Côte d'Ivoire + 4 more

IRIN Update 624 of events in West Africa

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UNITED NATIONS
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: US suspends bilateral aid

The US State Department on Tuesday reiterated its condemnation of the military takeover in Cote d'Ivoire and announced that Washingon "will immediately suspend bilateral assistance" and "all arms transfers" to the government of the West African nation.

The department's acting spokesman, Philip Reeker, also reiterated the US government's urgent call for "the new authorities in Abidjan to make a public commitment to a prompt return to elected civilian government through free and fair elections at the earliest possible time".

Earlier this week, Canada also suspended aid to Cote d'Ivoire in reaction to the coup.

On Tuesday, the head of the Comite National de Salut Public (CNSP - the new military authority), Brigadier General Robert Guei, told diplomats in reference to the idea of an embargo that they should "try to see the human aspect". However, he said, "If you cut off supplies, we can eat plantains, cassava leaves."

"We might perhaps cry but we would try to guarantee our honour and dignity," he said.

COTE D'IVOIRE: France recalls extra troops

France has decided to withdraw soldiers it had sent to Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal following the overthrow of Ivoirian President Henri Konan Bedie, the French Foreign Ministry said.

"The situation in Abidjan has returned to normal," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. "It has been decided to repatriate to France the Guepard unit (300 troops) that had been prepositioned in Dakar as well as the men who came from Libreville."

Some 40 French soldiers from Gabon had been sent to Cote d'Ivoire following the coup to join the 550 already stationed at the French military base just outside Abidjan, AFP reported.

AFP reported that French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine has urged the European Union to hold consultations with the new Ivorian authorities under the Lome Convention between the EU and its African, Pacific and Caribbean (APC) partners.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Forex transactions suspended

Bank officials in Abidjan told IRIN on Wednesday that not only money transfers, but also the sale of hard currency by banks had been suspended until further notice. The suspension of transfers had been announced on Monday.

COTE D'IVOIRE: French Foreign Ministry warning to travellers

Travel instructions posted on the French Foreign Ministry website on Tuesday include a warning to avoid the border with Liberia because of the presence of refugees whose situation has not been totally stabilised.

It also warned against the risk of armed burglaries, and attacks on pedestrians and motorists. Its advice was not to resist armed robbers, to refrain from wearing expensive jewellery and avoid carrying large sums of liquid cash but "always have something with which to calm the aggressor (30,000 CFA for example)" and thus avoid any violent reaction.

LIBERIA: Government denies sending extra troops to border

Liberia's government has denied news reports that it has sent extra troops to its eastern border following the coup d'etat in Cote d'Ivoire on Friday.

"No extra troops have been sent to the border and there is no cause for alarm," Information Minister Joe Mulbah told IRIN on Wednesday. "The situation is very calm there and people are moving about as normal."

He said that the situation in neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire was an "internal affair" and Liberia would not interfere. He added that the Liberian foreign minister had travelled to Mali to attend the ECOWAS meeting there, called to discuss the current crisis in Cote d'Ivoire.

GUINEA-BISSAU: UN reports progress in transition to democracy

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has reported progress in the transition to democracy in Guinea-Bissau following last month's presidential and legislative elections, according to his latest report to the Security Council.

In his 23 December report, Annan described the elections as "an important step forward in the ongoing transition to democracy and the restoration of peace and normalcy".

In the legislative poll, the Partido da Renovacao Social (PRS) won 38 out of 102 seats in the National Assembly followed by the Resistencia da Guinea-Bissau (RGB) with 29. No party gained an absolute majority. The new parliamentarians will take office on 4 January, LUSA reported the Commissao Nacional de Eleccioes (CNE) as saying on Monday.

Annan said: "It is my hope that the results of the legislative elections signal the emergence of an era of pluralistic democracy."

No clear winner emerged from among 12 candidates who contested the 28 November presidential election. As a result, the formation of a new government is not expected before February, following a second round of voting scheduled for 16 January. Annan called on UN member states and interested organisations to provide assistance in the conduct of the run-off.

Meanwhile, the mandate of the UN Peace Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS) has been extended by three months to 31 March 2000, Annan reported.

