Sierra Leone + 9 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 2 covering the period 8-14 January 2000

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UNITED NATIONS
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SIERRA LEONE: Diamonds fuelled conflict, report says

Diamonds fuelled Sierra Leone's armed conflict and its highly criminalised war economy, say the authors of a new study whose recommendations include the long-term deployment of UN peacekeepers in the country's main diamond-bearing areas.

The report, 'The Heart of the Matter: Sierra Leone Diamonds and Human Security', was released on Wednesday. Published by Partnership Africa Canada and jointly authored by Ian Smillie, Lansana Gberie and Ralph Hazleton, it is the product of research conducted in and outside Sierra Leone in February-December 1999.

Its recommendations include that "special long-term UN security forces" be deployed in all major diamond areas in Sierra Leone, and that the government ensure transparency, high standards and rigorous probity in its diamond purchasing, valuation and oversight activities.

Meanwhile Antwerp's Diamond High Council on Thursday rejected allegations in the report that Belgium turns a blind eye to black market diamonds from Sierra Leone.

[The report is available at http://www.web.net/pac/ ]

SIERRA LEONE: Security in Freetown, Lungi, Port Loko worsens

Lawlessness and banditry are on the increase in and around Freetown, in nearby Lungi and in Port Loko, northeast of the Sierra Leone capital, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said in a report dated 11 January.

"Many ceasefire violations and incidents of civilian harassment appear to have been committed by former Sierra Leonean army elements based in the Occra Hills region," Annan said.

SIERRA LEONE: Problems continue at DDR sites

The slow pace of demobilisation in Sierra Leone is compounded by "continuing unrest among ex-combatants in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) camps at Lungi and Port Loko", UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in an 11 January report.

There was a temporary calm following the payment of the first tranche of $150 of their allowances, but the discharge of ex-combatants from the camps has been delayed by logistical problems, he said.

The report said four ex-combatants and two civilians were wounded when about 100 former combatants tried to attack the UNAMSIL office at the DDR camp in Port Loko on 3 January, but were stopped by ECOMOG security guards who fired warning shots.

And on 9 January, several ex-combatants attacked a Nigerian UNAMSIL officer in the DDR camp in Lungi.

SIERRA LEONE: High level of mental trauma in Freetown, MSF says

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has called on the international community to devote greater resources to the treatment of mental trauma in Sierra Leone, according to an MSF press release.

In "Assessing Trauma in Sierra Leone," a report issued on Thursday, MSF found extremely high levels of trauma among a representative group of civilians surveyed in the capital of Freetown.

MSF found, among other things, that 99% of those surveyed suffered some degree of starvation, 90% witnessed others being wounded or killed, and at least 50% lost people close to them.

SIERRA LEONE: Deployment of UN peacekeepers on track

UN peacekeepers continue to be deployed in Sierra Leone, with over 4,500 troops already on the ground, the UN Secretary-General's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said on Monday in New York.

In addition to the peacekeeping troops, some 215 unarmed military observers from 30 countries are monitoring the ceasefire and reporting on violations, the UN Mission in Sierra Leone said.

SIERRA LEONE: Renewed disarmament sensitisation drive in the east

A campaign to sensitise former fighters to the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) Programme continued in eastern Sierra Leone in early January.

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh, Sierra Leone Deputy Defence Minister Hinga Norman and ECOMOG Force Commander Major General Gabriel Kpamber all urged ex-combatants in Bo on 6 January to give up
their weapons, ECOMOG said.

Norman is also the head of the Kamajor militia and is credited with transforming it from a group of traditional hunters into an effective fighting force, which came to the defence of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah after he was ousted in May 1997 by RUF rebels and renegade soldiers.

Bo town, which was never captured by the RUF during the war, is one of the main Kamajor strongholds.

The DDR sensitisation mission continued through the weekend in Kenema, some 60 km east of Bo, and in the diamond-rich Tongo Field, some 25 km north of Kenema, according to media and local reports.

Meanwhile the government reaffirmed its commitment to the disarmament programme in a press release issued by the National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (NCDDR) on Wednesday.

"NCDDR wants to reassure the general public that it remains fully committed to a speedy and successful disarmament process," the statement said.

SIERRA LEONE: UNICEF seeks US $9.2 million for this year

UNICEF is seeking US $9.2 million to implement its humanitarian programmes in Sierra Leone in the year 2000, according to a UNICEF news release.

UNICEF's plans in the West African country include rehabilitating the primary health care system and reducing child malnutrition in five key districts affected by an influx of displaced persons.

