Côte d'Ivoire + 8 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 8 covering the period 19-25 Feb 2000

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

NIGERIA: Authorities in Kaduna set up commission of enquiry

The state authorities have set up a judicial commission of enquiry made up of Muslims and Christians to investigate why Kaduna was wracked by several days of violence this week, news organisations reported.

Acting Governor Stephen Shakari, inaugurating the five-strong commission on Thursday, said that the judicial panel started to "investigate the unfortunate act, with a view to bringing to book for appropriate action those responsible for such acts," 'The Guardian' quoted him as saying.

The panel will be responsible for investigating the causes of the violence, identifying individuals and organisations that might have contributed to the riot and assessing the loss of lives and damage to property. It will then recommend appropriate legal action against those responsible and advise the government on measures to be taken to avoid similar disturbances in the future, 'The Guardian' reported.

Violent clashes between Muslims and Christians erupted on Monday following a march organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria in opposition To the proposed introduction of Islamic Sharia law in Kaduna State.

Meanwhile, the authorities have started to clean up the streets of Kaduna following the violence of the last few days. Decomposing bodies lying in the roads are now being cleared away and burned out cars are also being removed, eyewitnesses told IRIN.

Although no official death toll has been released, a member of the House of Representatives said on Wednesday that over 100 people had died while human rights organisations based in Kaduna estimate that 300-400 people may have been killed.

NIGERIA: Rights group mounts legal challenge to Sharia

A human rights group has initiated a legal challenge to the adoption of Sharia by Zamfara State, PANA reported on Thursday.

Human Rights Law Service filed a suit on Wednesday at the Zamfara High Court seeking clarification on the constitutionality of Sharia which raises the question of whether its application "would not endanger the continuance of a federal government in Nigeria", PANA reported. No date has been set for the hearing.

Meanwhile, President Olusegun Obasanjo, in an address to the nation on Wednesday, said that the horrors of Kaduna had achieved nothing. "If Nigeria is to tread the power of greatness, it cannot be along the line of religious violence and bigotry. It must be along the path of constitutionality, democracy, the rule of law, and mutual respect for each other in all aspects of our life," Radio Nigeria-Lagos reported him as saying.

NIGERIA: US expresses concern

US State Department spokesman James Rubin has expressed concern over the communal clashes in Kaduna. "We deplore the violence and loss of life and urge everyone to respect the fights of all Nigerians and to find peaceful means to resolve differences," a news release said.

He said he hoped the events of this week will lead to eventual reconciliation and dialogue.

SIERRA LEONE: Sankoh expelled from South Africa

The leader of the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP), Foday Sankoh, was expelled from South Africa and arrived in Cote d'Ivoire on Monday. He had travelled in violation of a UN Security Council travel ban. Sankoh's visa was withdrawn on Saturday following an apparent mistake on the part of the mission that authorised the visa, a spokesman from the South African Department of Foreign Affairs told IRIN on Monday.

The presidential spokesman in Sierra Leone, Septimus Kaikai, told IRIN on Monday that the government was not aware that Sankoh was travelling to South Africa and did not know the reasons for his visit. A UNAMSIL spokesman told IRIN on Friday that Sankoh had not yet returned to Freetown.

SIERRA LEONE: Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up

Sierra Leone's Parliament approved draft legislation on Tuesday to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission envisaged in the Lome Peace Accord signed in July 1999, news organisations reported. It will comprise three international and four national commissioners. The commission, which will cover the period from the beginning of the conflict in 1991 to the signing of the accord, will create an "impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law", a UN spokesman said in New York on Wednesday.

SIERRA LEONE: Thousands to receive food in Tonkolili district

More than 17,500 needy people in Lower Yoni chiefdom in Tonkolili district, over 100 km east of Freetown, are to receive a one-month emergency food aid ration, according to a WFP news release issued on Wednesday. "Recent assessments showed that more than half of the 34,000 people living in Lower Yoni had little or no access to food, as most farmers were prevented from planting last year," said Patrick Buckley, WFP Representative in Sierra Leone. "Our aim is to support vulnerable families, encouraging them to resume farming," he added. Lower Yoni chiefdom was severely affected by last year's fighting and remained inaccessible to humanitarian agencies for much of last year.

