Sierra Leone + 3 more

IRIN Update 659 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: Sankoh expelled from South Africa

The leader of the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP), Foday Sankoh, was expelled from South Africa and arrived in Cote d'Ivoire on Monday. He had travelled in violation of a UN Security Council travel ban.

Sankoh's visa was withdrawn on Saturday following an apparent mistake on the part of the mission that authorised the visa, a spokesman from the South African Department of Foreign Affairs told IRIN on Monday.

The mission was under the impression that the travel ban by the UN Security Council Committee on Sanctions was no longer in place, the spokesman said. Sankoh, who was met at Abidjan's international airport by Foreign Minister Christophe M'Boua, was expected to stay overnight, the BBC reported Ivorian officials as saying.

The presidential spokesman in Sierra Leone, Septimus Kaikai, told IRIN on Monday that the government was not aware that Sankoh was travelling to South Africa and did not know the reasons for his visit.

The UN Security Council Committee on Sanctions held an urgent meeting on Friday to discuss the fact that Sankoh had left Sierra Leone without authorisation from the committee, a UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) news release said on Saturday.

The members of the committee "urged the return of Mr Sankoh to Sierra Leone immediately", saying that he had violated a travel ban imposed by the Security Council in June 1998 on leading members of the RUF and the former military junta, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.

SIERRA LEONE: World Bank lends US $30 million

The World Bank issued a US $30 million credit on Friday that will help finance the 2000/01 portion of Sierra Leone's National Rehabilitation and Recovery Programme (NRRP), a World Bank news release said.

The credit will "help provide critical balance of payments and budgetary support to finance part of the costs of the government's programme to establish social, economic and protective security and help kick start the economy back into gear," it said.

The proceeds, the news release continued, will allow the import of essential commodities necessary to relaunch the economy, including food products, petroleum products, and raw materials. The local currency generated will enable the government to restore basic services, including the restoration of law and order.

The funds will also contribute to the transitional safety net for former combatants, operated by the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme, as they begin their reinsertion into civilian life.

COTE D'IVOIRE: LIDHO warns of threat on human rights

A local human rights organisation warned on Friday of worrying signs that human rights and social stability are under threat in Cote d'Ivoire following the arrest of the former interior minister, according to a statement issued by the Ligue Ivoirienne des droits de l'homme (LIDHO).

"We are seeing the seeds of tyranny grow," LIDHO said referring to the growing number of arrests and detentions made by the ruling Conseil national de salut public (CNSP). "LIDHO can see a direct and constant threat to human rights and social peace," it said. What was more worrying, it added, was that the the arrests were being made by the CNSP, not by the judicial authorities.

Former minister of the interior Emile Constant Bombet was detained last Tuesday by the military authorities for alleged "subversive activities" after reportedly holding a series of meetings at his home. He is also accused by the military of being implicated in the misappropriation of some US $27 million of EU aid, and state funds amounting to some 8 billion F CFA (US $12 million).

Mathurin Dirabou, spokesman for the lawyers representing Bombet said that he could not be detained indefinitely without being charged. According to Ivorian law a person can be held for questioning for 48 hours.

Bombet, currently being held in a military prison in Abidjan, La Maison d'Arret Militaire (MAMA), 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.

SENEGAL: More violence in Casamance

Insecurity is on the increase in Casamance in the run-up to next Sunday's presidential elections, news organisations reported.

On Sunday evening two people were reportedly killed and another wounded when three tourist buses were attacked by armed men near Ziguinchor, the capital of the province.

The attack followed another outbreak of violence on Friday between the army and elements believed to be loyal to the separatist Mouvement des forces democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) during which one soldier was killed.

"The ceasefire has been initiated, but a peace agreement has not yet been reached, and there is not total unity within the MFDC itself," Gabonese Africa No 1 radio quoted Robert Sagna, the mayor of Ziguinchor, as saying on Sunday. "In addition to that, there are groups of miscreants who have nothing to do with the MFDC and who disturb the public peace," Sagna added.

LIBERIA: State resists motion to dismiss Torh charges

State prosecutors have resisted a motion to dismiss the charge of sedition against child rights advocate, James Torh, independent Star radio reported on Saturday. Torh's lawyers requested on Thursday that charges against him be dismissed on the grounds that the Liberian constitution permits freedom of expression.

The state charged Torh for sedition for a statement he made at a secondary school in Monrovia in December when he accused President Charles Taylor and his government of corruption.

LIBERIA: Montserrado children receive highest polio vaccination coverage

More children were vaccinated against polio last month in Montserrado County than in other parts of the country, independent Star radio reported the Ministry of Health as saying on Saturday.

Out of a nationwide total of 700,000 children under the age of five targeted during the first of a three round campaign more than 160,000 children were vaccinated in Montserrado County. The second round of the campaign is scheduled to start next week.

WESTERN SAHARA: UN pessimistic on referendum timetable

The date for a planned referendum on independence for Western Sahara is still uncertain, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report released on Friday.

Annan's report noted the repeated obstacles that have delayed the holding of the referendum in the Western Sahara, in particular the process of identifying eligible voters.

It adds that the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, MINURSO, which already has to deal with some 79,000 appeals from people wishing to vote, now faces the prospect of receiving as many as 60,000 additional appeals by the deadline of 25 February.

Annan also recommended that the Security Council extend the mandate of the UN mission, which is set to expire on 29 February, until 31 May. He added that he had asked his personal envoy, former US Secretary of State, James Baker, "to consult the parties on ways to resolve their differences."

The referendum envisioned in a 1991 UN-sponsored ceasefire agreement was to give voters a choice between independence or inclusion in Morocco, which in 1975 annexed the former Spanish colony.

In December Annan said that the current appeals process could push back the referendum beyond 2002.

Abidjan, 21 February, 2000 18:00 gmt

[ENDS]

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