Burkina Faso + 7 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 128 covering the period 08 - 14 Jun 2002

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
LIBERIA: Aid agencies access Sinje camps

Sinje camps, situated about 50 km northwest of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, which had been cut off by recent fighting were accessed by humanitarian agencies this week, aid workers in Monrovia told IRIN.

A team from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, that visited the camps on Friday reported that the situation in and around the camps had improved. "If the trend continues we could return to the camps by Monday," UNHCR Deputy Representative Theophilus Vodounou told IRIN on Friday.

"The militia who had moved into the camps and were scaring off the refugees have been ordered to leave by officers from the ministry of defence," Vodounou said.

Sinje camps, Vodounou said, are home to some 11,000 refugees and the same number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). A similar case of refugees living side by side with IDPs exists in Zuannah camp near Monrovia where there are 3,000 refugees and more than 10,000 IDPs, he added.

However it is the Liberian government policy that refugees and IDPs don't live side by side for "security reasons". The government has now allocated a site in Sinje and another in Segbeh (near Monrovia) for the relocation of IDPs from Sinje camps and those in Zuannah respectively.

"We are now in dialogue with NGOs to construct the camps so that the IDPs can move in," Vodounou added.

A team from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and that of the World Food Programme also visited the camps early in the week and are planning the next course of action, a humanitarian source said.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Wednesday donated non-food items to some 138 lepers and 400 members of their families who had sought refuge in the Sinje camp, an ICRC release said.

A team of delegates, ICRC said, who had gone to assess the situation of IDPs in the town discovered the lepers, who had had to flee the fighting near the northern Liberian town of Kolakare at the beginning of the month.

"Abandoned by all and in rags, they finally arrived at a camp in Sinje formerly used by Sierra Leonean refugees, most of whom were repatriated at the beginning of the year," the release added.

Sinje camps have been inaccessible for several weeks because of intense fighting, between rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development and government forces who have fought to oust President Charles Taylor's government since 1998.

LIBERIA: Taylor more interested in Rabat initiative

President Charles Taylor of Liberia told an ECOWAS military mission that his government was more interested in next week's proposed meeting in Morocco to solve the lingering crisis with neighbouring countries, a diplomatic source in Monrovia told IRIN. His government, Taylor reportedly said, so far was not ready to hold peace talks with the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

The ECOWAS mission had come to Liberia to discuss plans for possible peace talks between the government and the LURD. The mission was a follow-up to a decision by ECOWAS to try to end the Liberian crisis by organising a round table between the LURD and the Taylor government.

The meeting, which is slated for 20 June in Rabat, Morocco, would follow one held earlier this year at the initiative of King Mohamed VI between the presidents of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Rabat II is expected to build upon earlier decisions which, among other things, called for troop deployment along the common borders of the Mano River countries. At stake, are the revival of the tri-lateral union and the resumption of friendly ties between the three.

The precarious situation in Liberia, especially in the last few months, has resulted from renewed fighting between Liberian forces and the LURD whose goal is to evict Taylor from power. Fighting was reported this week in Bong and Tubmanburg counties.

On Tuesday, the LURD said it had captured Suehn, 35 km north of Monrovia, and had blocked forces oppose to them in Kailahun district, Sierra Leone. There were however no independent confirmation of the rebel claim.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: EU and Amnesty criticize trial

Amnesty International (AI) and the European Parliament this week described as "unfair" the recent trial and the subsequent sentences handed to opposition leaders who had been accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

On Thursday, Amnesty called on the authorities in Equatorial Guinea to conduct a new trial of the 68 opposition leaders within a reasonable time or to release them because the "sentences were passed after an unfair trial where no evidence was presented against any defendant", Amnesty said. Furthermore the international rights group called for investigations into allegations by defendants that they were tortured before and during the trial.

At the beginning of the trial on 23 May, 144 men stood accused. Eventually 68 were sentenced while 76 were released. Those sentenced include Felipe Ondo Obiang and Guillermo Nguema Ela of the opposition Fuerza Democratica Republicana who received 20 and 14 years jail terms respectively. Placido Miko, secretary general of the main opposition party, Convergencia para la Democracia Social, also received 14 years.

The European Union, through its parliament, passed a motion censuring the sentences, condemned the allegations of torture and mistreatment, and demanded that the government stop its harassment of opposition politicians. In addition, the EU also called for Equatorial Guinea's president Teodoro Obiang Nguema to "honour his commitments to the international community to begin a true transition to democracy by calling free elections", Spanish newspaper ABC reported on Friday. Another human rights NGO, International Olof Palme Foundation, said the trial was politically motivated in order to eliminate the opposition ahead of elections in February 2003.

The trial brought back to the surface conflicting reports about the country's socio-political and human rights situation.

While former UN special representative Gustavo Gallon Giraldo warned that the situation was in a decline and deserved close monitoring, the UN Commission on Human Rights disagreed with him, declined to extend his term and resolve to "encourage the government to implement a national human rights action plan".

[Amnesty's report is available at http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/recent/AFR240092002!Open ]

GUINEA-BISSAU: Amnesty plan unconstitutional

President Kumba Yala, who announced that he plans to grant amnesty to alleged plotters of an attempted coup in December 2001, does not have the authority to do so because it is the prerogative of the national assembly, a diplomatic source told IRIN.

Yala made the announcement on Tuesday before a gathering of international diplomats in the capital Bissau. However it is the parliament that has the authority to grant amnesty after it has been requested by the president, the source said.

