Burkina Faso + 11 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 9 covering the period 26 Feb - 03 Mar 2000

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News and Press Release
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Originally published
UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
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e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

NIGERIA: Red Cross societies delivery food, medicines to riot victims

The Nigerian Red Cross, supported by the ICRC and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, started distributing relief supplies to victims of religious riots in the northern city of Kaduna on 28 February. The societies said they planned to give some 10,000 family rations per day to the estimated 80,000 people seeking refuge in 11 locations that include army and police barracks. Medical supplies are being delivered to city hospitals that have admitted 738 wounded, the ICRC said.

NIGERIA: Sharia suspended in northern states

Relative calm has been restored to Kaduna as federal troops and police keep order and the National Council of State (NCS) decided on Tuesday to suspend the implementation of Sharia law in northern states. Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar said the decision was in the best interest of national security. Attending the council meeting were the governors of Zamrara - who in January was the first to implement Sharia - Niger, Bauchi, Kaduna, Ogun, Plateau, Anambra and Rivers states. However, AFP reported that the northern states of Zamfara, Kebbi and Sokoto decided on Wednesday to ignore the accord.

NIGERIA: President calls for reconciliation after religious riots

President Olusegun Obasanjo appealed to Nigerians on Wednesday for reconciliation following the sectarian violence that left nearly 1,000 people dead.

"We must rid ourselves of the mentality of murderousness that stems from fear and suspicion of the other person. We must rediscover the value of dialogue," he said.

Fighting in the northern city of Kaduna began on 21 February following a march organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to protest the proposed introduction of Islamic law in the state of Kaduna. The clashes in the state capital, in which at least 400 were killed, created fear between people who formerly lived as neighbours. Some, mainly southerners, fled the city.

Christians in Kaduna, a city which they share with Muslims in almost equal numbers, have called for a separate state. Meanwhile, Christian youth in the southeast of the country carried out reprisals against northern Muslims in the area. In the worst incident, Christian Igbos in the southeastern town of Aba killed about 400 Hausas, the media reported.

The vice-president of CAN, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, has blamed the government's failure to take a firm stand against the implementation of Sharia for the riots. Obasanjo has placed the failure on the shoulders of Nigeria's religious leaders.

"One thing is clear, Christianity or Islam, whatever religion we proclaim our leaders have failed," he said during a tour of Kaduna on Monday.

SIERRA LEONE: Zambian battalion for UNAMSIL

Zambia has accepted a request for a battalion of its troops to serve in the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), a UN official told IRIN. The soldiers, which the official 'Times of Zambia' reported on Wednesday would number 800, are expected to deploy by May. Other countries with soldiers already on the ground are Guinea, Ghana, India, Kenya and Nigeria. The UN also has 22 military observers of various nationalities in Sierra Leone.

SIERRA LEONE: Sankoh returns to Freetown

Former Sierra Leone rebel leader Foday Sankoh, who left the country in defiance of a UN Security Council travel ban, returned to Freetown on 29 February, a UN spokesman said in New York.

Sankoh had travelled to South Africa but his visa was withdrawn on 19 February after the UN Security Council Committee on Sanctions determined that he had violated the ban imposed in June 1998 on leading members of the RUF and the former military junta, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).

Sankoh has rejected allegations that his recent visit to South Africa was to buy arms in exchange for diamonds.

Information Minister Julius Spencer told IRIN on Tuesday that Sankoh had told the government of Sierra Leone that he would produce evidence proving that his trip to South Africa was for medical reasons.

SIERRA LEONE: De Beers pledges to sell "rebel free" diamonds

Diamond mining conglomerate De Beers pledged on Tuesday to sell only diamonds which it can guarantee do not come from rebel areas, company spokesperson Tracey Peterson told IRIN.

The objective of the undertaking, she said, was to support international efforts to bring peace to African countries in conflict and to ensure that the legitimate diamond industry was not undermined by the small minority of diamonds used by rebel movements to fund their activities.

SIERRA LEONE: UNHCR should be cautious on refugee repatriation

Refugees International (RI) recommended on Wednesday that UNHCR "proceed slowly" in determining whether or not to repatriate the 500,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Guinea and Liberia, arguing that the country was ill-prepared to accommodate large numbers of returnees.

Very few Sierra Leoneans have returned home, RI said, fearing rebel attacks and continued unrest in the countryside. In addition, RI said that the refugees had "little to go home to" as social services came to a virtual standstill during the conflict.

RI also made a number of recommendations for refugees in neighbouring countries including a call for "UNHCR to increase its protection staff in refugee camps in Guinea" and for WFP and UNHCR to monitor assistance levels in the camps to assure that refugees are receiving at least the minimum standard of food rations.

COTE D'IVOIRE: UNHCR repatriates 11,000 Liberians since August 99

UNHCR has repatriated nearly 11,000 Liberian refugees from Cote d'Ivoire since August 1999, the agency's office in Abidjan announced. During the first two months of this year just over 2,000 refugees were helped to return home, UNHCR said.

The repatriation of Liberian refugees from Cote d'Ivoire was unaffected by the violence that erupted in Liberia's northern Lofa County in August 1999. UNHCR cites the Ivorian government as saying that there were about 140,000 refugees in the country as of 31 December 1999. Most of them are Liberian, UNHCR said.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Twenty-three mine fatalities since June 1998

Although the war has ended mines continue to maim and kill. Twenty-three fatalities and 14 other incidents caused by mines and unexploded ordnance have been reported since June 1998, OCHA quoted ANDES, a local NGO, as saying in its latest update covering the period 16 January to 20 February.

