Ghana + 3 more

IRIN Update 621of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
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SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG says it intercepted arms smugglers

The Economic Community of West African States Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) said on Tuesday it was questioning seven ex-Sierra Leone Army/Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (ex-SLA/AFRC) rebels caught last week trying to smuggle arms into Freetown by boat, AFP reported.

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade said the men were "elements" from the Occra Hills, east of Freetown, who had attempted to infiltrate the capital.

The AFRC was the junta formed by ex-SLA members who overthrew Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in May 1997 and ruled the country with the help of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) until it was ousted by ECOMOG in February 1998.

SIERRA LEONE: Three AFRC killed by ECOMOG forces near Lungi

ECOMOG said on Monday that its troops killed three ex-SLA/AFRC members and took one prisoner in Makanta, a village north of the Freetown peninsula, according to news organisations.

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade said the three were killed on Sunday when ECOMOG troops went to repel a rebel attack on the village. A fourth rebel was seriously wounded and taken to hospital in Freetown, Reuters said.

Makanta is close to Lungi where a demobilisation centre has been set up for former fighters, AFP reported.

SIERRA LEONE: New commander replaces Bockarie

Former rebel field commander Sam Bockarie has been replaced by a new commander who will work to implement the Lome peace agreement, Reuters reported on Wednesday, quoting a Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) statement.

The statement, issued on Monday, said Bockarie's "negligence to adhere to the terms of the Lome peace agreement caused him to relinquish his duties".

It said Bockarie had "handed over" to the new commander, 'General' Momoh Rogers, "who is now working towards the full, constructive and positive implementation" of the peace accord signed in July by Sierra Leone's government and the RUF, Reuters reported.

LIBERIA: Bockarie to remain in exile until disarmament completed

Former RUF field commander Sam Bockarie, now in Liberia after fleeing Sierra Leone last week, will not be allowed to return home until the disarmament process is complete, Reuters reported a senior Liberian government source as saying on Tuesday.

Bockarie was reported to have attended a meeting on Monday with the presidents of Liberia and Nigeria and RUF leader Foday Sankoh, where it was agreed that he would stay in Liberia until all the fighters in Sierra Leone had disarmed, according to Reuters.

Bockarie recently announced through a spokesperson that he was dissatisfied with the implementation of the Lome peace deal and openly defied Sankoh by refusing to disarm to ECOMOG or Nigerian soldiers.

SIERRA LEONE: Inter-agency mission to Port Loko

An inter-agency team travelled on 3 December to the town of Port Loko, some 55 km north of Freetown, to assess the condition of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the World Food Programme (WFP) reported.

The team said about 6,560 IDPs in the Maforki displaced camp needed food, water and sanitation. It recommended moving the IDPs away from a nearby disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration camp and then providing them with a one-off food ration, shelter, water and sanitation.

The team included WFP, Children's Aid Direct, the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit, UNICEF, OXFAM, the International Medical Corps, Concern Worldwide, Save the Children and CARITAS.

WFP also reported that some 464 mt of assorted food were distributed recently to about 31,400 people in Bo in south and Kenema in the southeast, while about six mt of seed rice were distributed in Daru in the east.

SIERRA LEONE: Committee appeals for release of abductees

The Committee for the Release of Prisoners of War and Non-Combatants in Sierra Leone has appealed to the leaders of the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to let all abductees go, the UN said on Tuesday.

The committee was set up in response to a request made jointly on 2 June in Lome by the government and the then Revolutionary United Front (RUF - which has since become the RUFP). It said it had seen and talked to people being held against their will, many of them women and children.

More than 2,000 of the children registered as missing since the rebel occupation of Freetown in January are still unaccounted for and new abductions are occurring almost every day, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) said.

"The plight of these captives has not received the attention it deserves," UNAMSIL said, adding that the rebel leadership should show goodwill by letting all abductees go.

NIGER: Tandja sworn in as president

Mamadou Tandja, 61, sworn in on Wednesday as president of Niger after nine months of military rule, promised to work to improve the condition of workers and respect the principles of democracy, the BBC reported.

His government, to be formed by 1 January, faces tough economic hurdles: the state is broke and has for months been beset by strikes by health workers, teachers and other public servants protesting against the non-payment of several months' salary.

Tandja, a retired army colonel with some political experience, won presidential elections in November with 59.9 percent of the vote. The military regime he replaces promised on seizing power in April that it would hand over to a democratic government after nine months.

Tandja heads the Mouvement nationale pour la societe de developpement, which won 38 of the 83 seats in the national assembly.

GHANA: Cabinet to meet on AIDS early in 2000

Ghana's cabinet will early in year 2000 discuss a national strategic plan to combat HIV/AIDS, which has reached 4.6-percent prevalence in the country, state radio reported.

The plan, being drawn up by the Ministry of Health, aims to prevent the HIV rate from reaching five percent, Communications Minister John Mahama told Ghana Broadcasting Corporation on Monday in Accra.

He said the plan would focus on ways of changing public sexual attitudes and behaviour because although public awareness of HIV/AIDS has reached an estimated 90 percent, people still have multiple partners.

A recent survey among prostitutes in Accra's red light district, he said, showed 80-percent HIV prevalence. Research also demonstrates that close to half the people with HIV/AIDS in Ghana are between the ages of 15 and 29 years.

WEST AFRICA: Guinea calls for summit on relations with Liberia

Guinean President Lansana Conte has called for a extraordinary summit of the three-nation Mano River Union (MRU) to discuss outstanding political differences between himself and Liberia's Charles Taylor, Radio Liberia International reported.

The MRU, which is all but defunct, comprises Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Radio Liberia International quoted Doyin Okupe, special assistant on media affairs to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, as saying that Conte wanted the meeting in Abuja, Nigeria.

According to Radio Liberia International, Okupe said such a meeting should help bring total peace and integration in West Africa, and that the need to resolve this and other subregional issues prompted Obasanjo to make a stopover on Monday in Monrovia.

Radio France International (RFI) reported on Tuesday that relations between Taylor and Conte have been sour ever since Liberia's civil war started 10 years ago. Conte was a close ally of late president Samuel Doe, against whom Taylor took up arms in December 1989, RFI said.

Conte and Taylor have occasionally accused each other of backing armed groups opposed to their respective governments. Recent sources of contention include a rebel incursion that left 28 people dead in Macenta, southern Guinea.

WEST AFRICA: Rawlings calls for a more active ECOWAS

Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings has urged West African countries to depend less on their colonial masters and work towards promoting the economic integration of the sub-region, PANA reported on Wednesday.

"Some of us are trapped in over-reliance on our relations with our colonial masters, placing more emphasis on their perceptions," Rawlings said on Tuesday in Accra. "Even if they mean well, it should be to complement our efforts," he said in an audience with a Nigerian trade delegation.

The delegation led by Jerry Gana, Minister of Co-operation and Integration, had just concluded two days of bilateral talks on measures to make the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) more functional.

Gana said concrete decisions had been taken on cooperation between Ghana and Nigeria in terms of a common currency and free movement of goods and people. "We are talking about a rail link between Accra and Lagos," he said. "We are moving fast because time is not on our side."

The 16-nation ECOWAS is facing serious challenges from UEMOA, a monetary union formed by French-speaking ECOWAS members, PANA reported. PANA quoted Rawlings as saying that UEMOA had made advances because of external support. "Some of us have to rely on ourselves," he said.

"If we do what we need to do, we will achieve more," he said, adding that West Africa should not allow itself to be balkanised economically.

Abidjan, 22 December 1999; 17:15 GMT


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