Sierra Leone + 2 more

IRIN Update 608 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@irin.ci

SIERRA LEONE: Over 100 ex-SLA disarm

Some 158 former ex-SLA combatants, among them 77 child soldiers, surrendered their weapons on Thursday to the West African Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) at Laia Junction some 50 km east of Freetown, a UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) source in Freetown told IRIN on Friday. The former fighters are part of a larger contingent based in the nearby Occra Hills.

As of Friday, 2,884 of an estimated 45,000 former combatants have disarmed, according to UNAMSIL.

SIERRA LEONE: Indian troops to be deployed in east

The UN is planning to deploy a battalion of Indian troops to the Eastern Province where the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) military commander, Sam Bockarie, has his base, a UN source told IRIN on Friday.

Bockarie told the BBC on Monday that he did not want his troops disarmed by ECOMOG or by former ECOMOG soldiers due to be absorbed into the UN peacekeeping force. Till now there has been no disarming by RUF rebels in the diamond mining region of eastern Sierra Leone, a UNAMSIL source said on Friday.

The troops, due to arrive in the next couple of weeks, will be part of the newly formed UN 6,000-strong UN peacekeeping force mandated by the UN Security Council to support the Lome Peace Accord signed in July. The Indian soldiers will join those from Ghana, Guinea, Kenya and Nigeria.

AFRICA: UNDP launches anti-desertification drive

An initiative to strengthen the capacity of 31 African countries to design and implement local anti-desertification programmes has been launched by UNDP. The UN agency announced this at the Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, held 15-26 November in Recife, Brazil.

The project will operate out of centres for the UN Office to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNSO) in Burkina Faso and Kenya.

"The challenge is to improve the livelihoods of more than 1.7 billion people living in the world's dry lands today, as well as the prospects for future generations who will depend on the same fertile, albeit fragile, soils," Eimi Watanabe, Director of UNDP's Bureau for Development Policy, told the 2,500 conference participants from 159 countries.

TOGO: Consequence of flooding

Access constraints in the Savanes and Kara regions due to infrastructural damage is one of the main consequences of flooding in these locations, OCHA quotes an expert from the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) as saying in its situation report dated 2 December.

The maritime region is deemed to be less problematic because of better roads as well as the possibility of a third harvest, the ECHO expert reportedly said. However, in other regions the impact of crop losses will be felt in February when the current harvest, estimated to be one-third of normal yields, will have been consumed.

The main recommendation of ECHO's report is a food-for-work programme to rebuild damaged infrastructure.

NIGERIA: OPC not involved in violence

The leadership of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), a Yoruba social cultural group, has defended its members over allegations of their involvement in clashes in Lagos last week, news organistions reported.

The national president of the group, Frederick Fasehun, said that the recent crisis at the Mile 12 market was triggered by a struggle for leadership of it. "One administration had been in place for over 15 years. There was an election to elect a new leader and it turned up a Yoruba leader but the Hausa people did not want to leave the post and that brought up the fracas," he told the BBC.

He said that a contributory factor was that some Hausas went to a nearby secondary school and started killing Yoruba students.

President Olusegun Obasanjo said that 27 people died after the fighting but news reports said that the death toll could have been as high as 50.

The Hausa and the Yoruba are the two largest and most politically powerful groups in Nigeria. At least 100 people died when they last clashed in July in Shagamu, in the southwest and in Kano, the biggest city in Muslim northern Nigeria.

NIGERIA: EU says Nigeria paid EIB arrears

European Union officials have expressed their satisfaction at the recent settlement by the government of its arrears on European Investment Bank loans, an EU news release said on Thursday.

The payments of the dues, it said, will now make it possible to "restart the bank's cooperation with Nigeria in long-term lending to the public and private sectors in support of productive income generating investments." It will also help to implement projects for which some US$430 million have been earmarked under the European Development Fund, the EU said.

The EU suspended aid to Nigeria in 1995 over its poor human rights record during General Sani Abacha's regime. It resumed relations following the inauguration of Obasanjo in May.

Abidjan, 3 December 1999; 6:10 GMT

[ENDS]

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Item: irin-english-2098

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