Eradicating polio, improving vaccination coverage to 90 percent for all children under the age of one year and building and/or rehabilitating low-cost water and sanitation facilities are also among its aims.

SIERRA LEONE: Security Council hears request for expanded UNAMSIL

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed an increase from 6,000 to 11,100 in the strength of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in a report presented on Wednesday to the UN Security Council.

The purpose of the increase is to enable the UN force to carry out additional tasks currently assigned to ECOWAS Peace-Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) troops who are scheduled to withdraw from the country, Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for the Secretary-General, said on Wednesday in New York.

Meanwhile ECOMOG spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Chris Olukulade told IRIN on Thursday that the withdrawal of ECOMOG troops from Sierra Leone "has been stopped for the moment".

LIBERIA: Opposition calls for elected chiefs and mayors

Opposition members of Liberia's House of Representatives say that the government is incomplete without elected chiefs and mayors, 'Star Radio' reported on Tuesday. The opposition questioned the government's failure to carry out chieftaincy and municipal elections, Star said, quoting a statement delivered at the opening session of the National Legislature on
Monday.

LIBERIA: Burglars rob Taylor's country home

Armed men wearing black masks recently robbed President Charles Taylor's residence in Gbarnga, central Liberia, taking a generator and other valuables, news organisations reported on Monday.

'The News', a Liberian daily, said the men, alleged to be former combatants of Taylor's disbanded National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), reportedly carried assault rifles during the attack, according to PANA.

There are an estimated 35,000-40,000 ex-combatants in Liberia. Of these 20,332 were officially registered as having disarmed during a demobilisation campaign in 1997, according to the UN.

LIBERIA: Skin disease reported in Nimba

A health team has begun investigating reports of a skin disease in the north central Liberian county of Nimba, an official at the Ministry of Health told IRIN on Thursday.

"We are trying to look into the reports to find out whether it is something other than a known tropical skin disease," the official said.

According to Star radio, a Liberian station, the disease causes severe headache, fever, sores and a rash on affected parts of the body.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Constitutional council to be set up

Cote d'Ivoire's head of state, Brigadier General Robert Guei, on Wednesday announced his intention to create a broad-based consultative constitutional council, according to an Information Ministry communique published on Thursday by local dailies.

The council is to be made up of representatives of political parties, trade unions, religious groups and other associations. It will be able to set up committees to draft the country's constitution and electoral code, the communique said.

COTE D'IVOIRE: France scales down military cooperation

The French government has decided to put some of its military cooperation with Cote d'Ivoire on ice following the military coup on 24 December last that ousted President Henri Konan Bedie.

Government officials in Paris said the work of 16 of the 37 French military advisers in the West African nation had been put on hold but that they remained in the country.

French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anne Gazeau-Secret was quoted by AFP as saying that training, health and air traffic safety programmes were going ahead on the military front. She said civilian programmes that directly benefit the people, those linked to economic rehabilitation and regional programmes would also continue, AFP reported.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Escaped prisoners worry Burkina, Liberia

Police in Liberia's Maryland County have re-arrested 22 suspected criminals whom, a senior security officer said, escaped from jail in Cote d'Ivoire during the military takeover on 24 December, 'Star' radio reported.

In Burkina Faso, Police Director General Palguim Sambare said on Wednesday that the Burkinabe authorities were worried because some of the escapees were Burkinabe and since were on police files in Cote d'Ivoire, they were likely to go to Burkina Faso, AFP reports Sambare as saying.

According to news reports some 6,500 prisoners escaped from the main prison in Abidjan during the coup.

NIGERIA: Ojukwu says Igbos still marginalised

Thirty years after the end of the civil war in southeast Nigeria, the problems which caused the conflict remain unsolved, former secessionist leader Chief Emeka Ojukwu said in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday.

"None of the problems that led to the war have been solved yet," Ojukwu said.

Soon after independence in 1960 there were mounting ethnic and regional tensions which came to a peak on 30 May 1967 when Ojukwu, then the military governor of the eastern region, declared the Independent Republic of Biafra. After initial military gains the Igbo secessionist forces were pushed back and Biafra was eventually reabsorbed into Nigeria.

"We have a situation creeping towards the type of situation that saw the beginning of the war," Ojukwu told the BBC. He said that Igbos have been largely excluded from power ever since the end of the war in 1970 and that this could cause instability in the future.

