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SIERRA LEONE: Security in Freetown, Lungi, Port Loko worsens
Lawlessness and banditry are on the increase in and around Freetown, in nearby Lungi and in Port Loko, northeast of the Sierra Leone capital, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said in a report dated 11 January.
"Many ceasefire violations and incidents of civilian harassment appear to have been committed by former Sierra Leonean army elements based in the Occra Hills region," Annan said.
"The law and order situation (in Freetown) is deteriorating with increased armed robberies, fake checkpoints mounted by ex-rebels and young men who stop cars and ask for money," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in its humanitarian update of 12 January.
The report adds that although robberies are not directed particularly at expatriates, some houses and offices of international NGOs have been visited but no serious losses have been reported.
Annan said attempts to smuggle weapons into Freetown have prompted the government and the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, to take supplementary security measures.
SIERRA LEONE: Problems continue at DDR sites
Rioting at the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) camps in Lungi, just outside Freetown, and Port Loko - northeast of the Sierra Leonean capital - is now a regular occurrence, OCHA reported on 12 January.
"Incidents of rioting are now a routine at the DDR camps at Lungi and Port Loko and are apparently due to poor administration, non-disbursement of dues and, in some cases, in-fighting between different groups," OCHA said in its latest humanitarian update.
A group of 500 newly-arrived ex-combatants started a riot at the Port Loko camp on 11 January, according to a humanitarian source in Freetown.
"A prerequisite of the DDR programme is that those wishing to enrol need to hand over a weapon," the source told IRIN. "This group arrived with hand grenades and so were not eligible." When the ex-combatants reacted by rioting, the camp managers decided to accept them on the programme, the source said.
Francis Kaikai, acting executive secretary of the government's DDR programme, told IRIN he was aware of the incident but was unable to provide any further details.
"The problem has been resolved," a UN source told IRIN.
SIERRA LEONE: UNICEF seeks US $9.2 million for this year
UNICEF is seeking US $9.2 million to implement its humanitarian programmes in Sierra Leone in the year 2000, according to a UNICEF news release.
UNICEF plans in the West African country include rehabilitating the primary health care system and reducing child malnutrition in five key districts affected by an influx of displaced persons.
Eradicating polio, improving vaccination coverage to 90 percent for all children under the age of one year and building and/or rehabilitating low-cost water and sanitation facilities are also among its aims.
In the education sector, UNICEF seeks to enable 300,000 children to return to formal primary school and to provide non-formal education to 100,000 war-affected children.
Children with special needs, including some 5,000 child soldiers, 10,000 unaccompanied minors and other war-affected children are also targeted.
In 1999, UNICEF raised US $5.12 million out of the US $7.75 million it had requested for its Sierra Leone programmes through the Consolidated Appeal process.
SIERRA LEONE: Security Council hears request for expanded UNAMSIL
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed an increase from 6,000 to 11,100 in the strength of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in a report he presented on Wednesday to the UN Security Council.
The purpose of the increase is to enable the UN force to carry out additional tasks currently assigned to ECOWAS Peace-Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) troops who are scheduled to withdraw from the country, Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for the Secretary-General, said on Wednesday in New York.
These tasks include providing security at Lungi airport, key places in and around Freetown, disarmament camps and weapons storage sites. The UN peacekeepers will also conduct mobile patrols and provide armed escorts to ensure the free flow of people, goods and humanitarian assistance.
Annan said in the report: "The rapid expansion of UNAMSIL will be indispensable to maintaining the necessary conditions for the implementation of the Lome agreement, in particular the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme, the extension of state administration throughout the provinces and, in due course, the conduct of elections in Sierra Leone."
According to the US Information Agency, the United Kingdom and the United States are in favour of the Secretary-General's proposal and the UK has submitted a draft resolution supporting the request.
Should the Security Council agree to the increase, UNAMSIL would be the largest UN peacekeeping operation.
Meanwhile, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukulade told IRIN on Thursday that the withdrawal of ECOMOG troops from Sierra Leone "has been stopped for the moment".
LIBERIA: Skin disease reported in Nimba
A health team has begun investigating reports of a skin disease in the north central Liberian county of Nimba, an official at the Ministry of Health told IRIN on Thursday.
"We are trying to look into the reports to find out whether it is something other than a known tropical skin disease," the official said.
According to Star radio, a Liberian station, the disease causes severe headache, fever, sores and a rash on affected parts of the body. First seen in Zoe-Geh district over six weeks ago, it has been contracted by an unspecified number of people, Star's Nimba County correspondent reported.
