IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 47 covering the period 18 - 24 Nov 2000

from IRIN
Published on 24 Nov 2000
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GUINEA-BISSAU: General Mane surrenders to loyalist forces

Former military strongman General Ansumane Mane surrendered on Friday to forces loyal to Guinea-Bissau's government, according to radio reports and sources in Bissau.

Portuguese radio reported the head of Guinea-Bissau's air force, António Milcíades, as saying that Mane had been located and was in the hands of government troops. This was also reported on national radio, humanitarian sources in Bissau told IRIN.

The sources said Mane had been found in Quinhamel, some 40 km outside of Bissau. The government of Guinea-Bissau announced that it intended to hand him over to the UN mission in Bissau and that it wanted him "repatriated" to The Gambia.

Mane was born in The Gambia. His father was Gambian and his mother was from Guinea-Bissau. He fought in Guinea-Bissau's liberation war against Portugal and became chief of staff of the armed forces in 1986, under the presidency of Joao Bernardo Vieira.

However, he launched a mutiny against Vieira in June 1998, overthrew him in May 1999, and was co-president of a transitional government that ran the country between May 1999 and January 2000, when President Kumba Yala was elected.

Mane sparked a crisis on Monday when he revoked promotions made by Yala, announced the dismissal of armed forces chief of staff Verissimo Correia Seabra, and proclaimed himself head of the armed forces.

Loyalist forces regained control of Bissau after clashes with Mane supporters on Wednesday and Thursday.

Thousands of residents fled the capital this week. A humanitarian source said he saw many people with bundles on their heads walking along the road just outside his home that leads out of Bissau. They started trickling back on Thursday, he said.

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 18 November, saying he expected cooperation with all sides to restore peace.

"I have trust in all parties in the conflict," the BBC reported him as saying.

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 later in the week.

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.

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. It will also be flying to Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, once a week and to Lagos, Nigeria.

LIBERIA: Intense fighting reported

Liberian officials said they were mobilising troops to support units fighting a rebel incursion in the northeastern county of Nimba, PANA reported on Thursday.

The government said on Tuesday that dissidents had entered the area, located about 300 km from the capital, Monrovia, but it was unclear if they crossed the border from Guinea or Cote d'Ivoire.

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest incursion. Liberia and Guinea have persistenly accused each other of harbouring dissidents.

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 has empowered the Association of Female Lawyers in Liberia (AFELL) to work with state lawyers in prosecuting rape cases.

GUINEA: Yellow fever continues to claim many lives

At least 88 people have died from yellow fever in an unusual outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease in central Guinea.

The epidemic is centred in the area of Mamou, about 200 km east of the capital, Conakry, a doctor with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Conakry told IRIN on Friday.

He said medical workers had already vaccinated 100,000 people in Mamou and aimed to innoculate nearly 200,000 more in the short term. The population is also receiving information about the disease and on the use of mosquito nets.

The doctor said it was the first yellow fever outbreak of such severity in the region and an investigation was underway. He attributed the outbreak to large population movements and ecological changes.

There have also been yellow fever outbreaks in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone this year. All three countries are characterized by instability, high numbers of internally displaced persons or refugees and environmental degradation. The city of Mamou is located about 30 km north of the border with Sierra Leone, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are camped.

GUINEA: Red Cross seeks funding for refugees

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has appealed for financial and material help for some 140,000 refugees in Guinea over the next three months.

The Federation said on Tuesday that it needed at least US $209,000.

Immediate support is required to begin the transfer of some 80,000 refugees in camps near the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone, and to help others living in towns. Other needs include arranging an office in Kissidougou for the Federation and the Guinean Red Cross.

GUINEA: US officials visit refugee camps

UNHCR officials have taken representatives of the US State Department to visit refugee camps in Guinea. The team travelled to Forecariah Prefecture in the southwest, UNHCR said on Tuesday.

Protection staff from the refugee agency had found in earlier visits to camps in Forecariah that although roadblocks set up by Guinean militias had been dismantled, the security of the refugees had not improved significantly. "Refugees venturing outside the camps continued to be harassed," a UNHCR spokesman said.

More than 450,000 refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia are camped in Guinea.

CHAD: Fifty die in dispute over well

At least 50 people died on Tuesday and many more were injured in fighting between rival cattle-herding groups in the central Chadian province of Batha, according to news reports.

The battles over ownership of a well took place in Djedaa, some 428 km northeast of the capital, between the Khouzam and Walat Rachid communities. The BBC reported that tension had been building for months over control of the well, and that the fighting erupted despite repeated efforts by officials to settle the dispute.

Troops have been sent to the area, the BBC said.

CHAD: No forced recruitment in Sarh, government says

Chad's government denied on Wednesday a report that its military was forcibly recruiting young people in Sarh, some 500 km southeast of the capital. "This is totally false," Issa Ibrahim Kedela, the director of cabinet at the Ministry of Communication, told IRIN. The Missionary Service News Agency, MISNA, quoted unnamed civil society sources as saying that young people in the town were living in fear. MISNA said "a large group" of students fled after seeing an army recruitment truck near their school.

