Guinea + 3 more

IRIN Update 606 of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
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SIERRA LEONE: Clash between ECOMOG and rebel forces

A clash between ECOMOG forces and rebels at the weekend left one Ghanaian soldier wounded and one rebel dead, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN on Wednesday.

Earlier, the media reported that a Ghanaian soldier and at least four rebels had been killed.

The confrontation between the two forces took place close to midnight on Sunday between Madina and Pepel, just north of the Freetown peninsula and near Lungi International Airport. Intelligence reports had indicated that rebels would be foraging for food in the area, Olukolade said, and so Ghanaian ECOMOG troops were on the alert.

Olukolade said that during the attack, which lasted under an hour, the ECOMOG platoon repelled some 300 rebel forces made up of both ex-Sierra Leonean Army (SLA) and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) fighters. Six rebels were captured and are now in Freetown, Olukolade added, and the remainder retreated to their base in the area.

SIERRA LEONE: Sierra Leoneans flee to Guinea

Meanwhile, local reports in Guinea indicate that some Sierra Leoneans have recently fled fighting in Kambia District and crossed the border, a UNHCR official in Guinea told IRIN on Wednesday.

Some 733 Sierra Leoneans were reported by local authorities to have crossed into the locality of Dakhagbe from Kambia although the UNHCR office in Forecariah, about 100 km southeast of Conakry, says they were not all found.

"Some may have gone back to Sierra Leone while some may still be in surrounding villages," a UNHCR official said.

Only 21 unarmed but uniformed Special Security Division (SSD) agents, a body of the Sierra Leone Police, were identified in Dakhagbe, reportedly the entry point, by UNHCR officials. The SSD agents have asked to stay under the protection of the UNHCR. The UNHCR said a protection mission from Conakry went to Forecariah on Tuesday to gather more information on the situation.

The reason behind the fighting in Kambia District is unclear although police authorities in Forecariah say they received a letter written by a RUF captain advising that the attack was not directed at Guinea, according to local media reports.

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN that he had received unconfirmed reports of RUF attacks and human rights abuses in Kambia District but had no information that ECOMOG troops were involved in the fighting.

Local people have accused RUF rebels of beating and killing people living in the area. They also claim that fighters go from house to house demanding money, Star Radio reported quoting residents on a state radio talk show in Freetown. They said women and children were suffering severe hardships and appealed to RUF leader Foday Sankoh to order his men to stop the terror.

SIERRA LEONE: Ex-combatants start to go home

Sierra Leonean ex-combatants in Liberia started to return home last week, according to media and local sources.

The Sierra Leonean ambassador to Liberia, Kemoh Salia Bao, said on independent Star Radio that more than 100 former soldiers returned last week. He added that several hundred more were expected to return in the coming days, some by road to Kenema and Daru in the eastern part of the country, others by sea to Freetown.

"We want all Sierra Leoneans to return home to facilitate nation-building," presidential spokesman, Septimus Kaikai, told IRIN, "but we want to ensure that their contribution to society will be productive and positive."

On their return to Sierra Leone they will not necessarily be enrolled into the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme, according to a senior government DDR official.

"They will only be incorporated into the DDR programme if they are able to provide the Ministry of Defence with detailed information on the location of their weapons," Francis Kaikai, acting executive secretary of the DDR, programme told IRIN.

A UNHCR official in Freetown told IRIN that the return of the ex-combatants was organised by the Sierra Leonean and Liberian governments.

NIGERIA: Government should seek house approval to deploy troops

Nigeria's lower house of parliament adopted a motion on Tuesday that government must in future seek national assembly approval before deploying troops to quell civil unrest in the country, local newspapers reported.

But the house did not agree with sponsors of the motion that the troops deployed to Odi, Bayelsa State, after the abduction and killing of 12 policemen should be withdrawn.

This was because members were divided on whether the deployment of troops to Odi without recourse to the national assembly was a violation of the constitution, the 'Vanguard' reported.

Meanwhile, Bayelsa State women have urged the federal government to rebuild Odi and compensate all those displaced by the troops deployed to the community, the newspaper reported.

A team of senators which assessed conditions in Odi on Monday expressed shock at the scale of destruction in the village.

LIBERIA: Senator calls for repeal of racist law

Lofa County Senator Keikura Kpoto has called for a review of constitutional clauses that discriminate racially and deny non-Liberians land ownership, independent Star radio reported on Tuesday.

Kpoto was speaking in Monrovia on Monday when he launched the Liberia-Lebanese Friendship Association.

Under the 1847 constitution, crafted by Liberia's founding fathers who had escaped slavery in the United States, only people of Negroid descent can be citizens of Liberia and own land. They embedded this provision in the constitution to protect themselves against future domination by non-blacks, a legal analyst told IRIN.

[For the full story see IRIN separate titled 'LIBERIA: Senator calls for repeal of racist law']

Abidjan, 1 December 1999; 17:45 GMT


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