Burkina Faso + 10 more

West Africa: Humanitarian Situation Report No. 8, Sep 2004

Situation Report
Originally published

A conference was held in Dakar, Senegal on 28 and 29 September 2004 with the participation of major bilateral donor countries to West Africa, the UN system and international NGO’s, to discuss the humanitarian situation in the region. The participants noted the importance of pursuing Demobilisation, Disarmament, Reintegration (DDR) initiatives in the countries affected by political instability or slow recovery from civil wars (CDI, Guinea and Liberia) as well as promote repatriation processes and the return of internally displaced persons, returning migrants and third country nationals.

The conference also discussed the impact of the desert locust invasion in the affected countries and its medium to long term consequences for the food stock and on food security. The countries affected by the locusts scourge were encouraged to enhance their immediate interventions towards the insects and at the same time to prepare intervention modalities for the return of the desert locusts in the summer of 2005.


Burkina Faso:

A seminar held in Ouagadougou with more than 60 participants from government, private and technical partners of more than 20 countries discussed how to align the development aid with the poverty reduction strategies. The seminar hosted by UNDP in collaboration with the Burkina bee government is in preparation for the high level meeting of the “l’OCDE” which will take place in March 2005.


The opposition in the Presidential election, scheduled to take place on 11 October, have not been able to unite on a candidate between the five contestants within the coalition - Coalition de l’opposition camerounaise pour la reconciliation et la reconstruction nationale (CRRN) and the current President Paul Biya, therefore stands a good chance of winning the election.


The Corridors for peace (corridors de la Paix) initiated by the UN in CDI to contribute to the reconciliation and peace in the country shaken with turmoil for more than two years has been opened with depart of a first convoy from Abidjan. The convoy, consisting of two busses with children between 12 and 15 years marks the first phase of the corridors for peace initiative to restore the social cohesion in the country after the breakout of the division of the country in two on 19 September 2002. The programme that allows population movements within protected corridors is giving priority to children and aged persons.


The National Commission on Human Rights (Commission Nationale des Droits de l’Homme (CNDH) in Chad have in an open letter to the Prime Minister raised their concern over the number of violations to the human rights charter that the southern part of the country has witnessed over the last decade. These violations especially relates to the conflicts between pastoral nomads and agricultural producers which have seen several thousand injured, killings and people that have gone missing, as well as incidents involving police and the security apparatus.


Guinea has agreed to hand back to Sierra Leone the disputed border village of Yenga, according to joint communiqué signed by the presidents of the two countries. Guinea had occupied Yenga, situated in Kailahun district since 1998 when Guinean troops moved into the village to support Sierra Leone government forces in their civil war against the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel movement and then remained there. However, the civil war officially ended in January 2002 it was agreed last Thursday by the two countries that Yenga belonged to Sierra Leone and there would be no further dispute over its ownership.


An official drive to resettle about 300,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Liberia will start in November, a month after the programme to repatriate refugees living in other West African countries. The resettlement of IDPs had been delayed to allow more time for northwestern Liberia which most of the IDP's come from to be declared safe after 14 years of civil war. Most of the IDPs living in camps around the outskirts of Monrovia came from Lofa, Bong, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties in northwestern Liberia.


The Government has accused the Burkina bee and Libyan authorities in supporting, hosting and training armed groups preparing to instigate sabotage operations and terrorism against the current regime in Mauritania. The accusation was made in connection to an attempted Coup d’Etat foiled on 9 August. The government claims that it has foiled 3 coup attempts within the last 15 months. Both Libya and Burkina Faso have denied any links to the plotters and have urged the African Union to investigate Mauritania's claims.


President Mamadou Tandja of Niger appears well placed to win a second five-year term in elections later this year, following a strong showing by his supporters in local government elections in July. A split within the opposition further favours the President, who has succeeded in building a political coalition in support of him. President Tandja's main opponent in the first round of the presidential election on 13 November is likely to be Mahamadou Issoufou, leader of the Niger Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS), the largest opposition party in parliament. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential poll, a second round run-off between the two leading candidates will be held on 4 December, alongside parliamentary elections. A total of 6 candidates have registered for the Presidential post, after two new candidates announced their candidacy on Sunday 19 September.


The local government of the Nigerian peninsula Bakassi has indicated that they are not willing to hand over the area to the Cameroonian government by 15 September 2004 the date to which the country should hand over the land. The Bakassi peninsula is an area covering 1000 square kilometres rich of petroleum, attributed to Cameroon by the International court of Justice in Hague in October 2002. The Nigerian government has following the verdict protested and asked to continue the negotiations with Cameroon within the UN framework.

