Algeria + 11 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 3 covering the period 15-21 Jan 2000

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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
Tel: +225 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

GUINEA-BISSAU: Sanha concedes defeat in presidential race

Presidential contender Malam Becai Sanha conceded defeat on Wednesday to Kumba Yala of the Partido de Renovacao Social (PRS) who has won 75.25 percent of the votes in the presidential elections this month.

"The trend that is emerging from the returns shows that Kumba Yala is the winner. I solemnly declare that I respect the verdict of the ballot boxes, the expression of the people's will," Sanha said at a news conference, AFP reported.

This reflects partial results released by the national elections commission. The results show that Sanha, running on the ticket of the Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), polled 24.75 percent. Humanitarian sources in Bissau, the capital, told IRIN that the results were for votes cast in Bissau, Biombo, Cacheu and the eastern regions of Bafata and Gabu.

Yala's victory marks the end of a quarter century of domination by the PAIGC, which led a successful war of liberation against Portugal. The PAIGC was the sole party until the introduction of multi party politics in 1993.

When the election results are confirmed later today, Yala will be taking over an economy shattered by years of mismanagement and the recent war. He is faced with solving the problems of disgruntled soldiers, veterans of the liberation war, teachers and health workers who are owed months of back pay.

SIERRA LEONE: Humanitarian access set to improve

The deployment of UNAMSIL troops, combined with gradual progress in the implementation of the Lome Accord, has enabled relief agencies to review plans for the resumption of humanitarian operations in areas previously deemed insecure, according to the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) in Sierra Leone.

"It is likely that the humanitarian access situation will substantially improve over the next few weeks, especially if current progress continues to be sustained," HACU said in its report from 5-16 January.

Following a UN security assessment of conditions in Makeni, and of villages east of Makeni up to Masingbi, half way between Makeni and Kono, it was recommended that humanitarian activity could be reestablished in these areas. Relief programmes were scaled down following the fighting between the RUF and the ex-SLA in October 1999 around Makeni, which resulted in RUF control of the area.

The town of Kambia, near the Guinean border, continued to be unstable, even though MSF-Holland had operations in the area. Kailahun and diamond-rich Kono, both in the east, continued to be beyond the reach of most aid agencies, HACU said.

SIERRA LEONE: Adult ex-fighters make Kabala "insecure"

Adult ex-fighters in Kabala have continued to harass residents thereby creating a "very insecure" climate in the northern town, HACU said in its situation report for 5-16 January.

These former combatants are drawn from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the former Sierra Leone Army (SLA). HACU said some 500 RUF combatants were waiting to be demobilised near Kabala. Moreover, HACU said, in addition to the 700 disarmed Sierra Leone Army (SLA) inside Kabala town, an equal number of armed SLA were in the outskirts of the area.

"It is critical that the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process be extended to Kabala as soon as possible," HACU said.

UNAMSIL Force Commander Major General Jetley told IRIN on Wednesday that the force was stepping up the drive to open more demobilisation camps at Makeni and Magburaka, some 100 km to the south of Kabala.

SIERRA LEONE: Parliament passes anti-corruption law

Sierra Leone's parliament passed an anti-corruption law on Wednesday that provides for a special office with wide-ranging powers of investigation.

Citing the government's official gazette Reuters said the Anti-Corruption Bureau, would investigate "instances of alleged or suspected corruption referred to it by any person or authority, or which may have come to its attention".

President Kabbah has on numerous occasions pledged to uproot corruption, which was one of the reasons Foday Sankoh gave for starting his rebellion in 1991.

NIGERIA: Scores die in road accident

At least 25 people died on Wednesday when a bus rammed into an oil tanker across a busy Lagos highway in one of the city's worst accidents on record, 'The Guardian' newspaper reported. AFP said up to 40 were killed.

The bus suffered brake failure, skidded across the eight-lane Western Avenue then smashed into the oncoming tanker and the Abalti Barracks. The impact tore away an 15 metre-long section off the barrack fence.

"What could have been an inferno from the impact with the fuel tanker was immediately prevented by fire fighting men from Reverend Nwake Barracks," 'The Guardian' reported.

NIGERIA: About 90 suspected OPC members arraigned

About 90 people suspected of being members of the Oodua People=C6s Congress (OPC), a militant pressure group, were arraigned at the Lagos Chief Magistrate Court on Tuesday over the killing of a senior police officer kidnapped on 9 January, news organisations reported.

Two policemen sustained acid burns.

The suspects were charged with conspiracy, murder, throwing acid and stealing firearms, æThe Vanguard=C6 newspaper reported.

The Chief Magistrate refused bail and ordered the suspects remanded in prison custody pending the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). A further hearing has been set for 28 February 2000, the daily said.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian parliament on Tuesday gave President Olusegun Obasanjo 30 days to take ôdecisive actionö against OPC members over alleged murder, arson and acid attacks, AFP reported state television as saying.

NIGERIA: Ijaw youths pledge to end violence

Ijaw activists from over 12 groups promised at a meeting convened by the Ijaw National Congress (INC) on Monday to stop all criminal behaviour in the Niger Delta area, 'The Guardian' daily of Lagos reported.

INC leader Alaowei Bozimo said the youths had decided on this action because the federal government had promised to develop the Niger Delta. However, he said his organisation had never espoused crime.

