Guinea + 4 more

IRIN Update 609 of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35

LIBERIA: Human rights office to be established

An office responsible for coordinating with all local and international organisations in Liberia to ensure the protection of individuals' rights has been set up by the Liberian Ministry of Justice, Radio Liberia International reported on Thursday.

Justice Minister Eddington Varmah said the creation of the Human Rights Coordinating Office came out of a desire to encourage a working relationship with all partners in the human rights community and make the ministry more accessible to victims of rights abuses, the pro-government radio station said.

"We look forward to seeing the real thing happening here although we have yet to be invited to a formal meeting to design strategies and ways of working together," a spokesman for a Monrovia-based human rights organisation, FOCUS, told IRIN on Monday.

He said the sincerity of the government's stated commitment to upholding human rights was in question as pronouncements were often made but nothing actually happened. He added that the government had "abandoned" the Liberian Commission for Human Rights which, although set up in 1997, still did not have its full complement of state-appointed commissioners.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church recently urged the government to talk less and do more and said it needed to address the issue of a national culture of silence born out of fear if human rights were to be improved.

Liberia's security forces have often been accused of committing human rights violations and perpetuating a culture of impunity.

SIERRA LEONE: Abuses continue, rights groups say

Rebel attacks against civilians continue in parts of Sierra Leone, according to a news release on Monday by the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The attacks, previously centred around the western town of Port Loko, spread during November to two areas in Northern Province, Kambia, about 110 km north of Freetown and Kabala some 200 km northeast of the capital, HRW reported.

Civilians have been subjected to rape, murder, abduction, torture and other forms of brutality while government troops had been unwilling to intervene, it said.

"The government seems to be bending over backwards to accommodate rebel leaders," Peter Takirambudde, Executive Director for Africa, said. "These are criminal acts, not political ones, and the government should at least be making an effort to stop them."

However, presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told IRIN on Monday that once it was confirmed that rebel atrocities had been committed the government made sure the attention of the rebel leadership was drawn to them. When asked what the government itself was doing, he said: "We want to speed up the disarmament process to ensure that no further attacks take

Some 20 villages were attacked last month, according to HRW. It said most atrocities occurred when rebel soldiers raided villages for food, livestock and money.

Amnesty International said on 30 November that human rights abuses against civilians had been escalating over the last three months, particularly in Northern Province.

SIERRA LEONE: Former junta leader calls on his men to disarm

ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN on Monday that the head of Sierra Leone's former military junta, Johnny Paul Koroma, addressed his men on Friday in Kabala, some 200 km northeast of Freetown, and told them to hand over their weapons.

Olukolade, who was also in Kabala, said Koroma - head of the former Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) - told the ex-rebels to disarm immediately and behave themselves as only the well behaved ones would be readmitted into the new Sierra Leone Army.

Many members of the former Sierra Leone Army (ex-SLA, led by the AFRC) fled to Kabala after being ousted in late October from the northern town of Makeni by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, Olukolade said.

Up to Sunday, 2,945 out of an estimated 45,000 ex-combatants had been disarmed, according to statistics from the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).

GUINEA: Relocation of Sierra Leonean refugees resumes

The relocation of Sierra Leonean refugees from camps in eastern Guinea, resumed last week after months of interruption due to heavy rains and poor road conditions, UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond said on Friday in Geneva.

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 located more than 100 km from the border.

"For the security of the refugees and to avoid uncontrolled infiltrations of armed elements across the border, the main objective remains to move 50,000 refugees from the border area," Redmond said.

Better road conditions and an improved trucking fleet should allow the relocation of 5,500 refugees by the end of the year, UNHCR said. An average of about 400 refugees and their belongings are moved in daily convoys.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Demining underway around Bissau

HUMAID, a recently formed non-governmental organisation(NGO), has begun clearing mines on the periphery of the capital, Bissau, OCHA says in its Humanitarian Situation Report for 16-30 November.

The mines are Spanish-made plastic devices that cannot be located with traditional metal detectors.

OCHA says the two-phase demining project is being conducted around Bissau first and then throughout the rest of the country. HUMAID is still waiting for funding and anti-fragment protective clothing for the sappers.

In July, another NGO, Radda Barnen (the Swedish Save the Children's Fund), conducted two mine-awareness activities for 35 people in the northern town of Suzana, and in Bissau.

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, and provide solar pumps water in the Bijagos islands, just southwest of Bissau.

NIGERIA: Government, UNICEF seek to improve children's lot

The Nigerian government and UNICEF have agreed on measures to improve the plight of Nigeria's children, UNICEF reported in a communique.

The agreement came at the end of a special conference held on 30 November in Abuja in the presence of UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, the communique stated.

The measures fall within three broad categories: enhancing child survival by focusing the primary health care system more on women and children; promoting child development by improving education; and enhancing child rights by strengthening monitoring and advocacy efforts.

The measures are the product of intensive discussion between the government, UNICEF, the private sector and NGOs, UNICEF said.

NIGERIA: Armed forces recover arms in Warri

Army and navy troops in the troubled Niger Delta have recovered a large quantity of weapons that were held by militant Ijaw youths, news reports said on Monday.

"We recovered a large quantity of weapons, ammunition, some boats and communications equipment," AFP quoted an unnamed army officer of the 7th Amphibious Brigade as saying.

The agency said the army denied local news reports that 10 civilians had been killed when troops stormed the Warri neighbourhoods of Miller Waterside and MacIver, inhabited mainly by Ijaws, the largest ethnic group in the Delta.

The 'Vanguard' newspaper quoted military sources as saying that the raid was carried out after a tip-off that Ijaw youths planned to cause mayhem after the expiry of a seven-day ultimatum they gave federal troops to withdraw from Odi, where Ijaw militants clashed with members of the security forces in recent weeks.

Army information sources were unavailable for comment.

NIGERIA: Troops ordered out of Odi

President Olusegun Obasanjo has 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.

A news source told IRIN on Monday that the troops were preparing to withdraw.

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.

The newspaper said none of the townspeople complained of being raped or manhandled. Many, mostly women and children, said some of their relatives had run away. They also asked for food and medicine.

Abidjan, 6 December 1999; 18:20 GMT


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