IRIN Update 827 of events in West Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 17 Oct 2000
UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
Tel: +225 22-40-4440
Fax: +225 22-41-9339
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

NIGERIA: Clashes claim dozens of lives

Ethnic clashes between a militant Yoruba group and Hausa-Fulanis have claimed dozens of lives in the past three days in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, prompting authorities to impose a curfew in the most stricken neighbourhoods.

Official reports put the death toll at 24, while AFP reported up to 100 people dead. The news agency reported some 3,000 Hausas had sought protection in police and army barracks in the high density Lagos neighborhood of Ajegunle.

Reports said hundreds of police have been deployed to the area and helicopters patrol overhead. Vehicles, homes and businesses were burned. The violence broke out following clashes at the weekend in Ilorin between police and members of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), a militant Yoruba group, over the traditional leadership in the town. The violence spread to Lagos on Sunday when OPC members reportedly attacked a settlement mainly populated by Hausa-Fulanis, in pursuit of suspected criminals.

The governor of Lagos State has invited representatives of the rival groups for talks to end the violence. The southern Yorubas and northern Hausa-Fulanis are Nigeria's largest ethnic groups. Tension between the north and south has increased since the appearance of the OPC in 1994 and the declaration by some northern states of Islamic Sharia law in the past year. President Olusegun Obasanjo is a Yoruba, while Nigeria's government has traditionally been dominated by northerners.

NIGER: Niger nationals stranded in the Sahara

Some 4,000 nationals of Niger, who are being repatriated from Libya following anti-African clashes, are stranded along the border between the two countries, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

It said Libyan drivers, who were to transport them home, feared they would be lynched if they drove across the border. Niger authorities could not on Tuesday confirm details of the BBC report.

Thousands of sub-Saharan Africans have been repatriated after weeks of bloody violence during which Libyan mobs attacked and sometimes killed immigrant workers. A spokesman for the Niger community in Libya, the BBC said, reported that at least 150 of his compatriots had died. He said told a private radio station in Niamey that 200 members of the Niger community had been injured, 80 were missing and 38 had been arrested after the clashes.

Deaths and injuries were also reported among citizens of Chad, The Gambia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan.

The clashes started because of a dispute between Nigerian and Libyan drugs gangs.

Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi has this year been championing the idea of a United States of Africa and with it open borders for the continent's citizens. Because of its wealth, the policy has attracted migrant workers whose population swelled to about one million among six million Libyans, the BBC said.

GUINEA: Effort to provide food to refugees

Refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone who are camped in a corner of Guinea have gone for 45 days without food because poor security has hampered delivery of relief supplies.

"The major problem is food," Chris Ache, the resident representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Conakry, told IRIN on Tuesday. Some refugees have not received food aid since the end of August.

He said most of the needy refugees were around the town of Guekedou, about 400 km southeast of Conakry, near the borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ache said efforts were underway to conduct the delivery with a Guinean military escort.

[For full story see item 'GUINEA: Effort to provide food to refugees']

SIERRA LEONE: RUF may withdraw from diamond fields

Liberian President Charles Taylor has said Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels might be willing withdraw and allow UN peacekeepers to take control of diamond fields in the east of the country, Britain's ambassador to the UN said on Monday.

Fielding questions from reporters at UN headquarters in New York about the Security Council's Mission to Sierra Leone 9-12 September, Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said Taylor had suggested this to the mission "as firmly as he denied that he was dealing in diamonds and arms with the RUF".

Greenstock headed an 11-member delegation on a five-nation tour of West Africa that started on 7 October and included Liberia. He said Taylor could no longer "exploit the vacuum in Sierra Leone".

Taylor, who has close relations with the RUF, is widely seen in West Africa as the power behind the rebel group which in May reignited the nine-year civil war. Taylor, while not denying these links, denies controlling the group.

In its report to the Council, Greenstock's delegation acknowledged that Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo had recent contacts with the RUF, whose leaders showed their readiness to disarm after West African troops within the UN Mission to Sierra Leone are deployed to the diamond areas. Diamonds have been at the heart of Sierra Leone's war and the government has adopted a certificate of origin regime for rough stones that outlaws their sales outside proper channels.

The Economic Community of West African States, the foremost economic and political grouping in the region, supports dialogue with the RUF and the reconvening of the Joint Implementation Committee overseeing the Lome peace process.

SIERRA LEONE: President orders release of journalist

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has ordered the immediate release of the editor of the 'Wisdom' newspaper, Abdul Kuyateh, who was detained on 11 May and held without charge under emergency regulations, Sierra Leone Web reported on Monday.

Executives of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists met with Kabbah on Monday to plead for Kuyateh's release, 'Concord Times' newspaper publisher Kingsley Lington told Sierra Leone Web. Kuyateh was arrested after security forces found documents in the home of Revolutionary United Front leader Foday Sankoh, allegedly linking him "to covert dealings with the rebel leader", Sierra Leone Web said.

WEST AFRICA: Food insecurity worst in sub-Sahara Africa

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in its annual report released on Monday that food insecurity was worse in sub-Sahara Africa than anywhere in the world.

It said in 19 out of 46 sub-Saharan countries, the undernourished have an average deficit of more than 300 kilocalories per person per day. The FAO combined the estimates of both food prevalence and depth of hunger into five deprivation groups. Of the 23 countries in the most deprived group, 18 are in Africa.

[For full story see item 'WEST AFRICA: Food insecurity worst in sub-Sahara Africa']

WEST AFRICA: Polio vaccinations target 70 million children

International health officials are calling an effort to vaccinate 70 million children against polio in West and Central Africa, the region's largest public health initiative ever undertaken.

Health workers and hundreds of thousands of volunteers in 17 countries are taking part in the 10-day immunisation effort, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is part of a global initiative to eradicate the crippling disease by 2005. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) helped coordinate the regional endeavor, which was launched in Niger on 13 October.

The poliovirus was in 30 countries around the world at the end of 1999. Seventeen have had confirmed poliovirus transmission so far this year. At-risk countries synchronising their polio national immunisation days include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, The Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

[For full story see item 'WEST AFRICA: Polio vaccinations target 70 million children']

Abidjan, 17 October 2000; 18:06 GMT

[END]

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