Burkina Faso + 5 more

IRIN Update 977 of events in West Africa

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News and Press Release
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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

SIERRA LEONE: Rebels release over 100 child soldiers

Sierra Leonean rebels have released 154 child soldiers following a ceasefire and disarmament agreement reached on Tuesday, AFP reported, quoting Ibrahim Sesay, local director of the Roman Catholic aid agency, CARITAS. Sesay said 142 of the children were released near the northern rebel-held town of Makeni.

On Thursday the UN Mission in Sierra Leone said 115 child soldiers had been released by Tuesday.

AFP reported Sesay as saying some of the children needed medical care. "We are planning to bring those in poor shape to Freetown for surgery," he said.

BURKINA FASO: Child traffickers arrested

Gendarmes in Fada n'Gourma, 222 km east of Ouagadougou, arrested seven suspected child traffickers on 13 May on their way to neighbouring Benin with 23 children aged 11 to 14 years. The traffickers, who are awaiting trial, told the gendarmes they were taking the children to work in cottonfields.

Captain Djibril Lalle, commander of the gendarmes in Fada, told IRIN the children said they were each promised a bicycle and the equivalent of US $90 at the end of the cotton season. Most came from the departments of Tambarga and Mondjoari, located in the mountainous areas on the border with Benin, Lalle said. They have been taken back to their parents.

[See separate item titled 'BURKINA FASO: Child traffickers arrested']

CAMEROON: EU to probe rights abuses

The European Union is to investigate reports of torture, disappearances and executions that allegedly took place last year in Cameroon, the EU parliament reported on Thursday. It said an EU team would also examine the role a special crime fighting unit - the Operational Command - had in the abuses. The team would meet representatives of the government and offer technical aid to bring the accused to trial, it said.

The EU's decision to probe Cameroon followed an outcry by local and international human rights NGOs sparked by the disappearance of nine boys on 28 January, five days after they were arrested in Douala by the Operational Command.

CHAD: Presidential polls

Chadians are due to decide on Sunday which of seven presidential candidates will run their country for the next five years. Incumbent President Idriss Deby, who seized power in 1990, won elections in 1996 against most of the candidates running against him on Sunday.

The foremost challenger is the current speaker of the National Assembly and leader of the Union pour le renouveau et la democratie, General Wadal Abdelkader Kamougue, who won 30 percent in the 1996 run-off. Saleh Kebzabo, who came in third in 1996, was demoted from the Ministry of Agriculture after he announced his candidacy. Another contender, Kassire Koumakoye, served as Deby's prime minister in the early 1990's and also ran in 1996. His rassemblement national pour la democratie et le progres has no seat in parliament.

The other candidates are Oumar Saleh of the Parti pour la liberte et le developpement, Jean Bawoyeu of the Union pour la Democratie et la republique, and Ngarledjy Yorongar of the Federation action pour la republique.

The campaign, which closed on Saturday, had been marred by intimidation and violence, media organisations reported. On 3 May, all six opposition candidates signed an agreement to transfer their votes to the challenger, should one of their number face Deby in the second round.

NIGERIA: Communities want oil damage assessment

Residents of the oil town of Warri, in Nigeria's Delta State, have called for a damage assessment investigation into an oil spill in April at Chevron Corp's installations in their area, 'The Vanguard', a local newspaper, reported on Friday.

The Lagos daily reported residents of the north and southwest of the city as saying that damage had been done to bodies of water and infrastructure such as canals and dams. In a letter to Chevron, the area's local government councils said the federal and state ministries of the environment, residents and Chevron should form the investigating team, the daily reported.

In a similar development, people living in Umuakuni, Rivers State, say they oppose a proposed plan by the Shell Petroleum Development Company to build a waste-recycling facility in the area, 'The Guardian' reported on Friday.

The spokesman for the communities, Kosarim Nwuke, said they did not want a repeat of the damage caused when Shell dumped industrial waste in the Otamiri River, in the 1980s, destroying aquatic life and depriving communities of their main livelihood.

"The adverse environmental impact will be enormous because it will affect the fragile eco-system of the Niger-Delta region," Nwuke said.

Relations between foreign oil companies and communities of the oil-producing Niger-Delta region have deteriorated over the past few years. The communities have been denouncing exploitation and environmental degradation, and demanding more development projects.

LIBERIA: FAO, Monrovia sign forestry deal

Liberia and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization have signed a US $263,000 agreement to improve the country's Forestry Development Authority and a national forestry programme. Under the programme, signed on the weekend of 12 May, FAO will help train staff of, and provide institutional support for the authority's offices in the towns of Sanniquellie, Zwedru, Tubmanburg and Greenville. The agreement was signed by Agriculture Minister Roland Massaquoi and FAO Representative Castro Camarada.

AFRICA: FAO, Sahel-Saharan states in cooperation deal

The Community of Sahel-Saharian States (CEN-SAD) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have signed a cooperation agreement under the agency's special programme to enhance food security, the Rome-based UN body reported on Thursday.

Areas covered under the agreement include assessment of natural resources with a view to promoting food security, rural development, desertification control and environmental protection, FAO reported. The agreement also emphasises the importance of information exchange, particularly on techniques to control desertification and partnerships for staff training.

CEN-SAD comprises Burkina Faso, Chad, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, The Gambia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia. It was established in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on 4 February 1998 for the promotion of peace and for the rural, social and economic development of the region.

The Special Programme for Food Security, set up by FAO in 1994, operates in 62 countries.

Abidjan, 18 May 2001; 17:45 GMT

[ENDS]

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