Benin + 5 more

IRIN Update 656 of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 20 21 73 54
Fax: +225 20 21 63 35

SIERRA LEONE: UN reconnaissance mission to Koidu

UN peacekeepers and military observers have just completed a reconnaissance mission to the diamond-rich town of Koidu, eastern Sierra Leone, a UN spokeswoman reported on Tuesday in New York.

The convoy, which included five military observers and a platoon of Kenyan peacekeeping troops, was tasked with assessing the condition of the road to Koidu. Associate spokeswoman Maria Okabe said that, according to reports, the convoy was cheered by crowds as it passed.

The UN peacekeepers were blocked at a rebel checkpoint about 120 km from Koidu. In order not to cancel the patrol altogether, the military observers and an information officer went alone to visit the town, the UN reported.

The mission returned to Freetown on Tuesday.

The UN Force Commander, Major General Vijay Jetley, will be deploying Indian peacekeeping troops to rebel-held Koidu, but it is not yet known when this will be, a UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) source in Freetown told IRIN on Wednesday.

CHAD: Rebel leader rejects invitation to Ndjamena

Chadian President Idriss Deby this week invited rebel leader Youssouf Togoimi to go to Chad's capital, Ndjamena, to form his own political party, but Togoimi's Mouvement pour la democratie et la justice au Tchad (MJDT) rejected the offer.

In an interview with Radio France Internationale (RFI) on Tuesday, Deby said he had stretched out a "brotherly hand" to Togoimi to avoid further bloodshed. "We must leave the cycle of violence and agree in the most sincere and honest possible manner to play a democratic political game for the conquest of power because what Togoimi is doing today has no future," Deby said.

But AFP quoted the MJDT as saying in the Gabonese capital Libreville, where the rebel group reportedly has representatives: "The Chadian constitution gives us the right to resist to the end an unscrupulous and bloody dictator. There has never been a democratic process with Deby."

Deby's offer came one day after new clashes were reported between government and rebel troops in the northern region of Tibesti. Each side said the other was responsible for the attack.

The MJDT began its rebellion in the arid, mountainous north in September 1998.

NIGERIA: Government plans joint oil venture with Norway

Nigeria and Norway will cooperate on deep water oil exploration, 'The Guardian' quoted President Olusegun Obasanjo and Norwegian Prime Minister Kjeli Bondevik as saying at a joint press conference in Abuja on Tuesday.

Obasanjo said Nigeria would benefit from Norway's extensive experience in deep water exploration. Bondevik added that Norway could help Nigeria to formulate legislation to ensure the safety of exploration sites, 'The Guardian' reported.

NIGERIA: New centres expected to improve health care delivery

The Committee on Health in Nigeria's House of Representatives on Monday provided for the creation of 27 health centres costing N5 million (US $50,150) each in this year's budget, 'The Guardian' reported on Wednesday.

At a budget defence session which the committee had with officials of the Health Ministry, Committee Chairman Willie Ogbeide reportedly said the provision was intended to boost health care delivery in the country. Ogbeide added that where health centres already existed, the money would be used to refurbish and renovate them.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Former minister re-arrested

Media organisations reported that Cote d'Ivoire's former Minister of the Interior, Emile Bombet, was re-arrested by the military authorities on Tuesday.

However, Issa Sangare, the government's special adviser on the media, told IRIN that Bombet had been detained for questioning "for his own security". Sangare said he was unable to disclose Bombet's whereabouts.

One of the minister's children told AFP that the military went to Bombet's house in a four-wheel drive, "roughed him up" and then took him to the

Galieni army camp in Plateau, the business district of Abidjan.

Bombet had been arrested just after the 24 December military coup in Cote d'Ivoire but was released on 27 January along with other civilians.

BENIN: EU gives 28 billion CFA to improve roads

The European Union has given two grants worth more than 28 billion FCFA (US $41 million) for road construction and improvement in Benin, an EU official in Cotonou told IRIN on Wednesday.

The first grant, worth some 15.7 billion FCFA, will go towards repairing and resurfacing some 100km of road between Natitingou and Porga in the north of the country. The second, some 12,5 billion FCFA will pay for the reconstruction and widening of some 7 km of road in the south, the EU said.

NIGER: France provides aid worth 6 billion F CFA

France and Niger signed an aid agreement on Tuesday that will go towards paying the salaries of civil servants, some of whom have arrears stretching back over a year, AFP reported the French ambassador as saying.

Denis Vene said on Niger national radio that the "exceptional aid" followed the organisation of transparent elections in November 1999 that brought President Mamadou Tandja to power, AFP reported.

A source at the French embassy in Niamey told IRIN the agreement was worth some 6 billion F CFA (US $9 million).

France had suspended its cooperation with Niger following the assassination on 9 April of former president Ibrahim Mainassara by members of the presidential guard.

Abidjan, 16 February 2000; 17:20 GMT


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