SIERRA LEONE: RUF commander expresses concern about safety

The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander for Makeni has expressed fear that his men may be attacked with machetes and other non-conventional weapons after disarming, a government information bulletin reported. Augustine Bao, speaking at the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) sensitisation workshop on Tuesday in the northern town said the RUF was aware that people in other former fighting factions still possess such weapons which they may use to attack the RUF, the NCDDR reported.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Decision on release of war prisoners postponed

Government ministers met Attorney General Amine Saad on Wednesday to discuss the fate of prisoners of war detained in the aftermath of the country's recent conflict but were unable to reach a decision on their release, Lusa reported. President Kumba Yala, who urged provisional release of the prisoners during a Monday visit to jail facilities in Bissau, did not attend the meeting. Yala, who was sworn in as president on 17 February, won a landslide victory against interim president Malam Bacai Sanha in the second round of the election, held on 16 January.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Security Council welcomes constitutional rule

Members of the UN Security Council welcomed the return of constitutional rule to Guinea-Bissau and called on the government and the international community to provide the necessary support. In a statement issued after a briefing by the Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Guinea Bissau, Samuel Nana-Sinkam, the Security Council encouraged parties "to work closely together in a spirit of tolerance to strengthen democratic values, to protect the rule of law and to guarantee the protection of human rights". In addition the Council appealed to the new authorities "to develop and implement programmes designed to consolidate peace, national reconciliation and economic development".

GUINEA-BISSAU: New government excludes former ruling party

A new government was formed by Prime Minister Caetano Ntchama which includes members of former opposition parties but not of the former ruling party, news organisations reported last weekend. Ntchama on Saturday gave cabinet places to members of President Kumba Yala's Partido da Renovacao Social, and the second-placed Resistencia Guine Bissau of Helder Vaz, as well as other parties which had been in opposition, news organisations reported. The new government, formed after the country's multi-party presidential and legislative elections, is the first to exclude the long-dominant party of independence from Portugal, Partido Africano da Independencia da Guinea e Cabo Verde, Lusa reported.

SENEGAL: Senegalese soldiers killed in Casamance

An independence movement, the Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC), denied on Wednesday responsibility for the death of two Senegalese soldiers in an exchange of fire with unidentified men near the southern town of Kolda. Two others were wounded. AFP reported that the attackers were believed to be members of the MFDC, but speaking from The Gambia, MFDC spokesman Alexandre Djiba told IRIN his men were "under orders not to shoot first".

However, he will meet all commanders in the MFDC's southern zone on Thursday in Guinea-Bissau to ascertain what happened. AFP reports this incident as the third since a ceasefire monitoring body was set up on 4 February. The media has reported one Senegalese soldier killed on Friday and the death of two other people in an attack on three tourist buses on Sunday. The attacks have come in the midst of a presidential electoral campaign.

SENEGAL: Election monitors arrive

Monitors from La Francophonie, the umbrella grouping for French-speaking countries around the world, have arrived in Dakar for Senegal's presidential elections, according to a member of the elections supervisory body (ONEL). The ONEL member, El Hadj Mbodj, told IRIN the group was led by former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Secretary-General Idi Oumarou. He has already met the eight presidential candidates and is due to consult NGOs. Other than la Francophonie, some 13 international bodies have been invited to monitor Sunday's poll. They include the OAU, ECOWAS, the EU and the G-8 countries.

The controversial voters' list that threatened to derail the elections has now been accepted by the vast majority of opposition parties after an independent committee audited the document and declared it valid, a member of the Observatoire national des elections (ONEL), told IRIN on Monday.

MALI: Konare announces new government

President Alpha Konare announced on Monday the formation of a new national government spearheaded by Prime Minister Mande Sidibe, news organisations reported. Sidibe's main task will be to relaunch the economy, news organisations said. He replaces Keita who resigned last week in what many observers believe was a move to prepare his candidature for presidential elections in 2002 when Konare will stand down. There are 15 newcomers in the ministerial line-up, including seven women. Six former ministers remain in government, including Foreign Minister Modibo Sidibe.

