Sierra Leone + 3 more

IRIN Update 657 of events in West Africa

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SIERRA LEONE: Parliament concerned by rebels blocking peace

The Sierra Leonean parliament unanimously adopted on Tuesday a resolution expressing "grave concern" about the obstacles put in the path of the peace process by rebel forces, according to an official document faxed to IRIN.

Ahmed Dumbuya, the parliamentarian who moved the motion, said the concerns included the "extreme slow pace of the implementation of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme due to the lack of cooperation from Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and ex-Sierra Leone Army (SLA) forces".

Legislators also noted the continued occupation of large areas of the country by RUF and SLA forces, which prevented people from moving freely and living normally, and the continued "flagrant disregard" of many of the provisions of the Lome Peace Agreement, signed in July.

The parliament decided to invite the leader of the RUF Party (RUFP), Foday Sankoh, and the former leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) junta, Johnny Paul Koroma, to hold immediate discussions to speed up the peace process.

SIERRA LEONE: Just over 16,500 ex-combatants disarmed

Just over 16,500 ex-combatants have been disarmed, including 870 children, according to figures provided by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) on 16 February.

Those disarmed include just over 3,500 RUF, nearly 4,000 AFRC/ex-SLA, 3,348 from the pro-government Civil Defence Force, which includes the Kamajor militia, and 3,804 soldiers of the current Sierra Leone Army - people who fought alongside the Nigerian-led peacekeeping force ECOMOG until the Lome Agreement was signed in July 1999.

The list also includes over 1,400 "Phase One" ex-combatants- people disarmed and demobilised before the DDR programme was officially launched. These are mainly SLA soldiers who served under the military junta that overthrew President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in May 1997, but who surrendered when troops from ECOMOG restored Kabbah to power in February 1998.

SIERRA LEONE: Camps needed for ex-combatants' families, NCDDR says

The Executive Secretary of the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR), Francis Kaikai, has appealed for assistance to run special camps for the families of ex-combatants, according to an NCDDR information bulletin dated 17 February.

The camps would be sited close to demobilisation centres.

Addressing a team from the German Ministry of Economic Co-operation, the German development agency and the Bank for Reconstruction, Kaikai said the move would help solve the problem of congestion in demobilisation centres as some ex-combatants now live in these centres with their families.

The refusal of some ex-combatants to leave the camps after receiving their first allowance and after their pre-discharge training was another cause for overcrowding, Kaikai said. He added that ex-combatants who have opted to continue serving in the army are still staying in demobilisation centres, even though they are not supposed to be there.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Ex-Interior Minister arrested for "subversion"

Cote d'Ivoire's former minister of the interior was detained on Tuesday by the military authorities, for alleged "subversive activities" and in connection with the embezzlement of public funds, the military authorities said in a communique issued on Wednesday.

The statement said that Emile Bombet was arrested after organising meetings which aimed to "betray national security" and for his role in "certain economic crimes against the state." It cited a financial scam involving some US $27 million of EU aid, and the misappropriation of state funds amounting to some 8 billion F CFA (US $12 million) originally set aside for presidential and legislative elections in 1995 and municipal elections in 1996. The authorities said their investigations were continuing and others would be "detained for questioning" in the next few days.

Bombet had been arrested just after the 24 December military coup which ousted former President Henri Konan Bedie but was released a month later along with other civilians.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Referendum commission set up

Cote d'Ivoire's government decided at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to create a commission in charge of a constitutional referendum to be held this year, according to a report on the meeting, carried by state-owned 'Fraternite Matin' and other local newspapers.

The commission will oversee the revision of electoral lists and the printing and distribution of voter registration cards. It will also supervise the ballot count and announce the results.

The 16-member commission will be headed by a Honore Guie, a law professor at the local university. Its members will include one representative from the seven main political parties, the national office of technical and development studies, the ministries of economy and finance, budget, and the interior and four non-governmental organisations.

The transitional government has promised to hold presidential, legislative and municipal elections before 31 October.

GUINEA BISSAU: Yala sworn in as president

Kumba Yala was sworn in as president of Guinea Bissau on Thursday in a ceremony held at the September 24 stadium in Bissau, a humanitarian source who attended the inauguration told IRIN.

In his speech, Yala said the provision of health and education and the revitalisation of the agriculture sector were among the priority areas for his government, the source told IRIN.

The ceremony was attended by local and foreign dignitaries, including the presidents of Cape Verde and The Gambia and the Portuguese foreign minister.

Yala won a landslide victory against interim president Malam Bacai Sanha in the second round of the election, held on 16 January.

NIGERIA: Police warn against violent Sharia-related rallies

The police in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna have warned pro- and anti-Sharia demonstrators against acts capable of endangering lives and property, 'The Guardian' reported on Thursday.

The daily cited Police Commissioner Alhaji Hamisu Isa as saying that permits issued to both Christian and Muslim demonstrators would be withdrawn if they breached the peace.

On Monday, thousands of Muslims in Kaduna staged a rally demanding the extension of Islamic law to the state. Kaduna's population includes a large number of Christians, a media source told IRIN. In Kwara state, which also has many adherents of both faiths, Muslim militants vandalised Christian churches last December.

Since the declaration of Sharia in Zamfara last year, several other states in the predominantly Muslim north have considered introducing Islamic law, causing alarm among Christian minorities.

(See NIGERIA: Focus on religious tension, 12 January 2000)

NIGERIA: Anti-corruption bill

Nigerian lawmakers have passed an amended version of President Olusegun Obasanjo's flagship anti-corruption bill. The bill, passed by the lower house of parliament in December, was approved by the Senate on Tuesday, according to media organisations.

The draft legislation, which provides for the establishment of a special commission to probe corruption, was one of the first measures sent to the lower house after Obasanjo took office in May.

The Senate's amendments include a provision for appointing a special prosecutor to investigate allegations against a president or vice-president, and a requirement that appointments to the commission be reviewed by the senate, BBC reported.

The bill needs to be signed by Obasanjo to become law.

NIGERIA: Cohen forced to postpone visit

US Defence Secretary William Cohen has postponed a visit to Nigeria because bad weather prevented his aircraft from landing in Abuja, the United States Information Agency (USIA) reported.

Cohen was scheduled to have talks with President Obasanjo on a number of issues, particularly budgetary matters, during his 16-17 February trip, USIA said.

Cohen, who said he had met Obasanjo twice before, told reporters en route to the United States that he hoped to reschedule his visit to Nigeria, possibly in early April when he travels to the Persian gulf.

NIGERIA: First Commonwealth investment conference

A Commonwealth-Nigeria investment conference, entitled 'The New Democratic Nigeria: Inward Investment Opportunities' will be held from 28 February to 1 March in Abuja, according to a Commonwealth news release.

Organised by the Commonwealth Business Council in association with the Nigerian government and the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, the conference will focus on private sector investment opportunities in the telecommunications, power, water, oil, gas, transport and agro-allied industries.

"The conference is the Commonwealth's contribution to re-building Nigeria's economy," Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the Commonwealth secretary-general, said. "It is particularly welcome at a time when foreign investment has such an important role to play in the task of economic regeneration and in underpinning the new democratic dispensation."

Abidjan, 17 February 2000; 18:50 GMT


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