Côte d'Ivoire + 5 more

IRIN Update 640 of events in West Africa

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: 600 ex-fighters show up at DDR site

Some 600 ex-combatants turned up over the weekend at disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) sites in Port Loko district, northeast of Freetown, a senior Sierra Leonean official said on Tuesday.

Francis Kaikai, executive secretary of the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) told IRIN there was not enough space to accomodate the new arrivals as the sites were already congested.

"We are trying to transfer some of the ex-combatants to Lungi but we are having difficulties convincing them to move," Kaikai said. "In the meantime the Emergency Response Team (ERT) is addressing the logistical requirements."

ERT, funded by the British Department for International Development, is responsible for the physical infrastructure of the demobilisation camps.

Kaikai said some of the new arrivals had come from Makeni, some 90 km east of Port Loko. He added that efforts were underway to establish demobilisation camps at Makeni and at Magburaka, some 20 km southeast of Makeni.

As at 23 January just over 13,000 former fighters had been disarmed from an estimated 45,000, according to NCDDR. In addition, over 5,200 weapons and 63,000 rounds of ammunition had been collected.

SIERRA LEONE: Leaders pledge to reinvigorate peace process

Presidents Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali - the current chairman of ECOWAS - have decided to visit Sierra Leonean provinces in the next few weeks to revitalise disarmament and demobilisation operations and give new impetus to the peace process.

Their decision was recorded in an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) communique issued on Monday at the end of the second meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) of the Lome Peace Agreement, signed in July by the government and the former rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), now a political party.

RUF Party (RUFP) leader Foday Sankoh, ex-Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) head Johnny Paul Koroma and ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate will accompany the two presidents, the communique said.

Chaired by Konare, the meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria and Togo. Senior UN, OAU, Commonwealth, ECOMOG, US, UK and Libyan representatives were at the meeting as were members of the RUFP along with Koroma, who represented the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace, which he heads.

The JIC concluded that "substantial progress" had been made in implementation of the Lome Peace Agreement although "much still remained to be done," according to the communique.

The JIC condemned the numerous ceasefire violations and the "unleashing of terror on peaceful civilians" in Sierra Leone although it said there had been a "relative reduction" in cases of kidnapping, hostage-taking and rape since its last meeting, on 7 August.

The Committee called on the representatives of the armed groups, as well as the ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), to ensure the dismantling of all illegal road blocks suspected to have been set up by ex-combatants.

Activities that impede the free delivery of humanitarian assistance should immediately cease and children should be demobilised right away to prevent their conscription into armed groups, the JIC said.

SENEGAL: Rebels and government resume peace talks

The Senegalese government and rebels fighting for a separate state in Casamance, southern Senegal, resumed talks on Monday in Banjul, The Gambia, with a view to ending more than 17 years of war.

Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) spokesman Alexandra Djiba told IRIN on Tuesday that the talks, expected to end on Wednesday, centred on establishing a mechanism to monitor agreements reached by the two sides on 26 December 1999. The agreements include an immediate cessation of hostilities and the release of detained separatists.

Tuesday's meeting marked the second round of talks. It discussed the recognition of MFDC as a legitimate body, the removal of restrictions on the movement of its members, the withdrawal of Senegalese troops and those the MFDC's military wing, ATIKA, from all occupied positions, and the demining of the battlefield.

Djiba denied recent news reports of a breakdown in the ceasefire between the government troops and ATIKA. He said the Senegalese army had killed the brother of the chief of the village of Nyassea on 21 January then began firing in an attempt to make it seem that ATIKA was attacking the area. The director of the Senegalese army's public relations department was not immediately available for comment.

The MFDC took up arms in 1982 demanding independence for the agriculturally rich Casamance, which is almost totally separated from the rest of Senegal by The Gambia.

MALI: USAID convoy ambushed

One person was wounded on Monday when bandits ambushed two US Agency for International development (USAID) vehicles in northern Mali, the deputy director of USAID in Bamako, Paul Tuebner, told IRIN on Tuesday.

