Côte d'Ivoire + 4 more

IRIN Update 644 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

COTE D'IVOIRE: Scores die in plane crash

Only 10 people are known to have survived the crash of a Kenya Airways jetliner off Abidjan on Sunday night, a fire brigade source told IRIN on Monday.

Flight KQ431 was on its way to Lagos, with 169 passengers and 10 crew members, Pierre Gonh, air safety investigator for the Agence nationale de l'aviation civile (ANAC), told IRIN on Monday. The A-310 airbus took off from Houphouet Boigny International Airport at 21.09 GMT and crashed a minute later, Gonh said.

As of mid-afternoon on Monday 10 survivors had been accounted for, according to Jean-Baptiste Agnimel, head of the Groupement des Sapeurs Pompiers Militaires (GSPM) involved in the rescue and recovery operation. Nine of the 10 survivors are men: one Malagasy, four Nigerians, one Gambian, one Frenchman and two whose nationality was still unknown. There was one woman, a Rwandan.

[See separate item titled 'COTE D'IVOIRE: Scores die in Kenya Airways crash off Abidjan']

COTE D'IVOIRE: Military detainees released

The authorities in Cote d'Ivoire on Thursday released military officers who had been detained since the 24 December coup, Issa Yeresso, special media adviser to General Robert Guei, told IRIN on Monday.

Yeresso was unable to say how many military officials were released, but various reports in local and international media put the number at between 30 and 40.

Cote d'Ivoire's military authorities had been under pressure from international and local human rights organisations to release civilian and military personnel held without charge since the coup.

Civilian detainees, including the former interior minister, Emile Bombet, and ex-minister of construction and housing Albert Tiapani, were released earlier last week.

SIERRA LEONE: Disarmament expected to speed up

The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration into society of the estimated 45,000 ex-combatants in Sierra Leone has taken longer than originally envisaged, partly because of logistical problems, fear and mistrust, government and UN sources say.

However, efforts to encourage former fighters to disarm, the deployment of UN peacekeepers along with moves to increase their strength, and financial support from the international community are expected to speed up the process, some sources say.

[See IRIN Special Report on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration]

SIERRA LEONE: Refugees make "assessment visits", UNHCR says

Several Sierra Leonean refugees from Sinje camp in Vahun, western Liberia, have crossed over the Mano River Bridge into Sierra Leone, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said on Friday in Geneva.

According to Redmond, most of the refugees said they return to their villages to make assessments and "take the opportunity to do some cleaning and other preparations" before returning to Sinje.

Last Wednesday Daisy Dell, UNHCR's Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa, told IRIN that some refugees in Gueckedou, eastern Guinea, were making similar exploratory visits to their villages in Sierra Leone before returning to Guinea.

There are more than 450,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in the subregion. Some 305,000 are in the Gueckedou area.

SIERRA LEONE: Human rights situation in Port Loko deteriorates

A human rights team from the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) has issued an "alarming report" after an assessment mission to Port Loko and Kabala, Marie Okabe, associate spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, told reporters in New York on Friday.

In Port Loko, some 60 km north-east of Freetown, there were daily attacks during which villages were looted, houses burnt, and civilians harassed, abducted and raped by former rebels from the Occra Hills, Okabe said.

Most women abductees arriving in the camps for displaced persons in Port Loko had suffered from rape and other forms of sexual abuse, according to the mission. Okabe cited health care workers as saying that cases of rape-related pregnancies among women were so frequent that they "cannot be counted".

The health care workers said that women and girls often felt forced to marry their abductors or live as their "wives", because they feared the social stigma attached to rape and resulting pregnancies.

Okabe cited the human rights team as saying that in Kabala in the far north, the systematic attacks on villages had subsided in the last three weeks, although disarmed former rebels searching for food and shelter were still roaming around, harassing civilians.

SENEGAL: Eight presidential hopefuls register for polls

A Muslim religious leader has registered for Senegal's elections due on 27 February, according to news reports.

Ousseynou Fall and seven secular politicians registered before Thursday's deadline, set by the constitutional court, PANA reported. Fall is running on the Senegalese Republican Party ticket. He is the brother of the caliph of the Baye Fall, a militant Islamic sect responsible for security at all religious events organised by the Mouride brotherhood.