Meanwhile, human rights and pro-democracy groups in Nigeria say the performance of the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo is a marked improvement on that of the previous military regimes but more needs to be done.

[See Item: irin-english-2255 titled 'NIGERIA: Focus on human rights and democracy']

NIGERIA: Reward for information on OPC chief

The police on Wednesday offered a reward of 100,000 naira (US $1000) to anyone who could give information leading to the arrest of the leader of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), news organisations reported.

Lagos State Police Command declared in a statement that Ganiyu Adams was wanted "for the offences of murder, arson, acid bath on police officers etc.," 'The Guardian' reported.

Meanwhile intensive police searches have also been taking place for the murderers of a police superintendent from Bariga police station who was reportedly abducted and killed on Monday by OPC members. During the police search of the Lagos suburb, an arms cache reported to belong to the OPC was found and confiscated, according to Lagos Police Commissioner Mike Okiro.

NIGERIA: Police to recruit 40,000 annually

President Olusegun Obasanjo has ordered the recruitment of 40,000 policemen annually for the next four years to fight crime, 'The Guardian' reported on Thursday.

The Inspector General of Police, Musiliu Smith, said that the presidential directive was made because of the "federal government's determination to boost the depleted manpower in the force".

Obasanjo intimated on Thursday that he might impose a state of emergency in Lagos if State Governor Bola Tinubu failed to stop the deterioration of security there, according to local and foreign media reports.

NIGERIA: Niger State adopts Sharia

Niger State has adopted the Sharia (Islamic law) news organisations reported its governor, Abdulkadir Kure, as saying.

Kure said he was introducing Sharia because he believed Nigeria, being a pluralistic society, has opted for a multiple legal system made up of common, Islamic and customary law, 'The Guardian' reported.

Religion has always been a sensitive issue in Nigeria, with its more than 108 million people split almost evenly between Muslims and non-Muslims - mostly Christians and followers of traditional African religions.

But relations between Muslims and Christians have become even more delicate since the end of military rule in May 1999 and subsequent moves by some states in the north to implement Sharia.

[See Item: irin-english-2262 titled: 'NIGERIA: IRIN Focus on religious tension']

NIGERIA: Administration set up to develop Bakassi

An administrative body has been set up by the Cross River State government to ensure the rapid development of Efiat West and Tom Scott Island in Bakassi, south-eastern Nigeria, the Nigerian Television Authority reported on 8 December. Bakassi, a highly underdeveloped but oil-rich peninsula, has been the centre of a long-running territorial dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon.

NIGERIA: Obasanjo heads anti-AIDS campaign

President Olusegun Obasanjo has taken control of Nigeria's fight against AIDS, according to an official statement quoted by news organisations on Monday.

Obasanjo now chairs an HIV/AIDS Ministerial Action Programme Committee (MAPC), whose other members include his deputy and the ministers of health, education, information, defence, culture, women's affairs and youth development. The Nigerian president has also approved the creation of a working panel on HIV/AIDS which will report directly to the MAPC.

The Nigerian government's statement coincided with a UN Security Council meeting on Monday on 'The situation in Africa: the impact of AIDS on peace and security.' The meeting, chaired by US Vice President Al Gore, marked the first time that the Security Council had come together to specifically debate a health issue, the UN news service reported.

NIGERIA: Government files to recover Abacha money

Nigeria has filed a formal application to the Swiss government to recover more than US $550 million dollars frozen in bank accounts linked to former military ruler Sani Abacha, AFP reported the 'Nigerian Tribune' newspaper as saying on Monday. The Swiss government has given Nigeria until 20 January to make a judicial application over the accounts, which were
frozen at the end of October.

NIGERIA: Memorandum of understanding signed with China

China and Nigeria on Tuesday signed an agreement to establish a consultation mechanism between their foreign ministries, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reported.

Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and Nigerian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dubem Onyia signed the document during a three-day official visit which ended on Wednesday. Tang is the most senior Chinese official to visit Nigeria since Prime Minister Li Peng in May 1997.

WEST AFRICA: British minister visits Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana

The Foreign Office Minister of State Peter Hain, announced on Thursday in Freetown that Britain will provide 250,000 pounds (US $410,000) to help set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as per the Lome Peace Accord signed in July. This contribution "will help it become a meaningful exercise, he said.

The government is currently reviewing a draft statute of the TRC with a view to the commission's establishment.

In Abuja at the beginning of the week, Hain announced plans for a Britain-Nigeria bilateral forum to discuss foreign policy, conflict prevention, defence, industry, trade and health, according to a news release issued by the Deputy British High Commission in Lagos.