The youths said they had formed vigilante groups in the area to patrol waterways in search of pirates and others who vandalise oil installations. Militant Ijaw youths in the oil rich Delta have been seizing oil installations and kidnapping oil workers in a bid to press their demands for development of the area and for a clean up of oil-generated population.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Guei meets Taylor

Ivorian military strongman General Robert Guei paid a day-long "private visit" to Liberia on Thursday, press spokesman Issa Sangare told IRIN. He declined further comment.

However, Liberian Deputy Information Minister Milton Teahjay told IRIN that Guei, on his first trip outside Cote d'Ivoire since seizing power on 24 December 1999, held "very fruitful and very rewarding" talks with President Charles Taylor.

"They spoke about the need to strengthen ties between the two countries and the need to democratise Cote d'Ivoire," Teahjay said.

Taylor offered to help to achieve this goal and called on the international community to "be patient" with the Ivorian authorities as they try to return to constitutional rule, Teahjay said.

News reports said that Guei visited Ghana and Burkina Faso but Sangare was unable to confirm these trips.

COTE D'IVOIRE: UN envoy ends visit

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahima Fall meet again with military leader General Robert Guei and the diplomatic corps on Friday prior to the end of his two-day mission, a source said. No official word has emerged on the result of Fall's mission which the UN said was aimed at encouraging an early return to constitutional rule.

MAURITANIA: Malnutrition level worrying, officials say

Malnutrition has reached worrying proportions in Mauritania, with 36 percent of children under five years old classified as moderately malnourished, news organisations quoted the secretary-general of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Mohamed Ould Rave, as saying. Rave said on Tuesday that 18 percent of the children were emaciated while 34 percent were below normal size.

MAURITANIA: Government bans sale of charcoal

The government has banned the sale of charcoal to preserve the environment in this largely semi-arid country, AFP said quoting Minister of Rural Development Mohamed Ould Sid'Ahmed Lekhall.

During a sensitisation tour of the interior on Monday, he told rural populations they had to protect the few remaining forests by stopping logging for charcoal production. While the government is urging the public to use gas for domestic cooking needs and shift away from coal, the price for a 12-kg cylinder has risen 30 percent.

MALI: France to give 3 million euro for electricity upgrade

France has signed an agreement to give Mali US $3 million to build an electrical power plant in Belingue, a Bamako suburb. The facility, to be equipped with three 7-megawatt turbines, will enable the Societe d'energie du Mali (EDM) to meet demand until the next rainy season. Up until now, the utility has been unable to provide consumers with a constant supply of energy.

GABON: Summit on poverty eradication ends

African leaders ended their two-day summit on eradicating poverty on Wednesday saying they were determined to meet the problem "head on", according to news reports. The 20 leaders said participants at the meeting in Libreville, Gabon, recognised that poverty reduction was a challenge they had to "take up themselves", AFP reported.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Michel Camdessus told African leaders on Tuesday as he opened the summit that they "must act now" to improve their economies if they were to wipe out poverty. On Wednesday morning, African Development Bank (ADB) President Omar Kabbaj said average annual economic growth (now 4 percent) must double if African countries were to keep ahead of poverty, which affects 55 percent of the continent's population, AFP reported.

BURKINA FASO: ECHO aid for returnees from Cote d'Ivoire

The European Commission approved on 14 January US $205,000 in emergency humanitarian aid for the distribution of some 350 mt of food to Burkinabe migrants forced to leave Cote d'Ivoire in November-December 1999, the EC Humanitarian Office (ECHO) reported.

The relief operation in favour of the Burkinabes, implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP), began on 11 December.

The Burkinabe who, ECHO said, number about 20,000, had been farming - mainly cocoa - in southwest Cote d'Ivoire for years. Following a land dispute, locals chased them out of the area, destroying houses and other property, ECHO stated. Officially there was one death in each community.

The expelled migrants are mostly from Poni Province in southwest Burkina Faso, and more than 60 percent are women and children, ECHO said.

WESTERN SAHARA: More people eligible to vote in referendum

Another 2,130 people were cleared on Monday to vote in the proposed referendum on independence for Western Sahara or its incorporation into Morocco, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York.

The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which reviewed at least 50,000 applicants for eligibility, said the new names would be added to an existing list of 84,251 qualified voters. The Mission's mandate ends on 29 February.

The Identification Commission has been hearing appeals from disqualified voters at centres in Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria.

The UN had said that the appeals along with the opposing positions taken by Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y de Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) would likely delay the referendum beyond 2002.

LIBERIA: Nationwide vaccination campaign

Preparations for a nationwide anti-polio vaccination campaign are underway as a health team distributes vaccination kits to health centres throughout the country, 'Star Radio' reported on Friday.

The first round of vaccinations are due to start next week and some 700,000 children under five years are targeted. Parents will be encouraged to take their children to local sites, health centres, churches or markets, as designated by the county health officer.

In 1988 the World Health Assembly established a target to eradicate polio worldwide by the year 2000.

BENIN: 100 hand over excision knives

In a measure of social change, 94 women and six men handed over excision knives this week at a consciousness raising ceremony in north-western Benin following a series of workshops, AFP reported.

The workshops, held in Bogou some 550 km northwest of Cotonou, were intended to raise awareness about the issues surrounding excision. The practice of cliterodectomy, which affects women's sex drive and is intended to increase their chance of marriage by guaranteeing faithfulness, is firmly rooted in parts of West Africa.

Excision is normally carried out by women although men sometimes carry out the procedure, according to AFP.

Abidjan, 21 January 2000; 18:50 GMT

[ENDS]

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