Africa News Update
Friday, 5. February 1999

FREE of charge news and background service from the Norwegian Council for Africa. The Norwegian Council for Africa (Fellesr├ądet for Afrika) is a non-profit making NGO. The news items and background stories are for reading and information only, and strictly not for publication, broadcast or other forms of redistribution. Some of the articles included in AFRICA UPDATE are shortened.


1. Eritrea: Ethiopia-Eritrea border spat reignites

2. Nigeria: Media Monitor

3. Nigeria: Falae backs Ijaw struggle

4. Sierra Leone: On the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe

5. Guinea-Bissau: Calm returns to Bissau

6. Sudan: Rebel-held town bears testimony to brutal war

6. Senegal: Women researchers want more push

7. South Africa: Mandela's Parliament Speech on Internet Friday

8. Mozambique: Mozambicans sold as sex slaves


1. Eritrea: Ethiopia-Eritrea border spat reignites

Mail&Guardian (South Africa), 4 February 1999

Addis Ababa - Ethiopian and Eritrean gunners started exchanging non-stop
artillery barrages at dawn on Thursday on the Badme front in north-western
Ethiopia, the Addis Ababa government announced in a communique.

The Eritreans began bombarding Ethiopian positions at 6.00am local time
(0300 GMT) from their Gehamahlo position, the communique said. It added that
Eritrean gunners had bombarded Ethiopian positions on the Zala Anebsa front,
in northern Ethiopia, for 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned on Tuesday that warfare between
the two countries could resume "any day." He said then that the hundreds of
thousands of troops dug in along both sides of the disputed 1 000km-long
frontier were engaging in "intermittent" exchanges of artillery fire, but
the last Eritrean artillery bombardment officially announced by Ethiopia was
on January 23, on the Badme front.

He described the border situation as "no war, no peace", but said of resumed
fighting: "It could be any day." Conflict over the ill-defined border
erupted in May last year.

The Organisation of African Unity presented an 11-point peace plan in
November which provides notably for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from
positions they occupied at the start of the conflict, the six-month
deployment of a peacekeeping and observation force, and neutral delineation
of the ill-defined frontier. Ethiopia announced it had accepted that plan,
and the OAU last week responded to 29 questions Asmara posed on it.

Meanwhile, United Nations envoy for Africa Mohamed Sahnoun arrived on
Thursday in Addis Abbaba and met Ethiopian foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin
and was due to meet Meles later in the day. On Wednesday he went to Asmara
to meet Eritrean PPresident Isaias Afeworki, who reportedly said he
"considered positively the OAU framework as an ongoing process."


2. Nigeria: Media Monitor

Independent Journalism Centre (Nigeria), 4 February 1999

Lagos - The following document was released by Independent Journalism Centre
(Lagos) on February 3, 1999:

* Government to amend press council law

* Journalists appointed into transition council

* Contractor abandons broadcast station project

* Experts outline obstacles to telecoms

The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. John Nwodo, said in Abuja 27
January that the Government would amend the Press Council Law to give it
"more teeth".

At a national workshop on "The media, duty, patriotism and national
security", organised by the National War College, Nwodo said that the
amendment became necessary in view of the fact that the laws controlling the
practice of journalism had become "licentious".

He said that such laws had become "dangerous" because many of the practising
journalists did not receive enough training to prepare them for the task
ahead, a situation that had led to the presence of what he called
"interlopers" in the profession.

"There should be professional control", he said, adding that there were
plans to strengthen the Press Council so that it could control the conduct
of journalists while libel procedure would be unified throughout the country.

Nwodo said that government was making efforts to ensure that the Press
Council developed a harmonised curriculum for the training of Mass
Communication and Journalism students at all levels of tertiary education in
the country.

He said that many magazines and newspapers in the country had deviated from
the norms of journalism, especially that which states that truth is sacrosanct.

According to the minister, media houses also need some protection as plans
were underway to stop the proscription of newspaper houses through
government pronouncement.

He further said that plans were on to adopt a rule that would require
journalists to practise for a long time before they could become editors.

On national security, the minister said that the term needed an operational
definition so that government officials who did not have any excuse for
their action would not use it to hide their inadequacies.

He said, "there should be a distinction between what is public interest and
what is national security, as it was a matter of public interest for
Nigerians to know why certain things were happening to them and their country."

Two Senior editors of The News and TEMPO magazines have been appointed
members of a Transitional Council set up by Lagos state governor-elect, Bola
Ahmed Tinubu.

The council which includes a policy committee, a transition coordinating
committee and 23 sub-committees, is made up of professionals from various
fields like health, banking, media, agriculture, education, human rights.

Governor-elect Tinubu said the council is "to take stock of where Lagos
state is today, devise, design and develop strategies and priorities on the
way forward".


3. Nigeria: Falae backs Ijaw struggle

P.M. News (Nigeria) 4 February 1999

By Gboyega Ikusagba

Lagos - The Alliance for Democracy, AD, presidential flagbearer in the
south/west, Chief Olu Falae has justified the people of the Niger/Delta in
the ongoing onslaught between the Ijaw Youths and the state security forces.

According to the erstwhile secretary to the Federal Government, the fact
that the people produce about 90 percent of the nation's foreign exchange
with only poverty and squalor to show for it makes confrontation inevitable
for them when several calls on the Nigerian government to reverse its
measure in allocating revenue have fallen on deaf ears.

In his opinion, the Niger/Delta people should be given a fair share of what
is being taken from their land while jobs should be made available for
indigenes of the land. He described their situation as being very pathetic
in view of the fact that the oil which is being explored from the land has
culminated in serious economic disaster for people in the area as their
water and land have been degraded in the process.

