Sierra Leone + 5 more

IRIN Update 658 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: War crimes ambassador to visit

The Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues at the US State Department is travelling to Sierra Leone on Saturday to promote reconciliation and accountability for violations of humanitarian law, according to a news release.

David Scheffer aims to focus attention on the atrocities that have occurred since the signing of the Lome Peace Accord in July 1999. He plans to meet with government and rebel leaders as well as with victims of atrocities, the news release said.

Scheffer is travelling to Sierra Leone from Arusha in Tanzania, where he met with senior officials of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. On 23 February he will go to Geneva to meet with senior officials from UNHCR.

LIBERIA: Lawyers file for dismissal of Torh's case

Lawyers representing Child Rights advocate James Torh filed a motion on Thursday requesting that charges against him be dismissed on the grounds that the Liberian constitution permits freedom of expression, Star radio reported.

The State charged Torh with sedition for a statement he made at a secondary school in Monrovia in December when he allegedly said that the state was being run from President Charles Taylor's pocket.

NIGERIA: Trade agreement with Washington

Nigeria and the United States signed a trade agreement on Wednesday in Washington in another move towards normalising their relations, the US Information Agency (USIA) reported.

US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) at a ceremony at the White House. Barshefsky said President Olusegun Obasanjo and Abubakar "have set into motion a remarkable and courageous administration whose goal is democratisation, economic reform, and opening to the world," which, she said, was applauded by the Clinton administration.

The TIFA will help spur US investments in Nigeria, which in turn will help the Nigerian economy gain strength and a greater reliance on the private sector as the economic engine for change and growth, she added.

COTE D'IVOIRE: OAU, ECOWAS urge speedy return to democracy

The Organisation for African Unity (OAU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have urged the military authorities in Cote d'Ivoire to ensure an early return to constitutional rule.

"The OAU will continue to encourage the government of Guei to move speedily towards the restoration of democratic governance in Cote d'Ivoire," PANA quoted OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim as saying in a news release on Tuesday.

On Wednesday PANA reported ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate as saying that an ECOWAS demand for civilian rule to be introduced by June remained unchanged.

Cote d'Ivoire's military leader, General Robert Guei, announced on 24 January that presidential, legislative and municipal elections would take place by 31 October 2000. The military coup of 24 December that ousted President Henri Konan Bedie was condemned by the international community.

GUINEA: Conde supporters call for economic sanctions

Supporters of opposition leader Alpha Conde have called for the imposition of economic sanctions on Guinea pending his unconditional release. The call came at a news conference in Paris on Thursday, AFP reported.

The Comite pour la liberation d'Alpha Conde, whose director, Albert Bourgi described Conde as a "hostage", called on the European Union to suspend its economic aid programmes to the country.

Conde, leader of the Rassemblement du peuple de Guinee, lost presidential elections on 14 December 1998, which were won by Lansana Conte. He was arrested the day after the polls in a village near Guinea's border with Cote d'Ivoire and has been kept in detention since then.

During recent meetings with French President Jacques Chirac and Charles Josselin, the French minister of cooperation and Francophonie, Guinean President Lansana Conte reportedly said that Conde would stand trial for trying to leave the country illegally and to recruit troops to destabilise it.

SENEGAL: Change is the buzzword in presidential campaign

Senegal's eight-man presidential race is being fought over the urgent need for change, with two opposition alliances and various individual parties seeking to sweep away the Parti Socialiste (PS) that has ruled since independence from France in 1960.

PS leader Abdou Diouf, who is running for re-election, has formidable foes. One of them is Abdoulaye Wade of the Parti Democratique Senegalais (PDS), who leads a nine-party alliance of mostly leftist orientation called the Coalition Alternance 2000. Another is Moustapha Niasse, head of the Alliance des Forces du Progres (AFP), which has eight parties under its wing.

Political analysts say the need for change is the central debate in this campaign. A professor of political science and law at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Babacar Gueye, told IRIN the opposition wanted to legitimise the state, fight crime and bring more social and economic benefits to the public.

[See separate item titled 'SENEGAL: IRIN Focus on presidential campaign']

Abidjan, 18 February 2000; 17:10 GMT

[ENDS] [IRIN-WA: Tel: +225 20 217354 Fax: +225 20 216335 e-mail:
irin-wa@irin.ci]

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