Sierra Leone + 2 more

IRIN Update 649 of events in West Africa

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
Tel: +225 20 21 73 54
Fax: +225 20 21 63 35

SIERRA LEONE: More imported cereals needed this year

Sierra Leone will need to import 329,000 mt of cereals this year to make up for a shortfall and feed its roughly 4.5 million people, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said in a report on Friday. Estimated imports for 1999 were 290,000 mt, 13 percent less than at present.

During the seven-year war, farmers lost their seeds, implements and other capital assets. There was large-scale destruction of infrastructure and rural instructions. Farm families have bee displaced and labour is scarce, FAO said.

This year's cereal supply is estimated at 181,000 mt. Of the 5.24 million ha of arable land in the country, about 12-15 percent is under crop production, FAO said in its report, based on an assessment done from 29 November to 11 December 1999.

[The report is available at ]

NIGERIA: Three die in boundary dispute between states

At least three people were killed and several injured late last week in a clash between two communities in the Niger Delta in south-eastern Nigeria, 'The Guardian' reported on Saturday.

The conflict between communities in Cross River and Akwa Ibom is over ownership of an area on the border between the two states. On Monday Vice President Atkiu Abubakar was scheduled to host a meeting in Abuja with the governors of the two states with a view to helping them end the dispute.

Competition for resources and the climate of mistrust it sometimes creates are seen as a major factor in the conflicts that have pitted ethnic communities against each other in Nigeria.

[See separate item titled 'NIGERIA: IRIN Focus on conflict in the Niger Delta']

NIGERIA: Security alert at borders following arms find

Security agencies have stepped up their watch over Nigeria's seaports and borders following intelligence reports of plans to smuggle arms into the country on board a ship from Europe, 'The Guardian' reported on Monday.

The ship, which is said to contain more than 5,000 rifles as well as missiles and other explosives, berthed off the coast of Abidjan on 30 January so that the smugglers could investigate ways of entering Nigeria, according to the daily.

'The Guardian' reported that the Nigerian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) denied knowing the identity of the importers of the weapons and how they intended to use them, but suspected that the arms might be used by militant ethnic groups to cause trouble.

WEST AFRICA: Nigeria signs gas supply pact with neighbours

Nigeria has signed an agreement to supply Benin, Ghana and Togo with natural gas to meet their energy needs, 'The Guardian' reported. During the project's first phase, Nigeria is expected to export 50 million standard cubic feet of gas per day to the other three countries by the year 2002.

SENEGAL: UN Human Rights Commissioner welcomes Habre's indictment

The indictment in Senegal of former Chadian leader Hissene Habre is further confirmation that even the highest representatives of a state can be pursued anywhere in the world for torture and other crimes, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said on Friday.

"The message sent by the decision in Dakar is clear," she said. "Those who commit, order or tolerate torture and other gross human rights violations can no longer be sure of a peaceful retirement."

Senegal is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, which obliges states to prosecute or extradite reported torturers who enter their territory. Acting on this obligation, the government did not oppose the attempt to file charges against Habre.

A coalition of local and international human rights bodies and nine Chadian survivors of torture filed suit in a Dakar court last week for Habre's trial. Their action detailed hundreds of cases of political killings, torture and disappearances.

Investigating Judge Demba Kandji charged Habre, 57, with torture and other abuses but rejected charges of crimes against humanity. Habre has been living in Senegal since 1990 when he was ousted by the current president of Chad, Idriss DÚby.

SENEGAL: Election campaign begins

Campaigning for Senegal's presidential elections on 27 February got off to a calm start on Sunday, news reports said.

The strongest of the seven candidates challenging the incumbent, Abdou Diouf, who has ruled Senegal since January 1981, is Abdoulaye Wade, a five-time presidential challenger. Wade heads a six-party opposition bloc known as Coalition pour l'Alternance 2000 (CA-2000) that includes his Parti democratique senegalais.

Opening his campaign in Mbake, a town 170 km east of Dakar, he reiterated an opposition demand for the scrapping of Israeli-printed ballots which, opposition parties say, were produced with the intent of cheating in the voting.

CA-2000 proposed on Saturday a three-day boycott of television time allocated to all candidates. However, another alliance of 20 parties known as the Front pour la regularite et la transparence des elections (FRTE) had taken no decision on this proposal by early Monday.

Diouf, who is on the ticket of the Parti socialiste, will also face his one-time information and interior minister, Djibo Ka, backed by the Union pour le Renouveau democratique. Other contenders include Moustapha Niasse, head of the Alliance des Forces de Progres, and former education minister Iba Der Thiam, head of the CDP/Garab-Gui party.

AFRICA: Sahel-Saharan states sign security charter

A security charter aimed at preserving peace on both sides of the Sahara and rejecting force as a means of solving regional conflicts was signed on Saturday by the Community of Sahelo-Saharan States (COMESSA).

The 11 signatories included Djibouti, The Gambia and Senegal, which were admitted to the subregional body at a summit in Ndjamena, Chad, on 3-5 February. Other COMESSA members are Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Libya, Niger, Mali and Sudan.

AFP reported that COMESSA, founded at Libya's initiative in February 1998, is designed to promote economic, political and cultural integration within the region.

"We should think about creating a United States of Africa," Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi told the summit. The political unification of Africa was first proposed some 40 years ago by Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah.

COMESSA'S permanent headquarters will be in Bamako, Mali, while its next summit will be in Khartoum. PANA reported that the conference also decided to hold ministerial sessions on various sectors, particularly energy, rural development, youth and culture, defence, transport and communications.

Abidjan, 7 February 2000; 18:46 GMT


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