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REFUGEES, DISPLACED PERSONS,
#weak statees - sierra leone
February 2, 1999
IMAGINE YOURSELF A REFUGEE
Could this happen in your street?
A new hard-hitting campaign launched by the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees aims to change opinions across Europe towards people displaced
by war and persecution.
A series of television adverts in 11 languages
are to be broadcast in 15 countries across Europe.
will run alongside programmes in schools and on the web to educate people
on what it is like to be a refugee.
One film shows daily life in an apparently average
European street suddenly shattered by explosions, machine gun fire and
the arrival of hundreds of troops.
Its uncomprimising message is aimed at members
of the public, governments and the media.
Worldwide the UN agency cares for over 12 million
refugees and says its latest campaign is designed to make sure that more
of them get a fair start in life.
Lyndall Sachs, spokeswoman for the UNHCR in the
UK says that people have become immune to the plight of refugees.
She says many people need to be reminded that as well as so-called economic
migrants there are those who really are "fleeing
for their lives."
These people, the organisation says, live in such fear that they have no
choice but to leave their countries.
The UNHCR says its campaign is partly intended to break through the concentration
of reporting in popular media across
Europe that point to "tidal waves" of economic migrants threatening to
overwhelm a country's social services.
The organisation says this has led to an increased
hardening of attitudes toward refugees and asylum seekers.
Many refugees now find themselves facing growing
threats of persecution and official intimidation in the countries to which
they have turned for shelter.
"People are confusing the immigration message
with the refugee message," Ms Sachs says.
"And when we're dealing with something as life
threatening as refugee issues we have to make sure the two messages are
September 25, 1998
BANGLADESH POLICE HUNT FEMINIST
Taslima Nasreen fled her country
four years ago after blasphemy allegations
Police in Bangladesh are searching for the controversial
feminist writer, Taslima Nasreen, after a court in the capital, Dhaka,
issued a warrant for her arrest on charges of blasphemy.
The move follows Miss Nasreen's surprise return
to Bangladesh last week after four years of self-imposed exile.
She has not been seen in public since her arrival.
Religious feelings hurt
The court also ordered her property to be seized
as part of the revival of the case that was originally filed four years
The petition was first filed in 1994 by Zainal
Abedin Babul, a devout Moslem, who claimed her book "Nirbachito Kolum"
had insulted Islam and hurt his religious feelings.
Miss Nasreen was charged with offending religious
sentiment in a newspaper interview she gave after the publication of her
novel "Lajja" (Shame), which dealt with communal tensions between Hindus
and Muslims - and has been banned in Bangladesh.
An Indian newspaper quoted her as having said
that the Koran should be revised to take into account women's' rights.
But Miss Nasreen has denied making such remarks.
Several Muslim fundamentalist groups are planning
anti-Nasreen protests in the capital, Dhaka, on Friday.
On Tuesday Muslim groups had again staged protests
demanding Taslima Nasreen be tried for blasphemy and hanged.
An non-issued fatwa
Taslima Nasreen, a doctor, writer and women's'
rights activist, left Bangladesh secretly in 1994 for Sweden.
She later visited France, Germany and Britain
before moving to the United States.
Her sympathisers in the West compare her position
with that of the British novelist, Salman Rushdie, against whom Iran issued
December 8, 1998
HOPE IN WESTERN SAHARA
Saharawi refugees see UN chief's visit as a sign of
By Tim Judah in Tindouf
Everyone looked skywards - nervously. A sandstorm
had blown up. Kofi Annan's visit had already been postponed once thanks
to the crisis in Iraq - it would be a crushing blow if he was to be defeated
by the elements now.
Then suddenly he was here. His white UN helicopter
hovering nervously above the neat white landing circle drawn for him on
- in the bleakest place on earth.
Cannons boomed in welcome, the band struck up
and the UN Secretary General stepped from his helicopter followed, like
a medieval prince, by a standard bearer carrying the UN flag.
Faith in the Secretary-General
The Smara refugee camp, 1,500km south west of
Algiers and close to the tiny Algerian frontier town of Tindouf, lies deep
in the Sahara. Yet 150,000 Saharawi refugees, who fled the Moroccan invasion
of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara in 1975, survive here. They
believe that Mr Annan's visit on 30 November signals the beginning of the
end of their exile.
On 11 December Mr Annan will submit a report to the Security Council and
it is widely expected that he will criticise Morocco for dragging its heels
on the issue. Mr Annan is also expected to make a private appeal to western
countries to apply discreet but heavy pressure on Morocco's King Hassan
in a bid not to let another chance to settle one of Africa's longest conflicts
disputes slip through his fingers.
Morocco claims the Western Sahara belongs to it
by virtue of historical right but says it too would like to see an end
to the conflict via the ballot box.
