Nigeria + 4 more

IRIN Update 629 of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 21 73 54
Fax: +225 21 63 35

WEST AFRICA: Hain Begins West Africa tour

British Foreign Office Minister of State Peter Hain arrived in Abuja, Nigeria, on Sunday at the start of a week-long visit to West Africa, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman told IRIN.

"I am visiting Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Ghana because all three of them are making progress," Hain said prior to his trip.

Nigeria, he said, was "reinventing itself" after years of brutal military rule to a new democracy. Sierra Leone has adopted a peace deal which offered hope, after eight years of horrific conflict, he said, and Ghana was preparing for a hand over to a new elected president, "in line with its tradition of tolerance, pluralism, and economic progress".

Hain will travel to Sierra Leone on Wednesday and to Ghana on Friday.

NIGERIA: Chinese Foreign Minister Tang visits

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan is due in Abuja, Nigeria, on Monday for an official visit that will also take him to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the Seychelles, the official Chinese Xinhua news agency reported.

Tang is the most senior Chinese official to visit Nigeria since Prime Minister Li Peng in May 1997. Tang is expected to discuss the purchase of Nigerian oil and ways to speed up the completion of the rehabilitation of Nigerian Railways, being undertaken by Chinese technicians.

On 30 December, the 'Post Express' newspaper quoted President Olusegun Obasanjo as calling for increased trade between both countries. Quoting official statistics, AFP reported that trade stood at US $3.84 million dollars in 1998 but at US $4.86 million in the first 10 months of 1999.

Nigeria is China's third largest trading partner in Africa, after South Africa and Egypt, AFP reported quoting officials. Some 4,000 Chinese and Chinese-origin live in Nigeria, AFP added, and are engaged in trade, textile, manufacture, iron and steel and medical businesses.

NIGERIA: Administration set up to development Bakassi

An administrative body to ensure the rapid development of Efiat West and Tom Scott Island in Bakassi, southeastern Nigeria, has been set up by the Cross River State government, the Nigerian Television Authority reported on Saturday.

Announcing this during a visit to Efiat West, Governor Donald Duke said arrangements had been made to house state civil servants and provide potable water for the community. He told residents that the federal and state governments were committed to solving their problems. Bakassi, a highly underdeveloped but oil-rich peninsula, has been the centre of a long-running territorial dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon.

NIGERIA: Troops avert ethnic clash

Soldiers of the 7 Amphibious Battalion stationed in Effurun, averted another clash between Itsekiri and Urhobo in the oil town of Warri in Nigeria's Delta State 'The Guardian' newspaper reported on Monday.

Youths believed to be Itsekiri invaded the property of Wilson Eboh, an Urhobo, on a disputed Okere area of the town, pulling down his fence. A similar incident at the same site sparked bloody clashes between the two communities in June 1999, where several buildings were burnt, the newspaper said.

A lieutenant with the 7 Amphibious Battalion told the newspaper that the army had stopped a reprisal raid by Urhobo youths and that the disputed site was now under guard.

MALI: EU providing safe water in pesticides danger zone

Some 2,000 residents in the pesticide contaminated villages of Tin Essako and Anefis, in the northern Malian region of Kidal, can soon look forward to clean drinking water following a decision by the European Commission to pay for well construction at the two sites.

The ECs humanitarian office, ECHO, which will manage the 50,000-euro project, said on Thursday that well construction would be carried out by the Spanish chapter of Action Contre la Faim (ACF). The NGO will clean up and cordon off storage depots of expired pesticides which are seeping into the water table in Tin Essako and Anesfis. ACF will also seal contaminated wells.

ECHO said that 9,400 litres of expired chemicals were stored at the two sites for use against locusts. However, guerrilla activity by nomads in the north between 1991 and 1995 prevented the application of the pesticides.

A public health survey will also be carried out to determine the number of people contaminated by the chemicals, so that the victims could receive proper medical care.

ECHO said that there were at least 85,000 litres of expired pesticides in all of northern Mali, especially in Gao and Aguelhoc. Lesser amounts exist in the southern regions but are better managed.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Presidential candidate Yala returns home

Presidential candidate Kumba Yala returned to Guinea-Bissau's capital on Sunday following medical treatment in Portugal, news organisations reported.

Yala, leader of the Partido da Renovacao Social (PRS), told supporters at Bissau airport that he had recovered his health and was ready for the run-off election on 16 January. He won the first round on 28 November with 38.81 percent of the votes, while the interim president, Malam Sanha, was runner-up with 23.37 percent.

Guinea-Bissau's national assembly earlier rejected an appeal by the PRS to postpone the polls until 23 January.

GUINEA-BISSAU: IMF approves post-conflict assistance

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a loan of some US $2 million for urgent post-conflict reconstruction and economic recovery in Guinea-Bissau, IMF Deputy Managing Director Shigemitsu Sugisaki said on Friday.

"The authorities have made commendable progress in recovering from the civil conflict of 1998 and early 1999, but the post-conflict normalisation was not yet complete," he said.

His statement called for faster demobilisation of combatants, a cut in military spending as well as timely donor help to rebuild health and educational facilities.

The IMF encouraged the authorities in Guinea-Bissau to make "early progress in finalising a broad-based three-year programme of structural adjustment and poverty reduction that could be supported under the Fund's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility and provide the basis for assistance under the enhanced Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries", he added.

CHAD: US $49.9 million to alleviate poverty and aid growth

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a three-year loan of US $49.9 million to Chad, under the Fund's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF), to support the government's 1999-2002 economic programme.

Announcing this on Friday, the IMF said the first annual loan of some US $14.3 million would be available in two equal instalments with approximately half the amount available immediately.

"In considering the three-year programme presented by Chad for support under the PRGF, directors stressed the importance of consolidating the fiscal gains from the previous programme," Shigemitsu Sugisaki, IMF deputy managing director, said.

Following Chad's completion of a three-year IMF structural adjustment programme in April, it had improved its public finances and progressed in implementing key structural reforms, he said, although difficulties in raising fiscal revenues continued to hamper economic performance.

These difficulties, he said, underlined the need for Chad to persevere with its economic reforms so it could "achieve the transition from crisis management and stabilisation to the steady implementation of economic and social policies for development and poverty reduction".

SIERRA LEONE: Renewed disarmament sensitisation drive in east

A campaign to sensitise former fighters to the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) Programme continued in eastern Sierra Leone at the weekend.

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh, Sierra Leone Deputy Defence Minister Hinga Norman and ECOMOG Force Commander Major General Gabriel Kpamber all urged ex-combatants in Bo on Thursday to give up their weapons, ECOMOG said.

Norman is also the head of the Kamajor militia and is credited with transforming it from a group of traditional hunters into an effective fighting force, which came to the defence of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah after he was ousted in May 1997 by RUF rebels and renegade soldiers.

Bo town, which was never captured by the RUF during the war, is one of the main Kamajor strongholds.

"The Kamajors have been reluctant to disarm, mainly through mistrust. The appearance of Hinga Norman side by side with Foday Sankoh should bolster their confidence," a Freetown source told IRIN.

The DDR sensitisation mission continued through the weekend in Kenema, some 60 km east of Bo, and in the diamond-rich Tongo Field, some 25 km north of Kenema, according to media and local reports.

Abidjan, 10 January 2000; 17:47 GMT


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