Burkina FasoSome 158,144 Burkinabe have returned home from Cote d'Ivoire since 19 September 2002, when a rebel war broke in the neighbouring country, according to Burkina Faso's minister of social welfare and national solidarity, Mariam Lamizana.
Lamizana said at a news conference on March 10 that some US $70,000 had been spent thus far to cater for the returning migrants. On 14 February, the government and its partners set up a joint commission to support a national plan of action to assist the returnees, the minister told journalists. "UNICEF," she said, "has assisted with textbooks" for children of school age, and water tanks to ensure that the returnees have access to clean water.
The crisis in Cote d'Ivoire has also had serious economic implications for Burkina Faso. The worst hit sectors include livestock and railway transport. (Source: IRIN)
Central African RepublicThe Central African Republic (CAR) hopes to reduce the HIV/Aids prevalence in the country from the current 14.8 percent to 5 percent in the next five years, President Ange-Felix Patasse said on March 7. According to research carried out in December 2002 by the Institut Pasteur in the capital, Bangui, and the national anti-HIV/Aids committee, HIV/Aids prevalence increased from 14 per cent to 14.8 per cent in 15 months.
"I am very frightened by this figure" Patasse said when he laid the foundation stone for the construction of the US $230,000 Centre de Tritherapie Ambulatoire, an anti-HIV/Aids treatment, research and training centre, expected to begin operations in six months. "By a relentless struggle, we hope to reduce that prevalence rate to 5 percent in five years and to less than 2 percent in seven years," Patasse said. (Source: IRIN)
CongoIn a declaration issued on March 6, parliamentarians of the Ebola-affected Cuvette-Ouest Region of the Republic of Congo (ROC) accused the Brazzaville government of insufficient action to protect the region's residents from the highly contagious and often-lethal haemorrhagic virus.
The statement followed a delay in the deployment of a mission of parliamentarians and regional government representatives. "It is not normal that a mission of such importance not be quickly dispatched. It is indicative of an intolerable negligence on the part of the government," said one deputy from Mbomo District.
ROC Health Minister Alain Moke, however, disagreed. "Since the declaration of the epidemic in the region, the government has not relented in deploying major amounts of assistance to the affected populations. We had thought that the first priority was to send experts and food aid to the region. It is unfortunate that this was misunderstood by these officials," he said.
By 8 March, 115 probable cases of Ebola virus were reported in the ROC, with the death toll rising to 97, according to the World Health Organisation - all in the districts of Kelle and Mbomo of Cuvette-Ouest Region. (Source: IRIN)
Cote d IvoireMore than a month after his nomination in Paris by Ivorian political parties and rebel groups, Prime Minister Seydou Elimane Diarra was officially sworn in on Monday in Cote d'Ivoire's economic capital, Abidjan. Diarra was nominated by "consensus" at a roundtable meeting in Linas-Marcoussis, Paris, in January, at which representatives of the ruling party, opposition and insurgents agreed to form a government of national reconciliation. He replaces Pascal Affi N'guessan who had been premier since October 2000.
Diarra's swearing-in came on the heels of a weekend meeting in Accra, Ghana, attended by representatives of the signatories to the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement.
The allocation of cabinet posts was a major stumbling block for the implementation of the agreement. At issue was the attribution of the ministries of defence and interior. The rebel Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire (MPCI) claimed the two posts by virtue of an oral agreement which it said, had been reached with President Laurent Gbagbo. However, Gbagbo denied any such deal. For weeks, the two sides stuck to their positions, virtually blocking Diarra from nominating the new government. A breakthrough occurred in Accra when the MPCI agreed to give up the two posts in exchange for other ministries. (Source: IRIN)
EritreaFood shortages in Eritrea have now become critical and humanitarian efforts are facing a severe funding crisis, the UN has warned. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said only two percent of some US $163 million appealed for to ease the situation - caused by drought and the aftermath of war - had been received. It was likely that aid reserves would run out by the end of this month, it said.
About 2.3 million people, out of a population of 3.29 million, are now considered vulnerable. Of those, an estimated 1.4 million are directly affected by the drought currently gripping the country. Coping mechanisms are at an all-time low.
"At a time when the country is moving away from humanitarian relief towards rehabilitation and recovery, it is again faced with another year of severe drought following the failure of seasonal rains," OCHA noted.
"The drought has led to widespread crop failures and water shortages," it said. "In addition, Eritrea suffers the continuing effects of war and generalised poverty, including the need to ensure a safe environment for the return of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), expellees and returning refugees and their reintegration in many parts of the country.
"The urgency of demobilisation, demining, and territorial demarcation to consolidate peace and stability remains as strong as ever," it added. (Source: IRIN)
KenyaA group of Maasai women are to bring a civil case against the British army for alleged rapes, which took place close to army training grounds in Samburu, northern Kenya, over a 25-year period. So far, about 300 women have come forward alleging that they had been raped, about 200 of whom were "likely to be genuine", said Martyn Day, the British lawyer representing the women, who was in Kenya last week conducting investigations.
Despite the fact that the alleged rapes took place between 1975 and 2000, Day said a body of evidence against the army was available: medical records proving that 30-40 of the women were raped, which included accusations against the army; contemporaneous records from the police and district officials containing accusations against the army; and a number of mixed race children. In addition he was consulting with local chiefs who had a historical knowledge of women in their communities who had been raped, he said.
Day admitted that a number of women had come forward whose claims were questionable. A British ministry of defence spokesperson said that the ministry had not been aware of the allegations before the case was taken up by Martyn Day (acting for Leigh, Day & Co.). Neither had it received any formal legal notification about the alleged rapes, with a presentation of the evidence, he said.
Day disputed this, stating that in at least eight different cases evidence was available which showed that army officers in Kenya were aware. He said he hoped to proceed with the case in British courts within the next two months.
He added that in the rare cases where individual soldiers could be identified by victims, the Royal Military Police could take action against them.
In July 2002, the same lawyer successfully won a claim of almost US $7 million against the MoD for injuries sustained by Maasai and Samburu pastoralists, as a result of unexploded bombs and ammunition left by the army on training grounds in Archer's Post and Dol Dol in northern Kenya. (Source: IRIN)