IRIN Update 684 of events in West Africa
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
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GUINEA: Refugee convention under the spotlight
Some 150 specialists in refugee and humanitarian law began a three-day meeting in Conakry, Guinea, on Monday on strengthening the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Refugee Convention.
The meeting, organized by the OAU and the UNHCR, will review key issues such as the level of implementation of the convention signed in 1969 and now ratified by 45 countries.
Participants will review causes of new refugee flows and then make proposals to strengthen the implementation of the convention. The meeting will also discuss internal displacement of populations and the question of stateless persons in Africa.
When the convention was signed, the largest cause of refugees in Africa was a result of people fleeing colonial oppression and apartheid. Now, however, refugee flows are caused by internal disputes, human rights violations and by a lack of good government and democratic institutions.
SIERRA LEONE: Massive turnout for polio vaccination
A successful first round of polio immunisations for this year took place at the weekend in regional centres throughout Sierra Leone, a social mobilisation consultant for the National Immunisation Days (NID) programme told IRIN on Monday.
"There was a massive turnout in all the centres as well as reports in the north of a demand for increased vaccinations," consultant Alfred George, who is also a parliamentarian, said. He said that the reports, mainly from Koinadugu District, indicate a greater sense of security on the part of civilians as they slowly come out of the bush to take part in the programme. [For full story see: SIERRA LEONE: Massive turnout for polio vaccination]
SIERRA LEONE: Ex-SLA to be reintegrated into army
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and senior military officers have resolved that all former Sierra Leone Army (SLA) are to be reintegrated into the military pending a selection process for the restructured army, state radio in Freetown reported last week.
It was also decided that all Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Civil Defence Forces (CDF) who may wish to join the army are reintegrated after a selection process conducted by a neutral, independent panel, Sierra Leone radio reported.
The reorganization of the army, welfare matters, appointments to top positions, training, and recruitment were among issues discussed by Kabbah and senior officers at State House. The officers said they would ensure their colleagues disarm immediately, while Kabbah said the government's goal was to develop a professional army capable of fulfilling its mission of safeguarding the territorial integrity and independence of the state and the safety and prosperity of the citizens, state radio reported.
SIERRA LEONE: Moyamba eagerly awaits launching of DDR
The paramount chief of Kayamba, in Moymaba District, south of Freetown has said her subjects are looking forward to the launch of the disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) programme, the information bulletin of the National Committee for DDR reported on Friday.
Madam Gullama, one of the longest reigning paramount chiefs in Sierra Leone, was addressing NCDDR officials who had come to visit DDR sites in the district and to arrange a workshop in the area in April.
The aim of the workshop is to give ex-combatants a clear insight into the DDR programme and to explain the practical benefits of peace.
The NCDDR team visited Levuma and Kovehun, some 10 km and 11 km from Moyamba town. It is estimated that the site at Levuma can accommodate some 500 ex-combatants and Kovehun can hold double the number, the bulletin reported.
Meanwhile the Executive Secretary of the NCDDR, Francis Kaikai, told five representatives from the eastern region that the DDR programme was making steady progress, despite some occasional setbacks. On the reintegration aspect of DDR, Kaikai said that the low absorption capacity of Sierra Leonean institutions had been a major problem, despite efforts by the secretariat to provide a meaningful reintegration package for every former fighter.
One of the overall aims of the reintegration programme is to arrange for ex-combatants to live productive civilian lives after discharge from demobilisation centres, the bulletin reported.
Meanwhile Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, said on Friday that Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette would deliver a speech at Monday's donor's conference for Sierra Leone in London. The meeting - which is being co-chaired by Frechette, British Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short, and by a senior representative of the World Bank - will focus on reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction. The UN Acting Emergency Relief Coordinator, Carolyn McAskie, will lead the discussion on humanitarian issues.
MALI: Fifty Malian child labourers repatriated
Some 50 Malian children who had been working on plantations in neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire were repatriated on Friday, AFP reported quoting official sources in Mali.
The information was released during a day dedicated specially to Malian child workers, in which delegates from Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire and Mali participated.
AFP quoted the Malian consul in the Ivorian town of Bouake (290 km north of Abidjan) as saying that over 100 Ivorian plantations employed child labour. The consul, Abdoulaye Macko, said more children would be returned home as soon as money was available.
NIGERIA: Thirty die in truck accident
Some 30 people were burnt to death when a petrol tanker's brakes failed and the vehicle crashed along a major road near the capital Abuja, local newspapers reported on Friday.
Citing the government-owned 'Daily Times', AFP reported that the tanker exploded after it rammed into three other cars on Thursday on the Nuanya-Keffi stretch of road near the capital.
This brings to over 100 the number of people killed in oil-related accidents in Nigeria in one month.
NIGERIA: Curfew in Suleja emirate
Authorities in the northern state of Niger imposed a curfew on Sunday in the troubled emirate of Suleja, close to the capital Abuja, PANA reported.
The measure was imposed after angry youths demanding his dethronement burned the emir's palace. The emir, title for the local religious leader, Awwal Ibrahim, has fled the town.
A one-time governor of Niger State, Ibrahim was first appointed emir in 1992 by the state government of the time, PANA reported, "but that decision was rescinded after violent protests from his opponents".
A court ruling in Ibrahim's favour failed to stop the government from installing his rival as emir. Ibrahim's reinstatement in February triggered the latest crisis, PANA said.
The emirate is near the Niger State capital, Minna, home of Nigeria's former military heads of state, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
NIGERIA: Chevron ends search for crude in north
US oil giant Chevron has suspended oil exploration in northern Nigeria after a discouraging six-year search, 'The Guardian' reported on Monday quoting a company official.
Other partners in the exploration, the Anglo-Dutch company Shell and France's Elf, were also considering closing operations in the area, AFP added. Chevron has spent some US $18 million in the area, the Benue trough, which comprises the states of Bauchi, Taraba and Plateau, the media reported.
Nigeria, a major oil exporter, produces some two million barrels a day.
CAMEROON: Women's radio gets UNESCO aid
The national coordinator of Women's Community Radio in Cameroon has welcomed the US $40,000 UNESCO grant to support the leading role women play in fighting poverty, PANA reported on Friday.
The coordinator, Sophie Beyala, said the radio programmes were expected to play a major role in promoting the overall empowerment of women within their society. Programme content will focus on improving literacy, health, child-care, agricultural methods, employment opportunities, and the role of women in the development process, PANA said.
Beyala, who coordinates women's projects at UNESCO's Central African bureau in Yaounde, said the idea to set up the radio came after the merger of some 200 women's associations in Mbalmayo, some 25 km south of Yaounde. She added that the money would be used to install the necessary equipment for the radio, scheduled to start transmissions in May.
Abidjan, 27 March 2000; 17:55 GMT
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