Muslims "disillusioned with Shari'a" in Nigeria. After twelve Northern Nigerian states since 2000 have introduced Islamic law, or Shari'a, the Muslim population majority is mostly disillusioned. They had hoped Shari'a courts would be better than Nigeria's old and discredited justice system, but many by now find that only the harsh aspects of Shari'a are implemented while generosity and compassion is overlooked. The governments of the North Nigerian state and Shari'a courts have been accused of having failed to respect international human rights standards and disregarded what many Muslims argue are key principles of Shari'a itself.

According to reports by Amnesty International up to 500 civilians have been killed and an unconfirmed number of persons were injured in fighting between rival armed groups" around Port Harcourt in Nigeria's Rivers State. State officials from Nigeria's oil capital however rejected these numbers. Most of the victims in the fighting between the armed groups and Nigerian troop were said to be civilians, including women and children, who had taken no part in the fighting and were killed or injured as a result of being targeted or indiscriminately shot at by members of the armed groups.

The Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force said in a communiqué that all foreign nationals working for the oil industry should withdraw from the region with immediate effect, otherwise their security could not be guaranteed. The disturbances in the region have contributed to keeping the world oil prices are above the magic US$ 50 per barrel. The move has come after months of intensive fighting after the military launched a major operation against the group earlier this year.

Following this announcement the Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that he is willing to discuss the grievances of an ethnic militaria group, but warned that he would do nothing to undermine the broader national interest.


The World Bank releases more than 60 billion CFA F to Senegal for the reconstruction of the Cassamance. The funds are specifically to accelerate the processes of reconstruction of the region that has seen more than 22 years of armed conflict. The Mayer of Bignona has equally announced the construction of a bridge on the Trans Gambian road that connects Ziguinchor with the rest of the country. The latter has been made possible by the acceptance on the Gambian authorities.

The pro-independence MFDC of Senegal's southern Casamance province have retired their aging founding leader, Father Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, after 20 years. The new elected leader, Jean-Marie François Biagui, until now the rebels' Secretary-General, was unanimously elected the MFDC's new President.

Sierra Leone:

UN peacekeeping troops have handed over primary responsibility for security in Freetown to Sierra Leone government forces as they continue their withdrawal from frontline activities in the West African country. The Sierra Leone government forces would take over primary responsibility for security for a trial period of two months and if all went well, they would take full control on 26 November. The peacekeepers were originally due to withdraw from Sierra Leone at the end of 2004 but the UN Security Council decided to extend UNAMSIL's mandate for a further six months in view of continuing concerns over the security situation in neighbouring Liberia and Guinea.


The political reforms envisaged in the Accra peace accord, from July 2004 between the opposing parties to the CDI crisis will not be adopted as expected on 30 September. The reason for the current stalemate is related to the interpretation of the peace accord in the National Assembly by the deputies favourable of the President Laurent Gbgbo and the opposition. The parliamentary session closed in effect 2 days early on 28 September. The Secretary General the Forces Nouvelles, Guilame Soro has advised that the forces would not disarm until lawmakers push the reforms through. The disarmament of the FN had been scheduled to take place by 15 October.

According to former combatants, Tragen Wantee, a comrade-in-arms of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, has been recruiting former members of Taylor's armed forces for the past two months in order to launch an insurrection in neighbouring Guinea. The latest reports of clandestine recruitment in Nimba county have surfaced at a time when many former combatants there are complaining that UN peacekeepers are refusing to register them for disarmament because they do not have a weapon to hand in. So far 7,000 former combatants in Nimba county had been disarmed. Fewer than one in three reporting for disarmament have actually handed in a gun.


According to the latest estimates from the countries in the region approximately 3.5 million hectares of land have been infested by the desert locust. It is mainly Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, and Niger that have been affected, but Burkina Faso, Chad and Cap Verde are also witnessing the impact of the locusts. To date approximately 15,8 % of this area, equal 543,750 hectares has been treated in the five most affected countries (see table below).

