IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 1 covering the period 1-7 January 2000

from IRIN
Published on 07 Jan 2000
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GUINEA-BISSAU: Parliament rejects bid to postpone poll

Guinea-Bissau's national assembly says a run-off presidential poll pitting Kumba Yala against interim President Malam Sanha will go ahead as planned on 16 January despite a request for a week-long delay, news reports and humanitarian sources said.

The assembly rejected an appeal by Yala's Partido da Renovacao Social (PRS) that the elections be held 23 January, to give it time to organise and fund its campaign, Reuters reported.

A humanitarian source told IRIN on Friday that Yala was undergoing medical care in Portugal but was due to return to Bissau on Sunday.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Between 50 and 70 prisoners released

Authorities in Guinea-Bissau have, over the past 10 days, released between 50 and 70 people imprisoned after Vieira's ouster, a humanitarian source told IRIN on Friday.

Those freed include Manecas Santos, a businessman and close associate of Vieira. However Vieira's former spokesman, Ciprino Cassama, and ex-Agriculture Minister Avito Jose da Silva are among the 250-270 people still in prison.

LIBERIA: Orthopaedic centre opens for 1,000 disabled

An orthopaedic centre catering for 1,000 amputees has started producing artificial limbs in Nimba County in north central Liberia, Star Radio reported on Wednesday.

The centre is located at the Methodist hospital in Ganta, near the border with Guinea. Its chief medical officer, Dr. Francis Kateh, said the facility was also producing braces free of charge for polio victims.

He said 15 amputees had received limbs since the US $1-million centre, sponsored by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and funded by USAID, started operating in December 1999.

LIBERIA: President promises to rebuild military

Two years after presidential elections in Liberia, its government is moving to put together a better trained and professional military that represents all or most ethnic groups, news organisations reported President Charles Taylor as saying.

Liberia has at least 16 ethnic groups and Augustine Toure, head of Liberia Democracy Watch, told IRIN on Wednesday that "many Liberians are for an ethnically balanced army".

He said, however: "We want a transparent process that will include the international community, preferably ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) which was responsible for the Abuja Peace Accord" signed in 1996, that ended Liberia's seven-year civil war.

LIBERIA: Fear for their safety keeps exiles away, Kromah says

Opposition politician Alhaji Kromah has urged Liberia's government to create the conditions needed for the return of Liberian exiles, Star Radio reported on Tuesday.

Kromah, who led the ULIMO-K faction during the seven-year civil war, said some 30,000 former fighters in exile wanted to return home but were concerned about their security.

His comments were in response to a recent appeal by Taylor for Kromah and George Boley, another politician, to return and help rebuild the country. However, in his appeal, Taylor did not mention another former faction chief living in exile, Roosevelt Johnson,whose forces were involved in a major shootout with government troops in September 1998.

Star reported Kromah as saying that he and some prominent Liberian opposition politicians planned to return home this year if security improved.

LIBERIA: Diplomatic missions in arrears

The capacity of Liberian diplomatic missions to function is being severely affected by nearly 30 million US dollars in arrears accumulated over a decade, PANA quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying on Thursday. Liberia has some 26 missions, most of them in Africa. Almost all have huge debts for rent, utilities and communications, and risk eviction, PANA said.

LIBERIA: New opposition party formed

A new opposition party, the New Democratic Alternative of Liberia (New DEAL), was officially formed on Monday in Liberia, AFP quoted party sources as saying. In its founding resolution New DEAL decried corruption and lack of accountability and promised to "promote accountability and honesty".

SIERRA LEONE: Kenyan peacekeepers reach Makeni

A battalion of Kenyan peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) travelled on Wednesday by road from Freetown to the northern town of Makeni, UNAMSIL reported on Thursday.

"We encountered a few problems along the way when local RUF (Revolutionary United Front) commanders objected to the movement of UNAMSIL troops," UNAMSIL said in a news release, "but the problems were not serious, and companies of the Kenyan battalion are now encamped at Makeni and are patrolling the area."

The arrival of the Kenyan troops marks the first step towards the setting up of a disarmament and demobilisation camp in Makeni, UNAMSIL said.

UNAMSIL said UN military observers from nearly 30 countries were patrolling in Port Loko, Lunsar, Makeni, Magburaka, Bo, Kenema, Daru and other towns.

SIERRA LEONE: Ex-rebels reopen roads in the east

Former fighters of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) have formally opened roads in eastern Sierra Leone, according to local media and other sources. The reopened roads include those linking Kenema to Kailahun to the north, and to Koindu and Kono, to the northeast, according to the reports.

Last weekend, Vice President Joe Demby officially reopened the road linking Kenema and Koindu (some 10 km from the Liberian border) in a ceremony attended by six former rebel commanders. "We have no plans to fight again," state radio quoted Brigadier Dennis Lansana, leader of the rebel delegation, as saying.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Government dispels rumours of unrest

Cote d'Ivoire's new head, Brigadier General Robert Guei, on Thursday toured military barracks and sought to dispel rumours of unrest in the armed forces which, media organisations reported, led some businesses to close early on Thursday.

In a communique published in Friday's issue of the official 'Fraternite Matin' daily, Guei said the National Public Salvation Council, the CNSP, which he chairs, had heard persistent rumours that could trouble public order but that "these rumours are totally groundless".

"Consequently we invite the population to be extremely vigilant and to put its trust in the Comite National de Salut Public," he said.

On Tuesday, Guei announced a new cabinet comprising members of the all-military CNSP, political parties and civil society. However, one of the country's two main opposition parties, the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), declined to take up its seats in the cabinet due to dissatisfaction over the distribution of posts in the new administration.

