Sierra Leone + 3 more

IRIN Update 650 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
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SIERRA LEONE: Security Council expands UNAMSIL force to 11,100

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to expand the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to 11,100 military personnel and revised its mandate to include additional tasks, the UN said.

UNAMSIL will now provide security at key locations, government buildings, and sites being used in Sierra Leone's disarmament programme. The UN force will also help ensure the free flow of people and goods on specified routes, and coordinate with and help the local law enforcement authorities.

The Security Council has authorised UNAMSIL to "take the necessary action to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel and to afford protection to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence," Fred Eckhard, spokesman for the Secretary-General, told reporters in New York.

"As a result of this, there was not expected to be a repeat of recent incidents in which weapons had been seized from UN troops," he said.

The Council also extended UNAMSIL's mandate for six months.

SIERRA LEONE: Nigerian Army chief ends consultations

The Nigerian chief of army staff, Major General Victor Malu, left Freetown on Tuesday after consultations with UNAMSIL on the withdrawal of Nigeria's troops from Sierra Leone, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Chris Olukolade told IRIN. Abuja will resume the pullout on 13 April, Olukolade said.

Nigeria, which provided the bulk of ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Peace Monitoring Group) troops in Sierra Leone, had informed the UN on 13 January that it would delay the withdrawal of its forces by 90 days to give the world body time to deploy its peacekeeping troops in Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, in New York, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations announced that it had started negotiations with ranking Nigerian officials on Monday on the incorporation of Nigerian ECOMOG troops and equipment in Sierra Leone into UNAMSIL.

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG denies its troops were disarmed

ECOMOG, the West African peacekeeping group in Sierra Leone, denied on Tuesday media reports that its troops were ambushed and had their weapons seized by men believed to be Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.

ECOMOG's chief military press information officer, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade, told IRIN that Guinean units who had come directly from their country to Sierra Leone to become part of UNAMSIL were ambushed. In the incident, which occurred around 13 January, he said, the rebels seized over 465 AK-47 assault rifles, up to three armoured cars and ammunition.

Olukolade said ECOMOG was trying to help UNAMSIL retrieve the weapons. Both peacekeeping forces have been cooperating in support of the July 1999 Lome peace deal that ended the war between the RUF and the Sierra Leone government. ECOMOG officials and Foday Sankoh, leader of the newly formed Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP), travelled last week to the northern town of Kamakwie to try and retrieve the weapons from the RUF units which the Guineans said had made the seizure.

However, Olukolade said, the rebels in the area denied taking the weapons.

SIERRA LEONE: RUF disarm UN peacekeepers

UNAMSIL said on Monday that despite its ability to use force, it would continue for now to use "dialogue and persuasion" to get through illegal roadblocks set up by RUF rebels.

UNAMSIL's Public Information Office in Freetown, which made the announcement, said the rebels had recently stopped a UNAMSIL reconnaissance mission from entering the eastern town of Koidu. "Indeed, the RUF leadership, which has committed itself to the removal of all impediments and to cooperating with UNAMSIL, has been trying to deal with such situations," UNAMSIL said.

UNAMSIL said units it sent to the eastern town of Kailahun were received warmly by all.

SIERRA LEONE: World Bank to provide US $130 million for peace

The World Bank has agreed to provide US $130 million dollars to speed up disarmament in Sierra Leone, the United Nations said. It said the money would also cover the repatriation of 400,000 Sierra Leone refugees from Guinea. The pledge came at the end of a two-day fact-finding mission last week by World Bank, UNDP and UNHCR officials.

SIERRA LEONE: Injury to child draws attention to land mines

A 12-year-old child lost an eye last week after picking up a land mine at Yams Farm on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone, according to Save Heritage and Rehabilitate the Environment (SHARE), a non-governmental body.

Elvis Hallowell, SHARE's executive director, told IRIN: "We are worried about the land mines and unexploded ordnance which have not yet been revealed."

Only some of the mines sown during the civil war have been removed. "For sustainable peace in Sierra Leone all warring factions should disclose their land mine positions," said Lieutenant Colonel T.N. Momodu of the Sierra Leone Defence Headquarters.

