Sierra Leone + 6 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 48 covering the period 27 Nov - 03 Dec 1999

News and Press Release
Originally published
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network
for West Africa
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SIERRA LEONE: First Kenyan peacekeepers arrive

The first company of 6,000 United Nations peacekeepers arrived in Sierra Leone on Monday to support the implementation of the Lome Peace Accord signed in July.

The 133 Kenyan soldiers, among them 13 officers, who flew into Freetown's Lungi International Airport are the advance unit of a Kenyan battalion that is to be joined by an India battalion.

Four ECOMOG battalions already in Sierra Leone, composed of troops from Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria also make up the 6,000-strong UN force, known as UNAMSIL. They and some 223 UN military observers from 30 countries, already on the ground, will help the government implement a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration plan, monitor adherence to the ceasefire and assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed Major General Vijay Kumar Jetley of India as force commander, but this still needs Security Council approval.

Indian troops to be deployed in east

The UN is planning to deploy a battalion of Indian troops to Eastern Province where the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) military commander, Sam Bockarie, has his base, a UN source told IRIN on Friday. The Indians are due to arrive in two weeks.

Bockarie told the BBC on Monday that he did not want his troops disarmed by ECOMOG or by former ECOMOG soldiers due to be absorbed into the UN peacekeeping force. He added that the Nigerians must leave Sierra Leone before he cooperates with the UN.

Reacting to this, the West African force said on Wednesday: "ECOMOG High Command views Sam Bockarie's attitude with great concern and wishes to assure the general public that his threats are not capable of reversing the progress so far made in the peace efforts in Sierra Leone."

Until now there has been no disarming by RUF rebels in the diamond mining region of eastern Sierra Leone, a UNAMSIL source said on Friday

SIERRA LEONE: Over 100 ex-SLA disarm

Some 158 former ex-SLA combatants, among them 77 child soldiers, surrendered their weapons on Thursday to the West African Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) at Laia Junction some 50 km east of Freetown, a UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) source told IRIN on Friday. The former fighters are part of a larger contingent that is based in the nearby Occra Hills.

As of Friday, 2,884 of an estimated 45,000 former combatants have disarmed, according to UNAMSIL.

SIERRA LEONE: ECOMOG platoon repel 300 RUF attackers

An ECOMOG platoon of Ghanaian soldiers repelled an attack by some 300 RUF and ex-SLA army rebels last weekend leaving one soldier wounded and one rebel dead, ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukolade told IRIN on Wednesday. Six rebels were captured and are now in Freetown, Olukolade added, and the remainder retreated to their base in the area.

The hour-long shoot out took place close to midnight on Sunday between Madina and Pepel, just north of the Freetown peninsula and near Lungi International Airport.

SIERRA LEONE: Sierra Leoneans flee to Guinea

Local reports in Guinea indicate that some Sierra Leoneans have recently fled fighting in Kambia District and crossed the border into Guinea, a UNHCR official in Guinea told IRIN on Wednesday.

Some 733 Sierra Leoneans were reported by local authorities to have crossed into the locality of Dakhagbe from Kambia although the UNHCR office in Forecariah, about 100 km southeast of Conakry, says they were not all found.

The reason for the fighting in Kambia District is unclear although police in Forecariah, some 100 km from the nearest Sierra Leone border, say they received a letter written by a RUF captain advising that the attack was not directed at Guinea, according to local media reports.

SIERRA LEONE: Ex-combatants start to go home

Sierra Leonean ex-combatants in Liberia started to return home last week, according to media and local sources.

The Sierra Leonean ambassador to Liberia, Kemoh Salia Bao, said on independent Star Radio that over 100 former soldiers returned last week. Several hundred more were expected to return in the coming days.

Once home they will only be enrolled into the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme if they tell the Ministry of Defence the exact location of their weapons, Francis Kaikai, acting executive secretary of the DDR, programme, told IRIN.

NIGERIA: Refugees ask for political asylum

Some 97 Sierra Leonean refugees living at Oru camp in Ogun State, some 120 km from Lagos, have asked the federal government for political asylum to avoid repatriation, 'The Guardian' reported.

"We cannot go back now. If we do, we shall be killed," the newspaper reported, quoting a letter addressed to President Olusegun Obasanjo and signed by Alpheus Rogers on behalf of the refugees.

UNHCR Administrative and Programme Officer in Lagos Marie-Jose Santos Kpakpo expressed surprise at the student's request, saying the refugees had asked the agency for help to return home so they could begin the new academic year in January.

There are currently some 1,600 Sierra Leonean refugees in Nigeria.

NIGERIA: Lagos governor moves to stem Hausa exodus

Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu told Hausa leaders last Sunday they could return to their homes and go about their normal business because he would ensure their safety in the largely Yoruba city of over eight million people.

"We guarantee security of life and property," he said.

Tinubu met Hausa community leaders in an attempt to stem the tide of hundreds of Hausa traders fleeing the city after two-days of clashes with their Yoruba neighbours, beginning on 25 November, in Ketu district. At least 30 people are feared dead following two days of fighting with guns and machetes. Up to one million Hausas live in the metropolis.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), a nationalist Yoruba interest group, for the troubles. However, the OPC has denied involvement.

Up to a million Hausas live in Lagos, a city of some eight million.

NIGERIA: Red Cross aids victims of Lagos clashes

The Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) and the ICRC provided immediate help to victims of last week's clashes between Yoruba and Hausa traders in the densely populated Ketu area of Lagos, ICRC reported. The NRCS provided first aid through 52 volunteers and evacuated 150 casualties to two area hospitals. The ICRC provided dressings to the two hospitals treating the wounded and providing drinking water for the 700 displaced who took refugee at the Ketu Police Station, the ICRC said.

