Côte d'Ivoire + 3 more

IRIN Update 623 of events in West Africa

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

COTE D'IVOIRE: Guei seeks to reassure international community

Cote d'Ivoire's new military leader, Brigadier General Robert Guei sought on Tuesday to reassure the international community that Friday's coup was done to save his country from chaos and he called for help in restoring democracy.

"As soon as you will have helped me to establish the good rules of democracy, even if you do it within a month, I would be happy," Guei told diplomats and representatives of international organisations at a briefing in the Gallieni military barracks in Abidjan. "The sooner the better."

He said, however, "I cannot set a precise timetable for the moment," intimating that the Comite national de Salut publique (CNSP), which he heads, wants to tackle issues such as the "squandering" of aid funds by its predecessor.

"Right now the money your countries gave us has been squandered," Guei told representatives of donor nations. "We're going to audit all institutions of the republic," he said, calling on governments of countries that have granted aid to Cote d'Ivoire to "give us the file ... the evidence of what you gave us".

[See separate item titled 'COTE D'IVOIRE: New leader seeks to reassure international community]

WEST AFRICA: ECOWAS sets up code of conduct on arms

West African states will now have to seek permission from their collective economic grouping, ECOWAS, before importing light weapons in the subregion for peacekeeping, hunting, training or sporting activities, the United Nations said on Monday

This is one of the provisions of a Code of Conduct the leaders agreed to in their two-day Lome summit that ended on 10 December, centering on conflict prevention, resolution and management. The edict constitutes a waiver for countries wishing to import arms during a moratorium on small weapons imports, exports and manufacture.

The suspension on arms trading and manufacture was approved at an ECOWAS summit on 31 October 1998 in Abuja, Nigeria. It came into force on 1 November that year for a renewable three-year period.

The Lome summit also approved a prototype regional arms register and database on light weapons. This register will contain information on the import, export, manufacture, seizures and holdings of the seven categories of arms and ammunition covered by the moratorium.

The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa in Lome, Togo, which is part of the Department for Disarmament Affairs, will host the arms register and database.

SIERRA LEONE: Annan calls for more troops

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked the Security Council to consider expanding the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), spokesman Fred Eckhard reported on Monday.

Annan, in a letter sent at the end of last week to the President of the Security Council, Jeremy Greenstock, recommended that UNAMSIL be increased to "close to ten thousand military personnel". Nigeria's president, Olusegun Obasanjo, had confirmed on 21 December that its troops would gradually be withdrawn from the regional Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and repatriation would be completed by February 2000, Annan said.

Ghana and Guinea are also preparing to withdraw their soldiers currently serving with ECOMOG in Sierra Leone.

"I am very much concerned that the repatriation of ECOMOG troops in the immediate future, without adequate security protection provided by other peacekeepers, would create a dangerous security gap in the key areas of Lungi,just north of Freetown, and in the capital," Eckhard reported the letter as saying.

Annan recommended the addition of up to four infantry battalions and support personnel and that the force be mandated to provide security at Lungi airport and at key institutions in the capital.

The current UNAMSIL peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, with an authorised strength of 6,000, is made up of units from Kenya and India as well as ECOMOG troops from Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria. The force has a mandate to cooperate with the government in the implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme.

Other areas of responsibility include ensuring the security and freedom of movement of personnel in the delivery of humanitarian aid, and to encourage the parties involved to create confidence-building measures.

SIERRA LEONE: World Bank approves credit for reintegration project

The World Bank has approved a US $25-million credit to help support the Sierra Leone government's strategy to help reintegrate former combatants and rebuild the country's social and economic infrastructure, the bank said in a news release on Wednesday.

The beneficiary of the credit, the Community Reintegration and Rehabilitation Project, aims to contribute to increased security, stability and economic revival by providing the following two programmes.

Firstly, an emergency recovery support fund that will facilitate social and economic recovery and the restoration of basic services through community-based projects that target individuals, groups and communities affected by the conflict.

Secondly, a training and employment programme to support the economic reintegration of former combatants through targeted counselling, training and employment creation efforts as well as civic education, psychological counselling and community sensitisation activities.

Vulnerable groups to be targeted by the project include households headed by women, unemployed youths, children and former combatants and their dependents, the news release said.

NIGERIA: Lake Chad flood leaves 25,000 homeless

Rising waters in Lake Chad following the heaviest rains in central Africa for at least 30 years have left an estimated 25,000 people homeless in northern Nigeria, Reuters reported, quoting a local official on Monday.

Borno State's housing and environment commissioner, Ahmed Asheme, told reporters he had asked the federal government for help to care for the victims now lodging in schools, mosques, churches and other public buildings.

Lake Chad, which has been receding over the last decade in an area prone to cycles of drought, lies on the Sahel side of the Sahara Desert and is fed by rivers in tropical central Africa.

Communities around the lake engage in fishing, farming and, Reuters said, smuggling in a region of porous borders of between Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

GUINEA: World Bank loan to help rural population

A US $19-million credit to help Guinea's government to improve the ability and accountability of public agencies to respond effectively to the needs of the rural population has been approved by the World Bank, according to a news release last Wednesday.

The Capacity Building for Service Delivery Programme, a 12-year plan, will focus its first phase on several areas including the decentralisation of public expenditure management, the improvement of communication with communities and the introduction of a performance incentive system targeting rural development councils and community agencies.

The second and third phases of the project will expand the process to include more sectors and areas, strengthen decentralisation and cover the whole country, the World Bank said.

Abidjan, 28 December 1999; 17:45 GMT


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Item: irin-english-2209

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