Sierra Leone + 5 more

IRIN Update 651 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 20 21 73 54
Fax: +225 20 21 63 35
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

SIERRA LEONE: Nigeria to provide 2,000 more troops for UNAMSIL

Nigeria will contribute 2,000 more troops to UNAMSIL from those currently serving with ECOMOG, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade, ECOMOG's spokesman in Sierra Leone, told IRIN on Wednesday.

"This will bring the number of Nigerian troops in UNAMSIL to more than four thousand" he said. The new contribution will include two infantry battalions and a tank company.

He said that the troop increase to UNAMSIL was announced on Tuesday by the Nigerian army chief of staff, Major General Victor Malu, at the end of a two-day trip to Sierra Leone.

Malu said that the additional Nigerian troop contribution was a demonstration of the country's commitment to peace in Sierra Leone and to ensure that the withdrawal of ECOMOG did not create a security vacuum.

"The troops are here and available and are ready to be absorbed into UNAMSIL when needed," Olukolade said.

SIERRA LEONE: Kabala Roman Catholic mission reopens

The Roman Catholic mission in Kabala, northern Sierra Leone, reopened on Saturday and over 300 worshippers participated in mass the next day, MISNA reported.

But with the security situation still uncertain in the area, the mission's activities will be limited to Kabala town, MISNA said. In a report covering 5-16 January, the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (HACU) says that armed RUF and ex-SLA/AFRC fighters were harassing civilians in the villages around Kabala and creating a very insecure environment.

However, the missionaries perceived the release of several hundred child soldiers in the Kabala area in the last two weeks of January as a sign that the situation in Kabala was improving, MISNA said.

CHAD: Defence Ministry denies losing 25 troops

Chad's Defense Ministry denied on Tuesday a rebel claim that their forces had killed 25 government troops in a shootout at the northern locality of Zouar.

The leader of the Mouvement pour la justice et la dmocratie au Tchad (MJDT), Youssouf Togoimi, said over Radio France International on Monday that his forces had shot dead 25 government army troops.

However, the ministry said that two rebels and one government soldier were killed when loyal units from the Zouar garrison clashed with a group of rebels on Monday.

Togoimi's movement has been fighting to overthrow the government from the mountainous northern Tibesti region which Ndjamena says it still controls. Nevertheless, there are frequent reports of rebels attacks in the area. In an incident early in November 1999, 28 government troops were reportedly wounded and 37 guerrillas killed in the northern districts of Omou and Aozou.

Togoimi is a former defence and interior minister and has been fighting the government since October 1998. The movement failed to enter the capital, Ndjamena by the end December 1999, as it had predicted.

In December 1999, 13 armed political movements forged a new alliance in Paris against Chadian President Idriss Deby. The group, calling itself the Coordination des mouvements armes et politiques de l'opposition (CMAP), does not include Togoimi's which is the most active guerrilla force.

GUINEA-BISSAU: UN, Portugal call for release of prisoners

The Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Guinea-Bissau, Samuel Nana-Sinkam, has urged the Guinea-Bissau authorities to release prisoners of war detained since May, a UN official told IRIN on Wednesday.

He said that Nana-Sinkam's appeal followed his visit, with the Portuguese Ambassador Antonio Dias, to the country's military prisons.

The UN source said that Nana-Sinkam, who is also head of the UN Peace-Building Support Office in Guinea-Bissau, had expressed concern over the poor conditions in which some of the prisoners were being held and that some had been in prison for eight months without trial.

The Portuguese news agency, Lusa, reported Dias as saying that the POW situation was the only blotch on the otherwise "exemplary" transition period after the 11-month military rebellion that ended in May 1999.

About 100 supporters of former president Nino Vieira remain imprisoned. The first trial, of former agriculture minister Avito Jose da Silva, is scheduled for 22 February, news organisations reported.

NIGER: Nomadic Tuareg rebels settle for lectures on peace

Tuareg leaders who rebelled against central government in 1990 and 1995 are now engaged in a workshop designed to give them skills that will reintroduce them to peaceful civilian life, an official of Niger's High Commissioner for Reconstruction and Peace told IRIN on Wednesday.

The official, Lieutenant Colonel Senyi Garba, said some 50 former rebel leaders started the week-long workshop on Monday to learn about the country's fiscal and customs laws, accounting, management and commercial and administrative issues.

The meeting, being held in Tahoua some 375 km northeast of the capital, Niamey, is the result of three peace accords which led to the end of the war in 1995 between the government and the separatist Tuareg movement.

Under a programme on good management of the economy and promotion of good governance, the UNDP said it had supported the activities of the High Commission for the Restoration of Peace.

GHANA: Nation sitting on an AIDS time bomb

The National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) in Accra says it expects that by 2014 AIDS will account for 35 percent of all deaths, PANA reported on Monday.

The report, released at the weekend ahead of a national crusade to be launched on Thursday, said: "The epidemic is so pervasive and so devastating that it requires a multisectoral response from all segments of the Ghanaian society."

In 1994 AIDS accounted for an estimated 3.5 percent of all deaths, the report said.

The report, which looked at the annual AIDS expenditure and its effects on the economy, estimated that the annual cost to manage infections such as tuberculosis in an AIDS patient was between 190,000 cedis and 545,000 cedis (between US $54 and US $154).

The number of new cases of HIV continues to rise significantly. Currently over 200 people get infected each day, though many do not know that they are carrying the disease, the report said. It added that from 1994 to 2004 there would be a 500 percent increase in the number of new HIV cases if nothing is done about the situation.

HIV/AIDS affects the development of all sectors including health, education, the labour force, economy, transport and agriculture. The report said with estimated HIV prevalence of between 4 percent and 5 percent nationwide, Ghana was "sitting on a time bomb".

LIBERIA: Telecommunications personnel probed

Security agents are investigating some personnel of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) following a fire that broke out on Sunday at the company's main facility, disrupting digital and international links, Star radio reported.

Agents from the Ministry of Justice, the National Security Agency (NSA), police and LTC management, are probing employees from the technical and security departments about the fire which damaged switching facilities.

A source in Monrovia told IRIN on Wednesday that local calls were not going through, although they did work for a short time the previous day.

An LTC statement said technicians were trying and repair the system and that services would be restored in the "shortest possible time", Star reported.

Abidjan, 9 February 2000; 18:57 GMT

[ENDS]

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