IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 135 covering the period 27 Jul - 2 Aug 2002

from IRIN
Published on 02 Aug 2002
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
LIBERIA: Reconciliation meeting continues, political detainees still missing

A national reconciliation conference convened by Liberian President Charles Taylor continued this week even as human rights groups pressed the state for proof that three men held incommunicado on suspicion of working for the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) were still alive.

The conference, which opened on 27 July, is being attended by representatives of the state and some professional, interest and civil society groups. Neither LURD nor opposition parties travelled to Monrovia for the meeting, which was expected to last for about a month, despite an assurance by Taylor that no harm would be done to them.

Such assurances could be viewed as carrying less weight in light of the continued detention of three men accused of operating a "LURD terrorist cell" in Monrovia. On Thursday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the government for refusing to heed an order by a military court to produce the living bodies of the three, including journalist Hassan Bility, in court.

RSF said the defence minister had rejected the order, issued on 25 July, as null and void, and had summoned one of the judges who issued it to appear before him to explain "actions incompatible with his status".

[See also LIBERIA: RSF condemns government's refusal to produce detainees in court; LIBERIA: Reconciliation conference under way ]

SIERRA LEONE: Efforts under way to free abductees, CWS help for refugees

Sierra Leone's government is engaged in diplomatic efforts to free people abducted last month by armed men from Liberia in the eastern district of Kailahun, Chief of Defence Staff Tom Carew said on Thursday in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown. Three of the 46 hostages had returned home and said they had been abducted by members of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Carew reported.

However, he was quoted by the official Sierra Leone News Agency as saying he was dissatisfied with the response of Liberia's defence minister, Daniel Chea, although, he said, Chea had agreed to contribute a team to a joint fact-finding mission along the border to assess how security there could be reinforced.

The army chief, who had been on a tour of the border region, was quoted by Sierra Leone web, an online news provider, as saying extra troops had been deployed along the border to prevent further armed incursions. The troops had disarmed 70 Liberian soldiers who were awaiting encampment in the northern Port Loko District.

[See also SIERRA LEONE: Armed men from Liberia abduct civilians ]

CWS sending supplies for refugees

The Church World Service (CWS) reported on Monday that it was sending supplies worth US $100,000 for Liberian refugees in Sierra Leone. It also said it was trying to raise another $100,000 to help local churches care for the refugees. A CWS delegation had visited Sierra Leone and other West African countries from 2 to 18 July. "The findings of the delegation are galvanizing emergency response to the troubled region by the international humanitarian aid agency and its partners," it said.

Funds raised would also help Sierra Leoneans displaced during the country's 11-year civil war to "get back on their feet", CWS said. The organisation also said it was accelerating further support plans for West Africa.

[More in WEST AFRICA: CWS to send supplies to Liberian refugees And detailed information on the visit of the delegation can be found at: ]

NIGER: Army mutiny

Soldiers in Diffa, 1500 km east of the Niger capital, Niamey, mutinied this week to press demands for better living conditions and the payment of allowances owed to them. They took defence, security and civilian officials hostage on Wednesday, day one of the mutiny, and freed the civilians on the following day, but international radio stations reported on Friday that they had abducted them once again.

The authorities in Niamey sent reinforcements on Thursday to Diffa to free the hostages and quell the mutiny. Residents reported on Friday that the town was tense. There was some fear among civilians that they might pay a heavy price in the event of fighting between mutineers and loyalist troops which the authorities sent from Niamey on Thursday, after declaring on Wednesday that the mutiny had developed into a rebellion against the state.

Also on Thursday, gendarmes in Niamey arrested three army officers who had been close to late president Ibrahima Bare Mainassare, assassinated in 1999.

The government had reported that the mutineers wanted the dismissal of the armed forces chief of general staff, Moumouni Boureima, and that they had demanded that Prime Minister Hama Amadou travel to Diffa. However, mutineers said they had nothing to do with the officers arrested in Niamey and that they had never called for Boureima's dismissal.

