Guinea-Bissau + 3 more

IRIN Update 604 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: UN peacekeeping troops due

A battalion of Kenyan troops is expected to arrive at Lungi International Airport on Monday to form part of the new UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, UN sources in Freetown told IRIN.

The Kenyan contingent, due to have arrived last week but delayed because of logistical problems, will form part of a 6,000-strong force also made up of units from Ghana, Guinea, India and Nigeria.

A handful of Kenyan officers are already in Sierra Leone ahead of their troops and some logistical equipment also arrived on Sunday, the BBC reported. The Kenyans are expected to set up a temporary transit base before being deployed to the northern towns of Magburaka and Makeni, it added.

The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sierra Leone, Francis Okelo, told the BBC on Monday he was "quite confident" that the UN force would succeed in its task.

It has been mandated by the UN Security Council to cooperate with the government in the implementation of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme. Other areas of responsibility include ensuring the security and freedom of movement of personnel in the delivery of humanitarian aid, and to encourage the parties involved to create confidence-building measures.

ECOMOG to form bulk of force

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN on Monday that the new UN force will include four ECOMOG battalions, some 4,000 soldiers. Three battalions (minus one company from Guinea) are from Nigeria and one battalion from Ghana, approximately a third of the existing ECOMOG forces currently in Sierra Leone.

"As soon as the UN force is officially proclaimed, the ECOMOG soldiers will join it," Olukolade said. Nigeria, along with Ghana and Guinea, has had soldiers in Sierra Leone for several years as part of the West African Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) defending the democratically elected government against rebels.

Some ECOMOG forces will probably stay in Sierra Leone for some months to to ensure security although the exact number is not clear, the BBC reported.

SIERRA LEONE: New austerity budget announced

Finance Minister James Jonah announced on Friday an austerity budget of 275.98 billion leones for the fiscal year 2,000, presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told IRIN on Monday.

According to Kaikai, Jonah said that the budget, amounting to some US $128 million at the official exchange rate of 2,154 leones to the dollar, could be revised upwards once aid money began to flow again.

The budget includes some 58.5 billion leones to be spent on security, 78.2 billion leones on wages, 42.8 billion leones on domestic debt payments and 26 billion leones on servicing external debt, Kaikai told IRIN. He added that the International Monetary Fund was due to review government spending in May 2000 with a view towards working on a structural adjustment programme.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Business as usual following Sunday's election

It was business as usual on the streets of Bissau on Monday following Sunday's legislative and presidential elections which were generally calm, although marred by the late opening of some polling stations and the postponement of voting in parts of the country.

The sole helicopter taking ballot papers and voting urns to the Bijagos Islands, just southwest of Bissau, broke down and did not arrive in the archipelago on Saturday, so voting there had to be postponed to Monday (29 November). Voting in parts of Tombali region in the south and in the Bissora sector of the northern region of Oio was also put off to Monday for similar reasons.

The late arrival of voting material caused delays in the opening of some polling stations in other parts of the country. This led to the only significant incident reported on Sunday, when irate electors blocked the main road next to their polling station in one of Bissau's 195 constituencies before being dispersed by the police. The ballots arrived later and people were able to vote, informed sources told IRIN.

Transport problems also caused delays in the collection of ballots from some polling stations after the vote.

The elections were the second multiparty polls since independence from Portugal in 1975. They were to have been held in March under an agreement in November 1998 between then president Nino Vieira and the Military Junta that eventually overthrew him on 7 May 1999, but were subsequently postponed to 28 November.

The overthrow led to the freezing of the bulk of a US $200-million aid package the international community had committed for Guinea-Bissau on 4-5 May 1999 in Geneva although the United Nations, the European Community and other donors provided financial and material support for the elections.

[For full report see IRIN separate entitled 'GUINEA-BISSAU: Business as usual following Sunday's election']

NIGERIA: Lagos Governor moves to stem Hausa exodus

Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu has told Hausa leaders in the metropolis that he will secure their lives and property and that the community in this largely Yoruba city could resume its commercial activities.

"Everyone should go back to their homes and go about their normal business," Tinubu said in a television broadcast on Sunday. "We guarantee security of life and property."

Tinubu met with Hausa community leaders at the weekend in an attempt to stem the tide of hundreds of Hausa traders fleeing the city after last week's clashes with their Yoruba neighbours. At least 30 people are feared dead following two days of fighting between both communities beginning Thursday in the Ketu district of Lagos. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), a nationalist Yoruba interest group, for the troubles.

"Some fled to the north and some left for other parts of Lagos," a media source in Lagos told IRIN.

Up to a million Hausas live in Lagos, a city of some eight million.

NIGERIA: Food Supplies interrupted

Food supplies to Lagos from the north have been interrupted in the wake of communal clashes last week, which caused extensive damage to food depots at the Mile 12 market in the Ketu district of the city.

"Traders trying to bring produce to warehouses at Mile12 on Saturday were turned back by the police and told that the market was closed until further notice," a news source in Lagos told IRIN.

Many food trucks are now stopping in Ibadan, some 100 km north of Lagos, which increases the cost of trucking supplies to Lagos, the source added.

The Mile 12 market serves as a drop-off point for a variety of foodstuffs brought to Lagos from northern Nigeria including the staple cowpeas, yams, sheep, vegetables and dried fish from Lake Chad.

The news source said cost of food items has risen substantially in most local markets following the rupture in supplies. Before this, tomatoes cost 20 naira (about 21 US cents) for half a kilo, the source said, now they cost at least 100 naira ($1)

LIBERIA: Electricity hopes for Monrovia

Christmas trees might be lit again in Liberia this year with the arrival of the first of five generators for the country's overstretched power supply company, Reuters reported on Friday.

Vice President Enoch Dogolea said electricity would be restored to the capital, Monrovia, by 24 December. The generator, which arrived from the Czech Republic on Thursday, has been bought with a US $2-million grant from Taiwan, Reuters added.

President Charles Taylor appointed Dogoleah in August to head a commission charged with restoring electricity to the capital by 31 December. Since his inauguration in August 1997, Taylor has repeatedly promised to restore power to Monrovia.

The capital has been without electricity since 1992 when faction fighters destroyed the nation's hydroelectric plant.

Abidjan, 29 November 1999; 19:00 GMT


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