The UN's peacekeeping mandate for Western Sahara
runs out on 17 December. Such is the UN's frustration with the issue that
it will then probably only be renewed for another eight weeks. After that,
if Morocco is still deemed to be obstructing the UN's plans to hold a referendum
in the territory and repatriate the refugees Mr Annan will have to consider
ending its peacekeeping mission there - thus risking a return to war in
an already unstable corner of Africa.
Songs of welcome
As Mr Annan made his stately progress from the
helicopter landing point to the Smara camp thousands of Saharawi women,
many with faces tinted blue from the indigo dye they use to protect their
faces from the harsh Saharan sun ululated in unison. At the gates of
the camp he was greeted with a song from Umm Deleila, the most famous Saharawi
Later, as Mr Annan presided in a great white tent
over a gathering of tribal sheikhs Umm Daleila said: "We have given blood,
the dearest thing that every human has - so we are sure that we will receive
something in return."
Like tens of thousands of others Umm Deleila fled
her native land in 1975. She was just a child then but believed, as did
that it would only be a matter of weeks before they returned home.
Today those Saharawis who remain under Moroccan
occupation are said to tune their radios by night to snatch her voice from
out of the clear cold desert night. One day soon, if Mr Annan has his way,
then these people, like her fellow exiles, will be able to see her deep,
kohl-lined eyes too.
Every since their flight the refugees have lived
in four camps around Tindouf. The bleak sand and rock landscape where they
have pitched their tents, resembles the surface of Mars.
A long and costly struggle
Until 1991 their guerrilla army, the Polisario
Front, fought for independence, to make real their phantom and self-proclaimed
Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. During the Cold War it was associated
with Cuba, Algeria and other revolutionary states - and so the west supported
At the first Polisario was strikingly successful
but eventually the Moroccans pushed them back and, in an extraordinary
feat of military engineering, built a 2,000 km wall of earthwork embankments
to keep the guerrillas out. But the war was expensive. Seven years ago
Morocco and Polisario agreed to a peace plan and a referendum. Did the
Saharawis want to be integrated into Morocco or to have an independent
state of their own?
The process has unrolled fitfully ever since.
The referendum was supposed to have taken place in 1992 but the date has
been constantly postponed since then. Last year the vote was scheduled
for 7 December. Now Mr Annan suggests holding the vote in December 1999.
At the heart of the matter lies the question of
who will vote. The Saharawis say the Moroccans are trying to infiltrate
tens of thousands of their own citizens on to the lists in order to tip
the ballot their way. Privately UN officials agree. The Moroccans claim
many of these people are Saharawis who live in Morocco.
During his visit to the Smara Camp, Kofi Annan
had hoped that he could announce that everything was back on track again.
But it wasn't. Mr Annan said the Moroccans had "raised some concerns" -
coded diplomatic language meaning they had come up with more excuses to
drag the process out again.
Mr Annan has staked his personal prestige in these
Saharan sands. And hopefully the world will begin to notice. The UN, said
the suave Ghanaian, "could not impose a settlement" on the parties. Which
is odd, since if the Moroccans were Serbs or Iraqis, things might look
rather different. Mr Annan says the difference from other, more recent
conflicts, is that the UN Security Council has never passed an "enforcement
resolution". But, perhaps by mistake then, he later referred to the "reality
of the world we live in".
The reality is there are 27 million Moroccans
but barely a quarter of a million Saharawis. Their land is almost entirely
desert, has little if any strategic importance and, despite phosphate deposits,
has not much to recommend it.
The Moroccans have powerful friends in France,
which has extensive economic interests in the kingdom. Spain dare not raise
the question of its former colony lest the Moroccans open the question
of Ceuta and Melilla, its two enclaves on Morocco's north coast. Spanish
fishermen have also bought rights to fish the teeming seas off the Western
'The wind is blowing our way'
As Mr Annan tried to hide his disappointment in
Smara, fearing delays which add to his peacekeeping bill - $400m in Western
Sahara to date - Polisario officials could barely disguise their glee.
In September, Mr Annan made pointed criticisms
of Morocco and since last year his personal envoy to region has been James
Baker, the former US Secretary of State. As far as the Saharawis are concerned
their diplomatic coup has been to shrug off the old Marxist image and gradually
outflank Morocco diplomatically.
Over the last year, the UN has weeded out tens
of thousands of potential referendum voters sponsored by Morocco which
observers believe makes a vote for independence virtually assured. King
Hassan can certainly delay the vote, but with every passing year his room
for diplomatic manoeuvre becomes more and more limited and his western
friends impatient that the matter should be settled once and for all. They
fear that any delay could result in the UN deciding to end its peacekeeping
mission which would mean a return to war.
As the day drew to a close Mr Annan's helicopter
took to the sky again, a man in traditional finery trotted off on his camel
and Umm Deleila's special tent sagged as the pegs came up and she headed
for home. Radhi Bachir, a top Polisario official adjusted the cuffs of
his elegant check jacket as he took stock of the day. His glasses reflected
the orange glow of the setting sun. "The wind," he said, enunciating his
words with care, "is blowing our way".
