Gabon + 4 more

IRIN Update 636 of events in West Africa

UNITED NATIONSOffice for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 20 21 73 54
Fax: +225 20 21 63 35

NIGERIA: About 90 suspected OPC members charged, news reports say

About 90 people suspected of being members of the Oodua People=C6s Congress (OPC), a militant pressure group, were charged at Lagos Chief Magistrate Court on Tuesday over the killing of a senior police officer, news organisations reported on Wednesday.

The suspects were charged with conspiracy, murder, throwing acid and stealing firearms, æThe Vanguard=C6 newspaper reported. The Chief Magistrate refused to grant them bail and ordered that they be remanded in prison custody pending the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). A further hearing has been set for 28 February 2000, the daily said.

The police officer was reportedly kidnapped on 9 January and killed by a group of suspected OPC members who invaded a police station in Bariga, a suburb of Lagos. Two other policemen on whom the attackers poured acid are also thought to have died, æThe Vanguard=C6 said.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian parliament on Tuesday gave President Olusegun Obasanjo 30 days to take ôdecisive actionö against OPC members over alleged murder, arson and acid attacks, AFP reported state television as saying. The legislators also called for the resignation of senior police officials for their failure to tackle the OPC.

At a meeting on Tuesday in Kaduna, a town in the north of the country, prominent northern elders led by former President Shehu Shagari denounced the activities of the OPC, æThe Guardian=C6 reported. The elders resolved to harmonise the north's interests under one umbrella and said they would soon present the region=C6s position on national issues to the federal government.

The meeting also endorsed the creation of the Arewa People=C6s Congress (APC), a northern ôsocial cultural groupö whose activities, the elders said, would not be subversive.

NIGERIA: Clashes between farmers and herdsmen leave 10 dead

Clashes between local herdsmen and farmers over access to grazing pastures in Niger State, central Nigeria, left 10 people dead including two policemen, AFP reported local authorities as saying on Tuesday.

Abdulkadir Kure, the Niger State governor, met on Monday in the state capital, Minna, with representatives of the two groups to try and resolve the dispute. Confrontations in the state are becoming more common as an expanding population puts increasing pressure on existing pasture, AFP said.

MAURITANIA: Malnutrition level worrying, officials say

Malnutrition has reached worrying proportions in Mauritania, with 36 percent of children under five years old classified as moderately malnourished, news organisations quoted the secretary-general of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Mohamed Ould Rave, as saying. Rave said on Tuesday that 18 percent of the children were emaciated while 34 percent were below normal size.

MAURITANIA: Government bans sale of charcoal

The government of Mauritania has banned the sale of charcoal to preserve the environment in this largely semi-arid country, AFP said quoting a cabinet minister.

During a sensitisation tour of the interior on Monday, Minister of Rural Development Mohamed Ould Sid'Ahmed Lekhall told rural populations they had to protect the few remaining forests by stopping logging for charcoal production.

While the government is urging the public to use gas for domestic needs, the price for a 12-kg cylinder has risen 30 percent.

MALI: France to give 3 million euro for electricity upgrade

France has signed an agreement to give Mali US $3 million to build an electrical power plant in Belingue, a Bamako surburb. The facility, to be equipped with three 7-megawatt turbines, will enable the Societe d'energie du Mali (EDM) to meet demand until the next rainy season. Up until now, the utility has been unable to provide consumers with a constant supply of energy.

SIERRA LEONE: Civilians attacked near Port Loko, reports say

Sierra Leonean rebels attacked areas near the town of Port Loko, north of Freetown, at the end of last week, according to various sources.

AFP reported state radio as saying that at least three people were killed and others robbed in the attacks.

A humanitarian source whose organisation has operations in the area said civilians had been looted in an attack near Port Loko but had heard no reports of casualties.

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade was unable to confirm the attacks. Olukolade told IRIN on Wednesday that the road between Port Loko and Kambia, which was controlled by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), was patrolled by Guinean troops but that ECOMOG did not have a permanent presence in the area.

In a report issued last week UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed serious concern about "the rising level of lawlessness and banditry à in the areas of Lungi and Port Loko".

MALI: President includes colonels in his administration

President Alpha Konare appointed seven colonels last week to serve in his administration, a government spokesman told IRIN.

The colonels were given posts in seven ministries: Mines and Energy, Rural Development and Water, Economy, Interior, Health, Public Works and Transport and Communications, the spokesman said.

The appointments were made shortly after the authorities staved off a mutiny by discontented soldiers demanding bonuses due to them for peacekeeping duties abroad. The soldiers believed to have been behind the rebellion include peacekeepers who served in the West African force, ECOMOG, in Sierra Leone and the UN force in Central African Republic.

The spokesman declined to comment on whether the mutiny and the appointments were linked.

The Malian opposition has accused the government of panicking because a similar protest by disgruntled soldiers in Cote d'Ivoire resulted on 24 December in the overthow of Cote d'Ivoire's elected president, Henri Konan Bedie, the BBC reported.

GABON: Summit on poverty eradication ends

African leaders ended their two-day summit on eradicating poverty on Wednesday saying they were determined to meet the problem "head on", according to news reports. The 20 leaders said participants at the meeting in Libreville, Gabon, recognised that poverty reduction was a challenge they had to "take up themselves", AFP reported.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Michel Camdessus told African leaders on Tuesday as he opened the summit that they "must act now" to improve their economies if they were to wipe out poverty. On Wednesday morning, African Development Bank (ADB) President Omar Kabbaj said average annual economic growth (now 4 percent) must double if African countries were to keep ahead of poverty, which affects 55 percent of the continent's population, AFP reported.

The summit, organised by Gabon's government, the IMF and the World Bank, was preceded on Monday by a meeting of finance ministers.

Abidjan, 19 January 2000; 17:45 GMT


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