Area infested
Area treated
Area prospected
Possible loss
1,600,000 ha
139,013 ha
40% of pastoral and agric land
703,000 ha
143,000 ha
1,370,931 ha
Current loss estimated at 440,000 tons
307,316 ha
199,847 ha
384,561 ha
Severe losses registered in isolated pockets
800,000 ha
56,634 ha
Burkina Faso
19,426 ha
5,256 ha
46,012 ha
3,429,742 ha
543,750 ha
Up to 25%

It is expected that the region in the coming weeks will experience a rapid development of summer swarms, as the larvae’s will mature into migrating locusts in all the affected countries. The majority of swarms are expected to move west and northwest, re-infesting Senegal and also the north of Mauritania. Given the size of this year’s locust plague, the worst since 1990, it is likewise assumed that some swarms will move southwards to Gambia, Guinea Bissau and possible Guinea by the end of the year. From October the swarms will invade the Maghreb countries in North Africa once again, attacking Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

Coordination mechanisms between Senegal and Mauritania have been set up in the fight against the desert locusts – to be open to all countries in the sub region affecte by the desert locust. COordination Sous Regionale de Lutte AntiAcridienne (COSLAA).



As the polio virus has resurfaced in a number of countries in the sub region a global vaccination campaign will be initiated in the months of October and November 2004 in 22 countries in west and central Africa. More than 70 million children are expected to receive treatment in the age group between 0 and 5.

WHO has said that the epidemic is the largest seen in many years. The number of cases registered since the beginning of the year is five times higher than in the same period in 2003 (483 cases against 95)


In Cap Verde the Prime Minister Jojse Maria Neves announced on Monday 20

September that antiretroviral drug (ARV) would be available to the country’s HIV/AIDS affected population from the month of December 2004. The medicine has been made available under the World Bank sponsored project for the fight against the disease, with the estimated costs of around US$ 10 million.

The effects of the civil war in CDI hinders planned expansion of AIDS treatment to the Ivorian people since hospitals and health centres have been destroyed by fighting in the west of the country and medical staff have fled the rebel-held north. CDI has the highest rate of HIV in West Africa with an estimated 9.5% of the population being HIV positive, and in some parts of the north the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS is double the national average. On top of the problems faced in CDI there is a danger of AIDS spreading more rapidly in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea and Ghana as a result of more than 500,000 migrants from these countries going home because they now feel persecuted and threatened by the Ivorian government.


In CDI the World Health Organisation widens its scope of measles vaccination to older children up to the age of 14 due to the disruption to health services in Cote d'Ivoire caused by two years of civil war. The vaccination program is part of the larger new measles vaccination campaign in the West African country of 16 million people where the measles vaccinations normally targets the under fives year children.


The Humanitarian Inter Agency Task Force based in Dakar met with Mr. Roger Winter the Assistant Administrator of USAID in Washington on 20 September to brief him on the locust situation in the region. The meeting noted that the technical coordination in the Sahel region was inadequate and not matching the need of the affected countries.

FAO has in effect set up a sub-regional office in Dakar, within the premises of the OCHA RSO office to reinforce and enhance its logistical and coordination activities towards the desert locusts. The move has been welcomed by the international community who hopes that the stronger regional presence of FAO in the Sahel countries will strengthen the response and mitigation efforts undertaken by the affected governments.


Summary of Requirements and Contributions - By Appealing Organisation as of 05 October 2004

Original Requirements
Revised Requirements
Resources available
Unmet Requirements
% Covered
Grand total

Contact details
4–5 Oct
Conference to develop integrated conflict prevention and peace building strategies for sensitive border areas in West Africa
1–31 Oct
FAO/CILSS crop assessment Niger (4-16 Oct.); Senegal (17-30 Oct.); Mali (1-16 Oct.); Mauritania (17-31 Oct.); Guinea Bissau (8-22 Oct.); Gambia (16-23 Oct.); Burkina Faso (9-23 Oct.); Cap Verde (24-30 Oct.); and Chad (17-23 Oct.)
6 teams of experts - FAO
1–31 Oct
WFP food security and vulnerability assessments Niger (4-16 Oct.); Senegal (17-30 Oct.) Mali (1-16 Oct); Mauritania (17-31 Oct.); Guinea Bissau (8-16 Oct.); Gambia (16-23 Oct.) Burkina Faso (11-23 Oct.); Cap Verde (24-30 Oct.); and Chad (16-24 Oct.)
Various teams of experts - WFP

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact:

Herve Ludovic de Lys, Head of Office, OCHA Dakar, tel : (221) 867 27 50,
e-mail : delys1@un.org

Ms Ute Kollies, Deputy Head of Office, OCHA Dakar, tel : (221) 867 27 52,
e-mail : kollies@un.org

Mr. Karsten Skovgaard, Humanitarian Affairs Officer, OHCA Dakar, tel : (221) 867 27 57 ,
e-mail : karsten@irinnews.org

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.