Mauritania + 4 more

IRIN Update 434 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 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35
e-mail: irin-wa@ocha.unon.org

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG soldiers killed in rebel ambush

A group of Guinean soldiers from the West African peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, were ambushed by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels and some 30 soldiers were killed or injured, MISNA reported today (Wednesday).

ECOMOG spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Olukulade, confirmed to IRIN today that "we had some story of an ambush in that area over a week ago, but the casualties were not so high." He declined to comment further on the number of casualties.

Mange is situated in western Sierra Leone, about half-way between Kambia and Port Loko.

Sankoh's appeal against death sentence postponed

A death sentence appeal by Sierra Leonean rebel leader Foday Sankoh has been delayed as lawyers for the defendant continue to prepare their case, according to news reports.

Justice Minister Solomon Berewa said Sankoh's lawyers were still "compiling grounds for his appeal" which was due to have started this week.

The delay coincides with an announcement by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah that Sankoh, who was sentenced to death of treason charges, would be allowed to meet his field commanders in Togo on 18 April.

No support for Liberian dissidents, says ambassador

Sierra Leone's ambassador in Monrovia, Dr.Kemo Salia Bao, says his government will not allow "dissidents" to use its territory to attack Liberia, independent Star radio reported.

Bao was speaking after a meeting yesterday with Liberian Information Minister Joe Mulbah.

According to Star, he said there would be exchanges of visits by Sierra Leonean and Liberian government officials, and interaction would be encouraged between journalists in an attempt to "build confidence" between the two countries.

Mulbah said Liberia was consistent in its belief that the conflict in Sierra Leone could be resolved only through dialogue and commended President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah on his attempts to reach an "amicable solution" with rebel leader Foday Sankoh.

Mulbah assured that Liberia would not be used by anyone to destabilize Sierra Leone and, according to Star, he called for the establishment of training centres on the border to encourage ex-fighters to engage in "productive activities."

NIGERIA: Obasanjo talks democracy with US and UN leaders

Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's president-elect, said he had "a warm reception" at the White House yesterday (Tuesday) when he explained the move to democracy in his country, according to news reports.

"We discussed the transition in Nigeria. President Clinton reaffirmed the interest of the US in democracy in Africa," Obasanjo told reporters after his half-hour meeting.

The meeting "highlighted the broad and increasing cooperation between our two governments," according to a White House statement quoted by Reuters. The United States is determined to help Nigeria take its place as a democratic and economic leader, the statement added.

The talks also covered Nigeria's regional peacekeeping work and its economic reforms. According to Reuters, African analysts said they expected Obasanjo to seek more US assistance for ECOMOG, the Nigerian-led West African peacekeeping force now deployed in Sierra Leone. Obasanjo has promised he will keep Nigerian troops there for "as long as they're necessary," according to news reports.

Obasanjo invited Clinton to his inauguration ceremony on 29 May, but the State department declined to comment on who would make the trip.

Obasanjo also had a meeting yesterday in New York with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. According to a UN statement, they reviewed a series of problems and conflicts on the African continent.

Obasanjo talked about "steps he wished to take to make Nigeria more open to investment" and said he "was seeking support for this initiative in a series of visits to various countries". He also appealed for a reduction of Nigeria's foreign debt to help advance democracy, various media reported.

WESTERN SAHARA: UN Security Council extends MINURSO mandate

The UN Security Council yesterday approved a resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) by one month to 30 April 1999.

MINURSO's mandate includes monitoring a ceasefire as well as identifying and registering qualified voters for a referendum - to be held by March 2000 - that will decide whether Western Sahara should gain full independence or become part of Morocco.

The Council said in its resolution that the aim of the extension was "to allow for an understanding to be reached among all concerned on detailed modalities for the implementation of the identification and appeals protocols, including a revised implementation schedule ..."

Morocco annexed part of the former Spanish colony in 1975. Since then, the Polisario Front has been fighting for its independence.

The Security Council requested both parties "to move ahead with the necessary discussions" to reach agreement on a protocol to repatriate refugees.

They need to do so, it said, "so that all aspects of the work needed to prepare the way for the repatriation of refugees may begin, including confidence-building measures..."

The extension of MINURSO's mandate had been recommended last week by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

MAURITANIA: Ex-president acquitted

A Nouakchott court yesterday acquitted ex-president Ahmed Ould Daddah and another opposition politician of encouraging intolerance and disturbing public order and security, AFP reported.

Ould Daddah, leader of the Union des forces d?mocratiques (UFD)and UFD member Mohameden Ould Babah, had been arrested in December, kept under house arrest, freed in mid-January and then charged after they accused the government of agreeing to accept Israeli nuclear waste in Mauritania.

Their acquittal was welcomed by UFD supporters and a group of 70 lawyers who had come together to defend them on a voluntary basis, AFP said.

SENEGAL: Information Network On Waste Management

Environmentalists in Dakar have created an information network to raise public and government awareness about the dangers of incinerating waste, according to PANA.

The formation of the Reseau senegalais d'information sur les Dechets (RSID) was prompted mainly by the envisaged installation of incinerators at all the country's major hospitals, the news agency reported on Monday.

''In Senegal incineration is too often used as a means of waste disposal,'' PANA reported RSID national coordinator Babacar Ndaw as saying. ''Yet we should all be aware that incineration does not always eliminate waste, but rather transforms it into particles, smoke, toxic gas and other substances whose effects are extremely noxious to humans and animals.''

Members of the RSID include CONGAD, an umbrella of development NGOs in Senegal, the African Human Rights Network and the African Network for International Development.

SAO TOME/PRINCIPE: IMF pacts top priority for new finance minister

Sao Tome and Principe's new planning and finance minister, Adelino Castelo David, said yesterday that his top priorities would include implementing agreements with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, according to Lusa.

The island nation hopes to begin renegotiating its foreign debt of some US $300 million with the two institutions in June, Lusa reported today.

David was sworn in yesterday. He replaces Afonso Varela, who resigned for "personal reasons" in the wake of a treasury bill scandal he had been appointed to investigate.

Abidjan, 31 March 1999, 18:40 GMT

[ENDS]

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