IRIN Update 682 of events in West Africa

Report
from The New Humanitarian
Published on 23 Mar 2000
UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
Tel: +225 22-40-4440
Fax: +225 22-40-4435
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

SIERRA LEONE: NGO abductees "doing fine"

Two staff members from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) who were abducted earlier this month and left by the roadside in a serious condition are now "doing fine", ADRA's country director, Prince Cummings, said on Tuesday.

Aaron Kargbo and Aruna Sherrif were returning to Port Loko on a motorcycle from Freetown when they were ambushed, abducted, and held overnight. UN peacekeepers found the two men the following day at the side of the road. Kargbo had sustained bullet wounds to his leg and other injuries and Sherrif had body injuries, ADRA reported.

"It is not certain why the two men were targeted but, according to Aaron and Aruna, the attackers claimed they wanted food and other benefits," Cummings said.

Port Loko, some 55 km north of Freetown, is a centre for the rehabilitation of former fighters. ADRA, in partnership with two other local NGOs, has been asked by the rehabilitation and resettlement wing of the government to be responsible for 1,500 families of ex-combatants.

SIERRA LEONE: Food distribution to 4,400 vulnerable people

During the past week an inter-agency team spearheaded by CARE provided 67 mt of food and non-food items to just over 4,400 vulnerable individuals in Masanga, some 25 km southeast of Makeni, the NGO reported on Wednesday.

It is the first time in 18 months that humanitarian agencies have distributed commodities in this area as operations have been constrained by insecurity and fear of looting by rebel elements, CARE said.

"This distribution is considered extremely important given a substantially large number of the identified beneficiaries are lepers who do not ... have survival coping mechanisms that others may have," CARE said.

CARE, World Vision, WFP and ADRA registered beneficiaries and distributed the food, CARE reported.

A source from CARE told IRIN it was hoped that further commodity distributions, including food for agriculture and food for work, would start "incrementally northwards and eastwards of Masanga".

The source said such interventions would depend on follow-up verifications by international agencies to ensure that RUF rebels do not force the targeted beneficiaries to give them the food.

SIERRA LEONE: Ex-child combatants involved in security incident

A camp some 15 km west of Freetown that houses former child soldiers was attacked with machetes and stones by some 10-15 area residents on Tuesday evening, a humanitarian source told IRIN.

"A minor trigger escalated into quite a serious security incident but now the situation is calm," UNICEF's representative in Sierra Leone, Joanna van Gerpen, said on Thursday.

Three residents of Lakka Camp were injured during the incident, one was burned after falling into a fire, and two suffered lacerations, UNICEF said, adding that they had not received any reports of casualties among locals. Forces from the UN Mission in Sierra Leone and ECOMOG intervened during the night and by Wednesday morning the situation was under control but still tense.

The clash was triggered by a minor car accident involving a camp member and a car driven by local people who blamed the former child soldier for the crash and attacked him. Following a retaliatory attack by friends of the victim on two members of the local community, the camp was attacked.

International workers and NGOs who operate in the camp have been meeting with community leaders to try to resolve the underlying tension which led to the confrontation. One possible explanation, van Gerpen said, was that the former combatants are viewed with resentment by some members of the community as they lead a relatively privileged existence within the camp, having shelter and regular meals.

LIBERIA: Government lifts ban on Radio Veritas

Liberia's Information Ministry announced on Wednesday that the suspension of the Roman Catholic station Radio Veritas had been lifted with "immediate effect", a government official told IRIN.

The announcement followed a meeting between senior government officials and the board of Radio Veritas at which it was agreed that both sides would be "available to exchange views on issues of a controversial nature to ensure balanced and factual reporting".

The ministry said that it would do nothing to "muzzle freedom of the press" but urged the media to "operate within the statutory laws of Liberia".

The information ministry official said the issue of Star radio, which the government closed down one week ago - at the same time that it suspended Radio Veritas - would be resolved through "diplomatic channels".

