Liberia + 6 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 5 covering the period 31 Jan - 4 Feb 2000

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LIBERIA: Four soldiers sentenced to 10 years in jail

A military court in Liberia has sentenced four soldiers to 10 years imprisonment with hard labour after a trial lasting more than one year, Star radio reported. Five others were released. The men were charged with sedition in connection with fighting in September 1998 in Monrovia between presidential security forces and fighters loyal to former warlord Roosevelt Johnson.

SIERRA LEONE: Grenade discharged in demobilisation camp

One man was killed and several injured on Tuesday when a grenade went off at a demobilisation centre in Port Loko, some 60 km northeast of Freetown, the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) reported.

This means that there may be weapons being held illegally by ex-combatants in demobilisation centres, NCDDR said in a press release. It urged ex-combatants to hand in weapons being held in the centres "to prevent any further tragedies".

SIERRA LEONE: Abducted children released from Occra Hills

A UN military observer team secured the release on Tuesday of 37 former child fighters held by ex-rebels, Fred Eckhard, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said. Eckhard said on Wednesday that the children, some of them as young as six, had been held at the rebel base in the Occra Hills, some 70km from Freetown. Some of the younger children appeared malnourished, Eckhard said. UNICEF estimates that about 5,000 children have been involved in the conflict in Sierra Leone. About 4,000 are still missing.

SIERRA LEONE: Amputee employment scheme launched

An employment scheme for amputees in Freetown, launched on Monday by the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society (SLRCS) with support from the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), had resulted by mid-week in the recruitment of six men, each with at least one limb missing, as security guards for private companies.

The possibility of future employment was also encouraging amputees to register for prosthetic treatment as some felt that it boosted their job prospects, Steen Wetlesen, head of the IFRC delegation in Freetown, told IRIN. At the Murray Town Limb Fitting Centre in Western Freetown, Handicap International (HI) has fitted more than 80 limbs since April 1999. The centre houses more than 150 amputees.

SIERRA LEONE: Substance abuse hampers ex-fighters' health

Marijuana and alcohol abuse is creating health problems for former combatants in Sierra Leone, according to Rabih Torbay, country director for International Medical Corps (IMC). "Ex-combatants often come to us with chest pains," Torbay told IRIN on Tuesday. He added that the former fighters often freely admitted that they smoked marijuana. IMC provides primary health care for ex-combatants, civilians and displaced persons through clinics set up outside some demobilisation camps.

SIERRA LEONE: Disarmament expected to speed up

The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration into society of the estimated 45,000 ex-combatants in Sierra Leone has taken longer than originally envisaged, partly because of logistical problems, fear and mistrust, government and UN sources say.

However, efforts to encourage former fighters to disarm, the deployment of UN peacekeepers along with moves to increase their strength, and financial support from the international community are expected to speed up the process, some sources say.

[See IRIN Special Report on disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration]

SIERRA LEONE: Refugees make "assessment visits", UNHCR says

Several Sierra Leonean refugees from Sinje camp in Vahun, western Liberia, have crossed over the Mano River Bridge into Sierra Leone, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said on Friday in Geneva. According to Redmond, most of the refugees said they return to their villages to make assessments and "take the opportunity to do some cleaning and other preparations" before returning to Sinje. There are more than 450,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in other West African countries.

SIERRA LEONE: Human rights situation in Port Loko deteriorates

A human rights team from the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) has issued an "alarming report" after an assessment mission to Port Loko and Kabala, Marie Okabe, associate spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, told reporters in New York on 28 January. In Port Loko, some 60 km north-east of Freetown, there were daily attacks during which villages were looted, houses burnt, and civilians harassed, abducted and raped by ex-rebels, Okabe said.

SENEGAL: Eight presidential hopefuls register for polls

Eight candidates have registered for Senegal's presidential elections on 27 February, according to news reports. They include a Muslim cleric, Ousseynou Fall, and veteran politician Abdoulaye Wade of the Senegalese Democratic Party, who is running for the fifth consecutive time. Incumbent President Abdou Diouf, candidate of the Socialist Party (PS), is seeking his fourth consecutive term in office.

SENEGAL: Demonstration seen as important for democracy

A protest on Wednesday by several thousand opposition supporters and leaders against what they said were preparations by the ruling party to rig elections on 27 February was "extremely important" for democracy in Senegal, a local analyst told IRIN.

"It the first time that such a demonstration has been authorised," said Alioune Tine, head of a human rights and electoral monitoring group called the Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme (RADDHO). "It was calm and the police did not charge."

SENEGAL: World Bank approves credit

The World Bank on Thursday approved a credit of some US $28.5 million to support an ongoing decentralisation effort by the Senegalese government, according to a World Bank news release.

The National Rural Infrastructure Project (NRIP) will "reinforce the capacity of rural local governments to deliver public services to their populations on a sustainable basis," it said. "The central objective of this project is to contribute to revitalising the rural economy, reducing rural poverty and improving the living conditions of rural populations in Senegal," according to Mahmood Ayub, country director for Senegal.

NIGERIA: Police murder suspects arraigned

Ten people suspected of killing a dozen policemen in the southeast Nigerian town of Odi on 4 November were arraigned before a Chief Magistrate's Court in Kaiama, Bayelsa State, 'The Guardian', a Lagos newspaper, reported. AFP, quoting judicial sources, reported that the suspects had been charged with 18 counts of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They pleaded not guilty to murder.