Chronology of the Saharawi struggle
The Saharawi refugees are locked out of Western Sahara
1884 Beginning of Spanish colonial occupation
of the Western Sahara.
1965 UN General Assembly calls for independence
of the then Spanish Sahara.
1973 Foundation of Polisario independence movement
which begins armed struggle against Spain.
1975 International Court of Justice declares that
the people of Western Sahara have the right to self-determination. On 6
November King Hassan of Morocco orders 350,000 volunteers to cross into
the territory - the "Green March". Spain agrees to hand over the colony
to Morocco and Mauritania.
1976 Spain pulls out. Polisario declares the Saharawi
Arab Democratic Republic. War Begins.
1979 Morocco annexes south after Mauritanians
1981Morocco begins building fortified wall.
1988 Morocco and Polisario accept UN peace plan.
1991 Ceasefire begins, monitored by the UN.
1992 Referendum delayed following disputes about
who is eligible.
1996 UN suspends registration of voters blaming
both sides for problems.
1997 Deadlock broken following talks in Houston
chaired by James Baker, former US Secretary of State.
1998 Referendum set for 7 December. Suspended
after further disagreements.
1999 December - referendum on independence or
integration into Morocco?
SUDAN: FAMINE AMIDST WAR
June 5, 1998 Sudanese still die amid relief effort
the number of starving people is almost three times
as once thought
group of aid workers in southern Sudan say the area's devastating food
shortages appear to be getting worse despite the relief effort.
The medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres, says not enough
food is being delivered and as a result people are dying and children in
feeding centres are not gaining weight.
The food crisis, which was first predicted late
last year, has been a result of both drought and civil war.
Although huge resources have been brought in, many emergency
food supplies have arrived too late for many people.
Meanwhile, the Sudanese government has been condemned for hiring 2,000
convicted criminals for $1,000 a head from China to fight alongside its
forces, according to the opposition group, the National Democratic Alliance.
The secretary-general of the National Democratic Alliance, Mubarak
al-Mahdi, was quoted as saying the government's move was "a criminal act"
and called on the Chinese government to stop intervening in Sudan's internal
Last week, rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA)
said they had killed or wounded 300 government solders.
Sudan has been hit by outbreaks of civil war for over 40 years,
but the current phase of the conflict began in 1983.
The black, mainly Christian or animist south is fighting for
autonomy from the Muslim north.
crisis deepens: For the first time, the Sudanese crisis is officially described
as "famine." The United Nations says there has
been a dramatic rise in the number of people facing starvation in southern
Sudan, with 1.2 million people now in need of food aid.
Dinka ethnic group, southern Sudan
Tuesday, July 7, 1998
Sudan's deadly hunger
This boy's parents have already died from hunger
The famine in Sudan is worsening amid warnings that the country
is in the grip of an overwhelming crisis.
According to aid agencies:
2.6 million are now in need of emergency aid.
Sixty per cent, in some areas, have malnutrition.
cash aid needs to be doubled.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has said it has
only half the money it needs to provide aid.
According to reports it is only able to deliver about half the
10,000 tonnes of food needed each month.
Pledges have been made for $60m - but they calculate that $140m
The hardest hit area is the Bahr el-Ghazal region in southern
child buried in food aid bag
The people who had not yet died sat and lay in rows in a
dirt courtyard, emaciated, weak and incoherent, raising their empty hands
and bleary eyes to visitors in a silent request for sustenance. Many had
walked for several days to reach Wau. Some had seen their children and
other loved ones starve to death on the road.
The food is prepared in a makeshift kitchen at the back
of the Thiet feeding center in the former primary school. The porridge
is heated over an open fire in huge tin cooking pots and then distributed
in colourful basins and mugs to the people. Boxes of high-energy biscuits
are stacked up ready to be handed out to the severely malnourished children.
Adut Akok is measured in a wooden box that looks like
a coffin with the end sawn off. Although she is one year old, she weighs
less than a newborn. Adut died two days after this reporter was at the
feeding center. She was 48 percent of her weight for height. It is very
difficult to help children who arrive at less than 55 percent of their
weight for height.
Some of the children at World Vision's Thiet feeding
center are so weak they must be force-fed through a tube. Even those who
survive such punishing starvation are likely to be mentally retarded as
a result of the malnutrition.
Times: "Famine in the Sudan"
With little to no hair, their features chiseled
with hunger, the elderly are encamped in the shade of an acacia tree off
to one side of the Thiet feeding center. They sit in silence waiting to
receive one cup of porridge a day. Hollow cheeked and sunken-eyed, many
have walked for miles to flee fighting in the government garrison town
of Wau. They fled with only the clothes on their back.
Wednesday, July 15, 1998:
THE FRONT LINE OF FAMINE
More than a million have been affected by Sudan's famine
SUDAN REBELS DECLARE CEASEFIRE
Aid agencies have called for a ceasefire since the crisis deepened
The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army has declared a unilateral
ceasefire in its war with government troops to allow aid to reach large
numbers of people facing starvation.