HUMAID will buy protective gear and provide demining training from a US $35,000 British grant. The NGO will seek more resources to launch a publicity campaign and to buy anti-fragmentation suits, gloves and vehicles for demining teams.

Meanwhile, Handicap International, a French NGO, is visiting Bissau to examine potential help to local centres for disabled and mine victims, OCHA said.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Project to prevent malnutrition initiated

WFP has started a project to improve the nutritional status among groups considered at high risk of malnutrition, OCHA reported. The aim is to target directly those groups considered to be "vulnerable."

The elderly above the age of 60, disabled people and orphans and abandoned children are among those who are defined as "vulnerable groups" in accordance with the project's criteria.

GUINEA-BISSAU: FAO recovers 100 mt of rice seed

FAO recovered some 100 mt of rice seed from multiplication centres following a joint mission with WFP to the southern regions of Quinara and Tombali on 22 February, the report said.OCHA said that the seeds will be distributed to farmers in the coming agricultural year.

CAMEROON: UN expert reports widespread and systematic torture

The use of torture by Cameroonian law enforcement officials is "widespread and systematic" according to an expert of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

In a report just released ahead of the next session of the commission in March, Nigel Rodley, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, said he reached his conclusion after meeting last May "people who still showed signs of what could only have been recent physical torture, as well as many others whose testimonies convincingly alleged torture at the time of the first arrest".

However, Rodley said that in a move to halt the abuses the authorities had criminalised torture and had given the ICRC permission to visit detention centres.

CAMEROON: Anti-secessionist association reemerges

The anti-secessionist Anglophone SouthWest Elite Association (SWELA) has reemerged to oppose a group from Western Cameroon that wants independence for the former British-run territory, AFP quoted 'The Herald' newspaper as saying on Thursday.

The idea for the re-launch of SWELA came from the Anglopone prime minister, Peter Mafany Musonge, AFP quoted sources close to the Anglophone opposition as saying. A new secretary-general, Lyonga Efase Kanga, has been named to head the association

Many English-speaking Cameroonians feel they have been marginalised by the French-speaking majority since independence and wish to exert more control over their own affairs.

SENEGAL: Incumbent forced into second round presidential polls

Veteran politician Abdoulaye Wade will face the incumbent president, Abdou Diouf, in run-off polls later this month. The Court of Appeal in Dakar announced provisional figures showing that Diouf, who has ruled for 19 years, failed to attain the 50 percent needed to avoid a second ballot. In the first round of voting on 27 February, Diouf won 44.33 percent and Wade 30.97 percent.

If the constitutional court confirms the results on Monday, the second round of polling will take place about two weeks after certification of the first round results.

Diouf's Socialist Party faces stiff opposition from rivals determined to end the party's monopoly of power. The third most important opposition figure, Moustapha Niasse of the Alliance des forces de progres, has called on his supporters to vote against Diouf, according to news reports.

NIGER: France gives 32 million FF for rural roads

Thew Agence francaise de developpement (AFD) has given 32 million French francs (US $4.8 million) to build unpaved roads in rural areas, AFP reported on Thursday. The agency's director, Francoise Duriez, said work would take place in the south, centre and north of the country to improve transportation of sugar cane, onions, dates and other agricultural produce.

SAHEL: Food security improves

Unusually heavy rains across the Sahel in 1999 has increased food security for farmers, with many recording good to excellent harvests in most areas despite the damage caused by the rains, the US Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) says in its bulletin for 29 February.

Mali:

FEWS describes food security in Mali as excellent after two consecutive bumper harvests. Cereal and other food products are available in markets and prices have remained lower than average.

Estimated rice production is up for the fourth consecutive year to just over 800,000 mt.

"Most of the growth occurred in the modern rice production sector," FEWS says.

Rice output in this sector, which throughout the 1990s rose from 60-70 percent, has been possible because of market liberalisation, improvements in irrigation and infrastructure, the devaluation of the franc CFA and better use of fertiliser and water resources as well as improved planting methods.

Livestock productivity has remained high because dry season pastures and watering points are well watered.

Chad:

Harvest of recessional sorghum, know locally as berbéré, is expected to be excellent and is in progress. FEWS says because of a below-average main season, the 1999/2000 cereal production will only reach average levels for the Sahelian zone. However, FEWS adds, parts of the zone - such as western Kanem, Lac and northern Batha - are experiencing localised production shortfalls.

Other off-season crops such as beets and tomatoes are good and are being harvested. Wheat crop conditions are good near Doum-Doum.

Burkina Faso:

Cereals, vegetables, meat, dairy products and fish are readily available at affordable prices in urban and rural markets, FEWS says, adding that prices of the main cereal staple in each region fell at most markets through December and were well below the 1995-98 average at all reporting markets covered by the Market Information System (SIM).

Agricultural officers in the border areas with Mali report that traders are importing Malian millet because of the lower prices in that country. The high water table and high river and dam levels has spurred market gardening and fishing.

Off-season rice prospects in the provinces of Ganzourgou and Boulgou are excellent this year, FEWS says. Water and fodder are readily available for livestock.

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Abidjan, 3 March, 18:30 GMT

[ENDS]

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