Sierra Leone + 1 more

IRIN Update 614 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

SIERRA LEONE: Strong ECOMOG presence in Port Loko

ECOMOG has established a strong presence in the northern town of Port Loko, where armed bandits have been harassing civilians since the start of Sierra Leone's disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme, the Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) said.

ECOMOG has set up check points next to a DDR camp in Port Loko, some 40 km northeast of Freetown, and a curfew has been imposed from 8 p.m. each day, HACU said in its situation report for 21 November to 5 December.

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) does not believe there is a direct threat to the town from the outside, HACU said, but it remains wary of problems from former combatants within the town, which has been a stronghold of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.

SIERRA LEONE: Kabala calm

A Sierra Leone Army (SLA) battalion protects the northern town of Kabala and local and international staff there are reportedly safe, HACU says.

Although the town is not threatened by the RUF, the presence of some 2,000 ex-SLA poses a potential threat, HACU says in its latest situation report, adding that there have been reports of civilians being harassed in surrounding villages.

The ex-SLA is made up of former soldiers who had backed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council junta that ruled Sierra Leone in alliance with the RUF from May 1997 to February 1998.

The report adds that measures have been taken to enable combatants to register prior their encampment.

In a trip on 8 December to Kabala and Fadugu, another northern town, RUF leader Foday Sankoh ordered some of his soldiers to demobilise but only nine did so, HACU reports.

SIERRA LEONE: No safe water in Kabala, inter-agency mission says

The town of Kabala in northern Sierra Leone has no safe water supply, and there are no latrines or water facilities in the camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) there, HACU reports.

The food situation is under control since upland rice was recently reaped and swamp rice is to be harvested soon, but an inter-agency mission that visited Kabala on 23 November found that there were IDPs and other vulnerable groups in and around the town without money to buy food.

Up to 1,500 IDPs have recently registered in the camp, and others are waiting to do so, HACU says.

SIERRA LEONE: Fewer IDPs reported in Kenema

The number of IDPs in the eastern district of Kenema fell from 63,319 at the end of October to 47,199 one month later as villagers took advantage of the dry season to return home and harvest their crops, HACU reports.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Fifty-nine political prisoners released

Guinea-Bissau's assistant attorney-general, Mamadou Balde, said on Monday that 59 of the 380 political detainees in the West African nation had been released, a humanitarian source told IRIN.

The source said 48 of those released were freed conditionally, and the Justice Ministry is to decide within eight days whether or not they will have to stand trial.

The detainees are mainly former supporters of deposed president Joao Bernardo Vieira. Balde denied that Attorney-General Amine Saad had deliberately dragged his feet on their release, as Prime Minister Francisco Fadul charged last week. Balde said the Justice Ministry had acted within the law, which allows pre-trial detentions of up to six months, the humanitarian source told IRIN.

AFRICA: Social partners want greater visibility for ILO

Nearly 200 representatives of governments, employers' associations and labour organisations from 39 countries have called for greater visibility and influence for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the international community.

The call came at the ILO's Ninth African Regional Conference, which ended on 11 December in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

Participants also called on the ILO to strengthen its synergy with other organisations so as to globalise social progress. Stressing their commitment to eliminating child labour, starting with its worst forms, they urged countries to ratify soonest ILO conventions that apply to it. Governments and their social partners, they added, should develop policies or programmes for the insertion or reinsertion of victims of conflicts into society.

The ILO was also asked to design and develop lasting, viable social protection systems that cover the entire population and especially the informal sector.

WEST AFRICA: ECOWAS leaders approve plan to speed up integration

West African leaders on Friday agreed on measures to speed up the momentum toward the creation of a single monetary zone by 1 January 2004.

In a final communique at the end of their 22nd summit, held in Lome, Togo, on 9-10 December, the nine ECOWAS heads of state and government who attended the meeting backed a Nigerian proposal for an initial group of countries, determined to take the fast track to integration, to take practical measures to integrate their economics.

Countries wanting to make the fast track would have to keep their inflation rates at no more than 5 percent and hold foreign reserves equivalent to six months' imports between now and the year 2003, they agreed.

Participants also commended Nigeria's decision to lift all tariff and non-tariff barriers to regional trade.

WEST AFRICA: Leaders to tackle barriers to free movement of people

West African leaders have decided to establish a permanent road- barrier surveillance machinery to eliminate the obstructions to travel between Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member countries.

The decision came at the 22nd ECOWAS Summit, which took place on Thursday and Friday of last week.

The meeting noted that although there is an ECOWAS protocol on the free movement of people and property, there are a large number of checkpoints along many of West Africa's highways.

Nigeria announced that it was removing all checkpoints on roads linking it to its neighbours: Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Other decisions taken at the summit include the establishment of an ECOWAS parliament and court of justice, whose location is yet to be decided. ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate was told to take the steps needed to recruit judges and ensure that the parliament is set up as soon as possible.

WEST AFRICA: Protocol on preventing conflicts

A Security and Mediation Council is to be set up in West Africa under a protocol on the prevention, management and settlement conflicts approved at the 22nd ECOWAS summit that ended on Friday in Lome.

Ten countries have been designated to sit on the Council: Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

A council of wise men is also to be set up to help preserve peace in the subregion. ECOWAS members were asked to submit nominees for this council to the executive secretariat by 31 December 2000.

The summit also agreed to fight the proliferation of arms and speed up the establishment of national commissions to strengthen an existing moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of weapons. The heads agreed to the holding of a conference next year in Mali of governments and NGOs on the proliferation of illegal light weapons.

The ECOWAS heads also agreed to step up their fight against trans-border crime, especially drug trafficking and money laundering.

The next ECOWAS summit will take place in Bamako, Mali, in December 2000.

Abidjan, 13 December 1999; 18:50 GMT


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