Côte d'Ivoire + 8 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 4 covering the period 22-28 Jan 2000

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UNITED NATIONS
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SENEGAL: Senegal eases up on MFDC separatists

Chances for lasting peace in Senegal gained momentum on Wednesday as the government agreed to ease restrictions on the separatist Mouvement des force democratiques de Casamance (MFDC).

In a joint communique at the end of their three-day second round talks in Banjul, The Gambia, the Senegalese government agreed that MFDC members could now move freely, hold public meetings and carry documents about their organisation. However, the government still requires the separatists to get official permission before holding meetings.

Both sides agreed to withdraw their forces from positions they occupy and will "examine this question in detail in their next meeting", due in March.

They viewed cooperation in demining the war zones and the removal of all unexploded ordnance as urgent in the agriculturally fertile Casamance. Although they agreed on the need to provide humanitarian aid to Casamance refugees and displaced people, they differ on the need to register refugees by name: the government supports the notion but the MFDC is opposed. The reason for the MFDC's opposition was not stated in the communique.

MFDC spokesman Alexandre Djiba told IRIN on Thursday that the Senegalese government and his movement would meet next week in Ziguinchor, the largest town in the Casamance, to put in place a mechanism to monitor the agreements reached so far.

This round of talks, the second of monthly meetings, have been facilitated by The Gambia. Guarantors to Wednesday's resolution were the foreign ministers of The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. The MFDC started the war for independence in 1982.

SENEGAL: Victims testify to atrocities under Habre's rule

Three Chadian victims of torture testified in a Dakar court on Friday to atrocities committed during the rule of former Chadian president Hissein Habre, from 1982-1990, the advocacy director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Senegal, Reed Brody, told IRIN.

One victim, Suleymane Guengueng, 48, told the court that he almost died of dengue fever during two years of mistreatment in Chadian prisons. Another, Samuel Togoto, 53, said his hands and legs were bound behind his back for so long that he became temporarily paralysed.

In a criminal suit filed on Tuesday in a Dakar court, a coalition of human rights groups provided details of 97 cases of political killings, 142 cases of torture and 100 cases of "disappearance" committed by Habre's forces during his eight year rule.

HRW has said the exact number of Habre's victims are unknown. However, it adds, a truth commission established by the Deby government accused Habre's administration of 40,000 political murders and 200,000 cases of torture. Most were allegedly carried out by his 8,000-member secret police, the Direction de la Documentation et de la Sécurité (DDS).

Joining Human Rights Watch in Wednesday's actions were the Senegalese NGO Rencontre africaine pour le defense de droit de l'homme (RADDHO), the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights, the Chadian Human Rights League (LTDH), the National Organisation for Human Rights (Senegal), the London-based Interights, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) and the French organisation Agir Ensemble.

"This is the first case of African victims asking the court of another African country to prosecute a former African dictator," Alioune Tine, who heads RADDHO, told IRIN.

SIERRA LEONE: Leaders pledge to reinvigorate peace process

Consolidating Sierra Leone's fragile peace was the preoccupation of Presidents Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali - the current chairman of ECOWAS - on Monday. They 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 contained in a communique issued by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at the end of the second meeting of the Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) which monitors implementation 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.

Attendance at the JIC meeting

Chaired by Konare, the JIC 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, Libyan, US, UK, RUFP representatives and Koroma, who represented the Commission for the Consolidation of Peace, which he heads, were also present.

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 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 thought to have been set up by ex-combatants.

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

SIERRA LEONE: 600 ex-fighters show up at DDR site

Some 600 ex-combatants turned up last weekend at disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration sites in Port Loko District, northeast of Freetown, the executive secretary of the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR), Francis Kaikai, told IRIN on Tuesday. He said some combatants were to be transferred to Lungi because of insufficient accommodation at the Port Loko facilities.

SIERRA LEONE: Ex-fighters receiving allowances and ID cards

At least 1,100 ex-combatants at the Port Loko and Lungi demobilisation centres are now being paid the equivalent of US $150, according to an information bulletin from the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) dated 25 January.

The money is the first tranche of an allowance which former fighters receive before they leave the centres. The second slice is to be given to them at some point after they are discharged from the centres, by which time they will be expected to prove that they have readjusted to civilian life.

The 1,100 have completed their "pre-discharge orientation" but will not be released until they have received their identification cards, according to NCDDR. Nearly 500 ex-combatants received ID cards last week.

Misunderstandings and disputes over payment of the allowance have been a source of unrest at the demobilisation camps in the past.

Meanwhile, the British funded Emergency Response Team (ERT) - responsible for the physical infrastructure of the camps - is trying to meet logistical needs.

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: Some refugees return from Gueckedou

Some Sierra Leonean refugees in camps in Gueckedou, eastern Guinea, started to return to their home areas at the end of last week, UNHCR quotes its NGO implementing partners in the town as saying.

"The numbers involved are relatively small," Daisy Dell, UNHCR's Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa, told IRIN in Abidjan. "It is often a case of family heads checking up on their villages and then going back to Gueckedou."

There are some 305,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in the Gueckedou area. Many of them fled Sierra Leone at the start of the eight-year civil war.

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 mineral resources, has announced the suspension of mining operations as from 24 January, media and government sources reported.

Under the terms of the Lome peace deal, all previous mining concessions in Sierra Leone were to be nullified, 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.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Ntchama named new prime minister

President-elect Kumba Yala announced on Monday his choice of Caetano Ntchama as his prime minister, according to news reports. The new ruling Partido da Renovacao Social (PRS) voted 46-6 for Ntchama, 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.

GUINEA-BISSAU: President-elect promises to fight corruption

In his first public statement since his presidential victory, Yala told diplomats and politicians on Monday that stamping out corruption and improving human rights would be the hallmark of his administration.

