Cameroon + 6 more

IRIN Update 679 of events in West Africa

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
Tel: +225 22-40-4440
Fax: +225 22-40-4435

SIERRA LEONE: Peacekeepers deployed in rebel stronghold

UN peacekeepers were deployed last week to the rebel stronghold of Kailahun, eastern Sierra Leone, where they found civilians in need of humanitarian supplies, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) told IRIN on Monday.

The 107 military personnel and six military observers arrived on Thursday and began setting up in the town, located in the heart of territory dominated by Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

There are 2000 to 2,500 people in the town, mainly RUF members and their dependents, and the situation for civilians is "grim," UNAMSIL Chief Information Officer Philip Winslow said. Food and water are scarce, hunger is widespread and medical supplies are needed. [See separate item titled 'SIERRA LEONE: Grim situation in Kailahun']

SIERRA LEONE: UN peacekeeping chief visits

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, began a three-day trip to Sierra Leone on Sunday, Philip Winslow, UNAMSIL's Chief Information Officer told IRIN.

On the first day of his visit, Miyet went to Port Loko South Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) centre, and travelled to the northern town of Makeni where he visited a children's centre run by CARITAS, the Catholic relief organisation. The RUF has released 212 child combatants in the Makeni area during the last 10 days, the Rome-based MISNA reported on Tuesday. The children, 32 of whom were girls, were handed over to CARITAS and are going through a rehabilitation programme at the centre.

Miyet is due to travel to Bamako, Mali, also on Tuesday to meet President Alpha Konare, the current chairman of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Fred Eckhard, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General reported in New York on Friday.

NIGERIA: Warring communities reach truce

Two warring communities have agreed to a truce after a peace meeting with senior government officials, AFP quoted their leaders as saying on Friday.

The leaders of the Ife and Modakeke communities were speaking after a meeting with Governor Bisi Akande of Osun State in Osogbo, the state capital, about 230 km southwest of Lagos.

At least 60 people from the two communities are believed to have died in clashes over land rights during the past two weeks.

SENEGAL: Voters end 40 years of Parti Socialiste rule

Senegalese voters have brought about the most significant political change in their country since independence in 1960: Abdou Diouf, leader of the Parti Socialiste (PS) that has ruled since the nation's birth, conceded defeat in presidential polls held on Sunday.

"There was a demand for change," El Hadj Mbodj, a member of the National Elections Observatory, told IRIN.

Diouf, candidate for the Parti Socialiste (PS), moved quickly to congratulate his opponent, Abdoulaye Wade, leader of the Parti democratique senegalais.

Nationwide provisional results should be announced by the Court of Appeal by Friday, and go on Saturday to the Constitutional Court for validation, Mbodj said. If the losing party accepts the results, the Constitutional Court will declare them three days later. Should the results be contested, the court will have up to five days (from the time the protest is filed) to announce the winner.

The new president will be sworn by 3 April at the latest.

On assuming office, Wade's most pressing security and political task could be to end a separatist war in the Casamance, southern Senegal. The spokesman for the pro-independence Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC), Alexandre Djiba, told IRIN on Monday from Banjul, Gambia, that his organisation would want to know the position of the incoming government on the ongoing preliminary talks on peace negotiations.

"We are awaiting the new government to see whether it will confirm the accords [already reached] and whether it will accept Gambia and Guinea-Bissau [as mediators]," he said.

CAMEROON: Top security officials dropped in cabinet reshuffle

Top officials responsible for security in Cameroon have been dismissed in a cabinet reshuffle announced on Saturday. A media source in Yaounde told IRIN on Monday that their dismissal has been widely interpreted as a response to an outcry against crime in the West African nation.

The minister of territorial administration, the secretary of state responsible for penitentiaries, the secretary of state for the national gendarmerie and the head of national security all lost their posts in the reshuffle, which affected 14 ministries and six posts of secretary of state.

No reason was given for the reshuffle but, according to the media source, it came a week after the government promised to curb insecurity in the country. That promise followed attempts by bandits to rob the Dutch charge d'affaires on 8 March and, two days later, the US ambassador to Cameroon.

In recent weeks, members of the diplomatic corps, opposition parties and human rights advocates have expressed concern about the high level of crime in Cameroon.

In an end-of-January travel advisory, the French Foreign Ministry noted that "violent armed attacks, often targeting foreigners, are very frequent in the country's main towns". The US State Department warned on 14 March that "armed banditry is a serious problem throughout all ten provinces of Cameroon". It said there were many reports of carjackings and burglaries, particularly in Yaoundé and Douala, and that such crimes "have often been accompanied by violent acts".

AFP reported that President Paul Biya condemned the violence on Monday 13 March, assuring the diplomatic corps of the importance he attached to the security of people and property in Cameroon. He said the government was undertaking a further overhaul of the security services to counter "serious banditry and urban crime".

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Transferred prisoners face uncertain future

The transfer of some 50 ethnic Bubi prisoners from the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, to an unknown destination is likely to further endanger their physical and mental well-being, Amnesty International (AI) said in a news release on Monday.

The prisoners, who were sentenced to jail by a military court in May 1998 for allegedly attacking military barracks, were transferred by boat from their prison on Bioko Island, where the capital is located, to the continental part of the country. The Bubi, the original inhabitants of Bioko, are a minority in Equatorial Guinea, most of whose people are of the Fang ethnic group. On Bioko, however, the Bubi are in the majority.

According to AI, Many prisoners depended on relatives for food and medicine. "The transfer away from Malabo makes it much more difficult for the families to bring medicine, food and moral support to the prisoners," AI said. [See separate item titled 'EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Minority prisoners face uncertain future']

GUINEA-BISSAU: President fires attorney general

Guinea-Bissau President Kumba Yala has fired Attorney General Amine Saad following the state's failure to obtain a conviction in the first trial of a senior member of the deposed regime of Joao Bernardo Vieira, Lusa reported.

Saad's dismissal on Thursday was contained in a presidential order which gave no explanation for the measure, Lusa said. It came just hours after the Bissau regional court acquitted the former minister of rural development, Avito Jose da Silva, on treason and other charges.

Saad has been replaced by Rui Sanha.

Lusa quoted Judge Armindo Vieira as saying that the three-judge tribunal had wanted to convict da Silva but the prosecution did not provide enough evidence of treason, misuse of public funds, and collaboration with foreign troops - called in by Vieira, then president, in a vain attempt to crush an armed forces rebellion in 1998-99.

Some 100 Vieira supporters, mostly military commanders, are in prison awaiting trial.

GHANA: US, Ghana reach agreement on open skies

Ghana and the United States have agreed on an open skies policy that will in six years eliminate all restrictions on air travel between the two countries, the US State Department's Office of International Information Programs said, quoting the Department of Transport.

"Ghana, having become a champion of aviation safety and security, is now joining with us to develop new and stronger links between our nations. Today's agreement will bring benefits to the entire West African region as well as strengthen our economic and cultural ties," Rodney Slater, the US transportation secretary, said.

Under the deal signed on 16 March, air cargo services have been liberalised and passenger services will be phased in between now and March 2006. Airlines are now able to set fares without government interference. "Direct services with a US airline's own aircraft will be limited to seven weekly flights beginning in April 2001 and will increase to 21 through March 2006, after which all restrictions will be lifted."

Ghana Airways flies between Accra and New York, while Northwest Airlines serves Ghana from US cities via Amsterdam in conjunction with its partner, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

The US already has open skies agreements with Tanzania, Namibia and Burkina Faso and plans to conclude similar ones with Senegal, Kenya and Rwanda.

Abidjan, 20 March 2000; 18:50 GMT


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