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COTE D'IVOIRE: National Reconciliation Forum gets underway
Cote d'Ivoire's National Reconciliation Forum ended its first working week on Friday with presentations from some of the country's religious organisations and political parties. The two-month-long forum, which opened on Tuesday in the economic capital, Abidjan, aims to find solutions to the country's current socio-political crisis.
One of the core issues is the status of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara who served as prime minister in 1990-1993. He has been banned from standing in presidential and legislative elections on the grounds that he is not of Ivorian descent, a charge he denies. His party, the Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR - Rally of Republicans) says that the authorities are denying his civil and political rights. Ouattara has said that he will not attend the forum unless these rights are re-established. However media reports said that Ouattara, along with two other absentees, ex-president Konan Bedie and former military ruler General Robert Guei, would soon be in Abidjan for the debates.
Other political parties, NGOs, trade associations, right groups, representatives of immigrant communities and individuals are expected to address the forum, which ends on 10 December.
COTE D'IVOIRE: Yellow fever update
Twenty-one people have died of yellow fever in Cote d'Ivoire out of a total of 203 suspected cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Wednesday. Cases have been registered in 20 districts. WHO and its partners launched a mass vaccination campaign in Abidjan on 21 September. Some 2,610,994 people were immunised under a 10-day vaccination campaign that ended just over a week ago.
SIERRA LEONE: Government, rebels resume disarmament
The government of Sierra Leone and the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) on Thursday agreed to implement in "good faith all the decisions agreed in prior meetings", a statement from the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) said.
At the end of the one-day meeting of the Joint Committee on Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR), comprising the government, UNAMSIL and RUF, the parties agreed to complete disarmament in the northern district of Koinadugu and the southern district of Moyamba by 22 October. They also agreed to complete disarmament in the southern district of Bo and the northern district of Bombali by 31 October.
The committee also reached agreement on an accelerated schedule for the remainder of the DDR process, with disarmament of the Western Area from 1-7 November, the districts of Tonkolili in the centre and Pujehun in the south from 1-14 November, and Kenema and Kailahun in the east from 15-30 November, the statement said.
Disarmament in Bombali had been stalled following various grievances voiced by the RUF including their dissatisfaction with the choice of location for handing over weapons. The pro-government Kamajor militia had also suspended disarmament last week in Bo in protest against what they called a "new condition" requiring each combatant wishing to enter the DDR programme to turn over a weapon and 60 rounds of ammunition.
Meanwhile the government agreed to announce as soon as possible a programme to collect, in collaboration with UNAMSIL, shotguns and other weapons not covered by the DDR programme, the statement said, adding that the weapons collected by the government will be kept by UNAMSIL in safe custody.
NCDDR starts paying reinsertion allowances
Sierra Leone's National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) started paying reinsertion packages to former fighters this week in the wake of rioting over their non-payment.
Thirty-six former combatants were fined, sent to jail or reprimanded for rioting in the northern town of Port Loko on 24 September, an official from the NCDDR told IRIN on Thursday. During the riot the former fighters attacked the NCDDR office, threw stones, broke windows, assaulted staff and damaged vehicles. They were demanding immediate payment of their reinsertion package, approximately 300,000 leones (US $150), a short-term payment for disarmed and demobilised ex-fighters waiting to begin vocational training programmes in their home areas, Solomon Moriba, broadcasting officer at NCDDR, said.
Payment of the reinsertion package started in Port Loko on Wednesday. Other northern towns, including Kambia, Lungi and Lunsar, also started payments on Wednesday. Some 200-300 ex-combatants demonstrated over the same issue in Freetown on Monday. No arrests were made and police dispersed the protesters. Registration is due to begin in the Western Area of Freetown on 15 October, Moriba said.
Nearly 30,000 former combatants, including Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and pro-government Civil Defence Forces, who took part in Sierra Leone's 10-year civil war, have handed over weapons since the government and RUF signed the Lome Peace Accord in July 1999, NCDDR said.
WEST AFRICA: Annan welcomes proposed Mano River summit
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said on 5 October that he was pleased at recent progress made by officials from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia towards restoring peace to the Mano River Union (MRU), which comprises the three countries. He added that he welcomed a proposed MRU presidential summit to be held early next year. The UN, Annan said, would "support the MRU member states in their common efforts to create the necessary conditions for enhancing and disseminating a culture of peace in the sub-region".
The Mano River Union is an organisation created in 1973 to strengthen ties between the three countries. However, years of civil war in Sierra Leone and Liberia and instability in Guinea have severely affected peace, strained relations between the three, and rendered the union virtually defunct.
WEST AFRICA: MRU humanitarian victims receive aid
The European Commission (EC) has adopted a global plan worth euro 5.1 million (about US $4.7 million) for victims of the "continuing humanitarian crisis" in the countries of the Mano River Union, the EC Humanitarian Aid Office, ECHO, reported. The targeted beneficiaries are refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Guinea hosts an estimated 200,000 refugees from Sierra Leone while there are up to 30,000 Guinean IDPs, ECHO said.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Armed forces deny coup rumours
Authorities in Guinea-Bissau have denied rumours that sections of the military were preparing to overthrow the government, according to media and other sources in the capital, Bissau. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Verissimo Seabra held a press conference on Tuesday at which he denied allegations that a coup was under preparation and that alleged coup plotters had been arrested, a humanitarian source told IRIN. The coup rumours were also denied on Tuesday by Interior Minister Almara Ntchia Nhasse, AFP said.