A spokesman for the SPLA in Nairobi, Justin Yaac, said the ceasefire
would last three months and would apply to the two worst affected areas,
Bahr el-Ghazal province and parts of the Upper Nile region.
24 July 1998--A starving Sudanese child was given nourishment last
week at a feeding center in Ajiep, in the southern Sudan. Famine is worsening
in the region, and more than a million people are said to face food shortages.
Aid agencies in Sudan say that food supplies are having some
effect and fewer people are now dying of hunger. The BBC's East Africa
Correspondent, Martin Dawes went to Bahr El Ghazal in the south of the
country to see how conditions have changed:
In no sense is the famine over - tens of thousands of lives
are being damaged and unknown numbers have died.
Some 40,000 children are now in feeding centres and the capacity
is being doubled. But there are
indications that the death rate is dropping.
"It's still a bad situation," says Roger Teck of Medecins Sans
Frontiers. "It continues to be out of control, but we have the impression
that it's getting a little better now."
More food aid was dropped in August than in the whole of last
year. The increase is the sole reason why fewer people are dying.
Emergency had to become a disaster
AGAIN AN EMERGENCY HAD TO BECOME A FULL-BLOWN DISASTER BEFORE
THE WORLD'S RESPONSE CAME NEAR TO MEETING THE NEED.
The UN World Food programme is facing huge demands across the
world. And here it knows that much of the population will have to be supported
until the harvests in October next year.
"We are far from a situation where we can consider the job done,"
says Jean-Jacques Graisse of the World Food Programme.
Far from perfect
This is a relief effort that has been far from perfect.
Like one woman I spoke to in July, many of the displaced people
in the camps found they were excluded
from access to the aid by local officials because they were not from the
Food was sometimes taken by the rebel authorities.
In a joint statement with the United Nations they have promised
that this will stop.
No-one has enough
It is hardly surprising that there are such abuses where no-one
Let no-one say that a catastrophe was averted - it is actually
still going on.
The aid effort which came in late seems to be containing it.
But this is a desperately fragile situation.
The famine was born by war. This centre in Bahr El Ghazal saw
the very worst of it.
It is now less desperate, but still a place of awful reality.
Without peace there is no chance of a lasting solution.
WEAK STATES--GANGS, THUGS, ATROCITIES
Though a military junta in Sierra Leone was ousted this
year, with the help of a British mercenary group, fighting has continued
in parts of the country. About 150 supporters of the former junta were
reportedly killed by Nigerian intervention forces and militiamen on Monday.
Junta supporters have been terrorizing civilians, often cutting off their
hands or feet, as with the patients shown here at a hospital in Freetown.
AGONY WORDS CANNOT DESCRIBE
March 2, 1999
Moses, one of 300 children forced to fight for
Fergal Keane reports from Sierra Leone
As the rebel army swept into Freetown at the beginning
of this year, it was less a battle than a crime against humanity - the
worst in recent times. Thousands were killed, tens of thousands uprooted
from their homes. Murder, mutilation, rape, it all happened here.
One woman saw her husband and her son shot dead
in front of her. She found some of her husband's remains lying among the
city's ruined buildings, his head severed from his body. She buried the
Massacre at mosque
At the local mosque the priests survived only
by feigning death after the rebels opened fire. One imam said the rebels
shot and killed 11 people here. His son was among the dead, buried in shallow
graves behind the mosque.
As the battle escalated, terrified civilians fled
from rebel areas. Snipers picked off the stragglers. It was terrifying,
but better than the horror that lay behind them in rebel territory.
A Sierra Leonean cameraman was secretly filming
the rebels from inside his house. They discovered him and forced him into
the street to film their supporters burning a family alive inside their
The rebel leaders want power and Sierra Leone's
diamond wealth. Many of their supporters are illiterate peasants, driven
by bitter resentment of the city elite.
But it is hard to explain what motivates a man
to hack off the arm of an 18-month-old baby girl. Or what impulse drives
somebody to push a man into a burning house with his family.
One child, a polio victim, was taken to hospital
after he was found crawling on the street after the battle.
Christiane Minah, a nurse at the hospital, said
she had no idea who his parents were.
"I think he doesn't have any," she said. "We have
been calling him Junior. We don't know anything about him, so we decided
to name him that way.
At least 150,000 people lost their homes in the
attack. Many fled to an old factory. Aid agencies want to move them to
better accommodation before the rains come next month.
The people say they want food and medicine. Diseases
like dysentery are already threatening young lives. Amid the misery the
struggle to maintain old routines, to preserve human dignity, continues.
Aid will alleviate their discomfort, but only the soldiers and politicians
can end their misery.
"I feel dehumanised, because we've lost our loved
ones, lost our wives, our mothers, our houses," said John Karim-Tarawalee.
"We have worked for them for the past 20 years, they have been burnt down.
We have no hope of rebuilding them."
The war in Sierra Leone is without a doubt the
most brutal being waged anywhere in the world.
