Liberia + 4 more

IRIN Update 653 of events in West Africa

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U N I T E D N A T I O N S
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

SIERRA LEONE: UNAMSIL negotiates release of more child soldiers

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) on Wednesday successfully negotiated the release of another group of children from a rebel-held area, according to a UNAMSIL statement.

Eleven boys and four girls, some as young as eight and all in apparently good condition, were freed from a site in the Occra Hills, 70 miles northeast of Freetown. All had been behind rebel lines for more than a year. Children who said that they had been fighting alongside the rebels were taken to a demobilisation camp in Lungi, near the international airport north of Freetown. The others were taken to a child day care centre.

"Several combatants from different factions have told UNAMSIL they are eager to release all abductees and child soldiers and to enter the [disarmament] programme," UNAMSIL said.

LIBERIA: Taylor proposes teenage recruitment into his party

President Charles Taylor has proposed that teenagers be recruited into his National Patriotic Party (NPP) to ensure that party membership is sustained in the future, Star radio reported. Taylor said that the teenagers would be registered as young patriots and would learn the party's doctrine at an early age in preparation for future responsibilities, Star reported.

LIBERIA: Group accused of introducing Islamic fundamentalism

A spokesman for President Charles Taylor has accused a group called the Jihad Movement of trying to introduce Islamic fundamentalism into Liberia, Star radio reported.

The Deputy Minister of State for Public Affairs and Press Secretary to the President, Reginald Goodridge, was reportedly reacting to the Jihad Movement's alleged demand for all Muslims to resign from the government. The demand was carried in local newspapers on Wednesday.

The leader of the Jihad Movement reportedly said that incidents like the burning of mosques in Lofa County constituted attacks on the Muslim community in Liberia.

Goodridge said Liberia was a tolerant society in which Muslims and Christians had co-existed for a long time. Attempts to disrupt the peace in Liberia under the banner of Islamic fundamentalism would be discouraged by law, he reportedly said.

MALI: South African firm to spend US $75 million on gold mine

AngloGold of South Africa, the world's largest gold producer, announced on Thursday that its board had approved capital expenditure of US $75 million for the development of the Yatela mine in Mali.

The board's approval is subject to the successful conclusion of negotiations with the Malian government and the completion of financing for the project, a company statement said. The mine, an open-pit operation, will produce 1.2 million ounces of gold over a five-year period at a cash cost of US $175 per fine ounce.

NIGERIA: Youths seize oil firm's premises

Youths in Delta State in southeast Nigeria on Wednesday occupied and closed down the operational base of an oil prospecting firm at Ubogo, 'The Guardian' reported on Friday.

Some 1,000 youths stormed the base of United Geophysical Nigeria Limited/ Integrated Data Services Limited (UGNL/IDSL) in six buses and two cars and shut down the company after the workers fled the premises. They claimed to be representing the Udu Oil Fields Development Association. Their leader, Benson Karika, said they had shut down the plant because UGNL/IDSL had refused to compensate the families of their five comrades who had died in an accident involving the company's lorry, 'The Guardian' said.

Karika also said that the firm had slighted their monarch by not getting his approval before exploring in new areas of the kingdom. Meanwhile the monarch has intervened in the dispute by inviting the youths and company officials to his palace for a discussion, according to 'The Guardian.'

NIGERIA: President calls for Berlin Conference

President Olusegun Obasanjo has proposed the reconvening of another Berlin Conference during talks with Portuguese officials in Lisbon, 'The Guardian' reported.

He said this time, unlike the meeting in 1884 at which the former European colonial nations partitioned Africa, the EU should participate effectively in giving a new life to democracy and socio-economic reconstruction of Africa, the daily said.

Obasanjo, who was earlier in France on a state visit, returned to Nigeria on Thursday.

NIGERIA: Delta donates money to anti-piracy group

The Delta State government has donated 100,000 naira (US $1000) to an anti-piracy group as part of measures to ensure that the state's coastline and waterways are free of criminal activities, 'The Guardian' reported on Friday.

The group, made up of youths drawn from Ijaw villages, has been patrolling the waterways where pirates have been operating. The special adviser to the governor on Niger Delta matters, Peter Biakpara, announced the donation and stressed the need for the region to be crisis-free in order for development to take place. He urged other groups in the coastal area to stop all acts of piracy and hijacking.

The secretary of the anti-piracy group said that security and normality had been restored to the waterways and called on individuals and corporate organisations in the creeks to carry on business as normal, 'The Guardian' said.

MAURITANIA: IMF,IDA agree to support debt reduction

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) have agreed to support Mauritania's eligibility for a debt reduction package under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

In net present value terms, total relief from all of Mauritania's creditors would amount to US$622 million, equivalent to about 40 percent of total debt outstanding at the end of 1998, the IMF said in a news release. This is expected to translate into debt relief over time of approximately US$1.1 billion, according to the IMF.

Abidjan, 11 February 2000; 16:30 GMT

[ENDS]

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