NIGERIA: Upsurge in TB cases reported
Nigeria has had an upsurge of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the last 10 years, with more than 200,000 people suffering from the disease every year, its health minister was reported as saying this week.
Health Minister Alphonsus Nwosu said on Monday in the capital, Abuja, that 27,000 new TB cases were detected last year. "Over the last 10 years, there has been an upsurge in the incidence of this disease," he said. "Poverty, economic recession and malnutrition are contributing factors to this trend." He added that "recent increases in human migration have rapidly increased the infection rate of previously uninfected communities".
According to Nwosu, the emergence of HIV infection and multi-drug resistance (MDR) has also contributed to the upsurge in TB, which kills more HIV-positive people than any other infectious disease in Nigeria.
NIGERIA: Meetings banned in troubled state
All political, cultural and religious meetings have been banned in central Nigeria's Plateau State by a security forces committee set up following ethno-religious clashes in the state capital, Jos, 'The Daily Trust' newspaper in the capital, Abuja, reported. The committee said anyone wishing to hold such meetings "should apply to the appropriate authorities within 72 hours before the date of the meeting and must obtain written approval before holding" them.
SENEGAL: Scores of armed men loot businesses in Casamance
A group of armed men went on a looting spree on Tuesday evening in a village some 10 km east of Ziguinchor, the main town in southern Senegal's Casamance area, according to media reports. The group looted six shops and a tourist camp site in Niaguis village, the French news agency, AFP, reported an official source as saying. The attack was reportedly led by members of the Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC), which has been fighting for self-rule for Casamance since 1982, according to AFP. In a similar attack on 6 October around 30 armed men, presumed to be MFDC rebels, looted several shops in an area of Ziguinchor.
BENIN: Church organisation targets girls' education
The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has embarked on a one-year project which hopes to improve long-term food security in Benin by promoting the education of some 10,000 rural primary school students. Under the project, funded with over US $1 million by the United States Department of Agriculture, CRS and its local partner, the Global Food for Education Initiative, will expand the formal education programme to about 60 new schools in the impoverished northern regions of Benin. The project aims to establish community-run canteens and a facility for girls to receive take-home rations to increase their participation in primary education.
AFRICA: Continental campaign against sleeping sickness
Burkina Faso's prime minister, Ernest Paramanga Yonly, launched a campaign on 5 October to eradicate the tsetse fly and sleeping sickness from Africa in the next five years. The Pan African Tsetse Fly and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Campaign (PATTEC) was launched at a five-day meeting in Ouagadougou, attended by some 300 scientists from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe.
According to WHO, 60 million people are at risk in 37 countries while 300,000 are already infected. It says 25,000 people die every year and the situation is worsening because 40,000 persons are infected annually. Rural and agricultural development also suffers as a result of the tsetse fly. It attacks animals, leading to reduced meat and milk production which increases the risk of famine and a further descent into poverty.
WEST AFRICA: Floods in Chad, Guinea, Mali
Floods caused by heavy rains have affected some 353,000 people in the West African nations of Chad, Guinea and Mali, prompting their governments to call for international help.
In Chad, about 100 persons have been reported dead or missing following the floods, which have affected 129,500 Chadians, while in Guinea, where the affected population totals about 220,000, nine people were reported to have died, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in separate reports on 5 October. In Mali there have been reports of two deaths and some 3,500 flood victims, OCHA said on Tuesday.
Governments have requested drugs to treat waterborne diseases such as cholera. They have also asked for food, blankets, tents and material for rebuilding and repairing houses. In each country the floods were brought on by heavy rains that caused rivers to burst their banks, according to OCHA.
WEST AFRICA: Officials to discuss ways to fight human trafficking
A week-long meeting to discuss ways of combating human trafficking and corruption is due to open on 21 October in Ghana's capital, Accra, an official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) told IRIN on Tuesday. The meeting, organised by ECOWAS and the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, will also examine measures to end drug trafficking and money laundering, which go hand in hand with terrorism, PANA reported.
Meanwhile the Nigerian Senate's committee on women's affairs and youth has announced that it will hold public hearings to investigate child labour, sex trading and other forms of exploitation to which minors are subjected, AFP reported on Sunday. The 16-17 October hearing will look into various aspects of these abuses, including perpetrators, favorite destinations and impact on Nigeria's society. Child labour in West Africa has been reported increasingly by the media, especially since April, when the Etinero, a ship presumed to be taking minors to work as farmers or domestics in Central African countries, hit international headlines.
TOGO: Parliamentary election postponed
Togo's National Electoral Commission has postponed to an unspecified date parliamentary elections that were slated for Sunday. It announced its decision on Friday, adding that "reasons beyond its control" had forced it to delay the polls, news organisations have reported. The polls are meant to replace a 1999 legislative election which the opposition boycotted after accusing the government of rigging a presidential poll in mid-1998.
MALI: ADF support for rural development
The African Development Fund (ADF) has approved a loan of some US $19.68 million for a project to support rural development in Mali's Mopti region, the African Development Bank (ADB) said in a news release on Wednesday. The project seeks to improve food security and reduce poverty by diversifying and increasing agricultural production and promoting income-generating activities, the ADB reported. The project also hopes to help put in place basic social infrastructure, including boreholes and latrines, and build the operational and institutional capacity of the Mopti Rice Authority, the ADB reported. The ADF is the small-loans branch of the ADB group.
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