In the space of a few weeks thousands have been
killed, and tens of thousands more driven from their homes. The fear now
for these people is that the rebels might return.
If they do, people expect little mercy for themselves
or their children. People are moving on the streets once again, but at
the roadblocks the atmosphere is tense.
As Ecomog, the Nigerian-led intervention force,
has regained control, numerous suspected rebels have been executed. We
found a suspect at the mercy of troops, after a woman claimed he burned
The soldiers kicked him as he lay semi-naked on
the ground, protesting his innocence. Then he was thrust into a vehicle,
and we do not know what happened to him.
Another captured rebel was shot as he begged for
Children forced to fight
The rebels captured more than 300 children during
their attack, and forced them to fight. One little boy, Moses, was recaptured
by the Nigerian soldiers, who slapped and kicked him until an officer and
a Government minister intervened to protect him.
Later we found him at a camp where children are
kept in the care of the United Nations. He is deeply traumatised and spends
That trauma is repeated again and again in Sierra
Leone, a country whose agony words can no longer describe.
*International Herald Tribune, Paris, Thursday,
July 30, 1998
A GHASTLY CAMPAIGN OF
TERROR IN SIERRA LEONE
In West Africa, a Grisly Extension of Rebel Terror
By Barbara Crossette New York Times Service
UNITED NATIONS, New York - A rebel movement dislodged
early this year from a brief period in power in Sierra Leone has been waging
a bloody campaign of terror against the country's civilian population that
human rights groups and the government said Wednesday is without precedent
in its calculated violence.
By the hundreds, poor farmers and villagers -
men, women and children - have been shot, lacerated, mutilated by having
limbs hacked off. Some have been turned into grisly messengers of death,
sent disfigured and bearing letters warning the West African country's
president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and the African peacekeeping troops who
restored him to office in March that armed resistance will continue and
no one is safe.
A refugee, who reached Guinea with only the stumps
of his arms, told his story to a representative of Refugees International,
a Washington-based advocacy group, which videotaped his testimony along
with other accounts. ''You don't want a military government,'' the refugee
said the rebels told him. ''You say you want a civilian government. Then
we will have to cut off your hands. Then go to Tejan Kabbah and he will
have to give you new hands.''
Another refugee without hands, shaking with fear,
appeared so traumatized on the tape that he repeated again and again his
perplexity about how he could not use a toilet without help, when there
was so little help to be had.
''What they are doing really is atrocious,'' said
Fode Dabor, Sierra Leone's representative at the United Nations. ''I've
never seen it before. They've been cutting limbs, gouging the eyes of innocent
women and children. This is one of the most vicious rebel organizations
in the world.''
Several hundred thousand people have fled their
homes for government-controlled areas or refugee camps in Liberia and Guinea,
where hospitals are treating a steady stream of victims left with feet,
hands and eyes missing.
On Thursday, the United Nations will convene a
special conference on Sierra Leone to discuss how to begin rebuilding normal
life in a country that has endured decades of civil war and ruthless military
leaders since its independence in 1961.
Mr. Kabbah, Sierra Leone's first democratically
elected president, served for only a year before being overthrown in May
1997 by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and the Revolutionary United
Front, now operating as the rebel force threatening to try to regain power
even as Mr. Kabbah's government tries to re-establish shaky institutions
and repair a ravaged capital.
Human rights groups are in New York in force to
lobby the conference for a concerted international drive to ensure that
fair trials be held and punishments meted out to the rebels. Sierra Leone
thinks it might need international help. Mr. Dabor said in an interview
that when he was in Rome recently for the treaty conference establishing
an international criminal court, he spoke publicly about why such a body
was important to Africa.
Mr. Dabor said that the rebels have been arming
themselves by selling diamonds from areas of eastern Sierra Leone.
''Our problem has been the diamonds,'' Mr. Dabor
said. ''We have a lot of people who want to lay their hands on our diamonds.
I know that the rebels finance their operations by the diamonds they recover
from this mining area. That's why they don't want to give up these places.''
Scott Campbell of Human Rights Watch, who recently
completed a report on the last six months of violence in Sierra Leone,
said that the rebels had been using brutal tactics for a number of years,
but that they now appeared to be getting more desperate because of the
presence of Nigerian soldiers, who make up the majority of the West African
peacekeeping force, known by its acronym Ecomog.
The report, ''Sowing Terror,'' was published Wednesday.
Written by Mr. Campbell and Jane Lowicki, both consultants to the organization,
it says that children and women have also been singled out for sexual abuse.
Accounts of rapes and gang rapes, as well as kidnappings for purposes of
sexual slavery, are common.
Pregnant women appear to be targeted ''because
of their status as pregnant women,'' the report said. Fetuses are being
ripped from wombs, witnesses have reported.
Since 1991, when the Revolutionary United Front ''got going, in one of
their first attacks they allegedly decapitated administrators, put their
heads on sticks,'' Mr. Campbell said in an interview Wednesday. ''In order
to make statements of power, political statements, in 1996, they would
mutilate people. They would write things like 'no election' or ''don't
vote' on people's backs - they would burn it in.