GHANA: Vice-president announces candidature

Ghanaian Vice-President John Atta Mills has said he will seek nomination as the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) party's candidate for presidential elections to be held later this year, AFP reported on Monday. Mills made the announcement on Sunday in the city of Tamale, some 450 km north of Accra, where he was addressing a party rally. Mills said he would seek the NDC's nomination at the party's national congress to be held in April in the southern city of Ho, AFP reported. President Jerry Rawlings, who is coming to the end of his second and final mandate this year, declared at a party rally in June 1998 that he would support Mills if he decided to seek nomination, according to AFP.

LIBERIA: Montserrado children receive highest polio vaccination coverage

More children were vaccinated against polio last month in Montserrado County than in other parts of the country, Star radio reported the Ministry of Health as saying on Saturday. Out of a nationwide total of 700,000 children under the age of five years targeted during the first of a three round campaign more than 160,000 children were vaccinated in Montserrado County. The second round of the campaign is scheduled to start next week.

LIBERIA: Government denies independent radio shortwave frequency

The Ministry of Information said that Star radio, set up in July 1997 to promote democracy in post-war Liberia, will not be permitted to operate a short-wave radio frequency, pro-government Radio Liberia International (RLI) reported last Friday. The information ministry's pronouncement comes after several appeals to the government to allow Star to operate on a shortwave frequency, which it has not used since October 1998. The only non-Liberian organisations permitted to operate short-wave stations are religious institutions, RLI cites the ministry as saying. Star radio does not fall into this category, the ministry statement said, because although it is managed and staffed by Liberians and controlled by a Liberian board of directors it is still owned by the Hirondelle Foundation, a Swiss-based NGO. In an appeal for support dated 16 February Star Radio said that it faced an "immediate funding gap" and that it would be forced to shut down at the end of the month if assistance was not received. "The goal for Star radio is to become a sustainable Liberian institution that will continue to contribute to the growth of democracy, peace, and development in Liberia," according to the Star radio appeal.

LIBERIA: Court upholds case against human rights campaigner

A court in Monrovia on Tuesday threw out a motion to dismiss a sedition charge against child rights campaigner James Torh, AFP quoted judicial sources as saying. The ruling by Criminal Court Judge Joseph Andrews followed defence arguments that Torh was exercising his right under the Liberian constitution "which guarantees freedom of expression". The state charged Torh for sedition for statements he allegedly made at a secondary school in Monrovia in December when he allegedly said the state was being run from President Charles Taylor's pocket.

GUINEA: Liberian border status still uncertain

Local authorities in eastern Guinea are refusing to allow travellers and business people to cross from their side of the border into Nimba County in northern Liberia, pro-Charles Taylor Radio Liberia International said on Tuesday. A UNHCR source in Conakry told IRIN on Wednesday that the status of Guinea's border with Liberia was still unclear. "At certain points small numbers of people have been crossing the border but we have no official confirmation from the authorities that the Guinean border with Liberia is open," the source told IRIN. Last week the Liberian government decided to reopen its border with Guinea citing an improvement in security conditions. The border was closed last August when fighting broke out in northern Lofa County between government troops and rebels.

COTE D'IVOIRE: LIDHO warns of threat on human rights

A local human rights organisation warned on Friday of worrying signs that human rights and social stability are under threat in Cote d'Ivoire following the arrest of the former interior minister, according to a statement issued by the Ligue Ivoirienne des droits de l'homme (LIDHO). "We are seeing the seeds of tyranny grow," LIDHO said referring to the growing number of arrests and detentions made by the ruling Conseil national de salut public (CNSP). "LIDHO can see a direct and constant threat to human rights and social peace," it said. What was more worrying, it added, was that the the arrests were being made by the CNSP, not by the judicial authorities. Former minister of the interior Emile Constant Bombet was detained last Tuesday by the military authorities for alleged "subversive activities" after reportedly holding a series of meetings at his home. He is also accused by the military of being implicated in the misappropriation of some US $27 million of EU aid, and state funds amounting to some eight billion F CFA (US $12 million). Mathurin Dirabou, spokesman for the lawyers representing Bombet said that he could not be detained indefinitely without being charged. Under Ivorian law a person can be held for questioning for 48 hours. Bombet, currently being held in a military prison in Abidjan, La Maison d'Arret Militaire (MAMA), had been arrested just after the 24 December military coup which ousted former President Henri Konan Bedie, but was released a month later along with other civilians.

Abidjan, 25 February 2000 18:30 gmt


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