Gambia + 3 more

IRIN Update 458 of events in West Africa

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News and Press Release
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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35
e-mail: irin-wa@ocha.unon.org

WEST AFRICA: More aid for ECOMOG

The US government is to give more aid to ECOMOG as part of efforts to ensure peace in the West African region, a US embassy official in Lagos told IRIN on Thursday. However, exact figures were not immediately available, according to the diplomat.

US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering announced the additional aid on Wednesday in Abuja, news reports said. Pickering said the United States appreciated the sacrifices Nigeria had made for peace and stability in the sub-region, but expressed concern about the war in Sierra Leone and Liberia's role in that crisis.

Nigeria contributes the majority of the troops in ECOMOG, set up in 1990 by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intervene in Liberia's civil war, and whose mandate was later extended to Sierra Leone.

ECOMOG is backing the elected government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah against Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels trying to unseat his government. Liberia, on the other hand, has been accused by members of the international community of supporting the RUF, a charge its government has consistently denied.

France gives transport vehicles to Guinean ECOMOG contingent

Meanwhile a French embassy spokeswoman in Lagos confirmed on Thursday to IRIN that France was giving some 40 military transport vehicles to the Guinean contingent of ECOMOG in Sierra Leone. An ECOMOG spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukulade, told IRIN that this was "a most welcome development".

SIERRA LEONE: Forum for harmony between ECOMOG and civilians

A 19-member committee made up of ECOMOG officials, civilians, journalists and lawyers has been formed to look into relations between the public and the West African peacekeeping force, according to an ECOMOG press statement sent on Thursday to IRIN.

The ECOMOG force commander, Major General Felix Mujakperuo, said the panel was "one of the major agents to be used by the force to achieve its objectives of peace in Sierra Leone". He called on the committee "to work out the means of addressing the complex issues which affect the understanding and relationship between soldiers and civilians".

Following the rebel invasion of Freetown on 6 January, the Nigerian-led ECOMOG force was accused of harassing civilians and committing summary executions of suspected rebels or their supporters. Mujakperuo said some of the complaints about ECOMOG were true while others were "fabrications". He said his force wanted to eliminate abuses.

Human rights group urges warring parties not to recruit children

An international human rights monitoring agency has called on all parties involved in the civil war in Sierra Leone not to recruit children as soldiers and to demobilize all minors in their ranks. The appeal was made in letters sent by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to leaders of the government and rebels.

President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah has made repeated international commitments to stop recruiting and begin demobilizing all children in pro-government forces, although HRW expressed "deep concern" that large numbers of children in Bo and Kenema had reportedly been recruited by the pro-government Kamajor civil defence force.

The rebel Revolutionary United Front has also been accused of abducting children and using them as soldiers during its campaign to topple the government.

For copies of the letters please visit the HRW website:
<www.hrw.org/hrw.press/1999/may/sl0504.htm>

Guinea Bissau: Bissau Airport to Reopen on 25 May

The international airport in Bissau should reopen on 25 May, media reports quote Guinea Bissau Prime Minister Francisco Fadul as saying on Wednesday.

Fadul reportedly made the announcement at a Guinea Bissau donors' conference in Geneva, Lusa said.

Bissalanca airport has been closed since the outbreak of a military rebellion in Guinea Bissau on 7 June 1998.

NIGERIA: New Constitution now law

Nigeria's outgoing military ruler, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, signed the country's new constitution into law on Wednesday, state-owned Voice of Nigeria radio reported.

Abubakar said the new document, patterned after the suspended 1979 constitution, will give more powers to the country's 36 states. Although details of it are yet to be made public, Abubakar said the constitution had been amended "in consonance with the peoples' yearnings for true federalism", AFP reported. It comes into effect on 29 May, the day the incoming civilian government assumes power.

Pro-democracy groups have criticised the military for not publishing the document. However, Abubakar said it would be made public soon.

LIBERIA: CARITAS donates agricultural materials

A Roman Catholic relief service, CARITAS has given tools, rice and vegetable seeds to the Catholic parish in Barclayville, Grand Kru County, independent Star radio reported on Wednesday. The items will be distributed among members of St. Peter's Parish in the town. Star said CARITAS would later distribute building materials to returnees in the county, and that this would benefit mainly the elderly and widows.

Meanwhile, thieves stole at least 400 bags of rice seed, 10,000 assorted agricultural tools and educational supplies at the weekend from the Lutheran World Service central warehouse in Monrovia, Star radio reported the NGO as saying in a statement on Tuesday.

Troops guard arms depot

Liberian troops have joined West African peacekeepers guarding an arms and munitions depot holding materiel retrieved when ECOMOG troops disarmed the nation's six warring factions, Star radio said. President Charles Taylor said he ordered in his troops after receiving reports of attempts to seize the arms at the former ECOMOG base on Bushrod Island in Monrovia's Free Zone.

Under the Liberian peace accord, ECOWAS is supposed to decide on what to do with the arms and ammunition. On taking office in July 1997, Taylor had demanded that the weapons be handed over to his government.

THE GAMBIA: Cuba to provide 100 more doctors

Cuba will send 100 more doctors to work in The Gambia beginning in June, under a deal struck between the leaders of both countries when Gambian President Yahya Jammeh visited Cuba in March, AFP reported on Thursday. A number of Cuban doctors are already in the country. AFP also quoted Dr Pedro Alphonso, head of a Cuban delegation that visited The Gambia, as saying Cuban medical schools would accept Gambian students from September.

Abidjan, 6 May 1999, 17:20 GMT

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-760

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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999