''The idea of chopping someone's hands off allegedly
came from rebels saying to people: We're going to cut your hands off so
you can't vote,'' he said.
''It has been going on for some time,'' Mr. Campbell
said. ''What's changed now is that the military balance has changed, with
Ecomog there. Ecomog is really powerful. They control the urban centers
and the rebels have become more desperate.
''Their new strategy to put themselves back on
the political chessboard is to do these horrible things to civilians. That
does two things. It makes the civilian population subservient. And it makes
them somebody you have to deal with.''
A woman in Faranah Hospital, Guinea, was used as
a porter, then had her left hand cut off.
February 21, 1999
GUINEA-BISSAU GETS UNITY GOVERNMENT
At least 100 civilians died in renewed fighting
An interim government of national unity has been
sworn into office in Guinea-Bissau under the terms of a peace accord signed
The new 10-member government - which includes
representatives of President Joao Vieira and rebel soldiers who mutinied
last year - will lead the West African nation until elections later this
The Prime Minister, Francisco Fadul, told French
radio that the elections would probably be delayed from March when they
were scheduled under the peace agreement, to allow time to conduct a new
census of voters and for refugees to return to Guinea-Bissau.
The peace deal halted a five-month war between
the rebels, who have broad popular support, and the mostly Senegalese troops
supporting President Vieira who has ruled the former Portuguese colony
Fighting flared again earlier this month, killing
at least 100 people in four days before Togolese mediators secured a truce.
About 600 peacekeepers from Ecomog, the defence
arm of the Economic Community of West African States, have arrived in the
country. More than 1,000 troops from neighbouring Senegal are reported
to be still in Guinea-Bissau.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme says it has
started distributing food aid in Guinea-Bissau, to help alleviate food
The nation of 1.1 million people is among the
world's 15 poorest nations.
November 2, 1998
DEAL ENDS GUINEA-BISSAU CONFLICT
Fighting has forced thousands to flee their homes
The warring parties in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau
have reached agreement to end their five-month civil war.
The accord was signed by President Vieira and the rebel leader,
Ansumane Mane after three days of talks in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Under the deal a government of national unity will be formed, including
representatives of the rebels all foreign troops will be withdrawn and
replaced by a West African (ECOMOG) peacekeeping force. air and sea ports
will be opened to allow in humanitarian relief presidential elections to
be held by the end of March next year
The Gambian foreign minister, Sedat Jobe, who has been mediating
between the two sides, told the BBC he was confident that the agreement
would hold, despite the failure of previous cease-fire agreements.
The breakthrough came at negotiations at the mansion of Nigeria's
military leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, after a two-day summit of
African leaders in Abuja had failed to produce an accord.
There had been pessimism among some officials. One said it looked
as if the Bissau issue would ultimately be decided "on the battlefield".
President accused of corruption
The conflict in the former Portuguese colony began on 7 June
when a breakaway faction of disgruntled military veterans seized the main
army garrison and international airport in the capital, Bissau.
The rebels accused President Vieira of corruption and demanded
that he step down.
Although neighbouring Senegal and Republic of Guinea sent troops
to his aid, the insurgents have overrun most of the small country.
ABOUT HALF OF THE COUNTRY'S ONE MILLION PEOPLE HAVE BEEN DISPLACED
BY THE FIGHTING. There are no reliable figures for the numbers of people
killed and wounded.
A Guinea-Bissau official's wife landing Sunday in Dakar. About 3,000
people have fled there since Friday.
October 22, 1998
THE GUINEA-BISSAU CONFLICT
The recent fighting in the impoverished West African
country of Guinea-Bissau once again sees President Joao Bernardo Vieira
confronted by his one-time comrade-in-arms, Brigadier Ansumane Mane.
Guinea-Bissau gained independence in 1974, the
first of Portugal's former colonies to do so in the modern era.
It was achieved after a 13-year struggle, led
by the African Independence Party, the PAIGC, which has been in power ever
But its leaders have repeatedly fought with each
other over how the country should be governed.
During the war of independence, Mr Vieira fought
alongside both Mr Mane and Luiz Cabral, the man Mr Vieira was later to
Mr Cabral was one of the founders of the PAIGC,
and became the country's president in 1974. He made Joao Vieira, who had
previously been the commander of the armed forces, his prime minister.
But Commander Vieira ousted his former ally from
power in a near bloodless coup in 1980.
He claimed that endemic corruption and economic
mismanagement was preventing the country from emerging from its extreme
state of under-development.
But now the cycle of history has come full circle,
and President Vieira is accused of autocracy by fellow members of the PAIGC.
The current dispute was triggered when President
Vieira fired the head of the armed forces, Brigadier Ansumane Mane, on
June 5, accusing him of allowing arms to be smuggled to rebels in the southern
Senegalese province of Casamance.