COTE D'IVOIRE: Constitutional council to be set up
Cote d'Ivoire's head of state, Brigadier General Robert Guei, on Wednesday announced his intention to create a broad-based consultative constitutional council, according to an Information Ministry communique published on Thursday by local dailies.
The council is to be made up of representatives of political parties, trade unions, religious groups and other associations. It will be able to set up committees to draft the country's constitution and electoral code, the communique said.
The cabinet meeting was the first since the decision by the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) to take up seats in the cabinet, which it had refused to do last week because of dissatisfaction over the distribution of ministerial posts.
The 22-member cabinet comprises members of the military Conseil National de Salut Public, civil society and political parties, including the FPI, the Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR) led by ex-prime minister Alassane Dramane Ouattara, and the former ruling Parti democratique de Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI).
According to the communique, the government's main plans include reducing state spending, fighting corruption and restoring relations with the country's donors, some of whom suspended aid during the previous administration because of corruption and overdue payments.
The Minister of Economy and Finance said that due to the suspension, only six billion CFA francs in development aid had been mobilised whereas 220 billion cfa had been expected. (The exchange rate of the CFA franc is about 636 to the US dollar).
The government also aims to restore the conditions for real democracy and establish a climate of trust to encourage national and foreign investment, according to the communique.
COTE D'IVOIRE: Escaped prisoners worry Burkina, Liberia
Police in Liberia's Maryland County have re-arrested 22 suspected criminals whom, a senior security officer said, had escaped from jail in Cote d'Ivoire during the military takeover on 24 December, Star radio reported.
Peter Nimely, joint security commander in the south-eastern town of Harper on Liberia's border with Cote d'Ivoire, said the suspects included several Liberians, five Guineans and a Ghanaian, Star said.
According to local and international media reports, some 6,500 prisoners escaped from the main prison in Abidjan when mutineers freed political detainees there on 24 December.
In Burkina Faso, Police Director General Palguim Sambare said on Wednesday that the Burkinabe authorities were worried by the jailbreak, according to AFP. The reason for their concern was that some of the escapees were Burkinabe and since they were on police files in Cote d'Ivoire, they were likely to go to Burkina Faso, AFP reports Sambare as saying.
He said he had taken various measures at the country's borders to try and capture criminals trying to return to Burkina Faso.
NIGERIA: Ojukwu says Igbos still marginalised
Thirty years after the end of the civil war in southeast Nigeria, the problems which caused the conflict remain unsolved, former secessionist leader Chief Emeka Ojukwu said in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday.
"None of the problems that led to the war have been solved yet," Ojukwu said. Soon after independence in 1960 there were mounting ethnic and regional tensions which came to a peak on 30 May 1967 when Ojukwu, then the military governor of the eastern region, declared the Independent Republic of Biafra. After initial military gains the Igbo secessionist forces were pushed back and Biafra was eventually reabsorbed into Nigeria.
"We have a situation creeping towards the type of situation that saw the beginning of the war," Ojukwu told the BBC. After two and a half years of conflict in which some one million civilians were estimated to have died in fighting and from famine, the government promised the Igbo people that there would be no victors and no vanquished.
However Ojukwu believes Igbos have been largely excluded from power ever since the end of the war in 1970 and that this could cause instability in the future, the BBC reported.
Since the end of military rule in May 1999 there have been several reports of clashes between ethnic groups in Nigeria.
NIGERIA: Reward for information on OPC chief
The police on Wednesday offered a reward of 100,000 naira (US $1000) to anyone who could give information leading to the arrest of the leader of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), news organisations reported.
Lagos State Police Command declared in a statement that Ganiyu Adams was wanted "for the offences of murder, arson, acid bath on police officers etc.," 'The Guardian' reported.
The OPC was founded by Frederick Fasehun to address alleged political marginalisation of the Yoruba following the annulment of the 1993 presidential elections which Chief Moshood Abiola, a Yoruba, was believed to have won. Adams heads a militant wing of the organisation, which has broken up into factions.
Police Commissioner Mike Okiro said that Adams was wanted for questioning in connection with a violent clash recently between members of OPC factions in Mushin, Lagos mainland, 'The Guardian' reported.
Meanwhile intensive police searches have also been taking place for the murderers of a police superintendent who was reportedly abducted and killed on Monday by OPC members.
NIGERIA: Police to recruit 40,000 annually
President Olusegun Obasanjo has ordered the recruitment of 40,000 policemen annually for the next four years to fight crime, 'The Guardian' reported on Thursday.
The Inspector General of Police, Musiliu Smith, said that the presidential directive was made because of the "federal government's determination to boost the depleted manpower in the force". He urged the heads of police training institutions to start a nationwide drive to attract qualified candidates, the daily said.
Abidjan, 13 January 2000; 18:55 GMT
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