Tuebner told IRIN he and five other persons had been travelling from Timbuctu to Bamako in a Toyota Land Cruiser and a pickup truck. They were intercepted near Goundam, some 45 km south of Timbuctu, by 10 to 15 men armed with automatic weapons who had set up a barricade on the road, Tuebner said. The driver of one of the vehicles was shot in the chest and hand when he tried to drive around the barricade, he added. The bandits then made off with the Land Cruiser.

Tuebner said he had no idea of the identity of the attackers. He said there was a similar incident at the same spot about two months ago.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Elections by October

Cote d'Ivoire's government announced on Monday that it would hold general elections by October. The announcement came three days after the approval by the Ivorian cabinet of the creation of a consultative committee mandated to draft a new constitution and electoral law.

The government of Brigadier General Robert Guei had been urged by various local and international bodies to announce a date for elections following the overthrow of President Henri Konan Bedie on 24 December 1999. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the 16-member subregional grouping to which Cote d'Ivoire belongs, had called for elections by June.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Amnesty expresses concern for detainees

Amnesty International has expressed concern about the continued detention of civilians and military personnel held without charge since the 24 December coup in Cote d'Ivoire.

In a letter dated 21 January and addressed to the Ivoirian head of state, Brigadier General Robert Guei, Amnesty said that while many had been released, at least 30 were still in detention. These, it said, included some of ousted President Henri Konan Bedie's closest associates.

Amnesty called for the immediate release of those being detained without charge. It urged the government to stop holding detainees in secret places to which their families, doctors, lawyers or human rights groups do not have access. Those charged, it added, should be held in official detention centres and granted a fair trial.

The civilian detainees include former Interior Minister Emile Bombet, ex-Construction Minister Albert Tiapani and another close associate of the ousted president. The country's new authorities claim they were linked to a fraud involving some 18 billion CFA francs (about US $30 million) in EU aid to Cote d'Ivoire, some of which has now been repaid.

The official 'Fraternite Matin' daily quotes Guei as saying in a meeting on Monday with the mayors of Cote d'Ivoire: "I am more concerned than you for these three persons because they are closer to me, but you know about the European Union issue and the outcome of this affair will soon be known."

GUINEA-BISSAU: Ntchama named new prime minister

President-elect Kumba Yala announced on Monday he had chosen former Interior Minister Caetano Ntchama as his prime minister, according to news reports.

The new ruling Partido da Renovacao Social (PRS) voted 46-6 for Ntchama as its choice for prime minister, AFP reported. Ntchama served as minister of the interior in the outgoing interim government of Francisco Fadul. Previously he headed the government's anti-corruption unit.

Sources close to the PRS told AFP that Ntchama would set up a government of national unity in which the party would hold the defence, finance, foreign affairs and natural resources portfolios. Other ministerial posts are expected to be awarded to other opposition parties that backed Yala for president, AFP said.

It said the new 102-member national assembly, in which the PRS holds the largest number of seats, was expected to begin sitting on Friday.

NIGERIA: Army unwilling to do policing

The Nigerian army has expressed misgivings about performing police duties as it was recently asked to do in Odi in the south-eastern state of Bayelsa, 'The Guardian' reported the army chief of staff as saying on Monday.

"We don't feel too comfortable being called in to assist the police," Major General Victor Malu said at a news conference in Lagos. "In future equip the police. Let them do the job for which they are paid."

Government troops, sent to Odi in November to arrest youths who had kidnapped and killed 12 policemen, were accused by human rights groups of causing extensive destruction in the town and killing civilians in their search for the criminals.

Malu, explaining the army's involvement in Odi, said that they had planned to carry out the mission without firing a shot. "People see the destruction, they don't ask why," the daily reported him as saying. "They were firing from the houses. If you stay in the house to fire at me, I will take down the house first and then take you."

Abidjan, 25 January 2000; 18:52 GMT


[IRIN-WA: Tel: +225 217366 Fax: +225 216335 e-mail: irin-wa@ocha.unon.org ]

[This item is delivered in the English service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: irin@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2000