General Mane, who also fought alongside President
Vieira during the colonial wars, attempted to seize control the following
day. He declared himself the head of a military government and called for
Relations with neighbours
Senegal and Guinea-Conakry both sent in troops
to help crush General Mane's revolt. But although Guinea-Bissau enjoys
mostly good relations with its neighbours, there have been some problems.
Relations with Senegal have been occasionally
disturbed by border disputes, which stem from an agreement made in 1960
between France and Portugal, the former colonial powers. Senegal has also
accused Guinea-Bissau in the past of providing support for the Casamance
rebels. President Vieira distanced himself from this support by sacking
Brigadier Mane. Now the leaders of the two countries say they are committed
to improving relations. The two governments are united in their condemnation
of both groups of rebels, who they believe are helping each other.
There have also been border disputes with Guinea-Bissau's
other neighbour, Guinea-Conakry, particularly off-shore where they may
be oil deposits.
The PAIGC had the original aim of securing the
independence and unification of Guinea-Bissau and the nearby Cape Verde
islands. However, the idea of union with Cape Verde was dropped after the
Although one of the world's poorest countries,
Guinea-Bissau was once hailed as a potential model for Third World development.
After independence, the West poured money into restructuring, but the country
failed to meet any of its economic targets.
The country, and its population of one million,
still suffers from a crippling external debt, with foreign financing still
accounting for an estimated 75% of budget revenue.
Gross Domestic Product: $253m - equivalent to
$240 per head (according to a World Bank estimate in 1994)
A key export is cashew nuts. Other cash crops
are palm kernels and cotton.
The mining sector is under-developed, although
the country has large reserves of bauxite and phosphates
There may also be considerable oil reserves in
off-shore areas. Drilling of three offshore petroleum wells began in 1989.
Most of the population are subsistence farmers,
whose staple food is rice.
June 15, 1998
200 Said to Drown While Fleeing African
Two hundred people who were fleeing fighting between Government
forces and renegade soldiers in Guinea-Bissau drowned on Friday when they
tried to reach the coastal Bijagos Islands.
22 June 1998
Ogata warns of refugee
crisis in Guinea Bissau
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata has
appealed to regional heads of state to find a peaceful solution to the
conflict in Guinea Bissau, as fighting in the West African nation stretched
into its third week.
"Already, many tens of thousands of men, women
and children have fled the capital," Ogata said in a letter dated Friday
19 June to the presidents of Guinea Bissau, Senegal, and Guinea. She warned
that the confrontation "could generate a major humanitarian crisis."
Ogata appealed to all parties to find "a peaceful
and prompt settlement," addressing her call also to UN and OAU Secretaries-General
Kofi Annan and Salim Ahmed Salim, the Economic Community of West African
States and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The last international UNHCR staff member left
the capital of Bissau on 16 June with remaining UN personnel aboard a Portuguese
naval vessel. The majority of the city's residents have fled, and groups
of civilians numbering into the tens of thousands are without food, drinking
water or health care in the country's interior.
UNHCR has no news of the almost 5,000 refugees
from Senegal who live in villages in the Cacheu region of northern Guinea
Bissau. Reports indicate that fighting has also broken out in this region,
where Jolmete refugee camp is located.
"Immediate consequences could be famine, refugee
outflow into neighboring countries and threats to the safety of the 5,000
Senegalese refugees who have been living in Guinea Bissau since 1992,"
the High Commissioner stated.
UNHCR staff in Dakar have registered several hundred
refugees from Bissau who arrived in Senegal by boat. A mission conducted
to the border regions in Senegal last week counted hundreds of people of
other nationalities arriving in the Casamance area, itself the scene of
regular military action by a separatist group, while Guinea (Conakry) already
hosts over 500,000 refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia.
UNHCR emergency staff has deployed from Dakar
to the border region of Ziguinchor, and from Conakry to the remote areas
of Koundara, Kamsar and Gaoual.
Tuesday, July 7, 1998
FIGHTING INTENSIFIES IN GUINEA-BISSAU
Artillery exchanges in Bissau are said to be the
Reports from Guinea Bissau say there has been
heavy shelling north of the capital, where the rebel troops and the armed
forces are vying for control of the airport.
The artillery exchanges in the capital, Bissau,
are reported to be the fiercest for several days.
The BBC West Africa correspondent says the city
is surrounded by rebel troops, but both sides claim to be on the offensive.
The fighting began last month after the army chief,
Brigadier Ansumane Mane was sacked by the President Nino Vieira.
Some estimates say that up to 90% of the armed
forces have joined his mutiny against the president.
AROUND 250,000 PEOPLE, ALMOST A THIRD OF THE POPULATION
OF GUINEA-BISSAU, ARE BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN DISPLACED BY THE CONFLICT.
Attempts at mediation by international diplomats
have so far failed to stop the fighting.
West African ministers meeting in Abidjan recommended
on Saturday the use of force in Guinea-Bissau to put an end to the rebellion.
