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WEST AFRICA: Obasanjo tells ECOWAS to speed up integration
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo urged West African leaders on Thursday to adopt a two track-policy in the implementation of all agreed subregional programmes of integration.
In his speech at the opening of the two-day summit of the Economic Community of West African States in Lome, Togo, he said that when three or more member states were ready to implement a particular programme they should be encouraged to do so. This would, he continued, be regarded as the "fast track" to which the "slower track" countries could join later.
Nigeria, which together with Togo initiated ECOWAS, intended to join the fast-track in a number of programmes: These include the encouragement of free movement of people by eliminating rigid border formalities, supporting the ECOWAS free trade zone to be established at the end of the year, creating a second West African regional currency by ECOWAS members outside the CFA franc zone (which has been backed by the French treasury) with a view to merging them into a single currency.
ECOWAS was set up in 1975. Its members are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
All but Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are members of the franc zone.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Electoral body confirms opposition victories
Electoral officials in Guinea-Bissau have confirmed the victories of opposition parties in legislative elections and in the first round of presidential voting, Lusa reported on Friday.
The Commissao Nacional de Eleccioes (CNE) announced final results of the 28 November ballot on Thursday giving the Partido da Renovacao Social (PRS) of presidential front runner Kumba Yala 38 seats in the 102-member legislature, followed by 28 for the Resistencia da Guinea-Bissau (RGB).
The traditionally dominant Partido Africano da Independencia da Guinea e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), the group that led Guinea-Bissau to independence from Portugal, came third with 24 seats, according to Lusa.
The Interim President Malam Bacai Sanha of the PAIGC came second in the presidential vote with 23.4 percent and will face Yala, who got 38.8 percent, in a second presidential round expected to take place in January, the CNE said.
International election observers and the CNE both declared the elections free and fair.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Fadul accuses attorney general of rights abuses
Interim Prime Minister Francisco Fadul has accused Attorney General Amine Saad of neglecting legal deadlines in the cases of soldiers loyal to deposed president Joao Bernardo Vieira, who have been detained without trial since Vieira's overthrow in May, Lusa reported on Tuesday.
At a human rights seminar held on Monday, Fadul said over 300 soldiers detained for suspected human rights abuses had not been charged within the stipulated legal time frame, Lusa said.
GUINEA-BISSAU: War volunteers to be reintegrated
The caretaker government announced on Wednesday that more than 10,000 "military and paramilitary" volunteers who took part in the country's recent armed forces' uprising, would be fully integrated into the military, Lusa reported on Thursday.
A communique was released by Finance Minister Abubacar Dhaba who said that the soldiers' formal enlistment would significantly increase the number of people on the state payroll, Lusa reported. As a result, he said, the introduction of a planned 300 percent rise in the minimum wage had been postponed.
GUINEA-BISSAU: Water and sanitation
The European Union agreed on 17 November to provide four million euros to build 200 wells and drinking troughs for livestock in villages around Bafata, the second largest town, OCHA says in its Humanitarian Situation Report for 16-30 November. The money will also go towards the purchase of solar-powered water pumps for the Bijagos islands, just southwest of Bissau.
SIERRA LEONE: First Indian troops arrive
UN peacekeeping Force Commander Major General Vijay Jetley of India arrived in Sierra Leone on Tuesday followed by some 141 Indian soldiers, who form part of a battalion, a UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) official in Freetown told IRIN on Wednesday.
The rest of the battalion is expected to arrive next week at the latest, the UNAMSIL official said.
In addition to the Indians, the new 6,000-strong UNAMSIL force will be made up of troops from Nigeria, Ghana and Guinea, some of whom are already in the country as part of the Economic Community of West Africa States Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and also Kenya. Some 480 men of the Kenyan battalion have arrived and are to deploy to the northern towns of Makeni and Magburaka, UNAMSIL said.
The Indians will probably be deployed to the diamond areas and Kailahun District in eastern Sierra Leone. These areas are particularly sensitive as RUF field commander Sam Bockarie, who has his base in Buedu, Kailahun District, recently told the BBC that he would neither disarm to soldiers from the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, nor to Nigerians in UNAMSIL.
The duties of the UNAMSIL force and some 223 UN military observers from 30 countries will include helping the government implement a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration plan, monitoring adherence to the ceasefire and assisting in the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General's new Special Representative, Oluyemi Adeniji, is due to arrive in Freetown on Sunday, according to a UN source. He will replace Francis Okelo who has been in Sierra Leone since 1997.
