Nigeria + 2 more

IRIN Update 675 of events in West Africa

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SIERRA LEONE: UN peacekeepers blocked by rebels again

A patrol of 107 UN peacekeepers and six military observers were stopped on Monday in eastern Sierra Leone by a group of Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, Fred Eckhard, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, reported in New York.

The rebels said they did not have clearance to let an armed escort through.

The Indian peacekeepers, part of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), returned to their base in the afternoon some four hours after being stopped, Eckhard said.

The incident followed a meeting in Freetown on Thursday at which all the main stakeholders agreed that UNAMSIL and humanitarian workers would have unhindered access to all parts of the country, that the government was in full control all over Sierra Leone and that disarmament would take place throughout the country as facilities are made available, Eckhard reported on Friday.

The meeting, convened by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, was attended by RUF Party (RUFP) leader Foday Sankoh, ex-Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)/Sierra Leone Army (SLA) leader Johnny Paul Koroma, and Hinga Norman, the leader of the Civil Defence Forces which supported the government against the rebels.

Also present were Oluyemi Adeniji, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, and Major General Vijay Jetley, the UN Force Commander in Sierra Leone.

SIERRA LEONE: Situation still volatile says UN official

The security situation in Sierra Leone remains "tense and volatile", the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hedi Annabi, said on Monday in a briefing to the Security Council.

On several occasions UN troops have been forced to surrender their weapons to armed groups, and some UNAMSIL convoys were unable to deploy to eastern parts of the country, he reported.

Annabi said the mains steps to be taken in Sierra Leone should include the early disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration of all ex-combatants, the extension of government authority throughout the country, national reconciliation and democratisation, and improvement of the country's capacity to ensure its own security.

Progress in those areas, he said, would require a sustained commitment by all concerned, as well as significant material and financial resources. He said a donor conference to be held in London on 27 March and contributions to the World Bank Multi-Donor Trust Fund would help cover the present shortfall of some US $20 million needed to support the peace process.

SIERRA LEONE: Calls for DDR coordination over education

Sierra Leone's Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) have expressed the need to coordinate the activities of all agencies offering services in the area of education, the NCDDR reported in its bulletin on Friday.

During a meeting at the Ministry of Education this week NCDDR Executive Secretary Francis Kaikai said that the ministry was a major stakeholder in the DDR programme as it was providing educational opportunities for ex-combatants.

Some 12 percent of the estimated 45,000 former combatants are children who are expected to be enrolled in educational institutions, Kaikai said. He added that in its reintegration drive the NCDDR intends to make good use of the technical expertise available at the Ministry and promised that it would stay in the forefront of the DDR programme, the bulletin said.

NIGERIA: Militants youths hold 30 Shell employees

Militant youths in the southern Delta State town of Udu have been holding 34 Shell employees and four soldiers hostages and have shut down a gas plant that supplies electricity to the nation's only power utility, news organisations reported on Tuesday, quoting a Shell company spokesman.

Shell said the youths stormed its facilities at the Utorogu Gas Plant on Monday. The company's spokesman for the Western Division, Harriman Oyofo, said the youths were demanding that Shell surface a road in the area, 'The Guardian' reported.

AFP reported that the US $2.7-million plant supplies gas to the state-run electricity company station at Egbin, near Lagos.

NIGERIA: Navy frees 32 Shell employees from captivity

Naval troops have stormed two Ijaw communities and freed 32 oil employees kidnapped two weeks ago by militant youths in the southern Bayelsa State, news reports said on Monday.

Reuters quoted the state-owned 'Daily Times' newspaper as saying the freed workers were Shell employees abducted on 4 March while working on Shell's Tunu and Opukushi flow stations. A sailor was among the hostages freed.

Groups in the Niger Delta had recently agreed to stop taking hostages as a form of protest.

NIGERIA: Electricity outage due to "systems collapse"

For the second time in three days Nigeria was plunged into darkness for several hours on Monday because of what Power and Steel Ministry officials called a "systems collapse", 'The Guardian' daily in Lagos reported.

The special assistant to the minister, Olu Agunloye, said in Lagos on Monday that a sudden drop in voltage caused the blackout. However, the reason for the drop was still unknown.

The outage also affected supplies to Niger, Nigeria's northern neighbour, which takes some 80 megawatts of electricity from the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).

NEPA's assistant general manager for public relations, Malam Muhammed Mousa-Booth, has blamed the incessant power cuts on the company's poor equipment and the lack of funds for repairs.

Nigeria's installed power generation capacity is put at 6,000 mw but actual capacity was now less than 3,000 mw, 'The Guardian ' said. It said that peak demand was projected at 2,400 mw but that the generation level had dropped to 1,800 mw over the last six months.

SENEGAL: US $7.5 million IFAD loan to Senegal

Residents of 90 rural communities in Senegal are expected to benefit from a new project to promote decentralised development and strengthen local government, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said.

The project, signed on Monday by IFAD and the Senegalese government, aims to provide about two million people with better access to health, education, sanitary facilities, potable water and roads. IFAD said these people were from the poorest areas in Senegal.

The rural infrastructure project is supposed to support decentralisation and fiscal reform, to allow local communities and governments plan and manage their own infrastructure.

The International Development Association is providing US $28.5 million for the US $42.9-million project, IFAD US $7.5 million and Senegal $6.8 million.

"The community infrastructure as an outcome of the project, combined with improved access to the national road network, will revitalize the local economy," IFAD said.

Abidjan, 14 March 2000; 18:20 GMT

[ENDS]

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