GUINEA-BISSAU: WFP and FAO assisting vulnerable groups

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted in a 23 December report to the UN Security Council that Guinea-Bissau was currently in a transitional phase from humanitarian relief to reconstruction and rehabilitation.

UN organisations, in particular the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), are providing assistance to vulnerable groups, with FAO concentrating on the horticulture and agriculture sector and WFP responding to the needs of hospitals, nutritional centres and school canteens.

Food-for-work programmes are being used to rehabilitate health centres, construct roads and build salt-water dykes, he reported.

SENEGAL: Government agrees to free all pro-rebel detainees

The Senegalese government and insurgents have agreed that all detained rebels would be released, hostilities would be ended immediately and the free movement of people and goods allowed in the Casamance, southern Senegal, Banjul's 'Daily Observer' newspaper reported on Tuesday.

This was contained in the final communique of a 26-27 December meeting in Banjul, The Gambia, between the Senegalese government and the Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC). The meeting marked the beginning of direct talks to end 17 years of civil war.

Both sides agreed to hold talks on the 15th day of each month except January, when they will meet on the 24th because the second round of the presidential elections in neighbouring Guinea-Bissau is to be held on 16 January.

The agenda for January's meeting will include an examination of conditions for lasting peace, the Senegal government's response to MFDC's political demands and the reorganisation of the MFDC as a political movement, a Gambian news source told IRIN on Tuesday.

Other issues will be the demining of the war zone, the redeployment of the government army, the return of internally displaced people, the identification and reintegration of all former MFDC fighters, and the rehabilitation of schools and infrastructure.

The source said that the head of Guinea-Bissau's Military Junta, Ansumane Mane, who is also involved in the mediation effort, told the meeting peace in Casamance meant peace for Guinea-Bissau.

Other news reports said the separatists appeared to have dropped their long-standing demand for independence for Casamance. However, the man still claiming to be deputy secretary-general of the MFDC, Nkrumah Sane, said on the eve of the Banjul meeting that he disassociated himself from the gathering.

In a message sent to news agencies, Sane, who lives in Europe, said the MFDC's fight for total independence for Casamance had "never varied", 'The Point', another Banjul newspaper, reported.

Reacting to Sane's message, MFDC spokesman Alexandre Djiba said he was out of touch with the movement which, since its Banjul Congress in June, had scrapped the position of deputy secretary-general, 'The Point' said.

SIERRA LEONE: Bockarie says he will stay in Liberia

Former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) field commander Sam Bockarie was reported as saying on Monday that he would stay in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, until after elections in Sierra Leone, according to information posted on Tuesday on the Sierra Leone news web site.

Bockarie, who fled to Monrovia nearly two weeks ago following the worsening of a rift between him and RUF leader Foday Sankoh, had accused Sankoh of sending people to kill him and refused to allow his men to disarm to ECOMOG or Nigerian soldiers in Sierra Leone despite Sankoh's calls to the contrary.

A senior Liberian government source said that Bockarie would not be allowed to return home until after the disarmament process was completed in Sierra Leone, Reuters reported on 21 December.

Mulbah said he was unaware of Bockarie's decision to stay in Liberia. "This is news to me," Mulbah told IRIN. He added that he was unaware of Bockarie's relationship with Sankoh and denied that Bockarie had not been able to leave Monrovia.

"As an ECOWAS citizen it is an infringement of his rights," Mulbah said. "Is he not a free man?"

Liberian President Charles Taylor told journalists in Monrovia on 20 December that he had been holding discussions with Sankoh and Bockarie for several days in an attempt to resolve the rift between them, news organisations reported.

SIERRA LEONE: RUF says Golley no longer its spokesman

Omrie Golley is no longer RUF spokesman, legal representative or roaming ambassador, Sierra Leone News (SLN) web site reported an RUF news release as saying on Tuesday.

Gibril Massaquoi, special assistant to RUF leader Foday Sankoh, was quoted in a local newspaper as saying that Golley had been sacked for "collecting monies on behalf of the RUF". Golley told the SLN from Croatia on Tuesday that the decision to relinquish his role as spokesman had come about by "mutual consent," adding that he intended to register a new political party to contest presidential and parliamentary elections in Sierra Leone.

Abidjan, 29 December 1999; 17:48 GMT

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2212

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