[See separate item titled 'SIERRA LEONE: Land mine casualty causes concern']

BENIN: Roll Back Malaria initiative

An information and awareness seminar on the Roll Back Malaria initiative in Benin took place on Friday in Abomey-Calavi, near Cotonou, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The seminar, organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with WHO-Benin, aimed to inform and create awareness among the some 50 participants of the severe effects malaria has on Benin's population and to get their support for the implementation of the project there, the news release said.

Malaria is the most common reason for consultations at health centres in Benin and on average some 116 out of every 1000 inhabitants are affected each year. The malaria rate is as high as 356 per 1000 among babies under the age of one year. Fatality rates vary between 5 and 10 percent, WHO said.

Participants in the seminar included government officials from the health, rural development, communication, public works, environment, social welfare and territorial administration departments. Representatives from health training centres in the public and private sectors were also present, the news release said.

The global Roll Back Malaria initiative, launched on 30 October 1998 by WHO, UNDP, UNICEF and the World Bank, aims to reduce malaria by half by 2010, promote human development and decrease poverty levels.

GAMBIA: Malian President visits

Malian President Alpha Omar Konare and his Gambian counterpart Yahya Jammeh have called on all protagonists of conflicts in the subregion to give peace a chance, according to GRTS, Gambia's state-owned media service.

The call came in a joint communique issued on Monday at the end of a one-day working visit to The Gambia by President Konare, who is also the current chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The two leaders appealed for the speedy implementation of the ECOWAS conflict resolution mechanism and called on the international community to give full support to subregional peace initiatives.

NIGERIA: France pledges to help tackle foreign debt

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin told President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday that France would help Nigeria alleviate its massive foreign debt, AFP reported.

"France is trying to convince the International Monetary Fund and the Paris Club of creditor nations that a mutually agreeable solution must be found," AFP reported Jospin as telling Obasanjo during a lunch meeting in Paris.

Obasanjo, who is due to end an official visit to France on Wednesday, said on Sunday that he would be unable to pull Nigeria out of its economic slump unless the Paris Club agreed to reduce or ease the terms of the debt, according to AFP.

Nigeria's foreign debt is estimated at some US $5 billion, AFP said.

NIGERIA: Abacha loot put at US $4.3 billion

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said former military ruler General Sani Abacha stole some US $4.3 billion from the treasury and he restated his determination to recover all looted funds, 'The Guardian' said on Tuesday.

Obasanjo, who began an official visit to France on Sunday, told reporters in Paris that the Abacha family directly siphoned some US $2.3 billion from the treasury, while another US $1 billion went into contracts which either did not exist or were inappropriately awarded to members of the family and their friends. These contracts were badly executed or not done at all, the daily added.

Nigeria recently filed a formal application to the Swiss government to recover more than US $550 million dollars frozen in bank accounts linked to the former military ruler.

NIGERIA: Panel urges police to stop indiscriminate arrests

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked Commissioner of Police Mike Okiro to stop random arrests by law enforcers in Lagos state in their search for members of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), 'The Guardian' reported on Tuesday.

In a letter to Okiro, the NHRC's federal commissioner in charge of the south west, Kunle Fadipe, said the panel had discovered that many people were arrested on the streets where riots had occurred while others were victims of random raids, the daily said.

Fadipe gave the examples of two men, one an Ijaw and the other from Kwale in the Delta State, who were arrested and branded OPC members. He described this as "ridiculous" since the OPC is a organisation exclusively for Yorubas, 'The Guardian' reported.

Intensive police searches have been taking place since the kidnapping and killing of a senior police officer by a group of suspected OPC members who invaded a Lagos police station on 9 January. Two other policemen who were attacked with acid are also reported to have died.

NIGERIA: Japanese to resume aid in April

Japan is to resume its aid to Nigeria in April, 'The Guardian' reported Ambassador Takahisa Sasaki as saying on Monday in Lagos.

Sasaki, after signing grants worth some US $48,000 to two Nigerian non-governmental organisations (NGOs), reiterated Tokyo's readiness to assist Nigeria, especially in providing facilities for the rural population. He said the grants given to the two NGOs were an indication of Japan's will to reopen economic cooperation with Nigeria, the daily said.

Abidjan, 8 February 2000; 18:15 GMT [ENDS]

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