability. He noted that since the destruction of 19,297 firearms and 3.2 million rounds of ammunition in Liberia beginning on 25 July, there had been "cross-border aggression" on the country.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Famine worries in south unfounded, mission says
Fears that the southern regions of Quinara and Tombali may be hit by famine are unfounded, even though rice stocks there are low, according to a team which visited the area from 15 to 17 September, OCHA reports.
However, a high incidence of malnutrition was discovered in Catio in the Tombali region by the team, which included representatives of FAO, UNDP, WFP, OCHA and the Ministry of Agriculture. To date, Catio's nutritional situation has been difficult to monitor accurately due to its isolation.
Immediate actions recommended by the team include the provision of therapeutic feeding and the creation of an improved monitoring mechanism by supporting the appropriate regional and sectoral health centres.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Livestock pastures satisfactory, says FAO
Livestock pasture conditions in Guinea-Bissau are satisfactory because adequate rainfall has filled watering holes, OCHA quotes FAO as reporting.
However, anthrax is still prevalent in the north (Bula, Mansoa and Mansaba), east (Bafata, Canquelifa) and south (Tite, Bissassema), while African swine fever was detected in August in southern regions, says the FAO.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Germany donates demining units
Guinea-Bissau's government received 10 demining units from Germany on 28 September at a ceremony held for former combatants, OCHA said in its most recent report.
Mines were laid during last year's military uprising in Guinea- Bissau, even though the parties to the conflict had signed the Ottawa convention banning the use of land mines, the German first secretary noted at the ceremony.
Seven mine accidents were recorded in the capital, Bissau, in April and May 1999 and, in mid-September, a UN team spotted an anti-personnel mine on the road near Fulacunda (Quinara Region) and notified the appropriate authorities, OCHA reported. Mine awareness activities are underway in the area.
Abidjan, 6 October 1999; 18:35 GMT
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