Sierra Leone + 7 more

IRIN-WA Weekly Roundup 33 covering the period 12 to 18 Aug 2000

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SIERRA LEONE: Kamajors warned to end lawlessness

A team of Sierra Leonean officials led by Vice-President Albert Demby visited the eastern district of Kenema on Monday and warned members of the pro-government Kamajor militia to halt acts of lawlessness and to work for peace and stability in the area, BBC reported.

Demby visited eastern and southern Sierra Leone to investigate complaints of harassment, atrocities and general lawlessness against the Kamajors, who form the bulk of the Civil Defence Forces (CDF). His delegation included Deputy Defence Minister and National CDF Coordinator Sam Hinga Norman, and Security and Safety Minister Charles Margai.

SIERRA LEONE: New group wants change

A new pressure group, the Very Concerned Citizens (VCC), is calling on Sierra Leone's government to change the way it deals with the country's crisis, a VCC member told IRIN.

Newspaper publisher Pios Foray said the VCC felt the government had failed the country, relied too heavily on the support of the international community and not taken full advantage of one of its most valuable tools: the general population.

Information Minister Julius Spencer told IRIN that the VCC was made up of people with an "axe to grind".

SIERRA LEONE: Kabbah in emergency landing

A mechanical fault forced a helicopter in which President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, other state officials and the US ambassador to Sierra Leone were travelling on 12 August to make an emergency landing in a bushy area in the southern district of Moyamba, the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) reported.

The incident occurred while Kabbah was on a two-day tour of the eastern and southern provinces, during which he appealed to civilians to forgive and embrace all former Revolutionary United Front fighters for the sake of lasting peace, SLENA said.

SIERRA LEONE: West Side Boys continue harassment

Sierra Leone's government confirmed on Monday media reports that some West Side Boys were continuing to harass civilians along the road between Freetown and Lungi, north of the Sierra Leone capital, despite a UN operation on 22 July to clear illegal roadblocks the militia group had set up.

"There are remnants of them (West Side Boys) causing trouble," Information Minister Julius Spencer told IRIN.

The West Side Boys, a militia made up of ex-Sierra Leone Army soldiers and others, slowly started disarming after the UN peacekeepers cleared the checkpoints. While small numbers of West Side Boys were still surrendering to UN peacekeepers there were some "undecided factions" who continue to harass civilians along the highway, Hirut Befecadu, spokeswoman for the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) told IRIN on Monday.

SIERRA LEONE: Oil and gas project

A geophysical company, TGS-NOPEC, announced on Monday the start of a joint 2,500-km2 offshore survey in Sierra Leone in conjunction with the Ministry of Mineral Resources of Sierra Leone, Houston Business Wire reported. The main aim of the survey is to image the Sierra Leone portion of the Liberia basin. The data will be available by the end of the year and will provide the oil industry with the means to evaluate the oil and gas potential of the area.

SIERRA LEONE: Some 2,500 refugees flee to Guinea

Some 2,500 people fleeing insecurity in Sierra Leone crossed into Guinea over a four-day period last week, the UNHCR reported on 12 August. Intensified fighting in Sierra Leone's diamond area, fear of the government's bombing of rebel-held positions and harassment of the population by members of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) were among reasons cited for the exodus, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said at a news briefing in Geneva.

SIERRA LEONE-GUINEA: Agreement on certification on diamonds

Sierra Leone and Guinea have agreed to work together against the illegal trade in Sierra Leonean diamonds, Radio Guinee reported on Wednesday. Following discussions on Tuesday in Conakry between the two countries' ministers responsible for mining, Guinea agreed to issue certificates enabling authorized Sierra Leonean dealers to sell diamonds there and to keep statistics on such sales. The discussions were a follow-up to a UN Security Council resolution banning trade in illegal diamonds from Sierra Leone.

BURKINA FASO: Trial of presidential guards begins

Two of five presidential guards accused of killing a driver who worked for President Blaise Compaore's brother have admitted that they tortured the victim to extract information about an alleged coup attempt three years ago, BBC reported.

During the trial, which began on Thursday, they said they regretted the death of David Ouedraogo and that they had no intention of killing him. He died of his injuries in December 1998.

Four of the guards have also been implicated in the death of journalist, Norbert Zongo, who was investigating the driver's death when he and three other people were found burned to death in an abandoned car in December 1998.

