Cameroon + 4 more

IRIN Update 605 of events in West Africa

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U N I T E D N A T I O N S
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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NIGERIA: Politicians shocked by destruction in Odi

A Senate investigation committee entering the village of Odi in the Niger Delta for the first time since it was sealed off by troops some 11 days ago has expressed shock at the scale of destruction there.

"I am shocked," Senate president Chuba Okadigbo told reporters after his inspection on Monday.

The army moved in to arrest the killers of 12 policemen and to pacify the village. Media sources in Lagos told IRIN that reporters accompanying the Senate team said that virtually every building in Odi had been destroyed. It is unclear whether the army or the rampaging youths are responsible.

The Senate's committee is under a mandate to inquire into complaints by the ethnic Ijaw community that the army had killed dozens of residents since it entered Odi.

This was the first time outsiders had been allowed into the area since the army, under the direct control of Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, sealed off the village. Community leaders have appealed to the authorities for the return of thousands of people believed to have fled into the bush.

"The team only found women and children in Odi," a local media source told IRIN.

President Olusegun Obasanjo's spokesman, Doyin Okupe, said on Monday the soldiers had "clear, specific and unambiguous instructions: dislodge perpetrators of violence, restore law and order and apprehend suspected murderers".

Okupe was quoted by the BBC as saying that the soldiers were under strict instructions to avoid unnecessary deaths.

SIERRA LEONE: First Kenyan peacekeepers arrive

The first batch of United Nations peacekeepers arrived in Sierra Leone on Monday as part of a new 6,000-strong force to support the implementation of the peace deal signed in July.

The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, met the 133 Kenyan soldiers, among them 13 officers, at Lungi International Airport.

"Your arrival marks the high point in UN support for the consolidation of peace and stability in the country following the signing of the historic Lome Peace Accord four months ago," Okelo told the force.

The remainder of the Kenyan battalion and an equal size from India, he said, were due soon. The troops will work together with some 223 UN military observers from 30 countries already on the ground.

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) will help the government implement a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration plan, monitor adherence to the ceasefire and aid the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The UN peacekeeping force is also made up of four ECOMOG battalions already in Sierra Leone, comprising troops from Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed Major General Vijay Kumar Jetley of India as force commander, although this has yet to be approved by the Security Council, UN sources said.

SIERRA LEONE: RUF hand in weapons at Port Loko

Hundreds of Revolutionary United Front ex-combatants have been handing in weapons at the Port Loko demobilisation centre over the weekend, ECOMOG said.

Anti-aircraft guns, mortars and various categories of rifles and other small arms have been submitted to ECOMOG, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) officials since Foday Sankoh's "sensitisation" visit on Thursday, ECOMOG said.

A UNAMSIL source told IRIN on Monday that the sudden appearance of RUF fighters at reception and arms collection centres was due to Sankoh's visit. Some 502 RUF and 112 child soldiers disarmed between Friday and Sunday.

ECOMOG said that Sankoh had told his fighters that they and their families would be well cared for by his newly formed Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP). Sankoh told his fighters that since the provisional registration of RUF as a political party last week, the movement had renounced war, ECOMOG said.

The DDR process has been slow since its official launch mid-October. Of an estimated 45,000 armed combatants in Sierra Leone, the total registered as of Monday was 2,451, plus 224 former child soldiers, a UNAMSIL source told IRIN.

CAMEROON: Country to host 1,000 Congolese refugees

Cameroon has prepared a site to receive 1,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in December, a source close to the government told IRIN on Tuesday.

The source, who asked not to be identified, confirmed news reports on Monday quoting the minister for territorial administration, Samson Ename Ename, as saying the refugees will be camped in Langui, a locale in Northern Province. The refugees will be allowed to stay a few months. They are coming under the shadow of a shaky three-month ceasefire between the government and rebel forces.

AFP quoted observers as saying that this is the first time Cameroon has agreed to host refugees in an official way. Tens of thousands of others from Chad, Rwanda and Sudan already live in the country.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Observers give election clean bill of health

International observers expressed satisfaction on Monday at the conduct of Guinea-Bissau's presidential and legislative elections.

The polls were held in "an atmosphere of civism, calm, serenity, transparency and fairness" despite the late opening of many polling stations, due to logistical problems, that delayed the distribution of voting material, the observers said in a communique.

[For full report see IRIN separate titled 'GUINEA-BISSAU: Observers give election clean bill of health']

Abidjan, 30 November 1999; 17:45 GMT

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2080

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