Côte d'Ivoire + 3 more

IRIN Update 687 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 22-40-4440
Fax: +225 22-40-4435
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

GUINEA: African states asked to review laws on refugees

African countries have been asked, at a continental meeting on refugees, to ensure that domestic legislation complies with international conventions on the status of refugees.

Resolutions adopted after a three-day meeting that ended on Wednesday in Conakry, Guinea, also called on governments to take appropriate measures to implement these laws.

Conference sources told IRIN on Thursday that although 45 countries had ratified the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) 1969 convention on refugees, many have not brought their national laws in line with this document.

"Guinea, for example, does not have laws on the status of refugees," one source said.

Among the numerous recommendations made at the meeting, the 150 experts present, some of them lawyers, called on the international community to give timely humanitarian help to Africa's refugees and support countries affected by internal displacements.

Civil strife, human rights violations, lack of good government and democratic institutions have been identified as some of the reasons for Africa's six million refugees today. In 1969, the continent had less than one million refugees - most of whom had fled colonial oppression and apartheid.

Internally displaced persons (IDP's) is often the flip side of the refugee problem. The meeting suggested that the OAU and the UNHCR review situations of IDP's in Africa when linked to refugee problems and then present recommendations at the "appropriate fora".

The resolution on statelessness, a condition often overlooked in Africa, proposes that the OAU and the UNHCR study the causes and extent of the problem and present its findings for further action.

The meeting, attended by some 150 specialists in refugee and humanitarian law, was organised by the OAU and the UNHCR. Financial contributions to the meeting were made by the governments of Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Military brass get tough with soldiers

Ivorian Army chief of staff Colonel Soumahila Diabagate has warned dissident soldiers to return all their weapons by the end of the week or face discharge, the state daily 'Fraternite Matin' reported on Thursday.

Yesterday's warning, aired on state radio and television, follows an attempted mutiny by soldiers on Tuesday over pay at Daloa barracks in the northwest of the country. During the unrest soldiers seized weapons from the armoury and one soldier loyal to the government was killed.

At the beginning of the week the Minister of Security, General Lassana Palenfo, referring to recent media reports citing insubordination and indiscipline in the army, said that some of the same young unruly elements helped bring the military to power in December 1999. However, he added, the military was put in charge to do a job and it must be trusted to achieve its mission.

Meanwhile, in a ceremony broadcast on national television and radio, the army discharged a soldier accused of shooting a student over the weekend. He is charged with attempted murder and is to stand trial.

GUINEA-BISSAU: US reviews ways to renew bilateral ties

US aid to Guinea-Bissau, suspended after a military uprising in May 1999, will resume after a review is complete, US Ambassador Nancy Soderberg told the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

"We hope to be able to provide trade and investment promotion support once remaining legal impediments have been removed," she said.

Soderberg - who is the US representative for special political affairs at the UN - added that Washington would help on demining programmes.

She warned that further military forays into politics would be harmful to Guinea-Bissau following efforts by President Kumba Yala and Prime Minister Caetano Ntchama to strengthen democracy and promote economic growth.

"The international community would react negatively should Guinea-Bissau return to military rule under any guise," she said.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Bill on National Security Council

The government has tabled in parliament a bill proposing the creation of a National Security Council, PANA reported.

Members of the council will include leading members of the self-styled "Military Junta", among them General Ansumane Mane who overthrew President Joao Bernardo Vieira in 1999.

Under the bill, members of the council will enjoy the same privileges as ministers until the end of President Kumba Yala's five-year term of office, PANA said on Tuesday.

"If adopted, the bill would take a thorn out of the government's flesh, by solving the problem of the military junta which has shown inclinations of wanting to cling to power," PANA said.

NIGERIA: Lagos State budgets for flood control

Lagos State government has set aside some 400 million naira (US $3.9 million) for flood control in 19 areas of the state identified as being potential danger spots, 'The Guardian' reported on Wednesday.

Seven contractors are expected to begin work in the nominated areas on Saturday, the daily reported, quoting Information Commissioner Dele Alake.

Flood control measures include the setting up of two different groups responsible for cleaning drains in the state and working during emergencies. He also announced that equipment for unclogging blocked drains and a dredger ordered by the state government in 1999 were on their way to the country.

NIGERIA: State legislates end to Niger River dredging

The Bayelsa State House of Assembly has passed a motion stopping the federal government and Petroleum Trust Fund from further dredging of the lower Niger River until a proper environmental impact assessment is made.

The representative of the Sagbama Constituency and presenter of the motion, Prosper Nwaguzo, said the initial environmental impact study was not properly done on the dredging initiated by the fund. He added that the dredging project, estimated at 8.3 billion naira (US $82 million), had the sole objective of providing year-round navigability for vessels from the Delta port of Warri to the northern hinterland of Nigeria.

He criticised compensation paid to the affected communities saying that of the 10 communities paid some 10 million naira ($ 98,814), nine are from Delta and just Elembiri from Bayelsa State. He warned against further destruction of the ecosystem as it affects farmers and fishermen in the area, 'The Guardian' reported.

Abidjan, 30 March 2000; 18:30 GMT

[ENDS]

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