Côte d'Ivoire + 3 more

IRIN Update 638 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 20 21 73 54
Fax: +225 20 21 63 35
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

COTE D'IVOIRE: Guei meets Taylor

Ivorian military leader General Robert Guei paid a day-long "private visit" to Liberia on Thursday, his first foreign foray since seizing power on 24 December.

"He was only there for the day and returned to Abidjan last night," Issa Sangare, the press spokesman, told IRIN on Friday.

He declined further comment. However, Liberian Deputy Information Minister Milton Teahjay told IRIN that Guei held "very fruitful and very rewarding" talks with President Charles Taylor.

"They spoke about the need to strengthen ties between the two countries and the need to democratise Cote d'Ivoire," Teahjay said.

Taylor offered to help to achieve this goal and called on the international community to "be patient" with the Ivorian authorities as they try to return to constitutional rule, Teahjay said.

The Ivorian state owned daily, 'Fraternite Matin', reported that Guei was accompanied by the ministers for security and external affairs, General Lassana Palenfo and Christophe M'Boua. News reports said that Guei visited Ghana and Burkina Faso but Sangare was unable to confirm these trips.

During the eight year civil war which ended in 1997, Cote d'Ivoire gave Taylor's guerrilla army tacit logistical support, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

UN Envoy ends visit

In another development, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahima Fall met with Guei and the diplomatic corps on Friday prior to the end of his two-day mission, a source said.

No official word has emerged as to the result of his mission, which the UN said was aimed at encouraging an early return to constitutional rule.

SIERRA LEONE: 100 Child soldiers arrive in Freetown from Kabala

In a further sign that peace is gradually returning to Sierra Leone, 100 child soldiers from Kabala, in the north, arrived in Freetown on Thursday, the Reverend Peter Francis of the local NGO, Children Associated with the War (CAW), told IRIN on Friday.

"They are currently being medically screened at CAW's reception centre for children in Freetown. Many are malnourished and have no clothing," he said.

ECOMOG had asked CAW, he said, to pick up the child soldiers and provided an escort for the journey. Francis rebutted media reports that the child soldiers were kidnapped by rebels on the return to Freetown, but acknowledged that the mission sent to pick them up did encounter some problems with the RUF in Makeni on the way to Kabala.

"We left Freetown on Tuesday but when we reached Makeni we were told by the RUF that they needed clearance from Foday Sankoh before they could allow us to proceed," Francis told IRIN. "We had to spend the night at the RUF brigade headquarters and after explaining the purpose of our mission we were allowed to proceed even though clearance had not been received from Sankoh."

SIERRA LEONE: 303 Child soldiers arrive in Lunsar from Kabala

Similarly, 303 child soldiers from Kabala, all of whom are between eight and 14 years were brought to Lunsar on Monday, Francis Massaquoi of CARITAS told IRIN on Friday.

"They are currently in CARITAS's interim child care centre where we hope they will be reunified with their families," he said.

He added that the CARITAS team which fetched the child soldiers from Lunsar had been told by rebels that hundreds more (predominantly female) children would be released when they received the clearance from their commanders.

In its situation report covering 5-16 January the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit for Sierra Leone (HACU) said "a significant number of children" had been reunified with their parents. Families have also been willing to come forward and foster children until their biological parents are found, HACU said.

SIERRA LEONE: Adult ex-fighters make Kabala "insecure"

Adult ex-fighters in Kabala have continued to harass residents thereby creating a "very insecure" climate in the northern town, HACU said in its report.

These former combatants are drawn from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the former Sierra Leone Army (SLA). HACU said some 500 RUF combatants were waiting to be demobilised near Kabala. Moreover, HACU said, in addition to 700 disarmed Sierra Leone Army (SLA) inside Kabala town, an equal number of armed SLA were in the outskirts of the area.

"It is critical that the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process be extended to Kabala as soon as possible," HACU said.

UNAMSIL Force Commander Major General Jetley told IRIN on Wednesday that the force was stepping up the drive to open more demobilisation camps.

"We hope that the demobilisation camps at Makeni and Magburaka, will be established within a month," he said.

This area, some 100 km to the south, is closer to Kabala than the overcrowded camps in Port Loko, the next closest, which are farther to the south.

NIGERIA: Senate forms body to probe militant organisation

The Senate formed a seven-man committee on Thursday to investigate the militant Oodua People's Congress (OPC) which has been blamed for starting sectarian violence in Lagos, a city newspaper reported.

The panel, which comprises a member from each of the country's seven geo-political zones, is due to present its findings in two weeks, 'The Guardian' newspaper reported on Friday.

Quoting Deputy Senate President Haruna Abubakar, who sponsored the motion, the Lagos daily said the committee would also consider whether or not the OPC "and other related bodies" should be banned.

The committee is empowered to consult with all relevant bodies including the presidency, Yoruba leaders and suggest ways of protecting the properties on non-Yoruba in Lagos.

LIBERIA: Nationwide vaccination campaign

Preparations for a nationwide anti-polio vaccination campaign are underway as a health team distributes vaccination kits to centres throughout the country, Star Radio reported on Friday.

The team, led by Health Minister Peter Coleman, visited coastal Grand Bassa County to assess the preparations for the campaign. However, County Health Officer Isaac Dwah said in Buchanan, they lacked vehicles to carry out the work, Star reported.

The first round of vaccinations are due to start next week and some 700,000 children under five years are targeted. Parents will be encouraged to take their children to local sites, health centres, churches or markets, as designated by the county health officer.

In 1988 the World Health Assembly established a target to eradicate polio worldwide by the year 2000.

Abidjan, 21 January 2000; 19:32 GMT

[ENDS]

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