Chad + 8 more

IRIN Update 622 of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
Tel: +225 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35

COTE D'IVOIRE: Tension reigns in Abidjan

Tension reigned in Abidjan on Thursday when soldiers drove through the city firing shots into the air, surrounded - and reportedly occupied - state radio and TV and, an airline source told IRIN, took over the control tower at the Houphouet Boigny International Airport.

The reason for the unrest was unclear. Some sources blamed it on disgruntled peacekeepers just back from a tour of duty in the Central African Republic and angered by the non-payment of their wages

However, a usually reliable source told IRIN the problem started when a group of soldiers tried to stage a coup at around 03.00 GMT on Thursday, but failed. They later sought refuge at an ammunition dump, then came out onto the streets pretending that their action had to do with wage-related demands, the source said.

In the early hours of the afternoon, state radio and TV went off the air after soldiers surrounded both facilities, which they also reportedly occupied. They subsequently took over the airport's air traffic control tower, causing flights to and from Cote d'Ivoire to be annulled.

Road transport, too, was disrupted after the mutineers requisitioned civilian vehicles. At one point, IRIN saw soldiers driving around in two taxis, hanging out the windows and shooting into the air.

One radio station reported that the government had asked loyal soldiers not to take any action against the mutineers.

SIERRA LEONE: RUF ex-combatants disarm

Former combatants of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in parts of the northern province have been disarmed, according to a news release on Tuesday from the Economic Community of West African States Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).

The RUF area commander for the ex-combatants in Fadugu, some 180 km northeast of Freetown, said that all the arms in their possession had been collected ready for handing over to the disarmament officials in compliance with the order from their leader, Foday Sankoh.

He called on ECOMOG to ensure that other ex-combatants, particularly those of the ex-Sierra Leone Army/Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (ex-SLA/AFRC), were equally disarmed.

At Kabala, some 220 km north of Freetown, AFRC/SLA leader Johnny Paul Koroma told former fighters that they needed to speed up the disarmament exercise. He said the earlier they disarmed, the better their chances of receiving benefits attached to the programme. He also told them not to hide weapons as there would be no opportunity to use them since there was not going to be any more fighting.

Between 4 November and 22 December some 3,636 former combatants - 1,785 from the RUF, 1,257 from the AFRC and 594 from the Civil Defence Forces - disarmed, according to the UN Mission in Sierra Leone.

LIBERIA: Human rights organisation against exit visa

Liberia's Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) has said it is concerned about the government's plan to introduce an exit visa, Liberian 'Star' radio reported on Wednesday.

The immigration bureau said the visa was needed to monitor and control the movement of people in the country and increase government revenue, Star reported.

The JPC described the move as an attempt to witch-hunt and restrict the travel abroad of perceived enemies of the government, the radio said.

CHAD: Rebel movements form alliance

Thirteen armed political movements on Tuesday announced the formation of a new alliance against Chadian President Idriss Deby, Radio France Internationale reported on Wednesday.

The new group, formed in Paris, is called the Coordination des Mouvements Armes et Politiques de l'Opposition (CMAP). Its leaders include ex-president Goukouni Oueddei and a former minister, Antoine Bangi.

However, no representatives of the most active rebel group, Mouvement pour la Justice et la Democratie au Tchad (MJDT), led by ex-minister Youssouf Togoimi. were present, RFI reported.

SENEGAL: Government confirms date for talks

President Abdou Diouf has confirmed that negotiations between his government and the rebel Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) will start in The Gambia on 26 December, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The MFDC, led by Abbe Augustin Diamacoune, has been fighting for 17 years for a separate state in the Casamance, an agriculturally rich area in southern Senegal. The rebel movement claims that France forcibly united the area with the rest of Senegal at independence.

The Gambia, located between the Casamance and the northern part of Senegal, has undertaken to mediate between the government and rebels. It started this process in June-July by hosting a meeting of MFDC factions aimed at presenting a common position for negotiations with the government in Dakar.

WEST AFRICA: ECHO ends special relief flight service

The European Commission (EC) will be ending its special relief flights in West Africa on 31 December, the European Union (EU) announced this week.

The ECHO-FLIGHT service, begun in June 1998, has provided logistic support to humanitarian programmes financed by the EC, EU member states, the United Nations and other donors, the EC said.

Based in Bamako, ECHO-FLIGHT flew mainly to and from northern Mali, northern Niger and Guinea-Bissau. Its Beechcraft King Air 200 plane has ferried nearly 2,000 passengers and 36.42 mt of medical, logistical and other emergency supplies since its inception.

Abidjan, 23 December 1999; 19:30 GMT


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