Ministers of the Economic Community of West African
States Defence Council extended to Guinea-Bissau the mandate of the West
African peacekeeping force Ecomog, which is already deployed in Liberia
and Sierra Leone.
A PEOPLE DIVIDED BY BORDERS
February 17, 1999
By Regional Analyst Pam O'Toole
As Kurds in Europe reacted angrily to Abdullah
Ocalan's forced return to Turkey, the row over the Kurdish guerrilla leader
has focused international attention on the Kurdish question.
Mr Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has
waged a 15-year armed struggle against Ankara. It wants some form of independence
or autonomy for Turkey's Kurdish minority.
Although Abdullah Ocalan is regarded as a terrorist
by Turkey and many European countries, he is the only man regarded as powerful
enough to take on the might of the Turkish state in the name of the country's
estimated 10 million Kurds.
During his 15-year-old armed struggle against
Ankara as head of the PKK, he called at first for independence and then
later for some kind of autonomy for his people.
Most recently, he was campaigning for political
asylum, hoping he could transform the armed struggle into a political one
and place the Kurdish issue firmly on the European political agenda.
Turkey's Kurds hoped European pressure would force
Ankara to review policies which deny basic cultural rights such as education
and broadcasts in the Kurdish language.
But for many of the 20m Kurds across the region,
the latest events will come as little surprise.
Concentrated in the mountainous area where Iran,
Iraq and Turkey meet, the Kurds are used to being used as pawns in regional
and international power games, given promises and then abandoned by their
erstwhile allies when it suited them.
They will recall only too clearly how, after World
War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies
promised them an independent Kurdish state in the Treaty of Sevres.
Such hopes were quickly dashed when the Treaty
was renegotiated. Since then any move by the region's Kurds to state up
an independent state has been brutally quashed.
The PKK is not the only Kurdish group to have
used its neighbour's territory to mount hit and run attacks against its
own country. Some have, at times, allied themselves with regional states.
But they have had to be prepared for often brutal
retaliation from their home governments. Baghdad's poison gas attack on
the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988 was prompted by suspicions that the
residents had collaborated with Iranian forces who had just captured the
area. Five thousand Kurds died in the attack.
The Kurds of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria often
argue that they form a distinctive community through race, culture and
language, even though they have no standard dialect.
Nationalist Kurds speak of their homeland as "Kurdistan",
even though it is divided by international borders. But in fact they are
notoriously divided, often by completely different political agendas.
Kurdish political parties can be Marxist, Islamic,
or distinctly tribal in outlook . Rather than uniting against a common
enemy, the Kurds have often fought each other.
One of the two main Kurdish parties in northern
Iraq has allied itself with Turkey to drive the PKK from its territory.
So while Mr Ocalan's current predicament may be
the source of anguish to Turkey's Kurds, other Kurds may view it with either
indifference or jubilation.
The region's Kurdish groups are unlikely to unite
behind him and may well remain as bitterly divided as ever.
Meanwhile the governments of the region remain
solidly united in their determination to prevent the emergence of an independent
Kurdish protester sets fire to himself outside the Greek Parliament in
... and in the Greek city of Salonica a Kurdish man
launches a hunger strike in support of Abdullah Ocalan.
French riot police evict Kurdish demonstrators from the
Greek Consulate in Strasbourg...
... whilst protesters at the Greek Embassy in London
are determined to stick it out.
In Holland police battle with Kurdish protesters outside
the Greek ambassador's residence in The Hague...
and in Moscow Kurds take their message to the
Greek Embassy there.
At the Greek Consulate in Hanover demonstrators
occupied the building, throwing missile at the police.
Violence flared in Istanbul between supporters of the
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish police.
Thai camps were filling swiftly Monday as Khmer Rouge
fighters like this one drove their families in from Cambodia.
camp reported 10,000 arrivals since Saturday. With the
Khmer Rouge under pressure, one soldier said the
would help returning men fight single-mindedly.
Saturday, July 25, 1998 Published at 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
PLAYING THE VIETNAMESE CARD
Regional analyst Alice Donald reports on one of the darker aspects
of the Cambodian election campaign - the xenophobic rhetoric directed against
the ethnic Vietnamese community:
Traditional animosity towards ethnic Vietnamese has reached
fever pitch during Cambodia's election campaign.
Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy, in particular, have whipped
up crowds with anti-Vietnamese sentiments.
Both politicians have saved their most fiery rhetoric for campaign
speeches in the border area. There they have accused Vietnamese immigrants
of staging a subtle "invasion," robbing local farmers of their land.
Communities gripped by fear
Both have repeatedly used the term "Yuon", the old Khmer word
for Vietnamese - a term widely viewed as derogatory.
Observers following the opposition leaders on the campaign trail
say Mr Rainsy, a highly skilled orator, has pursued the anti-Vietnamese
theme most vigorously, though when he speaks to the foreign press his comments
are noticeably milder.
A Vietnamese girl in a shantytown near Phnom Penh
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