Benin + 6 more

IRIN Update 612 of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
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WEST AFRICA: Peace, security high on ECOWAS summit agenda

Leaders of the 16-member Economic Community of West African States began their 22nd summit on Thursday in Lome, Togo, during which they will review proposals by their foreign ministers for a regional peace and security observation system, an ECOWAS official told IRIN.

This facility, approved by the leaders in October 1998, will monitor and attempt to contain potential conflicts such as those which occurred in Liberia and, more recently, Sierra Leone.

Under the plan, a monitoring centre is to be established at the ECOWAS secretariat in Abuja, capital of Nigeria. The centre is to be headed by an executive secretary in charge of political affairs, defence and security, 'The Guardian' of Lagos reported. The centre is to set up observation bureaux in Banjul (Gambia), Cotonou (Benin) Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and Monrovia (Liberia), according to an ECOWAS document on the ministerial meeting.

These offices would gather information on factors likely to disturb the peace in the subregion. They will also monitor implementation of the moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of small arms and drug trafficking in the area.

Another proposal is to form a council of elders that would mediate in potential conflicts.

SIERRA LEONE: More Kenyan peacekeepers arrive

Another 350 Kenyan troops arrived at Freetown's Lungi International Airport on Wednesday to join the new UN force there, an official of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) told IRIN.

The troops, who had been expected on Sunday, were delayed repeatedly because a UN charter flight failed to arrive, senior Kenyan officials told Reuters. Just under 500 Kenyans are now in Sierra Leone. The remainder of this battalion is expected in the next week.

The Kenyans are expected to deploy to the northern towns of Makeni and agburaka, UNAMSIL said. In October, Revolutionary United Front (RUF) troops drove elements of their former ally, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), out of Makeni.

Also, more Indian troops are expected by the end of the week, the UNAMSIL official said, and will probably be deployed to the diamond areas and Kailahun District in eastern Sierra Leone. These areas are particularly sensitive as RUF field commander Sam Bockarie, who has his base in Buedu, Kailahun District, recently told the BBC that he would neither disarm to soldiers from the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, nor to Nigerian soldiers serving in the UN force. Three of the six battalions of the UN force will be Nigerian, to which Guinea will provide a company. Ghana, and India will each provide a battalion.

The newly-arrived UN Force Commander, Major General Vijay Jetley, is inspecting different deployment sites to determine when and where the UN troops should go, UNAMSIL said.

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General's new Special Representative, Oluyemi Adeniji, is due to arrive in Freetown on Sunday, according to a UN source. He will replace Francis Okelo who has been in Sierra Leone since 1997.

SIERRA LEONE: Sankoh denounces UN, ECOMOG

RUF leader Foday Sankoh denounced the UN and ECOMOG for pressurising his men instead of other former rebels, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN on Thursday.

During a "sensitisation" trip on Wednesday to the village of Fadugu, some 25 km from Kabala in northern Sierra Leone, Sankoh told ECOMOG and UN observers that pressure was being put on the RUF to hand over weapons while other groups were not disarming.

"He indicted us publicly," Olukolade said. "We expect him to say these things but we don't agree with him and other groups feel we don't pressurise him enough."

Olukolade said that there had been occasions when ECOMOG had handed over bandits to the national police force as ECOMOG's mandate did not include policing.

Sankoh said ECOMOG and the UN had done nothing about a recent violation of the peace accord when former AFRC forces attacked the RUF-held town of Lunsar and ambushed a vehicle of civilians nearby. However, Olukolade said there had been no confirmation of an attack but ECOMOG was investigating.

SIERRA LEONE: Reports of rebels hiding weapons in the bush

Surrendered soldiers from the AFRC told AFP on Tuesday that some of their comrades were hiding weapons in the bush and would not respect the peace accord signed in July between the RUF and the government.

One member of the AFRC rebel group, which fled to the northern town of Kabala after clashes with the RUF in Makeni in October and surrendered to a small group of loyalist army troops, said that some 3,000 former military junta troops were in the jungle surrounding the town.

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade said that while there was suspicion that weapons were being hidden this had yet to be confirmed. He added that the first phase of disarmament, scheduled to end on 15 December, was a "voluntary submission of weapons".

Meanwhile, AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma told former soldiers at their base near Kabala on Friday to disarm and accept that the war had ended.

GUINEA-BISSAU: War volunteers to be reintegrated

The caretaker government announced on Wednesday that more than 10,000 "military and paramilitary" volunteers who took part in the country's recent armed forces' uprising, would be fully integrated into the military, Lusa reported on Thursday.

A communique was released by Finance Minister Abubacar Dhaba who said that the soldiers' formal enlistment would significantly increase the number of people on the state payroll, Lusa reported. As a result, he said, the introduction of a planned 300 percent rise in the minimum wage had been postponed.

The decision was announced hours after hundreds of youths in uniform blocked traffic in Bissau on Wednesday demanding overdue salaries. The protest ended after Dhaba promised to give priority to the payment of salaries for members of the armed forces and police. Most of the protestors enlisted after the June 1998 rebellion against former president Nino Vieira who was finally overthrown by a self-styled Military Junta some 11 months later.

//CORRECTION//: Ref our UPDATE 609 of 6 December - item entitled 'GUINEA-BISSAU: Demining underway around Bissau'. Please note that HUMAID is still seeking funds to actually begin demining, so its two-phase project is yet to be conducted.

LIBERIA: Police dismantle checkpoints in capital

Police began dismantling army checkpoints in the capital, Monrovia, on Wednesday and nearly all of them have now been removed, generating a public sigh of relief, a UN official in the capital told IRIN on Thursday.

The checkpoints, which were manned by policemen from the Special Operations Division to screen vehicles entering the city, were a legacy of war, the official said. Police would search vehicles, particularly those from the hinterland carrying coal and vegetables, causing traffic jams.

US Ambassador Bismark Myrick commended the government for its actions but added that security should be strengthened within the city of Monrovia, the newspaper reported.

The checkpoints were built with USAID money for the Nigerian-led West African force, ECOMOG, which policed the capital during the seven-year war. The war ended with the election of Charles Taylor as president in 1997, Reuters reported.

NIGERIA: Hausa butchers allege fresh OPC threat in Lagos

Hausa butchers at a animal pen in Oko-Oba, a Lagos suburb, told the government on Wednesday they feared for their safety because some members of the militant Oodua People Congress (OPC) had allegedly occupied an unused building close to the abattoir, 'The Guardian' newspaper reported.

Over 800,000 people operate at the abattoir daily including butchers, traders and buyers, the chairman of the Hausa Butchers Association, Alhaji Sule Jimba, told reporters.

"If trouble starts there nobody can stop it," he added.

President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed the OPC, a Yoruba social cultural group, for the two-day clash beginning on 25 November between Hausas and Yorubas at Mile 12 Market over the collection of levies. The OPC denied responsibility in which at least 90 people died.

Abidjan, 9 December 1999; 20:52 GMT


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Item: irin-english-2129

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