NIGERIA: Food Supplies interrupted

Food supplies to Lagos from the north have been interrupted in the wake of communal clashes last week, which caused extensive damage to food depots at the Mile 12 Market in the Ketu district of the city. Many food trucks are now stopping in Ibadan, some 100 km north of Lagos, which increases the cost of trucking supplies to Lagos, a news source told IRIN.

NIGERIA: Government should seek house approval to deploy troops

Nigeria's lower house of parliament adopted a motion on Tuesday that government must in future seek national assembly approval before deploying troops to quell civil unrest in the country, local newspapers reported.

But the house did not agree with sponsors of the motion that the troops deployed to Odi, Bayelsa State, after the abduction and killing of 12 policemen should be withdrawn. Members were divided on whether the deployment of the troops without recourse to the national assembly was a violation of the constitution, the 'Vanguard' reported.

A team of senators which assessed conditions in Odi on Monday expressed shock at the scale of destruction in the village.

AFRICA: Slavery must be eradicated, Annan says

The persistence of slavery, in an era of progress in respecting human rights, is egregious UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement on 2 December marking the observance of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Although laws banning slavery are enshrined in international instruments, notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is still practiced in many forms such as chattel slavery, bonded labour, serfdom, child labour, migrant labour, domestic and forced labour and slavery for ritual or religious purposes.

Child trafficking is an acknowledged problem in some West African countries. A 1998 report by UNICEF on "Child Labour and Trafficking in West and Central Africa" said that the main suppliers of child labour were Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and Togo. The principal recipients are Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Benin and Nigeria fall into both categories.

AFRICA: Two million Africans die of AIDS

While 200,000 people died last year in Africa as a result of conflicts and natural disasters, two million died of AIDS, Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UN-AIDS), said on Wednesday.

In a news conference at UN headquarters in New York on the occasion of World AIDS Day, he said AIDS was the most deadly undeclared war and a challenge to the international community.

Nigeria: 2.6 million HIV infected

Statistics released for Nigeria show that 2.6 million people are infected and this will have reached 4.9 million by 2003, in a country where the infection rate exceeds 20 percent in some areas. This rate doubles that of neighbours Benin, Chad and Niger. An estimated 5.4 percent of adult Nigerians now carry the virus.

Liberia: Infection spreading alarmingly

In Liberia, Health Minister Dr. Peter Coleman said HIV infection was spreading at an alarming rate, independent Star radio reported on Wednesday. He said more than 100,000 people tested were HIV positive. Star quoted him as saying that this figure had increased by over 20,000 additional cases in the last two months. The radio said the National Aids Control Programme (NACP) had reported some 60,000 people, mostly between 15 and 29 years old, were infected with the virus.

LIBERIA: Electricity hopes for Monrovia

After years of living in darkness, Monrovians are in for a bit of cheer. Their Christmas trees might be lit again this year with the arrival of the first of five generators for the country's overstretched power supply company, Reuters reported on Friday.

The capital has been without electricity since 1992 when faction fighters destroyed the nation's hydroelectric plant. Vice President Enoch Dogolea has promised to restore services to the capital, Monrovia, by 24 December.

LIBERIA: Senator calls for repeal of racist law

Lofa County Senator Keikura Kpoto has called for a review of constitutional clauses that discriminate racially and deny non-Liberians land ownership, independent Star radio reported on Tuesday. Kpoto was speaking in Monrovia on Monday when he launched the Liberia-Lebanese Friendship Association.

Under the 1847 constitution, crafted by Liberia's founding fathers who had escaped slavery in the United States, only people of Negroid descent can be citizens of Liberia and own land. They embedded this provision in the constitution to protect themselves against future domination by non-blacks, a legal analyst told IRIN.

LIBERIA: IMF assessment team arrive

A five-member International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation has arrived in Liberia to continue the preparation of an economic development programme, Reuters quoted Kiss Radio as saying on Wednesday.

The pro-Charles Taylor station said that the team was in the country to help the government in its economic reform and national reconstruction programme.

CAMEROON: Country to host 1,000 Congolese refugees

Cameroon has prepared a site to receive 1,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in December, a source close to the government told IRIN on Tuesday.

The source, who asked not to be identified, confirmed news reports on Monday quoting the minister for territorial administration, Samson Ename Ename, as saying the refugees will be camped in Langui, a locale in Northern Province. The refugees will be allowed to stay a few months. They are coming under the shadow of a shaky three-month ceasefire between the government and rebel forces.

GHANA: Hundreds of thousands affected by floods

Recent floods in northern Ghana have affected some 291,573 people, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report issued on Wednesday.

In response, the UN food agency, WFP, will provide 900 mt of maize and 83 mt of beans as a one month supply for approximately 50,000 vulnerable people. These include women, children and the elderly in Northern Region, (30,000), Upper East Region (12,000) and Upper West Region (8,000), OCHA said.

The report, which summarised a recent meeting between the UN and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), added that because of flood-damaged farmland, yields would be reduced by 50-60 percent, therefore mid-term assistance would include seeds and farming tools. It recommended that a technical assessment team conduct a comprehensive food requirements mission.

WEST AFRICA: Central banks to set up fund backing travellers cheques

West African central banks have decided to set up a credit fund between now and January 2000 to guarantee the ECOWAS travellers cheques introduced on 1 July for citizens of the 16 member countries. The fund is being set up by the central banks of ECOWAS and the Agence Monetaire Ouest-Africaine (AMAO) countries, ECOWAS said.

Abidjan, 3 December 1999; 18:25 GMT


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