A diplomatic source in Monrovia told IRIN that this was because President Taylor had been contacted by many countries that fund Star radio, including the United States which reportedly said it owned some of the equipment confiscated when the station was closed.

SENEGAL: Provisional results give Wade 58.5% of the votes

Provisional results of Senegal's presidential polls confirm that opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade stormed to victory with 58.5 percent, or 968,526 of the ballots, against 41.5 percent for President Abdou Diouf, leader of the Parti socialiste.

The results, released on Wednesday and printed in the official daily newspaper, 'Le Soleil', put the voter turnout at 1.67 million, or 60.77 percent of the electorate.

This marks the first time in Senegal's 40-year post-independence history that an opposition party has won power. Eight other parties rallied around Wade and his Parti democratique senegalais to rout his long-time foe.

PS electoral spokesman Ababacar Sall said the party would not challenge the results. Under the electoral laws, if the results go unchallenged, the Constitutional Court must declare the final results three days after receiving the provisional figures from the Court of Appeal.

NIGERIA: Police arrest pipeline fire suspects

Police in Abia State in southeastern Nigeria have arrested dozens of suspects in connection with a pipeline fire that killed at least 50 people on Wednesday, news organisations reported.

Some 45 people are accused of vandalising the pipeline which caught fire as thieves tried to siphon petrol for illegal sale. Charred bodies of the victims, including women and children, burnt clothing, jerry cans, bicycles and motorbikes, were found at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines at Nnejiji and Umugbede in Isioma Ngwa local council area, 'The Guardian' reported.

The state police commisioner said that a number of items were recovered from the suspects, including three oil tanker vehicles, five minibuses, three cars, pumping machines, and jerry cans filled with fuel. He blamed the intermittent fuel shortages in the southeastern states on the "persistent vandalisation of NNPC oil piplines in the zone", the daily reported.

This is not an isolated incident. In 1998, a pipeline fire killed some 1,000 people in Jesse, Delta State. After this tragedy, which was also blamed on sabotage, prominent Nigerians called on the federal government to act to avoid similar events. However, in late 1999 another pipeline burst in Ughelli South, Delta State, leaving a dozen people dead. The owners of the pipeline, the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), said that it, too, had been vandalised.

According to 'The Guardian', the local communities, represented by the Urhobo National Assembly, have called for 100 billion naira (US $980.39 million) compensation "for the destruction of the the entire ecosystem and destruction of vital natural resources handed down from many generations".

SAHEL: Record cereal production expected

Record cereal harvests for 1999 have been projected for nine arid West African countries, following a joint evaluation mission by the FAO and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS).

Documents published after a regional meeting held on 6-9 March evaluating food production in the Sahel puts the region's aggregate cereal production at 11.5 million mt, an increase of 8 percent over 1998. Six CILSS member countries had record harvests: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal. Niger's production remained close to its previous record of 1998 whereas Chad's is expected to have dropped by 9 percent in the same period. Guinea-Bissau produced less than in 1998 due to a military revolt there.

Millet accounted for 47 percent of the 1999 cereal production, sorghum 27 percent, rice 14 percent, maize 10 percent and others 2 percent. The cereal production in Sahelian countries has risen steadily over the past 15 years. However, in each of the nine countries, some areas recorded food shortfalls, due to floods which swept through the region last year.

AFRICA: Libya, Chad, Niger sign security agreement

Libya, Chad and Niger on Wednesday signed an agreement on security cooperation, Libyan television reported in Tripoli.

The aim is to ensure security and stability, improve development and open prospects of communications among the peoples of the region, the television station said.

The border areas between Libya and its two southern neighbours have long been insecure. Chad and Liyba fought a war in the 1980s over the Aouzou strip, a band of territory located on their common border, Chadian government troops have been battling against insurgents in the north over the past six months and rebel groups also operated in the 1990s in
northern Niger.

Abidjan, 23 March 2000; 18:40 GMT

[ENDS]

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