Benin + 16 more

IRIN Update 689 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

COTE D'IVOIRE: Former ranking state employee released

The former director general of the state daily newspaper, 'Fraternite Matin', was released at the weekend after a brief detention and questioning by the military, the press attache at the ruling Conseil National de Salut Public (CNSP), Desire Dakori, told IRIN on Monday.

"Michel Kouame is now at home," he said.

Kouame and the former minister of defence, Bandama N'Gatta, were arrested on Friday on arrival at Abidjan's Felix Houphouet Boigny International Airport from Togo and taken to Akuedo military barracks in the capital.

Dakori said the two men, who fled Cote d'Ivoire following the 24 December 1999 coup which deposed Henri Konan Bedie and brought General Robert Guei to power, had been detained because of a "security problem".

N'Gatta is still detained. In a statement published in the newspaper on Monday, the ruling military council denied rumours that he had died in detention.

GUINEA: Parliamentary speakers call for Conde's release

Speakers of West African parliaments ended their second conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on Friday with a call for the "immediate and unconditional release" of Guinean opposition leader Alpha Conde, PANA reported.

Conde, a third-place candidate in Guinea's presidential election in 1998, has been in detention without trial since 16 December the same year.

He is being held on suspicion of "undermining internal security, utilisation of the armed force and complicity," PANA added, and is due to stand trial on 12 April.

Numerous appeals for his release have been made by foreign and domestic personalities.

Meanwhile, PANA said, the meeting adopted a charter of the conference of West African speakers, ahead of the envisaged creation of the ECOWAS parliament. Sixteen countries make up the Economic Community Of West African States, although Mauritania has given notice it will leave.

Delegates also called for the creation of some form of parity between existing currencies, as a step towards a single currency in the community. Eight countries - all of them but Guinea-Bissau former French colonies - are members of the CFA franc zone, guaranteed by the French treasury.

The meeting in Ouagadougou was attended by Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia and Nigeria.

SIERRA LEONE: RUF intimidate ex-SLA for disarming

Some Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in eastern Sierra Leone have been intimidating former Sierra Leone Army (SLA) fighters who have disarmed, the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) reported in its bulletin on Thursday.

The RUF claim that the former SLA soldiers have betrayed their common leader, Foday Sankoh, by agreeing to disarm. At times, it is also claimed that the RUF punish the SLA rebels, the NCDDR reported reliable sources as saying.

As of 25 March some 256 ex-combatants - 230 ex-SLA and 26 RUF - occupy the Daru demobilisation centre which has a capacity of up to 2,000, the NCDDR liaison officer in the centre, John Jusu, said. He added that many of the ex-SLA's wanted to rejoin the restructured national army.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and senior military officers announced just over a week ago that that all former SLA were to be reintegrated into the military pending a selection process for the restructured army.

An Indian contingent of UN Mission in Sierra Leone troops is now stationed in Daru and is responsible for the town's security."There is a free flow of vehicular traffic to and from Daru town and indeed up to places like Kailahun," Jusu said.

Former combatants mingle freely with civilians who, Jusu added, were still concerned over the slow pace of disarmament.

A concluding statement from the high-level donor's conference held in London on 27 March said that the DDR programme in Sierra Leone needed speeding up.

SENEGAL: President Wade inaugurated

President Abdoulaye Wade - speaking at his inaugural ceremony on Saturday - challenged Senegalese youth to be active in the development of the country, news reports.

Heard in Dakar by at least 60,000 spectators present at the nation's largest sports stadium, he told the youth to master new information technologies and be more serious in the construction of a democratic society.

Wade, who describes himself as a committed pan-Africanist, also said he backed South African President Thabo Mbeki's concept of the African Renaissance as well as the African Union mooted during the 1999 extraordinary summit of the Organisation of African Unity, in Syrte, Libya.

Wade's inauguration ended 40 years of rule by the Parti Socialiste (PS). However, he immediately appointed former PS stalwart Moustapha Niasse as prime minister, thereby fulfiling an electoral promise.

