Guinea-Bissau + 2 more

IRIN Update 662 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 20 21 73 54
Fax: +225 20 21 63 35

NIGERIA: Relative calm in Kaduna

A sense of normality is gradually returning to Kaduna after three days of religious clashes between Muslims and Christians over the proposed introduction of Sharia law.

"The situation has improved and despite the curfew some people have started returning to their homes," Fabian Okoye of Human Rights Monitor told IRIN on Thursday. Muslims are fleeing predominantly-Christian areas while Christians are leaving mainly-Muslim areas, the BBC reported. Meanwhile, the 24-hour curfew, imposed on Wednesday, has now been eased to between 04:00 pm (15:00 GMT) and 07:00 am (16:00 GMT), the authorities announced on Thursday.

Shops, markets and offices are beginning to open and some people, especially those who took refuge in army and police barracks where resources are "overstretched", are now venturing out to get food for others, Okoye said.

The House of Representatives said it had set up a fact-finding committee to visit Kaduna on 29 February, state television reported on Wednesday. It strongly condemned the religious clashes in Kaduna as "barbaric" and called on the federal government to assist the state authorities in restoring peace to the city. Representative Binta Koji told the House that over 100 people had died since violence broke out on Monday while Okoye told IRIN that "not less than 300 have died in the disturbances." Corpses of Muslims are left to rot in the streets in Christian areas, similarly Christians are left unburied in Muslim areas of Kaduna, the BBC reported on Thursday.

Meanwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo, in an address to the nation on Wednesday, said that the horrors of Kaduna had achieved nothing. "If Nigeria is to tread the power of greatness, it cannot be along the line of religious violence and bigotry. It must be along the path of constitutionality, democracy, the rule of law, and mutual respect for each other in all aspects of our life," Radio Nigeria-Lagos reported him as saying.

SIERRA LEONE: Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up

Sierra Leone's Parliament approved draft legislation on Tuesday to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission envisaged in the Lome Peace Accord signed in July 1999, news organisations reported. It will comprise three international commissioners and four national commissioners.

The commission, which will cover the period from the beginning of the conflict in 1991 to the signing of the accord, will create an "impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law," a UN spokesman said in New York on Wednesday.

Experts provided by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson helped draft the statute which set up the Commission.

SIERRA LEONE: Thousands to receive food in Tonkolili district

More than 17,500 needy people in Lower Yoni chiefdom in Tonkolili district, over 100 km east of Freetown, are to receive a one-month emergency food aid ration, according to a WFP news release issued on Wednesday.

"Recent assessments showed that more than half of the 34,000 people living in Lower Yoni had little or no access to food, as most farmers were prevented from planting last year," said Patrick Buckley, WFP Representative in Sierra Leone. "Our aim is to support vulnerable families, encouraging them to resume farming," he added.

Lower Yoni chiefdom was severely affected by last year's fighting and remained inaccessible to humanitarian agencies for much of last year. Due to low level harvests and mass looting of already scarce food supplies, people in many of the chiefdoms in Tonkolili are exposed to a high risk of food shortages, WFP said.

Some 270 mt of food in nine distribution centres throughout Lower Yoni chiefdom will be handed out by WFP in collaboration with CARE and local NGO partners, WFP said.

SIERRA LEONE: RUF commander expresses concern about safety

The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander for Makeni has expressed fear that his men may be attacked with machetes and other non-conventional weapons after disarming, a government information bulletin reported.

Augustine Bao, speaking at the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) sensitisation workshop on Tuesday in the northern town said the RUF was aware that people in other former fighting factions still possess such weapons which they may use to attack the RUF, the NCDDR reported. Bao urged the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to ensure that this never happens and to guarantee their security after disarmament. It is important, he said, that the disarmament of the various factions takes place on equal terms and called on UNAMSIL to ensure this would happen.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Decision on release of war prisoners postponed

Government ministers met Attorney General Amine Saad on Wednesday to discuss the fate of prisoners of war detained in the aftermath of the country's recent conflict but were unable to reach a decision on their release, Lusa reported.

President Kumba Yala, who urged provisional release of the prisoners during a Monday visit to jail facilities in Bissau, did not attend the meeting.

Yala, who was sworn in as president on 17 February, won a landslide victory against interim president Malam Bacai Sanha in the second round of the election, held on 16 January.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Security Council welcomes constitutional rule

Members of the UN Security Council welcomed the return of constitutional rule to Guinea-Bissau yesterday and called on the government and the international community to provide the necessary support.

In a statement issued after a briefing by the Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Guinea Bissau, Samuel Nana-Sinkam, the Security Council encouraged parties "to work closely together in a spirit of tolerance to strengthen democratic values, to protect the rule of law and to guarantee the protection of human rights."

In addition the Council appealed to the new authorities "to develop and implement programmes designed to consolidate peace, national reconciliation and economic development."

AFRICA: Deforestation is a serious threat

With 520 million hectares of forest, Africa ranks second among the world's continents with this fast-disappearing resource.

In a report produced for the 21st Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) regional conference for Africa, held from 21-25 February in Cameroon, the UN agency says: "Deforestation is the most serious threat in most African countries." It estimates that the continent lost 10.5 percent of its forest between 1980 and 1995. The annual rate of deforestation between 1990 and 1995 was 0.7 percent for Africa, the FAO said, over twice the world average of 0.3 percent.

The reason for this deterioration has been civil wars, rapid conversion of forests into agricultural land, overgrazing, fires, overlogging and excessive felling of trees for firewood and charcoal production.

FAO says sub-Saharan Africa has high annual population growth rates, large rural populations, increasing urbanisation and low per capita incomes.

"These factors combine with others to exert destructive pressures on forests to supply fuel wood, poles, food, at unsustainable rates," the FAO says.

FAO estimates that 90 percent of total energy consumption comes from wood and that this dependence is likely to increase because of low incomes and poverty in rural Africa.

Forestry programmes

Many African countries have started national forestry programmes. In sub-Saharan Africa, the FAO says, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal and Tanzania have been successful. However, programmes in other countries have been hampered by political turmoil, lack of international support, weak political commitment and poor integration of forestry policies into the agricultural sectors.

The challenge, the FAO says, is for African countries to broaden the focus of their forest programmes and then build capacities to formulate and implement programmes by involving the general population, government, NGOs and the private sector.

[For the full FAO report "The Challenges of sustainable Forestry Development in Africa" visit the Internet site http://www.fao.org]

Abidjan, 24 February 2000 18:00 gmt

[ENDS]

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