IRIN Update 851 of events in West Africa
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
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LIBERIA: Women to prosecute rapists
Expanded powers have been granted to female attorneys in Liberia to prosecute rape cases, following pressure by lawyers and women's rights groups who argued that assaults on women were going unpunished.
The state retains the authority to prosecute all criminal cases in the country, but the Justice Ministry empowered the Association of Female Lawyers in Liberia (AFELL) to work with state lawyers in prosecuting rape cases.
"We have been having a lot of rape cases here, so we saw it was necessary to prosecute the assailants," Elizabeth Boyenneh, a lawyer and president of AFELL, told IRIN on Monday.
She said the group was handling four cases, including one involving the alleged rape of a six-year-old girl. Many people, however, are too ashamed to come forward to report rapes and an increasing number of attacks appear to be perpetrated against children, she said.
AFELL's clinic offers free legal services to victims of sexual and gender-based violence. The association is campaigning for a bill that would give equal inheritance and property rights to women in Liberia.
The group played a role in the installation of the first juvenile court in the capital, Monrovia.
NIGER: Opposition suspends protests
A coalition of opposition parties in Niger warned the government on Sunday it would resume street protests on 6 January against its members' exclusion from public sector jobs, news sources told IRIN.
Supporters of the coalition of 14 parties suspended their demonstration until after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that begins on 27 November. One news source said the capital, Niamey, was calm on Monday, a day after some 1,000 demonstrators tried to march to the presidency. They were stopped by a police cordon some 800 metres from the building.
The coalition - calling itself the Coordination des forces democratique - handed its list of complaints to the director of the cabinet at the president's office, Mahamane Sani Mallam. The news source said the opposition decried what it said was discrimination of opposition members by the government and the government's undermining of "certain state institutions".
The demonstration was led by Mohamadou Issoufou, leader of the coalition and of the Parti nigerien pour la democrtie et le socialisme.
NIGER: Government frees 239 Muslim militants
Police in Niger have released 239 Muslim militants arrested almost two weeks ago during protests against a fashion show opposed by some local Islamic leaders, a news source told IRIN on Monday.
He said the militants were freed on Friday but "a certain number" of over 400 people arrested would appear in court on charges of inciting riots. The militants were opposed to the International Festival of African Fashions held on the banks of the Niger River 10-13 November, calling the event "satanic", new reports said.
COTE D'IVOIRE: UN special envoy to visit
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is sending his special envoy to Cote d'Ivoire for high-level talks aimed at restoring stability in the country following post-election violence in October that claimed at least 170 lives.
The envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, will travel to Abidjan from 21-25 November for talks with Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, other senior government officials, political party leaders, security forces and civil society groups, spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Friday.
The aim of the trip is to help Cote d'Ivoire "restore stability and the rule of law as the country pursues its democratisation process", Eckhard said. Legislative elections are scheduled for 10 December.
The decision to send Brahimi to Abidjan follows talks Annan had held with a presidential delegation from Cote d'Ivoire earlier in November.
SIERRA LEONE: New UNAMSIL commander arrives
The new Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), Lt-Gen Daniel Opande, arrived in Freetown on Saturday, saying he expected cooperation with all sides to restore peace.
"I have trust in all parties in the conflict," he said, according to the BBC.
Opande arrived with his British chief of staff, Brigadier Alistair Duncan, UNAMSIL spokeswoman Hirut Befacadu told IRIN on Monday. She said Opande's deputy, Nigeria's Maj-Gen Martin Agwai, was due sometime near the weekend.
Opande and Duncan replace outgoing Force Commander Maj-Gen Vijay Jetley of India and Deputy Force Commander Brig-Gen Mohammed Garba of Nigeria. India and Jordan have announced the pull out of their forces from Sierra Leone by the end of December. This will create a sizable shortfall in the 13,000-man UN contingent. UNAMSIL said in a briefing published on Friday that it had information that Pakistan and South Africa might offer troops.
SIERRA LEONE: State carrier resumes flights
Sierra Leone Airlines has resumed flights after years of suspension prompted by the country's civil war, Managing Director Joseph Kammandah told IRIN on Tuesday.
"People didn't believe we could do it, given all the problems the country has had," he said.
The airline started flights to Banjul, The Gambia, on 12 November and on the following day to London Gatwick, via Las Palmas, the Canary Islands. The carrier is using a 141-seat Boeing 727-200 acquired under a joint venture deal with Nova Gulf of Dubai, the aviation branch of the ETA Ascon Group trading company.
Sierra Leone Airlines will also be flying to Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, once a week and to Lagos, Nigeria.
GHANA: Kumasi rid of garbage
KUMASI, Ghana's second city, has got rid of mountains of garbage which in recent months led to an outbreak of cholera that threatened its 399,300 residents, the 'Daily Graphic' of Accra reported on Monday.
President Jerry Rawlings inspected the outcome of the clean-up on Saturday, the result of a 10-billion-cedi (US $1.4 million) government grant to the city.
Ashanti Regional Minister Samuel Donkor told reporters that over the past year, Kumasi had been engulfed by filth because of inefficient waste management. City officials, he said, sought central government help and were able to clear the 135,000 mt of garbage in three months. So far, 50 refuse receptacles have been placed in various parts of the city to prevent a recurrence of garbage heaps.
BENIN: Effort to spread information on health
The Association of Health Communicators in Africa (l'Association des communicateurs en sante de l'Afrique, ASCA) has set up a branch in Benin.
Its aim is to promote health development education among Beninese through mass communications, PANA reported on Saturday.
Reine Azifan, a journalist who specialises in covering health issues for the daily 'La Nation', was elected president of the association's Benin chapter. The ASCA was created in 1995.
Abidjan, 20 November 2000; 17:27 GMT
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