War and Peace
AngolaThe ceasefire signed by UNITA and Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) commanders ended Africa's longest-running civil war and came in the wake of Jonas Savimbi's death in combat on 22 February.
On 11 April, prominent Angolan cleric Reverend Daniel Ntoni-Nzinga urged UNITA's leaders to resolve their differences so they could contribute "in a viable way" to the historic peace process under way in the country.
"We recognise there are tensions, but they still have a chance to work them out. It is normal for people who have been away from each other for almost 10 years. They still have that golden opportunity to unite ... [and it is the] hope of all of us that the achievement of peace is not held hostage by tensions among themselves," Ntoni-Nzinga, executive secretary of the Inter-Ecclesiastical Committee for Peace in Angola (COIEPA), told IRIN.
Leaders of UNITA-Renovada, who split from Savimbi and joined the Angolan parliament as the official opposition in 1998, and UNITA military commanders who remained loyal to Savimbi to his death, are pitted against each other in the dispute. (Source: IRIN)
LesothoWith Lesotho's elections set for 25 May, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is focusing on conflict resolution initiatives to avoid a recurrence of the unrest that followed 1998's poll.
The UNDP says special emphasis will be placed on the mobilisation of political parties, NGOs, traditional leaders, church and women's groups to "play an active role in the electoral and democratisation processes". The UNDP itself "would remain committed to maintaining its role as a neutral mediator and facilitate dialogue within Lesotho", it said in a report presented at the Lesotho High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, on 12 April. (Source: IRIN)
LiberiaForeign ministers from the three Mano River Union (MRU) countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone met in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, on 5 April to review progress towards ensuring peace in the subregion and to plan a heads of states summit. The three presidents, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, Charles Taylor of Liberia and Lansana Conte of Guinea last met in Rabat in late February.
The MRU was set up in 1970 to promote economic and trade activity between the three countries but it has been inactive in recent years.
In a related development , the international environmental watchdog, Global Witness, appealed on Monday in an open letter to a Danish company, DLH Nordisk, to stop buying 'conflict timber' from Liberian companies.
Global Witness said that Liberia's logging industry was being used by Taylor, "as a platform to prolong regional violence, traffic arms, and reap significant extrabudgetary income while destroying the country's forests and redirecting funds that should be going to the Liberian people."
Global Witness, a British based NGO, focuses on the links between environmental and human rights abuses, especially the impact of natural resource exploitation on countries and people. [For more details go to www.globalwitness.org] (Source: IRIN)
NigeriaNigeria's president, Olusegun Obasanjo, sent a bill to the federal legislature this week, which, if passed, would give him powers to ban ethnic militias.
The bill proposed as 'The Prohibition of Certain Associations Act 2002' would also allow the president to prohibit any group from undertaking military training or displaying "physical force or coercion in order to promote any political objective or interest".
Targets of the bill include organisations led by prominent politicians, which purport to defend the interests of ethnic groups or sections of the country. Obasanjo has accused three such groups of being catalysts of ethnic conflicts. They are Arewa Consultative Forum, Afenifere and Ohaneze, which respectively champion the interests of the biggest ethnic groupings, the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba and Igbo.
Nigeria has been wracked by ethnic and religious unrest since Obasanjo was elected in 1999, ending more than 15 years of military rule. (Source: IRIN).
Sierra LeoneThe Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP) has nominated secretary-general Pallo Bangura as its presidential candidate in the 14 May elections, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) told IRIN on 4 April.
The RUFP's nomination came almost a week after the official deadline for submission of presidential nomination papers to the NEC, expired. Chief Electoral Commissioner Walter Nicol told IRIN that national legislation had allowed the NEC to extend the deadline again and it had accepted the RUFP's late nomination of Bangura and his running mate, Peter Vandy.
Bangura served as minister of energy and power in a short-lived unity cabinet following the signing of the July 1999 Lome Peace Accord by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and rebel leader Foday Sankoh. Vandy was minister of lands, housing, country planning and the environment.
The late nominations follow a period of uncertainty and division within the RUFP over who should stand in forthcoming elections. It had originally chosen Sankoh but the NEC barred him from standing because he was not a registered voter, which, under Sierra Leonean law, made him ineligible.
Sankoh is in prison on murder charges relating to an incident outside his house in the capital, Freetown in May 2000 which resulted in the deaths of over 20 people. He was detained shortly after the event and was not seen in public again until his first court appearance on 4 March.
Following Sankoh's barring, the RUFP was unable to reach a consensus and subsequently failed to nominate a presidential candidate by the already extended 3 April deadline. The 10-year civil war between the RUF and successive governments officially ended in January. (Source: IRIN).
About 130,000 refugees in Zambian camps have been on half-rations for more than three months because of logistical problems and a lack of money.
"Refugees are on half-rations since January because incoming contributions have been delayed for all sorts of reasons ... so it's taking a lot of time to get the food into the camps," Jorge Fanlo, WFP Deputy Country Director, told IRIN on 9 April.
He said the agency had only managed to secure 9,689 mt of the 52,122 mt of food needed to feed the refugees properly, resulting in a "truck-to-mouth" operation over the past three months. WFP was trying to supplement the diets of child refugees under five years old by providing high energy protein supplements and working through NGOs, he added.
However, Fanlo said the worst was probably over as the lean season had ended. There would soon be a joint WFP/United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) assessment to determine refugees' needs. (More details: http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?)