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IRIN Update 486 of events in West Africa

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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

NIGERIA: Coming to terms with an ugly military past

One of the first acts of President Olusegun Obasanjo has been to purge the military of about 149 senior officers who had held political office, including all those who had been ministers or military governors, since 1985.

"The retirements do not indict or cast aspersion on the integrity of these officers but should be seen as some of the sacrifices ... to guarantee the survival of democracy in Nigeria," presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe said. He said it was all part of a process of building a new, professional armed forces.

His explanation tallies with popular thinking that soldiers who had held power were more likely to be tempted to seize power and benefit once again from its trappings. But some analysts think the retirements are also an important signal that military rule may be finally over in Nigeria.

[See item titled: "IRIN Background report on moves to clean up military"]

Obasanjo restructures federal ministries

Obasanjo announced on Monday the reorganisation of Nigeria's bloated civil service, naming 35 new permanent secretaries to its 28 ministries and presidential office, state-owned radio and other media reported.

As part of measures to revamp the government, Obasanjo has also restored the Petroleum Resource Ministry, scrapped 11 months ago by the military. New ministries have been created for the environment and police affairs. The former Ministry of Youth and Sports has been scrapped. Sports now falls under the Ministry of Social Development, and youth has been attached to the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

Agriculture will now take on rural development and Labour has become the Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity. Cultural affairs has been moved from the Ministry of Information to the new Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

GUINEA BISSAU: Military Junta warns politicians

Guinea Bissau's Military Junta has reacted sharply to criticism from politicians of its decision to allow deposed president Nino Vieira to leave the country to seek medical attention abroad, Lusa reported.

Speaking on radio on Sunday in the name of Junta leader Ansumane Mane, radio announcer Nino Grilo accused political leaders who have blamed Mane for Vieira's exit of opportunism and said they had failed to mention an agreement with The Gambia, under which Vieira must return to Bissau to stand trial.

Gambian Foreign Minister Sedat Jobe headed a three-man Gambian delegation that mediated Vieira's departure with the authorities in Bissau.

On Tuesday, 'The Gambia Daily' quoted Jobe as saying that shortly before Vieira was allowed to leave Bissau, he confirmed to the authorities that he would return after his treatment to answer charges that he committed corruption while in office.

Lusa quoted Grilo as issuing the following warning to prominent politicians: "Never, never raise the name of Brigadier Ansumane Mane, otherwise you may have serious problems".

Reacting to the warning, Helder Vaz, head of the parliamentary faction of the Resistencia da Guine-Bissau- Movimento Ba- Fata party, declared Monday that there was a risk of "a return to the past and to dictatorship in Guinea Bissau", Lusa reported.

LIBERIA: Public administration school to reopen

The Liberia Institute of Public Administration (LIPA) is to run a training course for civil servants for the first time in a decade, the independent Star radio reported.

LIPA Director General James Teah Tarpeh announced over the weekend that about 80 people are expected to participate in the course -on research methods- which starts on 21 June.

LIPA, set up in 1969 to conduct research and training in modern government operations, had a library of more than 7,000 books, journals and other publications, which the war reduced to just seven books, the radio reported Tarpeh as saying.

The institute operates in space provided by the Ministry of Finance. Its building needs renovation, for which more than US $ 250,000 is required, Tarpeh said.

Ex-faction leader on arms destruction

Star radio also reported that former faction leader Alhaji Kromah has welcomed the international community's involvement in the destruction of weapons collected from former warring factions in the Liberian conflict.

Kromah, former leader of the disbanded ULIMO-K faction, said he was happy the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the UN were involved in the weapons destruction, planned for 26 July, Star reported.

Kromah, who had initially opposed the exercise, saying the government could not unilaterally destroy the weapons given suspicions about its motives, also called for a strengthening of the ECOWAS/UN arms embargo on Liberia.

MAURITANIA: NGO seeks US $20,000 for refugees

A Swiss-based humanitarian agency, Action by Churches Together (ACT), has said it needs another US $20,000 to provide food, clothing, medicines, school fees and shelter for 300 Sierra Leonean war refugees in Mauritania.

In an appeal on Monday, it said two-thirds of its US $60,000 project to care for the refugees was given by the UNHCR but was "too limited to address all the needs of the refugees".

ACT said 100 of the refugees - sick people, handicapped persons, children and women - were in "dire need of immediate" help.

The refugees, who first started arriving in Mauritania when war broke out in Sierra Leone in 1991, have "no means of earning a living", ACT said.

The project, due to end on 31 December, is being implemented by ACT's partner, the Lutheran World Federation/Department of World Service.

Abidjan, 15 June 1999, 18:05 GMT

[ENDS]

[IRIN-WA: Tel: +225 217366 Fax: +225 216335 e-mail: irin-wa@ocha.unon.org ]

Item: irin-english-1036

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