"I will work to build a just society which is the foundation for good governance and democracy," he said.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Army pledges loyalty to new government

The leader of Guinea-Bissau's former military junta, Brigadier General Ansumane Mane, has promised to keep the army out of politics and remain loyal to Yala's government.

Mane's pledge on Monday to "loyalty and subordination" was the Junta's first reaction to Yala's landslide victory in a 16 January runoff against Malam Bacai Sanha, the caretaker president it appointed after ousting former president Nino Vieira in May 1999.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Elections by end October

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

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.

Welcoming the plans for the elections, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the UN was ready "to extend electoral assistance and cooperation" to the authorities.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Two former ministers released from detention

Former interior minister Emile Bombet, ex-construction minister Albert Tiapani and another close associate of the ousted president have been released from detention. The country's new authorities claim they were linked to the theft of some 18 billion CFA francs (about US $30 million) in EU aid to Cote d'Ivoire, some of which has now been repaid.

Their release came days after Amnesty International expressed concern about the continued detention of civilians and military personnel held without charge since the 24 December coup which overthrew the former president, Henri Konan Bedie.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Former minister's accounts blocked

The Swiss authorities have ordered a freeze on three bank accounts belonging to Cote d'Ivoire's former health minister in connection with the embezzlement of some US $30 million in EU funds, AFP reported Swiss television as saying on Wednesday.

Dominique Poncet, a lawyer representing the new military authorities in Cote d'Ivoire, said that the equivalent of five million Swiss francs (US $3 million) had been deposited in two accounts, one in Geneva and one in Zurich, AFP reported.

The EU suspended its aid to Cote d'Ivoire in 1999 following the discovery of the fraud.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Rapid response unit sets out to fight crime

Cote d'Ivoire's military authorities have set up a round-the-clock rapid-response unit to fight crime in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

Known as the Poste de Commandement Crise (PC Crise - Crisis Command Post), the unit was established to "return the situation in Abidjan to normal" after the looting that followed the coup which toppled President Henri Konan Bedie on 24 December 1999, an officer in charge of its operations centre told IRIN.

The three areas affected most by crime, armed robbery, carjackings and burglary are Zone 4, a light industrial and residential area, and the heavily populated neighbourhoods of Yopougon and Abobo, while the affluent residential suburbs of Cocody and Deux Plateaux have remained virtually untouched, according to a police report issued on 23 January.

During the coup some 6,500 criminals were released from la Maison d'Arret et de Correction d'Abidjan (MACA) prison and an unspecified number are still at large.

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 reporters that while Lagos had a population of over 10 million it only had just 10,000 policemen, far short of the internationally recommended ratio of one policeman to 400 people.

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 nationalist group.

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: Government urged to prevent new clash in Delta State

Youths from the Udu Local Council Area in Delta State have urged the federal government to intervene in a boundary dispute between them and youths from the neighbouring district of Urwie, 'The Guardian' reported. The controversy is over ownership of Enerhen, a commercially vibrant area located between the two communities.

A member of the Udu Council, Benson Karika, is quoted by 'The Guardian' as saying that blood would be spilt if Enerhem were not incorporated into an Udu-controlled area. Three people died in May 1999, when Udu and Urwie youths clashed over ownership of Enerhen.

NIGERIA: Army unwilling to do policing

The Nigerian army says it wants no more of policing duties as it was recently asked to do in Odi in the south-eastern state of Bayelsa. 'The Guardian' newspaper reported army chief of staff Major General Victor Malu as saying on Monday the police should be equipped to "do the job for which they are paid".

Human rights groups accused federal troops, sent to Odi in November 1999 to arrest youths who had kidnapped and killed 12 policemen, of causing extensive destruction in the town and killing civilians in their pursuit of the criminals.

MALI: Bandits attack in the north

Heavily armed bandits wounded six people and made off with vehicles and other booty in three separate attacks in as many days in northern Mali, according to local media and humanitarian sources.

On Saturday, two heavily armed masked men held up three employees of a Chinese company that is digging wells in the desert, the official 'Essor' daily reported on Tuesday and stole their vehicle.

Two days later, eight armed bandits intercepted a convoy of vehicles belonging to the German cooperation agency, the Malian public works department and two private firms between the north-western towns of Timbuktu. Five people were injured when the attackers fired on cars that tried to escape.

Bandits attacked a US Agency for International development (USAID) convoy in the same area on Monday, wounding a driver and stealing one of the two vehicles, a USAID source told IRIN on Tuesday.

A humanitarian source told IRIN the bandits later took a radio set from the German cooperation agency GTZ in Tinaisha, located on the road that leads from Timbuktu to Mauritania

NIGER: Government suspends debt repayments

Prime Minister Hama Amadou announced on 21 January 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.

He told financial directors of government bodies that the government, which took office early 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. The past governments' inability to meet civil service salary arrears provoked several strikes throughout 1999.

GUINEA: Finance, mines ministers fired

President Lansana Conte has fired five ministers including those responsible for his ministers of finance and mines, state news sources told IRIN on Thursday.

The sacked finance minister, Ibrahima Fofanah, has been replaced by Sheik Amadou Camara, a ranking official in the prime minister's office. Ibrahima Soumah, a top official in the mines department, replaces Fassine Fofanah.

Tuesday's dismissals came in a cabinet reshuffle in which three other ministers lost their jobs. Although no official reason has been given for the sackings, one source said, they followed a presidential report accusing both ministers of financial maladministration and the theft of funds from the Compagnie de Bauxite de Guinea and up to two million Guinean francs (US $1.25 million) from the Societe Aluminium de FRIA.

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, 28 January 2000; 19:59 GMT

[ENDS]

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