The murders have shone the spotlight on Burkina Faso's human rights record. Zongo was considered a staunch opponent of the government of President Blaise Compaore and had been calling for the president's brother, Francois, to be charged with murdering Ouedraogo. Zongo's death touched off a series of demonstrations in Burkina Faso.

GUINEA: Conde faces life imprisonment

The state prosecutor in the trial of Guinean opposition leader Alpha Conde has requested a term of life imprisonment. "Now we're just waiting for what the defence will say next Wednesday," Sekou Coumbassa, a spokesman for Conde's Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinee (RPG) party, told IRIN on Thursday.

Conde and 47 others are on trial for sedition. The state prosecutor said on Wednesday that the RPG leader and four of his co-accused were guilty of "threatening the state's authority and territorial integrity", AFP reported. Two of the defendants are fugitives. The trial has been adjourned to 23 August.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Nineteen register as presidential candidates

Nineteen candidates including ousted president Henri Konan Bedie and his successor, General Robert Guei, have registered for the 17 September presidential election in Cote d'Ivoire, the official daily ' Fraternite Matin' reported on Friday.

Guei registered as an independent. Bedie, whose application was submitted on his behalf to the national electoral commission (CEN), has been living in France since being overthrown on 24 December 1999. He is one of five hopefuls from among whom the former ruling Parti Democratique de Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI) is to choose its candidate at a weekend convention.

The candidates also include Alassane Ouattara (Rassemblement des Republicains), Laurent Gbagbo (Front Populaire Ivoirien) and Francis Wodie (Parti Ivoirien du Travail) and a woman, Assana Sangare.

The Supreme Court is to decide on the candidates' eligibility by 2 September.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Call for resignation of military ruler

More than 1,500 demonstrators marched through the streets of Abidjan on Thursday to demand the resignation of the head of the military Conseil National de Salut Publique (CNSP), which has been running Cote d'Ivoire since the ouster of President Henri Konan Bedie on 24 December 1999.

The Forum des Jeunes - the coalition of youth groups, non-governmental organizations, trade unions and youth wings of political parties that organized the protest - also called for the creation of an independent national electoral commission (CENI - French acronym) and for free and fair elections. It said the presidential polls, to be held on 17 September, should be open to all declared candidates.

THE GAMBIA: ADB aid for flood victims

The board of directors of the African Development Bank (ADB) has approved a grant of US $500,000 for emergency relief to flood victims in The Gambia.

The Technical Assistance Fund (TAF) grant, which was approved in July, is to help communities that suffered damage from flooding between June and August last year. At least 27,000 people, mainly farmers and their families, were affected by the floods, which damaged roads and bridges in the Central River and Upper River divisions of the country.

SENEGAL: Seeking to improve occupational health and safety

Senegalese officials have launched a programme to improve occupational health and safety, given the high number of accidents that have occurred over the past 10 years, the daily 'Le Soleil' reported.

About 44,000 accidents were registered over the past decade. As a result, the Ministry of Public Works and Employment purchased instruments for inspectors to test more accurately work-related conditions and reports of injuries and illnesses. For example, the tools will help inspectors measure humidity, light, noise and the concentration of chemical substances in the work area.

SENEGAL/GUINEA-BISSAU: Joint border patrols

Senegal and Guinea-Bissau have agreed to conduct joint patrols along their common border to curb attacks by armed bandits, AFP reported Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade as announcing on Friday. The agreement capped a 24-hour visit to Senegal by Guinea-Bissau President Kumba Yala. The two presidents had met in April in Bissau, largely to discuss a rebellion in Casamance, southern Senegal. Dakar has often accused its neighbour of allowing its territory to be used as a rear base by rebels fighting for independence for Casamance.

GUINEA-BISSAU: US $8 million needed for demobilisation

Guinea-Bissau says it needs US $8 million between now and 2001 to implement a plan to demobilise soldiers who fought in the 11-month military uprising that toppled former president Joao Bernardo Vieira in May 1999, AFP reported on Tuesday.

The head of the demobilisation plan, Pedro Correia, told AFP in Bissau that some 9,000 men would have to leave the army by the end of the programme and look for civilian jobs. The demobilisation plan is now in its preparatory phase, which includes equipping and staffing offices. Correia said its pilot phase should begin in October or November with the departure of up to 500 soldiers.

