IRIN Update 449 of events in West Africa

from IRIN
Published on 23 Apr 1999
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
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GUINEA-BISSAU: Situation precarious warns ECOWAS chief

Political stability in Guinea-Bissau remains precarious despite significant progress in disarming loyalist and opposition forces, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said in a recent report to the UN Security Council.

In his report, details of which were released by the UN Secretary-General's spokesman, ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate said there was a risk of increased tension between the former enemies as elections drew nearer. General elections, initially slated for the end of March under the Abuja Accord of 1 November 1998, have been postponed to sometime in June or July.

Kouyate recommended that those with influence on the opposing parties persuade them to "refrain from recruiting and training new combatants and from hiding weapons. ECOWAS also wants friends of either party to encourage them to resolve the crisis peacefully and avoid any institutional vacuum.

The report also calls on the UN humanitarian agencies to provide "effective action" to the country. "Adequate assistance, promptly provided, would do much to alleviate the suffering of displaced persons and refugees," Kouyate said.

Power supplies reduced sharply

Most of Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, has been without power since supplies were cut early this week because of maintenance required after the eight-month military revolt that destroyed much of the country's economy, Lusa reported. Power utility officials told Lusa on Thursday that just one of the city's seven main generators was operational and that spare parts were needed urgently.

Fadul in Italy

Guinea-Bissau Prime Minister Francisco Fadul arrived in Italy on Thursday, on the third leg of a four-nation European tour for aid to rebuild his war-shattered country, Lusa said. He was also expected to meet Pope John Paul.

In another development, a spokesman for Guinea-Bissau President Joao Nino Vieira has criticised Fadul for statements attributed to the prime minister in Lisbon, the first stop of his current tour. The presidential spokesman, Cipriano Cassama, said Fadul had used "purposely offensive, aggressive language" in remarks about Vieira. Cassama said Fadul's statements would only "increase the anxiety of our cooperation partners", Lusa said.

During the April 19 visit, Lusa said, Fadul compared Vieira's rule to that of the Portuguese dictator, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, saying he preferred Salazar's secret police to Vieira's.

Vieira has held power since 1980 amidst recent clamour in the parliament that he resign.

NIGERIA: Sacking army chiefs

Nigeria's newly elected Peoples Democratic Party is in disagreement with the country's outgoing military rulers over the retirement of armed forces chiefs on 29 May when the new civilian government is to be sworn in, according to news reports on Friday.

PDP spokesman Anietie Okon was quoted by Reuters as saying: "The law is clear: Army service chiefs should retire at the end of their tenure which coincides with the term of the person who appointed them."

But Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Tella, an army spokesman responded: "it is our stance that the army chiefs will not retire on 29 May because there'll be no one in their place."

Since independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria has been under military rule for all but 10 years. Human rights groups, according to press reports, were concerned that the military rulers had introduced a clause into the yet-to-be-published new constitution preventing President-elect Olusegun Obasanjo from sacking the army bosses.

SENEGAL: Casamance talks

Separatists of southern Senegal's troubled Casamance region will meet in neighbouring Gambia soon to devise a strategy for peace talks with the government, Reuters reported on Friday.

In a dispatch quote Abbe Diamacoune Senghor, leader of the Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC), it said he had told a news conference that the aim was to agree on a united strategy for the talks. He said that various factions of the movement recognised him as the "sole" leader of the MFDC.

The MFDC took up arms in 1982. Diamacoune held talks with Senegalese President Abdou Diouf in January and both men have repeatedly called for dialogue to secure a peaceful settlement in a conflict that has claimed hundreds of lives.

Opposition boycotts parliament

The main opposition party in Senegal, the Parti democratique senegalais (PDS), this week announced a boycott of the National Assembly to press demands for stronger measures against fraud in next year's presidential election.

News organisations said this week the party leader, Abdoulaye Wade, said he hoped experts from France and the United States would help draft a "reliable" register of voters.

WEST AFRICA: FAO fears severe food shortages in 17 African nations

The number of sub-Saharan African countries on the FAO's exceptional food emergency list has risen to 17 since the end of 1998, according to the Organization's latest report this week on the Food Supply Situation and Crop Prospects in sub-Saharan Africa.

"War and civil strife remain the principal enemies to food security for millions of men, women and children, with adverse weather conditions aggravating the situation in some areas," the report said.

The countries listed were: Angola, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Kenya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

In West Africa, the report said the food outlook for 1999 was "generally favourable", particularly in the Sahel countries, thanks to above-average and record harvests. "Several countries have cereal surpluses available for donor purchases for transfer to deficit areas within the countries themselves, or for triangular transactions," according to the report.

But it added: "Despite the dire situations in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, cereal import requirements for the sub-region in 1998/99 are forecast to be lower than in 1997/98, as a result of good harvests in western and parts of eastern Africa. Similarly, food aid requirements are forecast to be lower."

It said the food outlook in war-torn Angola was "extremely bleak".

UNICEF concern at Kosovo impact in Africa

In New York this week, UNICEF said in a statement it was concerned that the Kosovo crisis could "eclipse" the plight of more than 22 million other people in the world also displaced by war and civil conflicts.

It cited the crises in Angola, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Ethiopia "and other places where thousands of people are displaced from their homes, tortured and killed every day".

UNICEF said that in the first four months this year, the renewal of the war in Angola had forced 780,000 people to abandon their homes, bringing to 1.5 million the estimated number of internally displaced people roaming the country.

"Some 450,000 refugees have poured out of Sierra Leone into Guinea and Liberia over the course of an eight-year conflict characterised by brutality, rape and mutilation," the statement said.

Abidjan, 23 April 1999 16:30 GMT


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