Benin + 6 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 6 covering the period 05 - 11 Feb 2000

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SIERRA LEONE: Security Council expands UNAMSIL force to 11,100

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to expand the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to 11,100 military personnel and revised its mandate to include additional tasks, the world body said.

UNAMSIL will now provide security at key locations, government buildings, and sites being used in Sierra Leone's disarmament programme. The UN force will also help ensure the free flow of people and goods on specified routes, and coordinate with and help the local law enforcement authorities.

The Security Council has authorised UNAMSIL to "take the necessary action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel and to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence," Fred Eckhard, spokesman for the Secretary-General, told reporters in New York.

The Council also extended UNAMSIL's mandate for six months.

SIERRA LEONE: 2,000 more Nigerian troops for UNAMSIL

Nigeria will contribute 2,000 more troops to UNAMSIL from those currently serving with the West African Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) thereby doubling the number of its troops already attached to the UN force, the Nigerian army chief of staff, Major General Victor Malu said on Tuesday.

His announcement came at the end of two days of consultations with UNAMSIL on the withdrawal of Nigeria's troops from ECOMOG. The spokesman for ECOMOG, Lieutenant Chris Olukolade, said Abuja would resume its pullout on 13 April.

In New York, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations announced that it had started negotiations with ranking Nigerian officials on Monday on the incorporation of Nigerian ECOMOG troops and equipment in Sierra Leone into UNAMSIL.

Nigeria provided the bulk of ECOMOG. It informed the UN on 13 January that it would delay the withdrawal of its forces by 90 days to give the world body time to deploy its peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone.

In a related development, World Bank Vice President for External Affairs Mats Karlsson said in Freetown the bank had put up US $130 million to boost Sierra Leone's return to peace after its nine-year conflict. The cash is intended to give added impetus to the disarmament programme under a cease-fire reached in July 1999 between the RUF and the government.

SIERRA LEONE: Land mines pose limited problem, UN says

A United Nations investigation team in Sierra Leone has found that land mines pose a "limited problem" in the country which can be dealt with by the UN mission there, UNAMSIL, a spokeswoman for the Secretary-General said on Wednesday.

The UN Mine Action Service completed a week-long technical assessment mission on Sunday to determine the scope of the problem of land mines and unexploded ordnance in Sierra Leone, Maria Okabe told reporters in New York.

The team travelled to Kabala in the north of Sierra Leone and to Kenema and Daru in the east to investigate mines and unexploded ordnance.

Okabe said the team recommended that a mine action information and coordination centre be established as part of the peacekeeping operation.

According to Save Heritage and Rehabilitate the Environment (SHARE), a local NGO, a 12-year-old lost an eye last week after picking up a land mine at Yams Farm on the outskirts of Freetown. SHARE has repeatedly expressed concern over the lack of information on the whereabouts of mines laid during the conflict in Sierra Leone.

SIERRA LEONE: Limb-fitting equipment given to Handicap International

Handicap International (HI) has been given equipment to enable it to provide artificial limbs for ex-combatants who have gone through the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, according to an information bulletin published on 10 February by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR).

The equipment, valued at US $48,000, was donated by the British Department for International Development (DFID). It was handed over to HI on Tuesday by Sierra Leone President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on behalf of his government.

NCDDR cites a representative of the amputees, Muctarr Jalloh, as saying they needed help that would enable them to reduce their dependence on others.

SIERRA LEONE: More imported cereals needed this year

Sierra Leone will need to import 329,000 mt of cereals this year to make up for a shortfall and feed its roughly 4.5 million people, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said in a report 4 February. Estimated imports for 1999 were 290,000 mt, 13 percent less than at present.

During the seven-year war, farmers lost their seeds, implements and other assets. There was large-scale destruction of infrastructure and rural instructions. Farm families have been displaced and labour is scarce, FAO said.

[The report is available at http://www.fao.org/giews/ ]

AFRICA: Sahel-Saharan states sign security charter

A security charter aimed at preserving peace on both sides of the Sahara and rejecting force as a means of solving regional conflicts was signed on 5 February by the Community of Sahelo-Saharan States (COMESSA).

The 11 signatories included Djibouti, The Gambia and Senegal, which were admitted to the subregional body at a summit in Ndjamena, Chad, on 3-5 February. Other COMESSA members are Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Libya, Niger, Mali and Sudan.

AFP reported that COMESSA, founded at Libya's initiative in February 1998, is designed to promote economic, political and cultural integration within the region. The organisation's permanent headquarters will be in Bamako, Mali, while its next summit will be in Khartoum.

NIGERIA: Security alert at borders following arms find

Security agencies have stepped up their watch over Nigeria's seaports and borders following intelligence reports of plans to smuggle arms into the country on board a ship from Europe, 'The Guardian' reported on Monday.

The ship, which is said to contain more than 5,000 rifles as well as missiles and other explosives, berthed off the coast of Abidjan on 30 January so that the smugglers could investigate ways of entering Nigeria, according to the daily.

'The Guardian' reported that the Nigerian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) said that the arms might be used by militant ethnic groups to cause trouble.

In recent months, the Oodua People's Congress, a militant Yoruba group, has engaged Hausa residents of Lagos in violent clashes. Other militant ethnic groups have seized oil facilities and kidnapped oil workers in the volatile Niger Delta.

NIGERIA: Abacha loot put at US $4.3 billion

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said former military ruler General Sani Abacha stole some US $4.3 billion from the treasury and he restated his determination to recover all looted funds, 'The Guardian' said on Tuesday.

Obasanjo, who began an official visit to France on Sunday, told reporters in Paris that the Abacha family directly siphoned some US $2.3 billion from the treasury, while another US $1 billion went into contracts which either did not exist or were inappropriately awarded to members of the family and their friends.

Nigeria recently filed a formal application to the Swiss government to recover more than US $550 million dollars frozen in bank accounts linked to the former military ruler.

WEST AFRICA: Nigeria signs gas supply pact with neighbours

Nigeria has signed an agreement to supply Benin, Ghana and Togo with natural gas to meet their energy needs, 'The Guardian' reported. During the project's first phase, Nigeria is expected to export 50 million standard cubic feet of gas per day to the other three countries by the year 2002.

CHAD: France grants 17.6 million euro for drainage systems

Chad and the French aid agency, Agence francaise de developpement (AFP), signed a 17.6-million-euro (US $17.48 million) deal on Wednesday to build drains in the rain-flooded southern towns of Moundou and Sarah, and in Ndjamena.

The official French news agency, AFP, reported that 5.4 million euros ($5.36 million) would go to improving sanitation in the western provinces of Lac and Kanem.

This is the first time the AFD has given money for the health sector, in line with its new duties following the reorganisation of French development aid, AFP said.

SENEGAL: Election campaign begins

Campaigning for Senegal's presidential elections on 27 February got off to a calm start on 6 February, news reports said.

The strongest of the seven candidates challenging the incumbent, Abdou Diouf, who has ruled Senegal since January 1981, is Abdoulaye Wade, a five-time presidential challenger. Wade heads a six-party opposition bloc known as Coalition pour l'Alternance 2000 (CA-2000) that includes his Parti democratique senegalais.

Diouf, who is on the ticket of the Parti socialiste, will also face his one-time information and interior minister, Djibo Ka, backed by the Union pour le Renouveau democratique. Other contenders include Moustapha Niasse, head of the Alliance des Forces de Progres, and former education minister Iba Der Thiam, head of the CDP/Garab-Gui party.

Abidjan, 11 February 2000; 15:15 GMT

[ENDS]

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