SIERRA LEONE: UN Secretary-General says violations continue
Human rights abuses and other violations are continuing despite progress in implementing a peace agreement between the government and Revolutionary United Front (RUF), UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday.
Annan, in his first report to the Security Council on the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), said the perpetrators of continued violence against the public and international personnel in Sierra Leone "should expect to be held accountable for their actions". The arbitrary clearance procedures and threats they employed, he said, were obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid.
SIERRA LEONE: MSF volunteers still held by RUF rebels
Two volunteers of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) seized by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels are still being held in eastern Sierra Leone, MSF Country Coordinator Guiseppe Scollo told IRIN on Friday.
The captives, a doctor and a logistician who have been running a health project in Kailahun District, have been held since Tuesday. MSF said it had been able to contact both volunteers, a Belgian and a German and that they were in good health.
[For the full story see IRIN separate Item: irin-english-2133]
SIERRA LEONE: USAID helps to rebuild Freetown
Two US Congressmen visited a housing reconstruction project in an eastern suburb of Freetown on Monday during a two-day tour of the capital, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) said.
The rebuilding of Calaba Town, which was heavily looted and burned by rebels during the rebel invasion in January, is largely funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by CRS/Caritas in Freetown. The project began in March and by the end of October, 563 of the 948 houses destroyed had been completely rebuilt and over 10,500 displaced people were able to return home while efforts to rebuild the remaining houses are underway, CRS said.
During the invasion, some 77 percent of the homes in Calaba were razed and about 32,000 residents were forced to flee.
SIERRA LEONE: Road rehabilitation in the east
WFP and World Vision Sierra Leone (WVSL) have started to rehabilitate the Kenema-Kailahun road - in the Eastern Province - which runs through areas controlled by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and connects government and ECOMOG-controlled areas. The road is expected to be an important supply route for humanitarian operations while farmers can use it to take their produce for sale in nearby towns.
SIERRA LEONE: Food for vulnerable groups needed in Segbwema
A WFP mission to the eastern district of Kailahun has found that vulnerable group feeding rations need to be provided to elderly people and children in Segbwema, some 260 km east of Freetown.
In contrast, the mission found that the nutritional situation in Daru, also in the east, was satisfactory compared to earlier findings in September. It said ongoing harvests and access to areas held previously by the RUF contributed to the improvement.
The GAMBIA: MFDC separatists agree to talks with Senegalese government
The Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) separatists agreed on Wednesday, at the end of a two-day consultative meeting in The Gambia, to hold peace talks with the Senegalese government on 26 December, news sources told IRIN.
The movement, whose leader is Abbe Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, designated its 20-member National Bureau to begin the talks with the government on ending the war in Senegal's Casamance area.
Senghor, who is the movement's secretary-general, agreed in talks with Senegalese President Abdou Diouf in January that the conflict should be ended through negotiation.
The MFDC, made up mostly of the Jola ethnic group that occupies southern Senegal, has been fighting a secessionist war against the government in Dakar for 17 years, complaining that the area has been neglected.
The GAMBIA: Participants at international humanitarian law seminar
Participants at a national seminar have approved recommendations to strengthen the implementation of humanitarian law in The Gambia, the ICRC said on Friday.
They suggested the following: The adoption of a new Geneva Conventions Act aimed at incorporating these treaties into national legislation; the amendment of current criminal legislation so that suspected war criminals could more easily be brought to justice, whether or not the crimes are committed during international or internal conflicts. They also recommended that The Gambia adhere to the United Nations 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its four annexed protocols. The participants also want the country to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court. So far, ICRC said, only six States, including Senegal and Ghana in Africa, had done so.
The seminar, held from 30 November to 1 December, was organised by the ICRC (and its Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law set up in 1966), in cooperation with The Gambia Red Cross Society, and the country's Department of State for Justice. It bought together about 40 participants from the country's main departments of state and from civil society.
NIGERIA: Armed forces recover arms in Warri
Army and navy troops stormed two Warri neighboorhoods in the Niger Delta and recovered a large quantity of weapons and munitions held by militant Ijaw youths, news reports said on Monday.
AFP quoted an unnamed army officer of the 7th Amphibious Brigade as saying boats and communications equipment were also seized. The army denied news reports that it had killed 10 civilians in the operation in the neighbourhoods of Miller Waterside and MacIver, inhabited mainly by Ijaws, the largest ethnic group in the Delta.