The government also said it would not allow soldiers to defy their officers, and that it would restore order and discipline. "The military high command has received orders to free the detained civilian and military authorities without conditions, as quickly as possible and by any means it judges necessary, and to restore discipline and obedience in the barracks," it said.

[See also NIGER: Army mutineers free civilian hostages NIGER: Mutineers detain prefect, mayor and other dignitaries]

NIGERIA: Eco-guidelines for oil firms, 15 die as police, armed men clash

Significant developments reported in recent days in Nigeria include a clash between police and armed men in the central state of Plateau, new environmental guidelines aimed at curbing degradation and pollution in the country's oil region, and the invalidation by a court of guidelines used to deny registration to new parties.

Attack in Plateau State

At least 15 people died after scores of armed men suspected of being from Niger and Chad attacked police in Plateau's Wase District on 23 and 24 July, police sources said. Plateau's commissioner of police said on 27 July that a policeman, five civilians and nine attackers died. Three of the latter were captured and interrogated.

In recent years there have been many reports of former rebels from Niger and Chad crossing into Nigeria and Cameroon to engage in banditry.

This was the first report of an attack involving foreign elements in Plateau State since September 2001, when fighting between Muslims and Christians in the capital, Jos, cost over 1,000 lives and was followed by intermittent clashes between mostly Christian indigenous people and more recent Muslim settlers from farther north.

Plateau's governor urged the National Emergency Management Agency on 28 July to help the state's authorities deal with thousands of people displaced by the clashes.

[For more information, see: NIGERIA: Attack by armed group claims 15 lives in Plateau ]

Environmental guidelines

The environmental guidelines were announced in a statement on Tuesday by Rilwanu Lukman, presidential adviser on petroleum. He said they reviewed old rules to bring them in line with global trends and set high performance standards for the country's oil industry. Senior officials said the 300-page guidelines provided rules to reduce pollution, procedures for environmental monitoring and analytical parameters. The government, through its Department of Petroleum Resources, would also conduct regular health, safety and environment audits of the oil companies.

Lukman said the environmental practices of oil transnationals in Nigeria were below internationally acceptable standards. He added that the government had information that oil companies had stockpiled about 35,000 metric tonnes of drilling waste in various parts of the Niger Delta, and planned to dump them in remote areas. This was "highly unacceptable to government" he said, calling on the operators in question to dispose of the stockpiles appropriately.

[For more information see: NIGERIA: New environmental guidelines for oil industry ]

Court rules against electoral commission

Nigeria's court of appeal invalidated on 26 July the grounds on which the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) denied applications by 27 groups for registration as political parties. It said INEC's registration guidelines and aspects of the Electoral Act of 2001 on which they were based were unconstitutional.

Three parties were registered in June by INEC out of about 30 that had applied. The rejected parties challenged the eligibility conditions in a high court which, on 11 June, upheld only four of their 17 demands, prompting them to file suit in the appeal court.

[For more information, see: NIGERIA: Court invalidates election commission's rejection of parties ]

COTE D'IVOIRE: Police arrest protesters, politician killed in Burkina Faso

An Ivorian politician, Balla Keita, was found knifed to death in his home in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, local and international media sources reported. According to the attorney general of Burkina Faso, who announced the death of Friday, Keita had been a political refugee in that country since March 2001.

Keita served as a minister under late President Felix Houphouet-Boigny (1960-1993), and a special adviser to former de facto ruler General Robert Guei (1999-2000). He was also secretary-general of the party Guei founded, l' Union pour la democratie et la paix en Cote d'Ivoire (UDPCI). It was not immediately clear why he was killed or by whom.

Also this week, Ivorian police broke up a protest by NGOs and two opposition groups demanding the implementation of resolutions of a national reconciliation forum held last year and the dismissal of the president of the country's electoral commission. They accused the commission of partiality in connection with regional elections in July, which they said were flawed.

Police also arrested eight protesters, but later released them. Participants in the protest, held on Tuesday, included members of the youth wing of the UDPCI. The protesters were dispersed as they were about to enter Abidjan's business district on their way to the President's office to hand in a letter containing their grievances, newspapers said.