CHAD: Government appeals for food aid

The government of Chad has appealed to the international community for urgent food aid to help offset a crop shortfall. Foreign Affairs Minister Mahamat Saleh Annadif made the appeal on 16 November, citing poor rainfall for the lack of crops, according to the Chadian Press Agency. The worst affected regions are Biltine in the east, Kanem in the west and the central area of Batha, news reports said.

MAURITANIA: Opposition members to be held for one month

Six members of the banned Union des forces democratiques-Ere nouvelle (UFD-EN) in Mauritania are to be held in preventive detention for one month pending investigations. The detainees, who were arrested last week, are being held for "disturbing public order", AFP reported on Tuesday.

Security forces and demonstrators clashed several times earlier in the month during protests against the banning of the UFD-EN. The government said it banned the party for "inciting violence" and "actions against the interest of the state".

Protesters have also called on the government to cut diplomatic ties with Israel. Mauritania established relations with Israel in 1999.

GHANA: Voters' register revised

The Electoral Commission in Ghana has released its revised voters' register for the 7 December presidential election, the Ghana News Agency reported on Tuesday. About one million names have been added to the updated list and 133,373 have been removed. There are now 10,706,037 registered voters. The list was revised to allow those who had not registered to do so, including people who had just reached the legal voting age of 18.

Meanwhile, the commission said on Monday that all voters must carry photo identification cards to be able to take part in the election.

NIGERIA: Violence against women

Increasing violence against women has prompted the Legal Defence and Assistance Project in Nigeria to propose a bill that deems such abuse a violation of women's human rights, 'The Guardian' newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The organisation's national coordinator, Chinonye Obiagwu, said in Lagos at the drafting conference for the Domestic Violence Bill that it was needed because abused women were often too ashamed to seek legal redress.

NIGERIA: Environmental bill becomes law

Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu on Tuesday signed into law a bill that makes it an offence to litter the streets or run a private refuse collection business unless registered by the correct local government authority, according to local news reports.

Violators of the Environmental Sanitation Bill will be fined between 2,000 naira and 100,000 naira (US $17.81 and $890) if they litter public places, dump vehicle parts on the road and do not put their refuse in secured bags. City residents will also be fined for failing to clean drains in front of their homes. Restaurants, hotels, stores and schools will be fined for dirty toilets.

NIGERIA: Forestation plan unveiled

Nigeria plans to spend 11 billion naira (US $98 million) a year on an expanded forestation programme to halt the desert that is advancing southward by 15 km a year, the minister responsible for solid minerals, Kanu Agabi announced. "At that rate it will not be long before the entire nation ceases to be habitable," he said.

TOGO: Probe into alleged killings moves to Benin

An international commission probing post-election violence in mid-1998 in Togo that allegedly left hundreds of people dead continued its investigations this week. The commissioners are from the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). They spent three days in Togo before moving on to Benin, where bodies reportedly washed ashore after the 1998 presidential poll, whose results were contested by the Togolese opposition.

"They (the commissioners) have been very quiet" on the investigation so far, Napoleon Abdulai, of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Lome, told IRIN on Tuesday. He said the commission would spend at least three days in Benin.

BENIN: Doctors perform surgery offshore

Doctors aboard the US ship "Anastasis" will be carrying out facial operations over the next six months on about 1,000 people from Benin, Togo and Nigeria. The project is managed by the nongovernmental organisation Mercyships and the operations are free of charge, a Benin Health Ministry official told IRIN on Tuesday.

The doctors aim to heal facial defects that in many communities can lead to isolation and ostracism. The ship has been docked off Benin's commercial capital of Cotonou since 8 November.

COTE D'IVOIRE: National reconciliation committee installed

President Laurent Gbagbo on Monday inaugurated a committee to bring about national reconciliation in Cote d'Ivoire. The Comite de mediation pour la reconciliation nationale was created following bloody post-election violence that killed more than 170 people in late October. Its 29 members include religious leaders, traditional chiefs, civil society representatives and academics.

NIGER: Opposition suspends protests

A coalition of 14 opposition parties in Niger warned the government on 19 November that it would resume street protests on 6 January against its members' exclusion from public sector jobs, news sources told IRIN.

The Coordination des forces democratiques suspended its 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 on the presidency. They were stopped by a police cordon some 800 metres from the building.

Meanwhile police released on 17 November 239 Muslim militants arrested almost two weeks ago during protests against an international fashion festival opposed by some local Islamic leaders, a news source told IRIN on Monday. However, the source said, a number of people will appear in court on charges of inciting riots.

MALI: Military operation against bandits

The Malian military this week carried out an operation to clear the northern region of Kidal of armed bandits, an army information officer told IRIN. Sub-Lt Aboubakar Tapo declined to give details of the operation. However, AFP quoted a civilian from Kidal as saying he saw an unspecified number of wounded being taken to hospital.

The army has been trying for months to dislodge the bandits from the area.

Abidjan, 24 November 2000; 16:25 GMT


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