NIGERIA: Troops ordered out of Odi
After much public clamour in the Niger Delta, President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered troops out of Odi, a town in Bayelsa State, where they had been sent to arrest a gang suspected of killing 12 policemen in November, according to news reports quoting Bayelsa Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
After the army sealed off Odi on 20 November, there were complaints that the troops had destroyed much of the town. However, it was unclear whether the destruction, described by news reports as extensive, was caused by the suspected killers as they retreated from the town or by the military.
Alamieyeseigha inspected the devastated community at the weekend, blaming the crisis on gang leader Ken Neweigha, 'The Guardian' reported.
Three suspected police killers caught
Meanwhile, police say they have arrested the three suspected killers of the policemen and soldiers sent to keep the peace in Odi, according to news reports. The men were caught at a junction near Odi. AFP quoted the 'Punch' newspaper as saying that one of the suspects confessed to participating in the killings.
NIGERIA: Hausa meat sellers allege fresh OPC threat in Lagos
Hausa butchers at a market in Oko-Oba, a Lagos suburb, told the government on Wednesday they feared for their safety because some members of the militant Oodua People Congress (OPC) had allegedly occupied an unused building close to the abattoir, 'The Guardian' newspaper reported.
Over 800,000 people operate at the abattoir daily including butchers, traders and buyers, the chairman of the Hausa Butchers Association, Alhaji Sule Jimba, told reporters.
"If trouble starts there nobody can stop it," he added.
President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed the OPC, a Yoruba social cultural group, for the two-day clash beginning on 25 November between Hausas and Yorubas at Mile 12 Market over the collection of levies. The OPC denied responsibility in which at least 90 people died.
GUINEA: Mission assesses refugees' impact on the environment
A mission sent by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to Guinea to assess the impact of refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia on the environment ended on Monday and is due to present its findings to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN agency said.
The Guinea Environment Mission (GEM) spent two weeks examining the problems of deforestation, erosion and unsustainable land use, water and sanitation management, particularly in urban areas.
Concern about the influx of refugees in the forest areas close to the Guinean border, was the subject of talks earlier this year between Annan and government officials from Guinea, a UN spokesman said on Thursday in New York.
GUINEA: Refugees moved from border
The relocation of 50,000 Sierra Leonean refugees from camps in eastern Guinea, has resumed after months of interruption due to heavy rains and poor road conditions, UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond said on 3 December in Geneva. He said the agency would move 5,000 refugees by the end of December at a an average rate of 400 a day.
The refugees are being moved from the Gueckedou area, near the border with Sierra Leone. New sites have been identified in Faindou, Katkama and Guelo, all more than 100 km from the border. The UNHCR estimates Guinea hosts 450,000 refugees, the largest number in Africa, mainly from neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia.
BURKINA FASO: Seeking funds for displaced migrants
Burkina Faso has asked the international community for 2.6 billion CFA (US $4 million) to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of 12,000 Burkinabes who returned to the country in the wake of disturbances in southwest Cote d'Ivoire, Emile Belem, a UNHCR programme officer in Burkina Faso, told IRIN.
Violence between locals from the Kru ethnic group and Burkinabe immigrant farmers, many of whom had lived in Cote d'Ivoire for more than a decade, erupted on 5 November following a dispute over land rights in Tabou, southwest Cote d'Ivoire.
Belem said the UNHCR had not made a census of the Burkinabes returning to the country from south-west Cote d'Ivoire and that the figures were those of the Burkina Faso government.
A three-day assessment mission to Banfora and Gaoua, southeast Burkina Faso, found that the first wave of returnees arriving about 8 November had virtually no possessions. However, later arrivals had more personal effects. The assessment, which took place from 1 December to 3 December, included UNDP, UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR and the government body responsible for relief interventions.
LIBERIA: Police dismantle checkpoints in capital
Police began dismantling army checkpoints in the capital, Monrovia, on Wednesday and nearly all of them have now been removed, generating a public sigh of relief, a UN official in the capital told IRIN on Thursday.
The checkpoints, which were manned by policemen from the Special Operations Division to screen vehicles entering the city, were a legacy of the war, the official said. Police would search vehicles, particularly those from the hinterland carrying coal and vegetables, causing traffic jams.
The checkpoints were built with USAID money for the Nigerian-led West African force, ECOMOG, which policed the capital during the seven-year war. The war ended with the election of Charles Taylor as president in 1997.
Abidjan, 19 December 1999; 20:54 GMT
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