Guinea-Bissau's armed forces increased from 6,000 before the uprising to 15,000 when it ended.

NIGERIA: Middle Belt, Delta leaders form alliance

Leaders from Nigeria's Middle Belt states and the Niger Delta formed an alliance at the weekend to support the interests of minority groups, a Lagos daily newspaper, 'The Guardian' reported.

The 12 leaders who met in the Delta city of Port Harcourt, in Rivers State, called on the government to tell northern states to revoke the Islamic laws they introduced this year, so as to avoid a counter-reaction.

The meeting also called for a national identity card for the country as this would "enhance greatly" Nigeria's ability to provide an accurate, credible and acceptable census, and for a national conference, an idea the government has refused to entertain.

NIGERIA: Labour, rights groups demand corruption crackdown

Civil rights bodies and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) have demanded deeper and wider government probes into allegations of corruption in the national assembly, AFP reported on 12 August. NLC President Adams Oshiomhole said the federation would "insist" that the lower house be investigated, as was the Senate. The NLC vowed to "continue the struggle to ensure that everybody is under the law, not above it".

NIGERIA: Muslims in Jigawa protest presence of brothels, bars

At least 1,200 Muslims in Dutse, capital of the northern Nigerian state of Jigawa, marched to the emir's palace on Monday demanding the closure of bars and brothels still operating despite the declaration of the Sharia, AFP reported quoting witnesses.

Jigawa is one of eight northern states that have declared Sharia, the others being Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Yobe and Bornu.

AFP said another northern state, Bauchi, was considering the introduction of Sharia. Christians there have threatened to break away and join neighbouring Plateau State, which is mainly Christian, if Islamic law was declared in their area, AFP reported.

NIGERIA: Southerners oppose youths serving in Sharia states

'The Guardian', a Lagos daily, reported on Wednesday that 63.7 percent of a random sample poll of 688 people in the south and north-central parts of the country opposed sending their children for national service in Nigeria's Sharia states.

The poll, the second conducted by 'The Guardian', showed that only 8.87 percent supported sending southerners, most of whom practice Christianity or African religions, to the north. The newspaper did not mention the poll's margin of error.

Youth corps service is compulsory for university students and failure to do it can attract a fine of 2,000 naira (just under US $10) or 12 months imprisonment, or both.

NIGERIA: Presidents Konare, Kabbah, Obasanjo in talks over security

Presidents Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and Alpha Omar Konare of Mali, who is also chairman of ECOWAS, paid a two-day visit this week to Nigeria for talks with their Nigerian counterpart, Olusegun Obasanjo, on the fighting in Liberia's upper Lofa County and on Sierra Leone, news organizations reported.

NIGERIA: Cabinet approves UN rights, terrorism and genocide conventions

Nigeria's cabinet approved on Wednesday the signing of the UN convention on terrorism, genocide and human rights which remains to be ratified by the national assembly, AFP reported Information Minister Jerry Gana as saying. The approval came a month before the opening of the UN General Assembly. Nigeria, Africa's most populous state, is seeking a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

NIGERIA: Bakassi under threat from the ocean

The Bakassi Local Government Council in southeastern Nigeria says it needs 10 billion naira (US $95.2 million) to protect communities living near the shoreline in the Niger Delta, 'The Guardian' newspaper of Lagos reported on Wednesday.

It quoted the chairman of the council, Emmanuel Etene, as saying the federal government would have to pay for the sea defences because the task was beyond the financial capacity of any local government. The central government, he added, had referred the problem to a technical committee. The council is also drawing up a comprehensive design of the entire area, complete with a survey plan.

NIGERIA: Lagos, New York flights resume

Direct flights between Nigeria and the United States resumed on Tuesday, ending a seven-year suspension prompted by US concern over security lapses at Nigerian airports, 'The Guardian' reported. The Lagos-New York City leg is being serviced by South African Airways, in conjunction with Nigeria Airways.

CHAD: Rights groups, labour call for peace

A coalition of Chadian human rights groups and labour unions have called for "true peace" to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the country's independence from France. "Forty years in the life of Chad corresponds with 40 years of civil war, suffering, atrocities of all kinds and fratricidal struggles for power," the group said on 12 August, AFP reported. Chad has more than a dozen armed political groups. Human rights advocates have called for a national conference on the armed forces and the judiciary.

Abidjan, 18 August 2000; 16:55 GMT

[ENDS]

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