Algeria + 9 more

IRIN Update 688 of events in West Africa

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
Tel: +225 22-40-4440
Fax: +225 22-40-4435

SIERRA LEONE: UN forces disarm 292 rebels

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) has disarmed some 292 rebel fighters in the north of the country this week, an UNAMSIL information officer in Freetown told IRIN on Friday.

The former Sierra Leone Army (SLA) rebels arrived at Lungi, some 20 km north of Freetown, on Friday escorted by a UN rapid deployment force.

The guerrillas had been in recent skirmishes with Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in the Kabala area, some 230 km northeast of Freetown. The area is still tense but UN Kenyan troops, deployed in Makeni, are monitoring the situation, UNAMSIL said.

SIERRA LEONE: Dissidents arrested in plot to invade Liberia

At least 20 people have been arrested near the Liberian border on suspicion of planning to attack Liberia, a military source in Freetown, the Sierra Leonean capital, told IRIN on Friday.

The suspects, believed to be Liberian dissidents, were arrested on 22 March and are being interrogated, the source said. AFP, citing a presidential statement, said they were arrested as the result of a "lengthy and painstaking exercise by ECOMOG and the government security agencies".

ECOMOG is the Nigerian-led West African force partly responsible for maintaining security in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone said it respected the non-aggression pact signed by the members of the Mano River Union - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - which requires governments to prevent their territories from being used to destabilise other states.

BURKINA FASO: HRW demands inquiry into arms affair

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday it had asked the president of Burkina Faso to hold an independent inquiry into allegations that illegal arms transfers had been made from his country to rebels in Sierra Leone and Angola.

"President (Blaise) Campaore must get to the bottom of these serious allegations," Joost Hilterman, the executive director of the Arms Division of HRW, said in his letter on 28 March to Campaore.

Burkina Faso opposition groups have also asked the government, which has denied its involvement, to investigate.

The recently published 'UN Report of the Panel of Experts on Violations of Security Council Sanctions Against UNITA' names Burkina Faso and other countries in connection with violations of sanctions.

Speaking at the Security Council meeting Burkina Faso's representative, Michel Kafando, said the role of his country had been misrepresented in the report and disassociated himself from the conclusions of the panel, especially those that implicated the head of the government by name.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Human rights lapses serious

A UN report cites Equatorial Guinea with serious human rights violations and says that international aid should aim to support fundamental freedoms and bring violators to justice, the world body said on Thursday.

The report was prepared by Gustavo Gallon, the Special Representative on the situation in Equatorial Guinea appointed by the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

In the document, he says people are systematically detained without trial, tortured, held incommunicado in detention and denied freedom of expression and of movement.

The lack of democracy in the country has given rise, he said, "to a climate of tension and human rights violation". Citizens are unable to leave the country without special authorisation and are subjected to controls at roadblocks within the country.

Of particular concern, he adds, is the trial of civilians in military courts.

In order for its technical aid programmes to be effective, Gallon says, Equatorial Guinea needs to alter its human rights profile, based on his recommendations. He suggest that the CHR appeal to all UN bodies and donor countries to coordinate their efforts in helping Equatorial Guinea implement a human rights action scheme.

In response an Equatorial Guinea government official, Ruben Maye Nsue Mangue, told the CHR that the report, while dramatic, was not "persuasive or constructive". He urged the CHR to review the country's efforts to expand the democratic process.

Equatorial Guinea has not ratified the 'Convention Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination or the Convention Against Torture'.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Forty die in road crash

Some 40 people were killed in a head-on collision between a tanker and a truck taking people to a wedding, local media reported on Friday. Ten people were taken to hospital. The tanker was trying to overtake another vehicle and rammed into the oncoming vehicle on Wednesday near Issia, some 300 km northwest of Abidjan.

SENEGAL: New president for inauguration on Saturday

President-elect Abdoulaye Wade will be sworn-in on Saturday in a ceremony to be attended by other West African leaders, according to media reports.

The leaders of Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania are expected to attend, the Dakar-based Panafrican News Agency, PANA, reported

The Missionary News Agency, (MISNA) added that Wade had invited the Casamance pro-independence leader, The Reverend Diamacoune Senghor, to the ceremony. Several news reports quote Wade as having said he would free the Roman Catholic cleric, who has been held under house arrest because of the war in southern Senegal.

Senegal's first two presidents, Leopold Sedar Senghor and Abdou Diouf, took their oaths of office in parliament, but Wade has chosen to be sworn-in at the 50,000-seat sports stadium, in a Dakar suburb, named after Senghor, PANA said.

In keeping with the secular character of Senegal, the Koran or the Bible will not be used in the swearing-in ceremony.

WESTERN SAHARA: UN envoy to visit in April

The Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Western Sahara, James Baker, is due to visit Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco from 8-11 April, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard reported on Thursday.

Baker, a former US secretary of state, will meet officials from the three governments and from the Polisario Front, Eckhard said. Morocco annexed part of Western Sahara in 1975 after Spain withdrew from its colony.

In his last report on the territory, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he wanted Baker to talk to all the parties to achieve an early, durable and agreed resolution to the disputed territory.

Polisario - the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Rio de Oro - that has fought Morocco for the independence of Western Sahara, declared independence in February 1976. The territory, which the Polisario calls the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, has been recognised by the Organisation of African Unity, the continent's foremost political body.

Abidjan, 31 March 2000; 19:06 GMT


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