Guinea + 4 more

IRIN Update 661 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
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

NIGERIA: Unprecedented destruction in Kaduna

There has been an unprecedented destruction of lives and property in Kaduna following two days of violent clashes between Muslims and Christians, Fabian Okoye, the director of research and publications of Human Rights Monitor in Kaduna, told IRIN on Wednesday.

The violence has left scores dead or wounded. The unrest began on Monday following a march organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to protest against the proposed introduction of Islamic law in the state of Kaduna.

"We are making efforts to ascertain how many people are dead, wounded, and are homeless," 'The Guardian' reported Young Arebamen, deputy police commissioner and spokesman at the Force Headquarters in Abuja as saying. News reports put the death toll as high as 50 while Human Rights Monitor said that over 100 people could have been killed.

"Last night was very bloody" Okoye said. "This morning I travelled to the Kawo area of Kaduna and counted six bodies littering the streets." Soldiers are mounting road blocks in areas which are still tense and not allowing traffic or people to pass, he added. Soldiers have been deployed by the federal government as strategic back-up to the police in Kaduna which received reinforcements of regular and anti-riot police from the northern states, 'The Guardian' reported the State Commissioner of Police as saying on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the police have warned that anyone taking part in illegal demonstrations will be "severely dealt with according to the law," Radio Nigeria-Kaduna reported on Tuesday. Kaduna's acting state governor Stephen Shekari has warned that violators of the noon to dawn curfew will be "shot on sight," the BBC reported on Tuesday. Before the onset of the curfew on Wednesday people were on the streets trying to move into safe areas from where they had been stranded overnight, Okoye said.

Shekari told the BBC on Tuesday that the situation was being brought under control and a BBC correspondent in the city said that only sporadic shooting could be be heard in the city centre and the situation was calmer than the previous evening. However, according to Okoye, "people remain very apprehensive" and fear reprisals from irate groups once the extent of the damage done to property has been assessed.

Obasanjo appeals for restraint

President Olusegun Obasanjo has appealed to Nigerians to show greater patience and restraint in dealing with the Sharia issue, Nigerian radio reported on Tuesday. Obasanjo, who expressed great personal distress and anguish at the outbreak of violence between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna State, said the government would do whatever was necessary to restore law and order. He said the wanton destruction of lives and property in Kaduna could have been avoided if the leaders and followers of the two religious groups had listened to earlier calls for peace and mutual understanding.

The House of Representatives is expected to discuss the crisis in Kaduna on Wednesday as "a matter of urgent national importance" 'The Guardian quoted Binta Kogi, a member from Kaduna South as saying.

Zamfara State to set up Islamic radio,TV

Meanwhile, the Zamfara State government which formally adopted Sharia law in January has announced the establishment of an Islamic radio and state television station at a cost of some 600 million naira (US $6 million), Nigeria Media Monitor reported on Monday.

NIGERIA: Japan donates US$ 106,000

Japan has made a further grant of some US $106,000 to promote public health and good governance in Nigeria, AFP reported an embassy statement as saying.

The statement said the amount brought to US $154,000 the total of such grants which had been approved for non-governmental organisations by Japan in 1999. The money will go to three organisations and is to be used to dig boreholes, build public toilets in primary schools in Lagos and promote good governance in the country, AFP reported.

SENEGAL: Senegalese soldiers killed in Casamance

An independence movement, the Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC), denied on Wednesday responsibility for the death of two Senegalese soldiers in an exchange of fire with unidentified men near the southern town of Kolda. Two others were wounded.

AFP reported that the attackers were believed to be members of the MFDC but speaking from The Gambia, MFDC spokesman Alexandre Djiba told IRIN his men were "under orders not to shoot first".

However, he will meet all commanders in the MFDC's southern zone on Thursday in Guinea-Bissau to ascertain what happened.

AFP reports this incident as the third since a ceasefire monitoring body was set up on 4 February. The media has reported one Senegalese soldier killed on Friday and the death of two other people in an attack on three tourist buses on Sunday. The attacks have come in the midst of a presidential electoral campaign.

SIERRA LEONE: Child protection on peacekeepers' agenda

The recent deployment of a child protection adviser to the staff of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) will help to ensure that children's rights become a priority in peace-keeping operations.

Olara Otunno, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Bernard Miyet, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, described the move as a "major step in integrating the protection of children's rights into the peace and security agenda of the UN," in a joint statement issued in New York on Tuesday.

JoAnna Van Gerpen, UNICEF's representative in Sierra Leone, told IRIN on Wednesday that the child protection adviser, who had been seconded to UNAMSIL from UNICEF, would act as a "bridge between the humanitarian community and the peacekeeping forces."

"It is important to have someone working with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to promote child protection and to ensure that these issues are brought to the attention of the Security Council," she added.

Van Gerpen said that UNICEF would retain its mandate for the coordination of operational activities of child protection agencies.

"UNICEF is responsible for coordinating child protection activities in Sierra Leone as designated by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR)" she told IRIN.

There are some 5,400 children classified as combatants in Sierra Leone but there are an additional 5,000 to 10,000 "children associated with combat forces," who also require reintegration support, Van Gerpen said.

Porters or girls used for sexual purposes are examples of children falling into this category, Van Gerpen said.

LIBERIA: Court upholds case against human rights campaigner

A court in Monrovia on Tuesday threw out a motion to dismiss a sedition charge against child rights campaigner, James Torh, AFP quoted judicial sources as saying.

The ruling by Criminal Court Judge Joseph Andrews followed defence arguments that Torh was exercising his right under the Liberian constitution "which guarantees freedom of expression."

The state charged Torh for sedition for statements he allegedly made at a secondary school in Monrovia in December when he allegedly said the state was being run from President Charles Taylor's pocket.

GUINEA: Liberian border status still uncertain

Local authorities in eastern Guinea are refusing to allow travellers and business people to cross from their side of the border into Nimba County in northern Liberia, pro-Charles Taylor Radio Liberia International said on Tuesday.

A UNHCR source in Conakry told IRIN on Wednesday that the status of Guinea's border with Liberia was still unclear.

"At certain points small numbers of people have been crossing the border but we have no official confirmation from the authorities that the Guinean border with Liberia is open, " the source told IRIN.

Last week the Liberian government decided to reopen its border with Guinea citing an improvement in security conditions. The border was closed last August when fighting broke out in northern Lofa County between government troops and rebels.

Abidjan, 23 February, 2000 17:45 gmt

[ENDS]

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