Opposition parties, in addition to citing the unconstitutionality of Yala's plan, said they want the amnesty to be back-dated to include those named in political and military events since 1980.

The proposed amnesty came at a time when, according to the government, another coup attempt had just been foiled in May. But like was the case in December, the announcement surprised many because there were no visible signs of unrest, the source said.

Guinea-Bissau's situation is one of an "uneasy calm", the source said, adding that "all the ingredients for instability" were present in the country.

GLOBAL: New child labour report

To mark the first World Day Against Child Labour, the International Labour Organization released on Wednesday a new report saying that millions of children were still unlawfully employed. The report - "A Future Without Child Labour" - said that 246 million children under 17 years old were involved in child labour, at times endangering their physical, mental or moral well-being. About 8.4 million children were involved in the "worst forms" of child labour, including bondage, armed conflicts and pornography, the report said.

Despite increased international effort, the international community still faces an uphill battle against child labour, ILO's Director-General Juan Somavia said on Wednesday.

The ILO Global Report on Child Labour is posted at: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/decl/publ/reports/report3.htm

GHANA: Floods hit again

France and the World Bank this week donated US $5 million and $3.2 million respectively to help the government of Ghana solve its perennial flooding problem as 123 millimeters of rain fell on the capital Accra, and the city of Kumassi between Sunday and Monday morning. France also pledged an additional $11 million.

The donations would mainly be used to restructure primary drains.

According to a situation report from the UN Resident coordinator in Accra, the regional office of the National Disaster Management Organisation said that about 2,000 people had been affected by the flooding. Relief came military personnel used boats to evacuate people while the organisation provided tents and blankets to victims. The national weather service said this week that the rainy season had just began and that more rains should be expected.

In the last few years, Ghana has been hit by flooding during rainy seasons due in part to poor draining systems. Six people were killed in 2001.

CAMEROON: Human rights key to development, says Robinson

Respect for human rights should be the cornerstone of Africa's development, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said on Friday while inaugurating a regional human rights centre in Cameroon.

The UN sub-regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa located in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, aims to promote human rights and encourage the rule of law in the region.

It will strengthen the work of various human rights organizations and civil society, train and provide technical and financial assistance to human rights NGOs.

Locating the center in Cameroon marked the United Nations' desire to promote human rights in central African countries, Robinson said during a two-day visit to Cameroon.

"Central Africa including the Great Lakes region, has [witnessed] armed conflicts whose cross-border impact is important. Conflicts have negative consequences on human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as on the proper functioning of state and non-state institutions," Robinson said.

The secretary-general of the Economic Community of Central African States, Louis-Sylvain Gomba, pledged that the community would collaborate with the sub-regional centre to advance human rights in the region.

The ceremony marked the official inauguration, but the centre has been operational since March 2001. Headed by Ethiopian national Teferra Shiawl-Kidanekal, it oversees the human rights situation in Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda and Sao Tome and Principle.

NIGERIA: US $237 million for health, poverty reduction

The World Bank approved on 7 June US $237 millions in loans to improve Nigeria's health sector and conduct poverty-reduction programmes. $127 million will be used to redress the declining health system management in 35 of Nigeria's 36 states, while the remaining $110 million will go towards improving living standards in the urban areas of seven selected states, the World Bank said in a news release.

According to the World Bank, rising poverty had led to a decline in social service delivery across the country.

BURKINA FASO: Netherlands supports poverty reduction

Burkina Faso and the Netherlands government signed an agreement on Thursday, in which the Dutch government would provide 21 billion CFA (US $30 million) to support a three-year poverty reduction strategy.

The agreement is in support of the West African country's 2002-2004 poverty reduction and growth facility program, a joint communique signed by the Burkina Faso finance minister Jean-Baptiste Compaore and the Netherlands Ambassador, Alphonse Hennekens reported.

The money would be allocated to sectors that benefit the most vulnerable people in the country and to reduce development disparities within the regions of the country, the communique added.

Hennekens said the funds were allocated, among other reasons, because Burkina Faso was among the first countries in the region to adopt a poverty reduction strategy. "Burkina Faso has been implementing a prudent macro economic policy that sustains economic growth," he said.

The Dutch government in 2001 allocated 12 million CFA ($13 million) for poverty reduction programmes in Burkina Faso.

SIERRA LEONE: US $42.8 million for debt relief

The African Development Bank (ADB) has approved US $42.81 million to relieve Sierra Leone from 80 percent of its debt service obligations, the ADB said on Wednesday.

The relief, extended under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, would help the country set aside more resources for poverty reduction through good governance, improved social service delivery, a revived economy, and political stability, a news release said.

The support also focuses on improving the living standards of the most vulnerable groups, such as returnees, refugees and war victims by providing them with income generating activities and better social services.

The United Nations Development Programme's 2001 Human Development Report said 68 percent of Sierra Leoneans lived below the poverty line in 1999 while the country's debt service ratio was 3.2 percent of gross domestic product.

AFRICA: Support NEPAD, UN panel says

An independent UN panel on Tuesday urged the United Nations to support Africa's New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), as the continent's best option for growth and development because international initiatives of the past decade had "failed" the continent. The panel made its recommendation in its final report on the New Agenda for the Development of Africa, a UN-led international effort to boost Africa's development during the 1990s. The past decade was "another decade of poor economic performance", the 12-member panel said, urging the UN to "throw its weight behind the African leaders new home- grown strategy, the NEPAD."

[The panel's full report is available at http://www.un.org/ecosocdev ]


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