Guinea + 4 more

IRIN Update 685 of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
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GUINEA: Opposition leader trial set for 12 April

Jailed opposition leader Alpha Conde will stand trial on 12 April charged with threatening state security, the administrative secretary of his RPG party told IRIN on Tuesday.

Mohamed Deane, of Conde's Rassemblement du peuple de Guinee party, said the announcement was made on Monday on state-owned media.

Conde will be tried with 47 others, AFP reported quoting Yves Aboly, public prosecutor of the Security Court. His trial, initially set for 17 September 1999, was postponed without official explanation. International and national leaders have repeatedly demanded that he be brought to trial or released.

Deane said Conde has had no contact with his family since his arrest on 16 December 1998, the day after presidential elections in which he was a candidate.

Official results placed him third with just over 17 percent of the votes, behind incumbent President Lansana Conte with 56 percent, and Momadou Ba with 24 percent, AFP reported.

SIERRA LEONE: UN urges greater help for recovery effort

UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette has called on the international community to increase its efforts in Sierra Leone to ensure that its wide ranging involvement to help the country recover from war bears positive results.

"Having taken on this responsibility, we can ill afford the price of failure - neither in terms of human suffering in Sierra Leone, nor in terms of the damage such a setback could inflict on the world's faith in the international community's ability to address conflicts in Africa and elsewhere," she told a high level donor's conference in London.

The conference focused on the reintegration, rehabilitation of ex-fighters and reconstruction in Sierra Leone. It was jointly hosted by Frechette, British Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short, and the vice-president for UN and external affairs at the World Bank, Mats Karlsson.

The British Department for International Development (DFID), which published the results of the meeting, said the conference was attended by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, high level representatives from the UN, the World Bank, the European Commission, the IMF and other donor countries.

Frechette spoke of the need for members of the international community to work in unison and for them to articulate and implement a common strategy.

"The situation in Sierra Leone is fragile - fragile enough that there is the risk we could lose the peace if we do not cooperate, communicate and coordinate fully," she said.

In his recent report to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlined four key areas that need attention: the early disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration of all ex combatants; the extension of State authority, including law enforcement throughout the country; national reconciliation and democratisation; and the improvement of Sierra Leone's capacity to ensure its own security.

Responding to these needs, Short announcedan additional 17.5 million pounds sterling (about US $27.78 million) from DFID towards Sierra Leone's recovery and in support of the peace process in the run up to the elections earmarked for 2001. Her announcement brings the amount of British aid to over 65 million pounds (about $103.2 million) since March 1998.

She said Britain would also help Sierra Leone establish an accountable police service and it would send a military advisory training team to help rebuild and train the army.

The conference concluded that speeding up disarmament was essential, combined with increased security and rapid support to the population. Delegations pledged additional resources and to speed up the aid delivery.

SIERRA LEONE: Protestors march against slow disarmament

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through Freetown on Monday in protest at the slow pace of the disarmament process in Sierra Leone, news organisations reported.

Students and human rights organisations taking part in the demonstration, organised by the National Union of Sierra Leone Students (NUSS), converged at the Law Courts building where they were addressed by several speakers, the Sierra Leone news agency (SLENA) reported.

A representative of a women's group, Florence Gbekie, said women had suffered a lot, were tired of the fighting and now want peace. She called on Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) leader Foday Sankoh to disarm his supporters so women can take their rightful place in society, SLENA reported. RUFP spokesman Eldred Collins was reportedly interrupted during his speech and forced to leave because, the students said, he was telling lies.

In response to the protest, presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told IRIN on Tuesday that some 44 percent of the ex-combatants, around 20,000, had handed in their weapons. He added that the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme needed of some US $24 million.

SIERRA LEONE: Hopes for resolving teachers' strike

The president of the Sierra Leone Teachers' Union (SLTU), Festus Minah, has called on the government to ensure that issues which precipitated a nationwide "stay home" action last week are resolved, the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) reported on Monday.

The union's action is over the late payment of teachers's salaries, and the forceful retirement of teachers, SLENA said.

Presidential spokesman Septimus Kaikai told IRIN on Tuesday that following a meeting on Monday between government officials, the Ministry of Education and SLTU, "the teachers will be receiving quite a bit of money before the end of this week."

Minah said that teachers were ready to offer quality education to their students provided the government live up to the expectation of the teachers, SLENA reported.

GUINEA-BISSAU: UN helps consolidate peace

Guinea-Bissau today represents an example of where the United Nations can contribute meaningfully to a nation's efforts "to move from a state of war to one of peace and gradual return to constitutional order," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report released on Monday.

Writing on the latest developments in the war-scared country, he said President Kumba Yala had set about establishing post-electoral priorities. These include the consolidation of democracy depoliticisation of the army, the reintegration of military staff and the relaunch of the economy. Health, education, agriculture and "good governance" have also been identified as requiring urgent attention, he said.

Supporting these efforts, the UN Peace Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau, UNOGBIS, has helped the Supreme Court train 37 new judges. UNOGBIS is also monitoring the trials of people detained over the past year to ensure their human rights are upheld.

The present mandate of UNOGBIS is due to expire on 31 March but has been extended by the Security Council to end on 31 March 2001.

LIBERIA: Opposition call for end to Star radio ban

Eleven opposition parties joined a protest on Monday against the closure of Star Radio and called on the government to lift its ban against the private broadcaster, news organisations reported.

"Reopening Star Radio would be a positive response to Liberian voters who need to exercise their constitutional right to be informed fully and to instruct their government as to how it should govern," PANA quoted the parties as saying in a statement.

Star Radio was closed on 15th March but the Roman Catholic Radio, Veritas, which had its broadcasts suspended at the same time, has since been allowed to resume transmission.

The opposition warned that prolonged closure of Star could discourage donors from giving aid to Liberia.

"We must remember that these are the same governments and their international institutions that came to Liberia recently as a multi-donor team and gave our country very strong support by declaring the security environment is no longer an obstacle to economic development," PANA quoted the parties as saying.

Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia lifted its weeklong boycott of government news last weekend, in an effort to ease the strained relations between privately owned media and the government.

NIGERIA: MOSOP opposes Shell road project

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has condemned recent attempts by Shell to build a road in central Ogoni, the civil rights body said on Monday.

"MOSOP is outraged that what has been presented as a community project has been used in a manner which has nearly divided local communities and ... has been pursued with the use of mobile police, armed thugs and bribery in manner which Shell has always claimed is not part of their new approach," Ledum Mitee, MOSOP's president in southeastern city of Port Harcourt, said.

In MOSAP's statement, Mitee described as inaccurate recent media reports that MOSOP had agreed to Shell's return to Ogoniland.

"On the contrary, recent actions by Shell have marked a leap backwards in our relations, as we believe Shell has breached basic principles for establishing dialogue on a number of occasions," Mittee said.

MOSOP says it has "repeatedly warned" that local people in the villages must first be consulted before projects can proceed. This consultation on building the road had not taken place, MOSAP said, "and local people have protested, and been injured by contract security who clearly have no interest in the welfare of the local communities."

Shell Lagos could not be immediately reached for comment.

Mosop has mounted a strong campaign against Shell's alleged pollution of the lands of 500,000 Ogonis in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Shell suspended its operations in Ogoni after the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight fellow Ogoni activists were executed in November 1995.

Abidjan, 28 March 2000; 18:38 GMT


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