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SIERRA LEONE: Gov't, UNICEF deliver school supplies to the north
School supplies have been delivered to over 15,000 children in two northern Sierra Leonean towns for the first time since a peace accord in July 1999 between Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and the government, UNICEF said.
UNICEF provided logistics to the Ministry of Education for the delivery, completed on 1 March. The supplies - textbooks, blackboards, chalk, pencils, erasers and sharpeners - were sent to 50 schools in Makeni and Lunsar, in one of the first such actions taken by the government of national unity. Both towns had been in rebel hands since December 1998.
"The successful distribution to Makeni is an important first step to re-establishing government support in areas previously cut off due to insecurity," Education Minister Alpha Wurie said.
SIERRA LEONE: HRW denounces rebel abuses
Rebels are regularly committing atrocities against civilians in areas not far from Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
It called on the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and the Sierra Leonean authorities to intensify efforts to end the abuses.
HRW said it had documented numerous rebel abuses committed in January and February in Port Loko district, 40-65 kms from Freetown. The abuses, it said, included 14 cases of rape against girls as young as 11 years old, 118 abductions, three murders, and several cases of mutilation, forced labour, looting and ambushes, as well as the training of child combatants. [For full press release, see http://www.hrw.org/]
WEST AFRICA: RUFP agrees to lift blockades
A special meeting on Sierra Leone, convened in Bamako by Malian President Alpha Konare, concluded on Thursday with an agreement that the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) would remove all obstacles to the deployment of UN peacekeepers, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL, said.
UNAMSIL said the free movement of its forces was "fundamental to accelerating the implementation of various aspects of the peace agreement, such as the DDR (disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration) programme, the extension of state administration all over the country, and access to humanitarian operators".
The former rebels also agreed to return immediately large quantities of weapons seized from Guinean and Kenyan UN troops and remove all roadblocks throughout the country.
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) troops recently stopped UNAMSIL peacekeepers from entering the diamond mining area of Koidu in eastern Sierra Leone.
A meeting is due to be held on 20 March to verify the implementation of the measures agreed at the two-day Bamako summit, attended by representatives of the parties to the 1991-1999 war in Sierra Leone, the United Nations, Organisation of African Unity and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Mike Lamine, Sierra Leone's minister of trade and industry, attended on behalf of RUFP leader Foday Sankoh, while the United Nations was represented by Special Representative Oluyemi Adeniji.
At the end of the summit, presidents Kabbah, Charles Taylor of Liberia and Lansana Conte of Guinea pledged to ensure that their countries would not be used as bases to destabilise one another.
In 1999, Guinea and Liberia each accused the other of supporting their respective dissidents. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are members of the Mano River Union, set up to improve trade between the three nations.
COTE D'IVOIRE: Rights group condemns summary executions
The Ligue Ivoirienne des droits de l'homme (LIDHO) has condemned recent abuses which, it said, were committed by the security forces and has asked the military authorities to ensure they come to a swift end, according to a LIDHO news release issued on 2 March.
The rights organisation cited several examples of human rights abuses, including by members of PC-Crise, a special crime-fighting unit set up after the military coup that ousted president Henri Konan Bedie on 24 December 1999.
"Daily, people presented as criminals are shot dead by members of the PC-Crise and their corpses are presented on television," it said. "These so-called operations against banditry are often carried out on the basis of mere denunciations, even anonymous phone calls," it charged.
In one incident that occurred on 6 February, it added, two people died and several others were wounded when members of the security forces fired shots in a night club in the high-density suburb of Treichville.
The normal role of the forces of law and order is to protect the population and not to terrorise it, LIDHO said. It called on the head of state and the military-led government to take steps to end these abuses.
NIGERIA: More dead in renewed violence
At least 10 people have been reported killed and scores of others are missing following renewed communal clashes on Saturday in south-western Nigeria, PANA reported on Sunday.
News reports said that dozens of people were also injured in the hostilities between members of the Ife and Modakeke communities in Osun State. The dispute between the two neighbouring communities was reportedly triggered on Friday by a disagreement over land, PANA reported. The police confirmed that the clash took place and said initially that one person was killed and several people were injured.
The area is said to be tense and under tight security, PANA reported.
The two groups have had disputes in the past. The last one took place in January 1999 when a local government headquarters was relocated from an Ife to a Modakeke area, PANA reported.
The violence in Osun follows recent clashes between Muslims and Christians in northern and southern states over the proposed introduction of Shar'ia - Islamic law.
In a related development, the governor of Kwara State in western Nigeria said on Sunday on Nigerian television that the Shar'ia would not be introduced there, 'The Guardian' reported. The National Council of State announced last week in Abuja that the establishment of Islamic law in various northern states should be suspended.
NIGER: Opposition front formed
Eleven opposition political parties in Niger set up on Sunday a framework for joint action called la Coordination des forces democratiques (CFD), PANA reported. The parties committed themselves to working together for the promotion of the culture of solidarity, the defence of the rule of law, the fight against exclusion, the monitoring of government action and good governance.
TOGO: OPEC loan for rehabilitating major road
The OPEC Fund for International Development has agreed to lend the Togolese government US $5.625 million to improve a road used by transporters between Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria, news organisations reported.
The loan will be used to rehabilitate the 53-km road linking Aflao, on the border with Ghana, to Hillacondji, on the border with Benin, according to PANA. The loan, which has an annual interest rate of 1 percent, is to be repaid in 17 years with a grace period of five years, PANA reported.
Abidjan, 6 March 2000; 17:55 GMT
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