On Wednesday, Guei announced at the inaugural session of the new cabinet, in which he holds the post of defence minister - in addition to that of president - that the previous government had looted the nation's coffers. The state had only been able to pay public servants' salaries, he said, "because we have momentarily suspended the settlement of external commitments".

The country's new authorities continued this week to meet with local and foreign representatives, including professionals, business groups, religious leaders, and a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

NIGERIA: Deaths, arson reported in clashes in Lagos

About six people died when factions within the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), a militant Yoruba group, clashed in Lagos on Wednesday, 'The Guardian', a Nigerian daily, reported.

News reports cited the OPC as saying that it was trying to rid Mushin, the slum area in Lagos where the fighting took place, of armed robbers and criminals. But 'The Guardian' quotes Lagos State Police Commissioner Mike Okiro as saying that the fighting was between two OPC factions. Seven houses were burnt in the violence, according to Okiro.

OPC factions have been blamed for numerous clashes in and around Lagos in recent weeks. The OPC denies that it is encouraging the violence but is outspoken in its defence of the rights of the Yoruba people, who are the majority in southwest Nigeria.

NIGERIA: Arrests made following Ibadan clashes

About 10 people have been arrested in connection with bloody clashes on Wednesday in Ibadan, some 120 km north of Lagos, in which some 10 people were reportedly killed 'The Guardian' quotes a police official as saying.

The clashes erupted between Yorubas and Hausas after seven Yorubas were reportedly killed in a road accident between a vehicle driven by a Hausa and two buses belonging to Yorubas.

NIGERIA: Kebbi Christians petition Senate over Sharia

Christians in Kebbi have petitioned Nigeria's Senate over plans by Governor Adamu Aliero to introduce Islamic law in the northern state, 'The Guardian' reported. The chairman of the Kebbi State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Rev. James Audu Manga, warned the governor at a news conference in Abuja on Monday to shelve the planned introduction of Sharia or risk mass protests from Christians, 'The Guardian' reported.

NIGERIA: Jigawa state sets up committees to prepare for sharia

The House of Assembly of the northern Nigerian state of Jigawa has set up three committees to prepare for the introduction of the sharia following the adoption of a motion seeking the introduction of the Islamic legal code in the state. The planning, enlightenment and execution committees have three months in which to submit their reports.

GUINEA: Many reported dead following land dispute

Guinean government officials travelled this week to the Macenta area, some 700 km west of Conakry, to mediate in a land dispute between two communities there, BBC reported. According to unconfirmed reports, clashes between the Toma and Magna communities on Sunday and Monday killed about 30 people while some 40 were reported to have been injured and about 70 houses were burnt, BBC reported.

MALI: EC helps Tuareg returnees

The European Commission says it has decided to finance, via its humanitarian office, ECHO, the digging of a permanent well to provide potable water at a resettlement site in northern Mali for a group of more than 1,000 returning Tuareg refugees.

The EC said in a 30 December communique that the returnees were on their way to Mali, and that they were members of the Kel Essouk Tuareg clan who had fled to Niger to escape attacks against them in 1994, during a Tuareg rebellion.

NIGER: New cabinet sworn in

A new cabinet was sworn in on Wednesday in Niger by President Mamadou Tandja, who won presidential elections in November 1999. Prime Minister Hama Amadou, sworn in on Monday, heads a cabinet that includes nine ministers from the Mouvement national pour la Societe de Developpement (MNSD) and eight from the Convention democratique et sociale (CDS), BBC reported. These are the two main parties that backed Tandja in the second round of the presidential polls.

Seven ministries have been alloted to other parties that contributed to Tandja's victory and to ministers in the previous military-led interim government deemed to have worked well, BBC reported.

CHAD: Human Rights body calls for peace talks

Chad's Alliance of Human Rights Associations has called on the government and anti-government forces to begin talks on ending fighting in the north of the country, Gabonese Africa No.1 radio reported on Sunday.

The Mouvement pour la Justice et la Democratie au Tchad (MJDT), led by former defence minister Youssouf Togoimi, has been fighting government forces in the northern region of Tibesti since 1998. A government delegation spent 47 days in 1999 in the north trying, in vain, to meet with Togoimi.

Late in December, 13 armed political groups formed a new alliance against Deby, calling themselves the Coordination des Mouvements Armes et Politiques de l'Opposition (CMAP). However, the MJDT did not join the CMAP.

SAHEL: Food prospects generally good, FEWS says

Food prospects for Mali, Chad and Burkina are generally good, according to a 29 December report by USAID's Famine and Early Warning System (FEWS).

In Mali, food access for most households in rural and urban areas is "excellent" on account of an "abundant rain fed and irrigated harvest", it said.

Chad can expect a healthy crop of market garden produce, as well as a good fish harvest due to two successive years of abundant rains. But while food availability and access are now good in Burkina Faso, below-average cereal production in some provinces could cause problems in the November 1999 - October 2000 period.

WESTERN SAHARA: UN completes voter identification

The United Nations said on Tuesday its voter Identification Commission in Western Sahara had completed its work among three ethnic groups in preparation for a referendum on the country's future.

The Commission finished identifying on Thursday some 51,000 eligible voters from the 64,000 people called forward, UN Spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York.

Since the beginning of the identification process, Eckhard said, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) had called up at least 240,000 people and identified nearly 200,000 of them as eligible voters.

However, he said, the UN was still to hear appeals by some 70,000 people deemed ineligible to vote. The hearings are set to begin on 17 January.

Abidjan, 7 January 2000; 17:45 GMT


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