PANA reported that this was not the first time Islamic figures had run for political office. It said that Cheikh Tidiane Sy of the Tidiane brotherhood received 13 percent of the vote in 1960 against Senegal's first president, Leopold Sedar Senghor, a Christian. The Tidiane brotherhood, which also has members in Nigeria and Sudan, has its centre in Senegal's second largest town, Kaolack.

Among the secular candidates is veteran politician Abdoulaye Wade, who is running for the fifth consecutive poll since his first against Senghor in 1978. Wade is the candidate of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).

Incumbent President Abdou Diouf is the candidate for the Socialist Party (PS), which has held power since independence in 1960. Diouf is seeking his fourth consecutive term in office.

Other prominent candidates are Moustapha Niasse of the Forces for Progress Alliance; Djibo Ka, a former cabinet minister who broke with the PS to form the Union for Democratic Renewal, and Iba Der Thiam, Diouf's former minister of education and now leader of the Patriotic and Democratic Convention, PANA said.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Malu of PRS elected parliamentary speaker

Parliament voted 66-34 on Friday for Jorge Malu, of the Partido da Renovacao (PRS), as speaker of Guinea-Bissau's 102-member house, Lusa reported.

Lusa said Malu received support from parliamentarians from the outgoing Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC) in overcoming his rival, Helder Vaz, leader of the Resistencia da Guinea-Bissau Movimento Ba-Fata (RGB-MB) Guinea-Bissau.

The PRS won 38 parliamentary seats in the legislative elections on 28 November 1999. The RGB won 29 and the PAIGC 24, with smaller parties holding the remaining seats, Lusa said.

CHAD: Mines around Faya Largeau to be cleared

The clearing of mines in a 100-km radius around the town of Faya Largeau in northern Chad is due to begin in February, Lorne O'Brien of the Chad Mine Action programme told IRIN.

The cost of the programme, which entails getting rid of some one million anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, is estimated at US $2.75 million. The United States, Canada, Japan, Italy, Britain, UNDP, Chad's government and the NGOs Handicap International and HELP are among the backers of the initiative - which includes training Chadian sappers and other land mine technicians and improving medical facilities in Faya Largeau.

[See separate item titled 'Chad: IRIN Focus on demining']

WEST AFRICA: ECOWAS citizens to get passport

Citizens of the 16 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) can now look forward to obtaining ECOWAS passports rather than the present laissez-passer, which is only valid for travel within the community.

Finance ministers from ECOWAS and the largely French-speaking Union monetaire ouest africaine (UEMOA) also agreed on Saturday, in Bamako, Mali, to create a monetary zone by 2004, AFP reported. Nigeria and Ghana, two of the eight countries outside the franc zone, have agreed to create an alternative monetary zone, which would eventually merge with UMOEA by 2004.

The final communique states that the objective of creating a federation of West African States remains and that transport ministers had decided to finalise, before May, plans to create a single subregional airline, Eco-air, AFP reported.

AFRICA: UNICEF workshop on evaluating situation of children

Demographers, statisticians, planning experts and programme coordinators from about 20 countries from West and Central Africa on Monday began a five-day workshop on the evaluation of progress made since the World Summit on Children held in 1990.

The aims of the workshop, organised by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), include helping countries to prepare surveys that will enable them to evaluate the attainment of specific, measurable objectives adopted at the summit. The objectives, relating to the health, well-being and rights of children, are contained in a declaration and plan of action adopted by 70 heads of state and government in 1990.

Ten years on, 181 countries have signed the declaration and 191 have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to UNICEF.

UNITED NATIONS: Interview with the Secretary-General

On Tuesday, IRIN will publish an interview with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan focusing on the issues raised during the Security Council's "Month of Africa" which ended last week. The wide-ranging interview covers the wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo, the crisis in Burundi and criticisms of past UN actions.

Abidjan, 31 January 2000; 19:56 GMT


[IRIN-WA: Tel: +225 20 217354 Fax: +225 20 216335 e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci]

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