Sierra Leone + 3 more

IRIN Update 633 of events in West Africa

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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SIERRA LEONE: High level of mental trauma in Freetown, MSF says

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has called on the international community to devote greater resources to the treatment of mental trauma in Sierra Leone, according to an MSF press release.

In a report issued on Thursday titled 'Assessing Trauma in Sierra Leone', MSF said it found extremely high levels of trauma among a representative survey of civilians in the capital of Freetown.

MSF found, among other things, that 99% of those surveyed suffered some degree of starvation, 90% witnessed others being wounded or killed, and at least 50% lost people close to them.

"Mental trauma does not disappear with the cease-fire," Kaz de Jong, mental health adviser with MSF in Amsterdam, said. "The war may continue in people's minds for years, decades, perhaps even generations. To address only the material restoration and physical needs of the population is not enough. The psychological devastation of the war will not repair itself on its own."

The report also noted a high level of physical harm among those surveyed: 7% had been amputated (typically a limb, hand, foot or ear), 16% had been tortured by a warring faction, 33% had been held hostage and 39% had been maltreated in some way or another.

MSF has been working in Sierra Leone since 1994. It has medical and nutritional projects in Freetown, Makeni, Bo, Kambia and other areas.

SIERRA LEONE: Britain gives 250,000 pounds for TRC

Britain will provide 250,000 pounds to help set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) envisaged in the peace accord signed in Lome in July by Sierra Leone's government and rebels, Pete Hain, Minister of State in the British Foreign Office, announced in Freetown on Thursday.

This contribution will "help it become a meaningful enterprise," Hain said.

On 29 December, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) submitted to the government the draft statute for the TRC, developed by independent experts with the support of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report dated 11 January.

Sierra Leone's government is now reviewing the draft with a view to the speedy establishment of the Commission.

Pointing out that there would be no amnesty for crimes committed since the Lome Agreement, Hain said: "All the leading figures, whether in government or in the rebel forces, must show leadership for peace not violence. Those who do not will not be forgiven."

SIERRA LEONE: Government reaffirms commitment to disarmament

Sierra Leone's National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) said in a news release dated 12 January that it "remains fully committed to a speedy and successful disarmament process".

In a report dated 11 January, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, had said that "progress in the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme has generally been very slow, presumably as the various groups have been assessing the evolving situation as well as the deployment of UNAMSIL and ECOMOG troops".

As at 12 January, 4,580 weapons and 56,636 rounds of ammunition had been collected, an NCDDR source told IRIN. He said 11,944 ex-combatants had been disarmed, including 3,804 "loyal Sierra Leone Army (SLA)" who avoided the formal encampment process.

"Loyal SLA refers to those who fought alongside ECOMOG up until the time that the Lome agreement was signed," the source said.

The 11,944 also includes 1,414 "Phase One" ex-combatants -- SLA soldiers who served under the military junta that overthrew President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in May 1997, but chose to disarm and be demobilised after ECOMOG restored Kabbah to power in February 1998.

"Phase One ex-combatants includes those who were part of the DDR process before the programme was officially launched on 4 November," the source said.

SIERRA LEONE: HRD says it avoids stolen diamonds

Antwerp's Hoge Raad voor Diamant (HRD) has denied allegations on that it turns a blind eye to black market diamonds from Sierra Leone, Reuters reported. "No other product is controlled more thoroughly than diamonds entering Antwerp," Reuters quoted HRD as saying.

HRD was responding to a report published on Wednesday by Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) that said it was ignoring clear signs that the diamonds bought from Liberia and other nearby states had been smuggled out of Sierra Leone.

In a speech in Freetown on Thursday, Peter Hain, Minister of State in the Foreign Office, said the British government would donate office equipment to help set up the new Strategic Resources Commission to ensure that Sierra Leone's rich natural resources benefited its people.

"I am determined to look for ways to stamp out the theft of Sierra Leone's diamonds, and the way they have been used to fund conflict, not to fund peace, stability and prosperity. Diamonds must be used to help re-build Sierra Leone's schools and hospitals, not to destroy them," Hain said.

NIGERIA: President hints at state of emergency in Lagos

President Olusegun Obasanjo intimated on Thursday that he might impose a state of emergency in Lagos if State Governor Bola Tinubu failed to stop the deterioration of security there.

The warning came in a letter to which Tinubu responded by blaming the federal government for the insecurity.

The letters, published in foreign and local media on Friday, came in the wake of increasing tension between the police and the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), a militant ethnic organisation accused of various acts of violence in Lagos, including killing a police officer. The police have declared OPC leader Ganiyu Adams wanted for arson, murder and other crimes.

Obasanjo said in his letter: "When either by utterance, action or indeed inaction, a Chief Executive shows a loss of control in the maintenance of law and order in his state, it becomes incumbent on the Federal Government to take appropriate action to arrest the situation, usually in the form of the imposition of a State of Emergency.

"Mr. Governor, I regret that I have not seen any action on your part in the recent past to suggest that you are in control of the security situation in Lagos State. On the contrary there is evidence of increasing disorder, loss of lives and property and a general sense of fear among the citizens of Lagos State. This is an intolerable situation."

However, the Lagos governor blamed the insecurity on "the helplessness of the relevant security agencies, particularly the police" who are "undermanned, ill-equipped, poorly motivated and demoralised".

He noted that the police fell under the federal government which "should either more ably bear the constitutional burden of maintaining security in the country or allow for the necessary constitutional amendment to allow the states to bear their own cross".

NIGERIA: Second northern state imposes Islamic law

Niger State in northern Nigeria has adopted the Sharia (Islamic law), news organisations reported its governor, Abdulkadir Kure, as saying.

'The Guardian' newspaper in Lagos said Kure announced on radio and television that he was introducing Sharia because he believed Nigeria, being a pluralistic society, had opted for a multiple legal system made up of common, Islamic and customary law.

"Expanding the scope of Sharia law is to ensure that the approach achieves a significant improvement in the spiritual and economic life of our people," 'The Guardian' quoted him as saying.

However, the chairman of the Niger State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Bishop Jonah Kolo, charged that the introduction of the Sharia was meant to intimidate, oppress and marginalise Christians in the northern state, the daily reported.

GABON: Peacekeeping course

Eight African countries are to participate in a peacekeeping training exercise in Gabon, news organisations reported on Thursday.

'Gabon 2000', organised jointly by Gabon and France, is to be run from 17 to 29 January, according to Reuters. AFP reported that it would be held in Libreville and Lambarene in the south and would simulate a peacekeeping and civilian-protection operation in a country divided by an internal conflict. Participating countries will contribute troops toward a 600-member battalion and a multinational command structure.

The eight nations are Gabon, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome/Principe.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Border closed ahead of elections

Guinea-Bissau has closed its borders as a precautionary measure ahead of Sunday's runoff presidential elections, Lusa reported.

It reported the Interior ministry as saying in a communique, issued on Wednesday in Bissau, that all land, sea and air borders would be closed from midnight on Wednesday to midnight on 17 January.

Interim President Malam Bacai Sanha faces opposition challenger Kumba Iala in Sunday's runoff.

Abidjan, 14 January 2000, 17:40 GMT


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