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WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly 258 covering 1-7 January 2005 - OCHA IRIN
Saturday 22 January 2005
Latest News
East Africa
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·Burkina Faso
·Cape Verde
·Cote d'Ivoire
·Eq. Guinea
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·Sierra Leone
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IRIN-WA Weekly 258 covering 1-7 January 2005

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


WEST AFRICA: Winners and losers in bank-note swap
GUINEA: New PM offers to legalise private radio stations
NIGERIA: Conviction of admirals confirms navy role in oil theft
MAURITANIA: Prosecutor demands death penalty for 17 coup suspects
SIERRA LEONE: General strike called off after two days as government agrees to talk
COTE D IVOIRE: Polio cases soar as conflict hampers vaccination campaigns

WEST AFRICA: Winners and losers in bank-note swap

West Africa’s central bank enrolled town criers, UN peacekeepers and even desert pilots as it pulled out all the stops for an unprecedented 10-week campaign to swap old bank-notes for new that ended last week.

The Central Bank of the States of West Africa (BCEAO), which controls the CFA franc currency used by eight nations in the region, hailed the campaign as a triumph. Old bank-notes bound for the shredder had been mopped up by and large on deadline by 31 December.

A statement issued by the bank late Tuesday said that according to provisional figures a total 99.2 percent of old bank-notes had been swapped for new.

But whatever the final data, there were certain to be wads of worthless currency left over in far-flung corners of West Africa, a region where the poor often pile up their savings under beds or bury them under the earth floors of their houses.

Full report

GUINEA: New PM offers to legalise private radio stations

Less than a month after taking office, Guinea's new prime minister has begun to woo international donors and opposition parties at home by pledging more transparency and the lifting of a ban on private radio stations.

Cellou Dalien Diallo, an economist and long-serving minister of President Lansana Conte, met on Wednesday with Guinea's main opposition grouping, the Republican Front for Democratic Change (FRAD), to try and relaunch a dialogue between the government and opposition that broke down with the sudden departure of his predecessor in April last year.

Urging opposition leaders to work with the president, Diallo said the government was finally ready to authorise private radio stations and remove obstacles to free and transparent elections.

International donors, including the European Union (EU), have been withholding big aid packages to Guinea pending a move towards greater democracy, better governance and liberalisation of the media.

But Dallo’s efforts to relaunch a dialogue with opposition parties have been blighted by the unexplained arrest of Antoine Soromou, a leading figure in the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party of veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde on Thursday.

Full report
Opposition leader arrested after new PM tries to reopen dialogue

NIGERIA: Conviction of admirals confirms navy role in oil theft

The Nigerian navy has sacked and demoted two admirals for their role in the disappearance of a tanker vessel which had been arrested for transporting 11,000 tonnes of stolen crude oil.

The ruling, announced by a court martial on Wednesday, confirmed long-held suspicions that some of Nigeria's top military commanders are personally involved in "bunkering" - the theft of crude oil in the Niger delta for sale to tankers waiting offshore.

Oil company officials estimate that the racket, conducted by heavily armed gangs, creams off up to 10 percent of Nigeria's oil production of nearly 2.5 million barrels per day.

Full report

MAURITANIA: Prosecutor demands death penalty for 17 coup suspects

The prosecutor in a mass trial of 195 Mauritanian coup suspects has demanded the death penalty for 17 people accused of masterminding three failed attempts to topple President Maaouiya Ould Taya in 2003 and 2004.

Those facing possible execution include Major Saleh Ould Hanenna and Captain Abderahmane Ould Mini, who were captured in September after more than a year on the run, and nine people who are being tried in their absence. They are the only defendants to have confessed in court that they were actively conspiring to overthrow the president.

State prosecutor Sidi Mohamed Ould Molaye also called for 49 sentences of life imprisonment with hard labour and 65 jail terms of between 10 and 20 years as he set out his demands for harsh punishment on Wednesday.

Full report

SIERRA LEONE: General strike called off after two days as government agrees to talk

Sierra Leone's main trade unions staged a two-day general strike this week to demand higher pay and better living conditions. The peaceful stoppage was called off on Tuesday night after the government conceded some of the strikers' demands and agreed to negotiate others.

These included a reduction in income tax and an increase in the minimum wage of 40,000 leones (US$13) per month.

The strikers, who brought business in the capital Freetown to a virtual standstill, also demanded a reduction in the price of fuel. The government tried to head off the strike by slashing pump prices by 20 percent on the eve of the stoppage, which was called by the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, the country's main trade union federation.

Paradoxically, many Sierra Leoneans greeted the general strike as a positive move in the country's return to normality after a brutal 10-year civil war which ended in 2001.

Full report

COTE D IVOIRE: Polio cases soar as conflict hampers vaccination campaigns

The number of recorded cases of polio in Cote d'Ivoire shot up to 17 in 2004 from just one the previous year and the real situation on the ground may be worse given that access to the rebel-held north of the country is difficult, Health Minister Albert Mabri Toikeusse said.

"Polio has well and truly returned to Cote d'Ivoire," Toikeusse told a press briefing last week. "It's crucial that routine vaccinations resume."

Instability in the West African country, which has been partitioned into a government-run south and a rebel-held north since a failed coup more than two years ago, was the main reason behind the disruption of vaccination campaigns, he said.

The most recent flare-up in the long-running conflict in early November forced the Health Ministry to postpone two rounds of a national polio immunisation campaign for 5.1 million children planned for November and December.

Full report


Other recent WEST AFRICA reports:

IRIN-WA Weekly 260 covering 15-21 January 2005,  21/Jan/05

ECOWAS elects Niger's Tandja as new head, slams Cote d’Ivoire,  20/Jan/05

IRIN-WA Weekly 259 covering 8-14 January 2005,  16/Jan/05

Bettter coordination and reserve funds needed to fight locusts,  14/Jan/05

Central bank gives poor more time to swap old bank-notes,  13/Jan/05

Other recent Children reports:

MOZAMBIQUE: Starting to save HIV-positive children, 21/Jan/05

SUDAN: Polio vaccination campaign starts in SPLM/A areas, 18/Jan/05

SYRIA: New approach to children with disabilities, 18/Jan/05

SOUTH AFRICA: Physical growth of black kids yet to catch up, 18/Jan/05

UGANDA: Polio alert following reported cases in Sudan, 18/Jan/05

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