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IRIN-WA Weekly Update 440 - Monday 12 April 1999

[Cote d'lvoire] Former Prime minister Alassane Ouattara: Will he be able to run for presidential elections in 2004? Abidjan Post
Opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, has been cleared to run in this year's presidential elections
NIGER: Presidential guard commander appointed acting president The commander of Niger's presidential guard unit, Major Daouda Mallam Wanke, has been appointed the country's interim head of state following the assassination of President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara on Friday. Sources in the capital, Niamey, told IRIN on Monday the city was calm following what state radio called Mainassara's "sudden death". Telephone communications with the outside world, which were briefly cut at the weekend, were reported working normally again on Monday. In an interview with AFP, Wanke described Mainassara's death as "an accident". But diplomatic sources, including the US State Department, said Mainassara had been gunned down at Niamey military airport by Wanke's presidential guard. Mainassara, who himself came to power in a military coup when he overthrew the country's first democratically elected government in 1996, was buried on Sunday in his home village. Wanke trained in France Wanke, 45, a father of four who trained at a military academy in France, was appointed chairman of a new ruling body of army officers called the National Reconciliation Council (NRC). According to AFP, people who have met the new leader describe him as a "jovial" person who enjoys entertaining friends with stories, but who can also be "stern and serious" as a military professional. "Wanke is known more for his soldiering ability than for his political skills," AFP said. "Like Mainassara, Wanke is a Hausa and hails from the southern region of Dosso." Wanke meets envoys In one of his first acts as NRC chairman, Wanke held talks with the Nigerian envoy and the ambassadors of France and the United States, according to a state radio report. Army spokesman Hamidou Djibrila said the military had ordered the suspension of the constitution and the dissolution of the Supreme Court and National Assembly. Sources told IRIN that opposition parties were nevertheless meeting to discuss ways of pressing the military "to announce a transition to civilian rule as soon as possible". Neighbours, OAU condemn the coup Wanke's "classic coup", as the BBC called it, was condemned by several neighbouring countries, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). OAU Secretary General Salim Ahmed Salim, called the coup "a dastardly act". "Whatever the problems in Niger," PANA quoted him as saying, "nothing justifies the killing of the president. I am concerned at what appears to be an attempt to bring about political change violently and through unconstitutional means." Mainassara's wife takes refuge in French embassy In a related development, AFP reported that Mainassara's wife, Clemence, had taken refuge at the French embassy, while five other members of family had gone to the Malian embassy. NIGERIA: Constitution to be ready by end of month The Nigerian leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, said at the weekend that Nigeria's new constitution would be delivered by the end of the month. Speaking on a BBC programme, Abubakar said his outgoing military government would not seek to impose its values as it prepared to hand over power to a civilian government after 15 years of military rule. "The era of coups is dead and buried," he said dismissing speculation that the long-awaited constitution would give any special powers to the military. Abubakar took power last June after the sudden death of his predecessor Sani Abacha, and initiated reforms that led to February's presidential elections won by General Olusegun Obasanjo. The independent daily, 'The Guardian', quoted sources as saying religious issues were among the snags holding up the constitution and that there was a debate going on as to whether Islamic Sharia law should have any constitutional role. The Christian Association of Nigeria had appealed for the exclusion of provisions for religious laws in the constitution because Nigeria was a multi-denominational country. Falae says he will drop poll challenge Olu Falae, the former finance minister who lost the February presidential election, confirmed at the weekend that he would not challenge a court ruling upholding Obasanjo's victory, according to media reports. "I have decided not to take further legal action because of widespread concerns that a protracted legal battle may be used as an excuse by ambitious military elements to prolong military rule," he was quoted as telling a news conference on Sunday. Earlier this month, The Nigerian Appeal Court dismissed a challenge of the results of the 28 February election by Falae. SIERRA LEONE: Humanitarian flights resume Flights of a WFP helicopter ferrying humanitarian supplies in Sierra Leone have resumed after the resolution of a problem over fuel shortages, according to a WFP report at the weekend. It said the flights had resumed on 8 April. The report also said WFP had completed distribution of two-week rations to some 14,260 internally displaced people in the Blama district west of Kenema in Eastern Province. Meanwhile food distributions in Kenema town itself were continuing. It described food stocks in Kenema, where 40,000 people required assistance, as "critical," with less than 300 tons of food in place as of 7 April. The repair of the road between Bo in Southern Province and Niti harbour, about 100 km southeast of the capital Freetown, had started through a WFP "food for work" programme. It said the Sierra Leone Road authority had prepared a budget to cover the cost of bridge repairs for presentation to donors. The report said the road was vital for WFP to Bo and Kenema from Niti harbour. Food security in Bo and Kenema Food security and agricultural agencies in Sierra Leone have expressed concern about the increase in the consumption of seed rice by households in Bo and Kenema, according to humanitarian sources. They feared the trend was likely to worsen as the "hungry season" approached and if imported food failed to reach these areas. Agricultural agencies had been planning for the new planting season, but current security conditions had curtailed schemes in most areas. The agricultural agencies were recommending that households in safe areas should receive the standard package suggested by the agriculture ministry. Displaced people and other groups in less secure areas would receive packages with a lesser emphasis on rice seed, and more on root crops so as to minimise the chance of drawing attack from armed groups. They said humanitarian intervention was currently impossible in rebel-controlled areas. BURKINA FASO: Women lead protest march Hundreds of women representing mass democratic organisations and political parties took to the streets of the capital Ouagadougou on Saturday protesting what they described as the "impunity" with which the government abuses basic human rights in the country, news organisations reported. The demonstrators carried placards bearing the photograph of Norbert Zongo and underneath the words, "Justice, Justice," and "Enough is Enough," the reports said. Zongo was a prominent local journalist who died late last year in a suspicious motor accident. Many observers believe he was killed by unknown agents because of his investigative reporting and criticism of the government. The women also carried banners condemning government "high handedness" and "impunity" as they marched to the National Assembly where they submitted a document to the first vice president, Rock Marc Christian Kabore, outlining the "gravity of the national situation" and asking for a thorough investigation into Zongo's death. In recent months there have been several demonstrations by opposition groups and human rights organisations demanding a thorough investigation by the government into Zongo's death. Abidjan, 12 April 1999, 1730 GMT

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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