Guinea-Bissau + 4 more

IRIN Update 583 of events in West Africa

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
Tel: +225 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35

SIERRA LEONE: AFRC leader claims RUF massing in Makeni

Some 2,000 heavily armed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels have arrived in the last two days in Makeni, some 140 km northeast of Freetown, the head of the ex-Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (ex-AFRC), Johnny Paul Koroma, claimed in an e-mail message received by IRIN on Friday.

Koroma said that two weeks ago he warned Sierra Leone government, UN and ECOMOG officials of "an alarming influx of heavily armed RUF rebels from Kailahun into Makeni led by Issa Sesay".

"In addition," Koroma said, "all able bodied men staying in Makeni have been rounded up and sent off to Kailahun for military training. They were driven in the trucks and vans looted from aid agencies." Last week aid agencies said there had been looting of vehicles, equipment and supplies in Makeni.

IRIN was unable to reach a government spokesperson to comment on Koroma's claims. However, IRIN learnt from a media source that an army officer had estimated the number of RUF reinforcements sent to Makeni at about 500.

On Friday, the Missionary News Agency (MISNA) reported clashes among rival groups along the road to Freetown near Lunsar, some 60 km west of Makeni, and said there was "an increasingly critical situation in northern Sierra Leone".

Humanitarian sources in Freetown told IRIN on Friday that there had been unconfirmed reports of skirmishes around Lunsar last week but no other information was available. The situation around Makeni was reported to be quiet although people were trapped there, afraid to use the highways and suffering acute food shortages, another source said.

The Sierra Leone government expressed concern on Thursday about clashes between rival rebel groups saying they were threatening the ceasefire agreement signed on 7 July, according to Reuters.

Makeni is the gateway to north and north-eastern Sierra Leone, which have suffered from a lack of access to commercial and humanitarian assistance for much of the year. A humanitarian source told IRIN last week that if aid agencies were unable to access Makeni then activities over a larger area would be affected.

SIERRA LEONE: Obasanjo to visit Freetown

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is to make a one-day visit to Freetown on 5 November for talks with his counterpart Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, news organisations reported Sierra Leone's state radio as saying on Thursday.

The visit will show that Nigeria and its leaders are genuinely concerned about the safety and security of Sierra Leone, state radio quoted Kabbah as saying.

Nigerian troops formed the bulk of the Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) which defended Kabbah's government against RUF rebels and its allies prior to the signing of the peace accord in July.

NIGERIA: More US assistance in sight

US President Bill Clinton described the election of Olusegun Obasanjo as signalling "a new day for Nigeria and new hope for Africa" at a joint news conference held at the White House on Thursday.

"Nigeria is a pivot point on which the future of all Africa and much of the world will turn. I am very glad that country is in the hands of this leader today," the US Information Agency (USIA) quoted Clinton as saying after talks with President Obasanjo.

He added that he had requested sufficient funds from the US Congress to triple or quadruple America's bilateral aid to Nigeria, USIA said. The United States will also do whatever it legally can to help Nigeria recover funds looted by previous regimes and banked in the US and Switzerland, USIA reported.

The Nigerian authorities believe that more than US $5 billion of state money was illegally taken out of the country, the BBC reported.

Washington has also promised to help Nigeria reduce its debt by supporting "generous debt rescheduling through the Paris Club," according to USIA.

Obasanjo began on Thursday his first official visit to Washington since coming to power in May. The United States is Nigeria's largest trade and investment partner, relying on the West African nation for 8 percent of its imported oil, Reuters reported

MAURITANIA: Spain offers aid to flood victims

Spain gave Mauritania 1,000 mt of food on Thursday for victims of successive droughts and floods, AFP said quoting informed sources. It cited the pro-governmental daily newspaper, Chaab, as reporting that the wheat, oil and milk were delivered to the Mauritanian agency for food security.

Rains, the heaviest in 30 years in some parts, have left tens of thousands of people homeless, submerged farmlands and destroyed infrastructure in West Africa, from Mauritania in the West through to Cameroon in the east.

The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) last week listed Mauritania among the worst affected of eight West African countries hit by the rains.

TOGO: NGO makes US $2 million appeal for flood victims

A Togolese NGO is seeking US $2 million to care for 64,000 flood victims, at least 40,000 of them children, in four regions of Togo and has asked the European humanitarian aid agency, ECHO, for help, OCHA said in its situation report of 28 October.

The NGO, l'Organisation de la Charite pour un developpement integral (OCDI), says it would use the money over four months to buy maize, vegetable oil, beans and anti-malaria medicines. OCHA said the funds would pay for blankets, clothes, mattresses, transport and cover the needs of local staff.

The OCDI's request was presented in an evaluation report to ECHO on the floods in Kara, Plateaux, Maritime and Savanes. Officials in the Togolese Interior Ministry told IRIN on Friday that the worst affected regions were Savanes and Centrale.

OCHA reported 42,000 flood affected people in Savanes. At least 1,000 hectares of arable land has been inundated, hundreds of homes and over 100 bridges destroyed. In addition, 800 km of roads have become unusable, isolating villages.

UNICEF has said it is ready to help in the health sector and will discuss details with the Ministry of Health, OCHA said, adding that Germany and the United States had also shown interest without specifying the sectors of their planned contributions.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Portuguese firm loses port management contract

Guinea-Bissau's government has created a port administration body and rescinded a contract awarded earlier to a Portuguese company, Tertir, for the management of the port of Bissau, ACEP, a network of Lusophone NGOs based in Portugal, reported on Friday.

The new state body, Administraç=E3o dos Portos de Bissau, will be responsible for contracting private firms to operate the country's ports, ACEP reported.

The government said it had stripped Tertir of the contract because the Portuguese firm had not fulfilled it. It said the management of Bissau port had been under discussion for months because of problems that had turned it into West Africa's most expensive port.

Abidjan, 29 October 1999; 17:48 GMT


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