Guinea-Bissau + 4 more

IRIN Update 630 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@irin.ci

SIERRA LEONE: Deployment of UN peacekeepers on track

UN peacekeepers continue to be deployed in Sierra Leone, with over 4,500 troops already on the ground, the UN Secretary-General's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said on Monday in New York.

Of the six battalions that comprise the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) five have arrived in the mission area, Eckhard said. They are from Kenya, Ghana, India and Nigeria (two).

A UNAMSIL spokesman in Freetown told IRIN that by 10 January, one Nigerian battalion had been deployed to Lungi, site of Sierra Leone's international airport, as well as nearby Pepel village and Tasso Island. The other Nigerian battalion has been sent to Port Loko, Masiaka and Lunsar, all of which are crucial points on the roads from Freetown to other parts of the country.

The deployment of the Kenyan battalion in the northern town of Makeni and in Magburaka, some 30 km south-east of Makeni was nearing completion. Some 300 Ghanaians had been sent to Daru in the eastern district of Kailahun and others were being sent to Kenema and Bo, UNAMSIL said.

The Indian contingent is providing administrative, medical, transport and engineering support. It also includes an aviation refuelling unit. The remaining battalion, from Guinea, is scheduled to arrive in Freetown shortly, Eckhard said.

In addition to the peacekeeping troops, some 215 unarmed military observers from 30 countries are monitoring the ceasefire and reporting on violations, UNAMSIL said.

LIBERIA: Burglars rob Taylor's country home

Armed men wearing black masks recently robbed President Charles Taylor's residence in Gbarnga, central Liberia, taking a generator and other valuables, news organisations reported on Monday.

'The News', a Liberian daily, said the men, alleged to be former combatants of Taylor's disbanded National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), reportedly carried assault rifles during the attack, according to PANA.

The paper also quoted local residents as saying that criminals had recently been burgling private residences and institutions, including the Catholic mission compound which the NPFL occupied during much of the eight-year civil war that ended in 1997.

There are an estimated 35,000-40,000 ex-combatants in Liberia. Of these 20,332 were officially registered as having disarmed during a demobilisation campaign in 1997, according to the UN.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Health workers strike

Nurses and other health workers in Guinea-Bissau began a strike on Monday to demand compensation for unpaid overtime. However, their protest is unlikely to have a significant impact on health services which, in any case, are in a poor state as a result of the 1998 civil war, humanitarian sources said.

"Not all health workers have observed the strike and life-saving operations will continue to be performed," a humanitarian source in Bissau told IRIN. "The strike is expected to be of limited duration and to end on Wednesday," the source added.

MALI: Bandits kill soldiers in the northeast

Three soldiers riding in an ambulance were killed and one wounded by eight armed men last week in northern Mali, AFP quoted local television as saying. The reason for the attack was unknown, it said.

The soldiers had been returning from Gao, over 800 km northeast of Bamako, where they had delivered armed bandits captured in connection with a spate of cattle rustling, AFP said.

The ambulance was later found abandoned between Gao and the city of Nenaka.

A source from the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) told IRIN that two NGO vehicles had been stolen in Gao since mid-December.

NIGERIA: Rights groups point to improvement under Obasanjo

Human rights and pro-democracy groups in Nigeria say the performance of the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo is a marked improvement on that of the previous military regimes but more needs to be done.

[See Item: irin-english-2255 titled 'NIGERIA: Focus on human rights and democracy']

NIGERIA: Abducted policeman murdered

A policeman was abducted and killed on Monday following a confrontation between militant members of the Yoruba group Oodua People's Congress (OPC) and the police, news organisations reported on Tuesday.

Official sources said the trouble started following the arrest of a man on Sunday for alleged theft and armed robbery, Lagos State Police Commissioner Mike Okiro was quoted as saying by 'The Guardian' newspaper. "A group of about 300 men stormed Bariga police station on the outskirts of Lagos, claiming they were members of the OPC and were there to effect the release of the member who was arrested by the police," Okiro said.

During Monday's attack, the group kidnapped a superintendent of police, Afolabi Amao, according to 'The Guardian'. The daily quoted Lagos State Police Command spokesman Fabulous Enyaosah as saying that an arrested suspect confessed that Amao's body was thrown into a lagoon.

The marine wing of the police force has been ordered to recover the body from the lagoon, the report added.

Unofficial sources linked the reported killing of Amao to the disruption on Sunday of an OPC meeting by police, who allegedly shot dead one militant, 'The Guardian' reported. According to the BBC, there is an ongoing feud between the police and the OPC over the latter's use of violence.

NIGERIA: British minister proposes bilateral forum

British Foreign Minister Peter Hain on Monday announced plans for a Britain-Nigeria bilateral forum, according to a news release issued by the Deputy British High Commission in Lagos.

"I would envisage that our governments get together formally at least once a year at senior ministerial level to discuss issues such as foreign policy and conflict prevention, defence, industry, trade and health," Hain said. "I see this as a partnership of equals."

He added that issues discussed during meetings with President Olusegun Obasanjo, Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Foreign Minister Sule Lamido included debt, economic reform and Sierra Leone. Hain is expected to travel to Sierra Leone on Wednesday.

NIGERIA: Obasanjo heads anti-AIDS campaign

President Olusegun Obasanjo has taken control of Nigeria's fight against AIDS, according to an official statement quoted by news organisations on Monday.

Obasanjo now chairs an HIV/AIDS Ministerial Action Programme Committee (MAPC), whose other members include his deputy and the ministers of health, education, information, defence, culture, women's affairs and youth development. The Nigerian president has also approved the creation of a working panel on HIV/AIDS which will report directly to the MAPC.

Presidential Spokesman Doyin Okupe said Obasanjo wanted to raise public awareness of the disease and was fulfilling a promise he made on World AIDS Day in December to lead the campaign.

The Nigerian government's statement coincided with a UN Security Council meeting on Monday on 'The situation in Africa: the impact of AIDS on peace and security.' The meeting, chaired by US Vice President Al Gore, marked the first time that the Security Council had come together to specifically debate a health issue, the UN news service reported.

NIGERIA: Government files to recover Abacha money

Nigeria has filed a formal application to the Swiss government to recover more than US $550 million dollars frozen in bank accounts linked to former military ruler Sani Abacha, AFP reported the 'Nigerian Tribune' newspaper as saying on Monday.

The Swiss government has given Nigeria until 20 January to make a judicial application over the accounts in Swiss banks, which were frozen at the end of October. The Deputy Foreign Minister told Monday's newspapers that a formal application had now been made setting out the government's claim to the money, it added.

Abidjan, 11 January 2000; 17:30 GMT

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2261

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