He also said that Britain would provide scholarships and training related to environmental matters for indigenes of the troubled oil-producing Niger Delta, news organisations reported on Wednesday.

Hain's five-day West African tour was scheduled to end on Friday, when he flies from Freetown to Ghana.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: MSF pulls out

The international non-governmental organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has suspended its operations in Equatorial Guinea, citing the manipulation of humanitarian aid by the government, which has denied the accusation.

According to AFP, Equatorial Guinea's Health Ministry expressed surprise on Monday at MSF's move. "The government is surprised by this decision," it said in a statement on state radio, "as it has always given the necessary assistance to this organization to develop its activities across the country."

The decision to pull out was taken in October, according to a news release issued by MSF on 31 December 1999 and which was faxed to IRIN this week along with a report titled "Guinea Ecuatorial: El Espacio Humanitario Imposible' (Equatorial Guinea: Impossible Humanitarian Space).

In the report, MSF said it found it impossible to carry out its humanitarian work in the country. It said that obstacles imposed by the government denied it access to "people who are suffering the direct consequences of the corruption of a regime which does not seem to care about the consequences of its greed".

GUINEA: Government plans tough measures following bloody clashes

Guinea's government announced on Monday that village chiefs who had failed to stop clashes between two communities - in which about 30 people were killed - had been suspended and a number of people arrested, news media reported.

"We will take stern measures to curb such activities in the future," Reuters quoted Territorial Administration Minister Moussa Solano as saying on state television on Monday.

The clashes occurred last week between two communities, one Christian and the other Muslim, in western Guinea.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Presidential candidate Yala returns home

Presidential candidate Kumba Yala returned to Guinea-Bissau's capital on 9 January following medical treatment in Portugal, news organisations reported.

Yala, leader of the Partido da Renovacao Social (PRS), told supporters at Bissau airport that he had recovered his health and was ready for the run-off presidential election on 16 January. He won the first round on 28 November with 38.81 percent of the votes, while interim president Malam Sanha was runner-up with 23.37 percent.

Meanwhile Guinea-Bissau has closed its borders as a precautionary measure ahead of Sunday's elections, Lusa reported.

GUINEA-BISSAU: IMF approves post-conflict assistance

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a loan of some US $2 million for urgent post-conflict reconstruction and economic recovery in Guinea-Bissau, IMF Deputy Managing Director Shigemitsu Sugisaki said on 7 January.

GUINEA-BISSAU: Health workers strike

A three-day health strike involving nurses and other health workers demanding compensation for unpaid overtime ended on Wednesday after a tentative agreement was reached, humanitarian sources in Guinea-Bissau told IRIN. However the workers' grievances have not been fully resolved, the source said, adding that the workers were threatening more action next week.

GABON: Peacekeeping course

Eight countries are to participate in 'Gabon 2000' a peacekeeping training exercise, news organisations reported on Thursday.

The programme, to run from 17 to 29 January, will simulate a peacekeeping and civilian protection operation in a country divided by an internal conflict. The eight countries are: Gabon, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome e Principe.

MALI: Bandits kill soldiers in the northeast

Three soldiers riding in an ambulance were killed and one wounded by eight armed men last week in northern Mali, AFP quoted local television as saying. The reason for the attack was unknown, it said.

The soldiers had been returning from Gao, over 800 km northeast of Bamako, where they had delivered armed bandits captured in connection with a spate of cattle rustling, AFP said. The ambulance was later found abandoned between Gao and the city of Nenaka.

MALI: EU providing safe water in pesticides danger zone

Some 2,000 residents in the pesticide contaminated villages of Tin Essako and Anefis, in the northern Malian region of Kidal, can soon look forward to clean drinking water following a decision by the European Commission (EC) to pay for well construction at the two sites.

The NGO Action Contre la Faim (ACF) will carry out well construction, clean up and cordon off storage depots of expired pesticides seeping into the water table and seal contaminated wells, the EC Humanitarian Office (ECHO) said.

Some 9,400 litres of expired chemicals were stored at the two sites for use against locusts. However, guerrilla activity by nomads in the north between 1991 and 1995 prevented the application of the pesticides.

CHAD: US $49.9 million to alleviate poverty and aid growth

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a three-year loan of US $49.9 million to Chad, under the Fund's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF), to support the government's 1999-2002 economic programme.

Abidjan, 14 January 2000, 19:12 GMT

[ENDS]

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