CAPE VERDE: Emergency food programme underfunded

An emergency programme to help the most vulnerable of 30,000 Cape Verdeans threatened by hunger remained underfunded, WFP said on Tuesday. The UN agency, which appealed for US $1.2 million for the programme more than a month ago, said it had received just 50 percent of the food it required for the West African archipelago.

"Hunger is rapidly increasing amid deteriorating living conditions in Cape Verde," said Sonsoles Ruedas, WFP's representative in Praia.

[For more information see CAPE VERDE: Help still needed to stave off hunger ]

MALI: UNICEF launches new anti-tetanus campaign

UNICEF and the Malian ministry of health on Friday began a campaign to vaccinate some 118,000 women aged 14 to 45 years against maternal and neonatal tetanus in districts east and south of Mali's capital, Bamako. UNICEF said the campaign differed from previous ones in that it involved the use of BD Uniject - a new vaccination device that uses a syringe pre-filled with a single dose of tetanus toxoid and which can be administered by "lay people".

[For more information, see UNICEF statement at ]

WEST AFRICA: Child labour rampant in cocoa sector, new study says

Child labour is still rampant in cocoa-producing communities of West Africa, according to a joint study by the region's governments, the United States and other stakeholders of the international cocoa industry.

The study found that many children were involved in hazardous activities such as the use of pesticides and machetes. Most of the children were below the age of 14. Average annual income ranged between US $30 and US $110 per household member, but many children received no pay for their work, researchers found.

The study targeted Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria, where more than 4,800 farmers, adult workers, child labourers and community leaders were interviewed by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and national research collaborators. It was conducted with assistance from UNICEF and the ILO.

[A summary of the findings is available at Related items include: WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA: IRIN focus on regional efforts against child trafficking, ]

WEST AFRICA: US pledges to assist ECOWAS

The United States has promised to help train the Economic Community of West African States' (ECOWAS) regional peace-keeping force, ECOMOG, and help ECOWAS set up military bases for the rapid deployment of troops to conflict areas. The promise was made on 27 July by Gen Carlton Fulford, deputy commander of the US European Command, during a visit to the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja.

Fulford said the first steps in the assistance programme would include the installation of a US $5.3-million early-warning satellite-communications system that would link the ECOWAS secretariat with observation centres in Benin, Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Liberia. He also said Washington was willing to give ECOWAS military equipment worth $2 million already in Sierra Leone for it to set up the first of two planned bases.

WEST AFRICA: Region faces major challenges - HDR

ABIDJAN, 29 July (IRIN) - Many West African nations risk falling far short of developmental targets they and other UN member states have pledged to achieve by 2015, according to the 2002 Human Development Report (HDR). The report, which establishes a link between politics and human development, also shows that the region faces a major challenge in the area of civil and political rights.

The report found that, of 21 countries in or bordering on West Africa, only Ghana and Nigeria had been able to halve the proportion of its people suffering from hunger; 10 were on track, one was slipping back, another four lagged behind. There was no data for four countries. Another key key target is reducing infant mortality by two-thirds. Two countries were on track; three were slipping back or lagging and 15 were far behind.

The region also has a long way to go towards ensuring full enjoyment of political and civil rights, according to subjective indicators of governance published in the HDR.

Only three nations were judged to have offered their citizens full civil liberties: Benin; Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe. Another 15 were partly free, while Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea were judged not free.

Seven countries did not provide their citizens with free political rights: Cameroon, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, The Gambia, Guinea, and Mauritania. People in five countries - Cape Verde, Benin, Ghana, Mali and Sao Tome/Principe - enjoyed full political rights, while the remaining eight countries were partly free.

Benin, Mali, Sao Tome/Principe, and Senegal enjoyed freedom of the press. There was partial freedom in six countries, while the press was not free in 10 others: Cameroon, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, The Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Sierra Leone, Togo.

[For the full HDR 2002 report, go to ]


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