NIGERIA: Delta group demands development projects

Youths from the Niger Delta states of Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom on Tuesday asked the federal government to provide "people-oriented" development projects in their areas following the region's return to peace, 'The Guardian' reported.

The president of the Niger Delta Oil Producing Communities Development Organisation (NIDOPCODO), Saturday Eregbene, said that following "intensive dialogue" between his organisation and militant groups, fighters and kidnappers in the Delta had promised to end the violence there.

The youths are asking for developmental facilities, job creation and joint participation of the Niger Delta communities in oil exploration and exploitation in their region, according to Eregbene.

NIGERIA: Senate begins investigation of OPC

A committee set up by Nigeria's Senate to investigate the activities of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC) in the southwest of the country began sitting on Tuesday in Lagos, 'The Vanguard' newspaper reported. The seven-member committee will present its findings in a report to the Senate president, the daily said.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Malu (PRS) elected parliamentary speaker

Parliament voted 66-34 on Friday for Jorge Malu, of the Partido da Renovacao Social (PRS) as speaker of Guinea-Bissau's 102-member house, Lusa reported. Lusa said Malu received support from parliamentarians from the outgoing Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC) in overcoming his rival, Helder Vaz, leader of the Resistencia da Guine-Bissau Movimento Ba-Fata (RGB-MB). The PRS won 38 seats in legislative elections on 28 November 1999. The RGB obtained 29 and the PAIGC 24.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Accord on establishment of first university

Representatives of Lisbon's Lusofona university and the Guinea-Bissau Ministry of Education signed an agreement on Monday in Bissau to establish the country's first university, Lusa reported.

The chairman of the commission set up to establish the Amilcar Cabral University said the accord was a "decisive step" in the project. The university will be a public institution, to be administered by a private group that may be set up with capital from Portugal and Guinea-Bissau, Lusa quoted commission chair Tcherno Djalo as saying.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Constitutional Commission to set election dates

The dates for presidential, legislative and municipal elections in Cote d'Ivoire will be set by a new Consultative Constitutional and Electoral Commission (CCCE) sworn in on Monday, the country's leader, Brigadier General Robert Guei, said at the CCCE's inauguration.

The commission's tasks include drawing up a new constitution, drafting an electoral code and proposing measures to facilitate the organisation of free and fair elections, according to Guei. These measures include a census of electors, the establishment of voters' lists and the drawing of new electoral boundaries.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Scores die in plane crash

Only 10 people survived when a Kenya Airways jetliner slammed into the Atlantic Ocean off Abidjan on Sunday night while on its way to Lagos, with 179 people on board. Divers recovered the flight data recorder on Friday, AP reported.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Military detainees released

The authorities in Cote d'Ivoire released on 27 January a number of military officers who had been detained since the 24 December 1999 coup, Issa Yeresso, special media adviser to General Robert Guei, told IRIN on Monday. He did not say exactly how many people were freed but reports in local and international media put the number at between 30 and 40.

COTE D'IVOIRE: World Bank wants repayment by mid-February

The World Bank will stop granting loans to Cote d'Ivoire if it does not repay by mid-February US$ 17 million it was to have given back to the multilateral institution by mid-December, according to a memorandum the bank sent on Wednesday to the authorities in Abidjan. "We are not putting pressure on the government," a World Bank official in Abidjan told IRIN. "We are just informing them what the rules are."

CHAD: Mines around Faya Largeau to be cleared

The clearing of mines in a 100-km radius around the town of Faya Largeau in northern Chad is due to begin this month, Lorne O'Brien of the Chad Mine Action programme told IRIN. The cost of the programme, which entails getting rid of some one million anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, is estimated at US $2.75 million. The United States, Canada, Japan, Italy, Britain, UNDP, Chad's government and the NGOs Handicap International and HELP are among the backers of the initiative - which includes training Chadian sappers and other land mine technicians and improving medical facilities in Faya Largeau.

[See separate item titled 'Chad: IRIN Focus on demining']

CHAD: US $17.5 million for capacity building

The World Bank has approved some US $17.5 million for supporting ongoing efforts to build economic and financial management capacity in Chad, the Bank said in a news release on Friday.

SENEGAL: Former Chadian leader under house arrest

Former Chadian leader Hissene Habre was placed under house arrest on Thursday in Dakar, Senegal, after a court charged him with perpetrating torture and other abuses during his eight-year rule. However, Investigating Judge Demba Kandji rejected charges of crimes against humanity filed against Habre by nine Chadians and a coalition of local and international human rights bodies.

WEST AFRICA: Good harvests expected in the Sahel

People in the Sahel will be less hungry this year as abundant rains in 1999 have provided excellent conditions for harvests and animals, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) says in its latest Famine Early Warning System (FEWS) bulletin.

WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICA: Child trafficking conference

A subregional consultation on child trafficking will take place on 22-24 February in Libreville, Gabon, according to UNICEF.

Entitled "Developing strategies on the trafficking of children for exploitative labour purposes in West and Central Africa" the consultation is being organised by UNICEF and ILO in collaboration with the government of Gabon.

The following countries will attend: Benin,Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana. Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

Abidjan, 4 February 2000; 18:45 GMT

[ENDS]

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