Niasse, who steps into the same post he held under the PS in 1981, said his priorities would be to provide better health care, security and more jobs. AFP reported that "tough negotiations" were underway for the cabinet posts in the government. Some 30 parties supported Wade's presidential bid. Wade had said he would sharply reduce the cabinet to 22 members, on coming to power.

The inauguration was attended by some past and current West African leaders: Omar Bongo of Gabon, Blaise Compaore (Burkina Faso), Robert Guei (Cote d'Ivoire), Alpha Oumar Konare (Mali), Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya (Mauritania), Yahya Jammeh (Gambia) and Kumba Yala of Guinea-Bissau.

Also present, PANA said, was Nigeria's last military ruler, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Algerian president Ahmed ben Bella, Morocco's Crown Prince Moulay Rachid, and the French cooperation minister, Charles Josselin.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Mediation in Casamance "natural" - Yala

Guinea-Bissau's efforts to find peace in southern Senegal's troubled Casamance area is "a natural situation", Guinea-Bissau President Kumba Yala said on Friday prior to his departure for Senegal to attend the presidential inauguration.

"We are brothers. I think no-one asks to be anyone's neighbour," LUSA reported Yala as saying.

He added that he hoped to discuss "various questions related to cooperation in the subregion and the profound relationship existing between Guinea-Bissau and Senegal" during his talks with President Abdoulaye Wade.

Relations between the two countries were tested during Guinea-Bissau's recent conflict which followed the June 1998 uprising against president Joao Bernardo Vieira. Vieira, called in Senegalese troops to help put down the revolt but was deposed in May 1999.

Subsequently, he was accused of failing to stop some senior army officers from smuggling arms to pro-independence Casamance guerrillas.

NIGERIA: US offers $10 million in military aid

US Defence Secretary William Cohen promised on Saturday US $10 million to reshape the Nigerian military and bring it under civilian control, according to news reports.

Cohen said $4 million would be be used to refurbish the country's fleet of US-built C-130 Hercules transport planes, buy spares, pay for instructor pilot and maintenance training, and an up-to-date technical manual library.

An additional $600,000 has been reserved for training of Nigerian military personnel in the US, PANA reported.

The package provides $2 million for a computer simulation centre to teach troops peacekeeping skills. Nigerian led and provided the bulk of troops for the Economic Community of West African States that was deployed in Liberia and later, Sierra Leone. Nigeria has a long history of participation in peacekeeping missions, starting in the 1960s with contribution to the UN effort in ending the Congo crisis.

A 10-member team from the US defence contractor firm, MPRI, will work with its Nigerian counterparts for at least one year to create a civilian defense structure that would control the budgets, payrolls, personnel issues and promotion systems, AFP reported quoting US defence officials.

Cohen's visit marks the first by a US defence secretary and comes two weeks after that of his energy counterpart, Bill Richardson.

These visits, PANA said, "Represents part of the concrete signs in the fast-improving relations" following the restorations of ties after a civilian administration was reinstalled in Nigeria on 29 May 1999.

"This is expected to be capped with US President Bill Clinton's scheduled Nigerian visit in June to reciprocate Obasanjo's two recent trips to the US," PANA said.

NIGERIA: South-South governors call for true federalism

Governors of six South-South states said on Saturday they could only commit themselves to a united Nigeria if true federalism was practiced and where fairness, justice and equality existed, 'The Guardian' reported.

In a final communique issued at the end of their meeting the governors said many of Nigeria's problems were due to "the departure from the practice of true federalism".

Citing their state of underdevelopment, and because of the application of Sharia in the north, governors in the oil-rich south have been clamouring for a confederal rather than the current federal make up of Nigeria. However, President Olusegun Obasanjo, who commanded a federal army division in the southeast to keep Nigeria one during the secessionist civil war in the 1960s, has dismissed calls for a confederation.


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