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SENEGAL: Voting peaceful in presidential elections
Voting in Senegal's presidential elections ended in calm on Sunday with only minor incidents of violence reported in Rufisque, some 40 km outside Dakar, and in the southern towns of Ziguinchor and Kolda, an observer told IRIN on Monday.
Observers said voter turnout was high among the 2.6 million voters in some 8,000 constituencies but exact figures for the turnout were not available. One observer, Alioune Tine, head of the Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme (RADDHO), told IRIN that at least 73 percent voters received their ballot papers.
The first results are expected on Wednesday and final counting should end on Friday. Incumbent President Abdou Diouf is seeking a fourth term. He is challenged by a formidable array of seven veteran politicians.
Meanwhile, Tine said that thousands of Mauritanians, French,Germans, British and Senegalese had fled the country - mainly into neighbouring states - ahead of the voting in anticipation of violence.
NIGERIA: Emergency relief for Kaduna victims
The Kaduna state government has released some five million naira (US $50,000) to leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria and Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI) to enable them to provide interim measures to those displaced in the crisis following recent religious clashes, 'The Guardian' reported on Monday.
A statement issued by the Information Ministry at the weekend urged the associations to ensure smooth distribution of relief items to the victims. It added that "medicines and food items have been distributed to various hospitals to assist the victims," and appealed to corporate bodies, wealthy Nigerians and international agencies to assist Kaduna State, 'The Guardian' reported on Monday.
Violent clashes between Muslims and Christians started on 21 February following a march organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria in opposition to the proposed introduction of Islamic Sharia law in Kaduna State.
NIGERIA: Scores arrested over clashes
Scores of people have been arrested by the police in connection with last week's Sharia protest in Kaduna, 'The Guardian' newspaper reported on Monday.
A police source told the newspaper that most of the suspects are Nigerians and Chadians and some of those arrested were carrying "dangerous weapons."
NIGERIA: Federal delegation visits Kaduna
A federal government delegation visited Kaduna on Friday to witness the destruction that took place last week, state television reported.
According to Information Minister Dapo Sarumi, one of the members of the four-minister delegation which toured the streets of Kaduna, the motivation for the violence was not simply religious. He said there was no "distinctive pattern" to the destruction saying that as well as churches and mosques, private buildings and government buildings had also been burned down. "I do not believe that the cause of this carnage is religion. I think it has gone beyond that," Nigerian television quoted him as saying on Friday.
The three other ministers who made up the delegation represented women's affairs and youth development, solid minerals, and internal affairs, state television reported.
NIGERIA: Christians call for separate state
Christians in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna have called for a separate state following several days of violence between Muslims and Christians over the proposed introduction of Islamic Sharia law, news organisations reported on Saturday.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have asked the federal government to split Kaduna State into two, one state for Muslims and the other for Christians, PANA reported. Archbishop Peter Jatau, the association's chairman for the northern states, told a visiting federal government delegation that a new Kaduna State was the only way to achieve peace.
"My candid appeal to President Olusegun Obasanjo is to create a new Kaduna State and I think there will be peace, otherwise whatever we are doing I don't think is going to solve the problem," PANA quoted Jatau as saying.
SIERRA LEONE: UN peacekeepers protest rebel obstruction tactics
The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) on Friday again told the parties to last year's Lome peace agreement not to obstruct the movements of UN peacekeepers as they deploy across the country.
The warning followed "numerous occasions" in which peacekeepers have been blocked by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) manning "illegal roadblocks," a UNAMSIL statement issued in Freetown said. "This is despite repeated assurances from RUF leader Foday Sankoh that all such roadblocks would be removed," the statement added.
Last Wednesday, UN troops withdrew to their duty stations after their movement in the vicinity of the eastern village of Bendu was obstructed by a large number of armed RUF combatants who refused to cooperate despite protracted negotiations.
"UN peacekeeping operations rely on three main tactics: neutrality, persuasion and diplomacy," the UNAMSIL statement said, adding that neither the UN mission nor the RUF stood to gain from violent confrontations.
Nevertheless, in another incident last Wednesday UN troops exchanged fire with rebels who were trying to loot a village on Pepel Island, 35 km from Freetown. The UN peacekeepers chased the rebels away and freed several civilians in their custody, UNAMSIL said.
"This again demonstrates that when confronted with force at the tactical level, UNAMSIL does not hesitate to act forcefully to protect Sierra Leoneans in fulfilling its peacekeeping mandate," the statement said.
NIGER : Canada resumes bilateral ties with Niger
Canada has restored bilateral ties with Niger which were suspended in April 1999 after a coup in which President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara was shot dead by his own guards, the Canadian ambassador in Cote d'Ivoire told IRIN on Monday.
Ambassador Donald McMaster, who assessed conditions for the resumption of aid, said the Niger government was informed of Ottawa's decision on 24 February. He said the resumption of aid would begin in about two months in support of the formal education of young women. Then, about two months later, he said: "We expect informal education of girls will begin after finalising the contract with the executing agency."
Canada held back on these projects because they had not yet started at the time of the coup. However, McMaster said, Ottawa maintained aid targeting women and health during the period of transitional rule.
McMaster said aid was resumed because the transitional government held transparent elections and because "the pronouncements of the new government were in line with our expectations and those of other donors".
GUINEA-BISSAU: Project to prevent malnutrition initiated
WFP has started a project to improve the nutritional status among groups considered at high risk of malnutrition, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported. The aim is to target directly those groups considered to be "vulnerable."
The elderly above the age of 60, disabled people (provided they have been certified by a competent authority) and orphans and abandoned children are among those who are defined as "vulnerable groups" in accordance with the project's criteria.
GUINEA-BISSAU: HIV/AIDS prevention programme intensified
A programme to combat the transmission of HIV/AIDS will be executed by WHO following an agreement signed with UNAIDS, OCHA reported.
Valued at US $80,000 the programme will cover reactive blood testing, condom distribution and youth education, OCHA said.
In January, UNFPA provided more than 100,000 condoms to support the national AIDS prevention programme. In addition, the World Bank has signed an agreement with the non-governmental Population Services International to begin an HIV/AIDS education campaign.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Female literacy levels to increase
More than 5,000 women will benefit from a literacy campaign over the next three years as more than 30 literacy centres are slated to be rehabilitated throughout the country, OCHA quotes the Director-General for Literacy and Adult Education as saying.
Previous literacy campaigns have not reached target goals because campaigns have been conducted in Portuguese rather than in the vernacular Kriolu. However, computer equipment and other material has been given to the Ministry of Education by UNICEF and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has run refresher courses for trainers in the population and family life education programme.
GUINEA-BISSAU: OCHA coordination unit to close
The OCHA Field Coordination Unit will close on 31 March and the production of its humanitarian situation reports will cease, OCHA reported, as Guinea-Bissau moves along the transition from relief to development.
"The new government in place marks the end of civil conflict," OCHA said. "It is hoped that rehabilitation and reconstruction activities will gather speed under the direction of the new ministries...assistance interrupted by the war is slowly restarting."
GUINEA-BISSAU: FAO recovers 100 mt of rice seed
FAO recovered some 100 mt of rice seed from multiplication centres following a joint mission with WFP to the southern regions of Quinara and Tombali on 22 February, the report said.
In its most recent situation report, which covers the period 16 January to 20 February, OCHA said that the seeds will be distributed to farmers in the coming agricultural year.
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