IRIN Update 639 of events in West Africa

Report
from IRIN
Published on 24 Jan 2000
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

SIERRA LEONE: Bloody diarrhoea widespread in the southwest of Sierra Leone

More than 1,500 cases of bloody diarrhoea, resulting in nearly 100 deaths, have been reported in the eastern district of Kenema since the start of December, MSF-France is quoted as saying by the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) in its latest report.

Samples collected have tested positive for shigella, according to WHO. "Shigellosis is caused by poor environmental sanitation and personal hygiene," a WHO source in Freetown told IRIN. "It is usually transmitted by water and through food."

Mobile teams are giving health education and treatment in the villages as well as distributing soap, oral rehydration salts (ORS) and chlorinating wells, according to the HACU report, which covers the period 5-16 January.

The WHO source said bloody diarrhoea was "more or less a nationwide phenomenon" and that outbreaks had been reported in other districts: Koinadugu in the northeast, Tonkolili in the centre and Moyamba in the southwest.

"Although action is being taken to contain the situation, we will not know the real extent of the problem until more research is done," the WHO source said.

Several cases of bloody diarrhoea were also reported by International Medical Corps (IMC) at a demobilisation centre in Port Loko. The ex-combatants had reportedly been drinking from a stream instead of chlorinated wells.

SIERRA LEONE: Sankoh suspends all mining activity

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh, head of a commission set up to oversee the management of Sierra Leone's strategic resources, has announced the suspension of mining operations, media and government sources reported.

"All mining licenses are cancelled as from January 24 and none will be issued until my commission looks into the new mining laws," AFP quoted Sankoh as saying after a trip to diamond-rich Kono District. "Anyone who contravenes the order will be arrested," he said.

Julius Spencer, the minister of information and broadcasting told IRIN on Monday that the government was in the process of preparing a response to Sankoh's statement.

Under the terms of the Lome peace accord, all previous mining concessions in Sierra Leone were to be null and void, while the exploitation and sale of gold and diamonds were to be forbidden, except when authorised by the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, National Reconstruction and Development, which Sankoh chairs.

A recent report by the organisation Partnership Africa Canada provides documented evidence of massive diamond smuggling, much of it through neighbouring Liberia. Diamond-rich Kono has been controlled by the RUF since 1998.

Sankoh has rejected the report's claims, according to AFP.

SIERRA LEONE: Joint Implementation Committee starts meeting

The second meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) of the Lome Peace Agreement started on Monday in Freetown, Sierra Leone Minister of Information and Broadcasting Julius Spencer told IRIN.

"The meeting will review what has been done to implement the Lome peace accord and what needs to be done in the future," Spencer said on Monday.

[See separate item titled: 'SIERRA LEONE: Lome implementation committee
meets']

GUINEA-BISSAU: President-elect promises to fight corruption

President-elect Kumba Yala, 47, has promised that fighting corruption and improving human rights will be the hallmark of his administration.

In his first public statement since his victory at presidential polls held on 16 January, Yala told diplomats and politicians: "I will work to build a just society which is the foundation for good governance and democracy," Reuters reported.

A humanitarian source in the capital, Bissau, told IRIN that a high level of government corruption was one reason for the strong public backing enjoyed by the military junta that overthrew President Joao Bernardo Vieira in May 1999. Another was Vieira's poor human rights record.

The country now faces severe economic and social problems. One of these is the need to improve the welfare of the veterans of Guinea-Bissau's war of independence. Another is to meet the demands of soldiers who demonstrated in the streets in December, protesting salary arrears and demanding that the military have a role in running the country.

NIGERIA: Government welcomes freezing of Abacha accounts

The Nigerian government has welcomed Switzerland's seizure of some US $645 million dollars from accounts linked to the former military ruler Sani Abacha, Reuters reported on Friday.

Presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe said that official discussions were continuing with the Swiss government on how the money will be repatriated. Swiss federal police said some US $95 million in accounts linked to Abacha had been frozen in the past few days and US $550 million in late 1999, Reuters reported.

NIGERIA: Lagos "under-policed", commissioner says

Lagos State Police Commissioner Mike Okiro said on Friday at a news conference that Nigeria's economic capital was "under-policed", AFP reported.

He told journalists that while Lagos had a population of over 10 million it only had some 10,000 policemen. Citing the internationally recommended ratio of one policeman to 400 people, he said the city did not have enough officers, AFP reported.

Recent lapses in security in Lagos include the abduction and killing of a senior police officer, reportedly by a militant faction of Oodua People's Congress, a Yoruba pressure group. President Olusegun Obasanjo recently threatened to impose a state of emergency in Lagos if Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu failed to stop the deterioration of security in the city.

In a bid to fight rising crime in the country, President Olusegun Obasanjo recently ordered the recruitment of 40,000 policemen annually for the next four years.

NIGERIA: Rights group watches Sharia issue in Kano

Nigeria's Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), is keeping a close watch on developments in the country following the approval of Islamic law in the northern state of Kano, a CLO spokesman told IRIN on Monday.

Kano's state assembly has approved the introduction of the Sharia, but it still needs to have the governor's approval before it can be applied, news organisations reported on Saturday. CLO Executive Director Abdul Oroh said his Lagos-based group was "carefully monitoring the implementation of Sharia in Nigeria and how it affects people, especially women".

[See separate item titled 'NIGERIA: Kano legislators approve Sharia']

COTE D'IVOIRE: Committee set up to draft new constitution

Cote d'Ivoire's government has announced the setting up of a 27-member committee to draft a new constitution and electoral law and "various measures for the organisation of free and fair elections".

According to a decree approved at a cabinet meeting on Friday, the commission is to submit the drafts to the government by 31 March, while a referendum is to be held in April on the constitution and the electoral law.

The decree stated: "The adoption of the electoral law by referendum will pave the way for the organisation of presidential, legislative and municipal elections..." However, it set no dates for the polls, which were to have been held in the last quarter of this year.

Ivoirian President Henri Konan Bedie was overthrown by the military on 24 December 1999.

NIGER: Government suspends debt repayments

Prime Minister Hama Amadou announced on Friday the suspension of Niger's internal debt of 200 billion francs CFA (US $309 million) with a view to redressing its financial crisis, Reuters reported.

Amadou told financial directors of government bodies that the government, which took office in January, was separating the budget for the year 2000 from previous financial transactions. This means, he said, that requests for government payments made before January 1 were "null and void".

Niger also has a foreign debt of US $1.3 billion. Its debt service arrears amount to US $106 million.

For years, Niger has been in the throes of an economic crisis worsened by depressed prices for uranium ore, its main export. In recent months, it has been hit by strikes by public service employees demanding months of back pay.

MAURITANIA: Senate elections in April

Mauritania will hold elections for one-third of its 56-seat Senate on 7 April, news organisations said, quoting state officials. Campaigning is due to run from 22 March to 6 April, AFP reported.

A news source told IRIN on Monday that the elections are held every two years for vacant seats in this house, now dominated by the Parti pour le Renouveau democratique et social (PRDS) of President Maaouya Ould Taya.

The Mauritanian parliament is made up of the National Assembly and the Senate.

Abidjan, 24 January 2000; 18:30 GMT

[ENDS]

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