"The people in the area are predominantly formers and fishermen and the fact
that the exploration has affected their land and water adversely make
poverty so much pronounced in the area" he stressed. He blamed the situation
on the Military governments who he claimed have derailed the country from
its federal structure to a military state where the centre now controls
everything in the country.

To him, unitary system as presently practised in Nigeria is only practicable
in a homogenous society where people have the same culture, language and
religion "but in an heterogenous society such as Nigeria, it is absolutely
impossible." As a way to put a lasting solution to the plight of the people,
Chief Olu Falae promised that his government, if elected the next civilian
president, would return the country to true federalism as contained in the
independence constitution.


4. Sierra Leone: On the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe

African Women Committee on Peace and Development, (Etiopia)

4 February 1999

Addis Ababa - The African Women Committee on Peace and Development, alarmed
at the serious deterioration of the political and military situation in
Sierra Leone now on the edge of a humanitarian catastrophe, expresses its
profound concern about the impact of the conflict on the people of Sierra
Leone, particularly women and children.

The Committee urges the international community to intensify its support for
the innocent victims of the conflict by fulfilling basic humanitarian needs
and providing assistance to ECOMOG forces to maintain Law and Order.

The Committee condemns attacks or use of force against civilians, in
violation of the relevant rules of International Law, and in particular
Humanitarian Law. The Committee further condemns the unacceptable attempt by
rebels and the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone to overthrow the
democratically elected Government and calls on them to lay down their arms
immediately and cease all violence.

The Committee strongly condemns all those who are supporting the rebels,
including through arms and mercenaries and expresses grave concern over the
involvement of countries in the sub-region with those wreaking havoc in
Sierra Leone. The Committee urges the United Nations to tighten the arm
embargo pronounced against Liberia, which has been reported to be the
conduit for rebels arms, stresses the obligation of neighboring states to
comply strictly with arms embargoes and requests that investigations be made
by relevant bodies on the matter.

The Committee, reaffirming its belief that lasting peace and national
reconciliation cannot be achieved through military means, urges the rebels
to open discussions with the Government on any rightful demands or
grievances they might have, resume dialogue with the Government and spare
the people of Sierra Leone further war and suffering. The Committee supports
all efforts to resolve the conflict in Sierra Leone and appeals to both
sides of the conflict to do all they can to cooperate with these efforts.

The Committee thus wishes to add its voice to all the other attempts
striving for a cessation of hostilities and calls for an immediate cease
fire. The Committee urges the OAU and UN to send peacekeeping forces to
support the results of any peace negotiations.

The Committee commends the efforts to resolve the conflict being undertaken
by the Government of President Kabbah and the approach to the crisis adopted
by the meeting of the Committee of Six on Sierra Leone of ECOWAS of 28
December 1998. The Committee reiterates, however, the importance of
involving the women of Sierra Leone at a meaningful level in efforts aimed
at resolving the conflict and underscores that peace building initiatives
that do not involve half of the society are inherently unsustainable .

The Committee therefore welcomes and strongly supports the initiatives taken
by the West African Women for Peace Crusade, and the Sierra Leonean women's
groups in this respect. The Committee therefore calls upon all the women in
Sierra Leone on either side of the conflict and at all levels to continue
taking the lead in promoting the causes of peace and national reconciliation
and actively advocate for and support the peace process in Sierra Leone.


5. Guinea-Bissau: Calm returns to Bissau

Panafrican News Agency (PANA), 4 February 1999

Dakar - Calm returned to Bissau Thursday following the signing of a
cease-fire agreement between Guinea Bissau President Joao Bernardo Vieira
and rebel leader, Gen. Ansumane Mane.

The agreement, signed under the auspices of current ECOWAS chairman and
Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, ended three days of fresh fighting
between mutineers and loyalist forces supported by troops from Senegal and
Guinea (Conakry) troops.

At least 80 people died in the fresh round of fighting that also left some
300 wounded, according to hospital sources in Bissau.

The fighting broke out last Sunday shortly before a contingent of 300
soldiers from Benin and Niger were about to disembark at the Bissau port
from the French ship, Siroco, to join the 175 Togolese peacekeepers already
deployed there under provisions of the Abuja agreements signed last November
authorising the deployment of a buffer force between areas held by the
warring parties.

Each side in the conflict blamed the other for the renewed hostilities.

Several sources spoke of the tense situation in Bissau, which had forced
residents to flee for safety either in the hinterlands or neighbouring

The sources also reported the shortage of food in Bissau, adding that the
Bissau hospital had run short of drugs and supplies.

A glimmer of hope had emerged after the formation of a government of
national unity and the beginning of the withdrawal of Senegalese and Guinean
troops as demanded by the rebels.

However, the French ship, which had to wait for three days off the coast of
Bissau with the peacekeepers on board, has been authorised to berth under
the terms of the cease-fire agreement.


6. Sudan: Rebel-held town bears testimony to brutal war

The Nation (Kenya), 4 February 1999

Nairobi - Overlying Southern Sudan, the picture is one of dense vegetation,
rivers and abandoned settlements with little or no visible activity, writes
John Gachie, Nation Foreign News Editor, who has just returned from a
week-long trip to the area. This is the second of a four-part series in
which he gives his impressions of the badly-damaged SPLA-held town of Yei.

Its rehabilitation, he says, is a multi-faceted undertaking of immense
political, economic and military value to the SPLA's New Sudan dream, and
perhaps, that is why it has repeatedly drawn the wrath of the Khartoum

Yei, the largest town under the control of the rebel Sudanese Peoples
Liberation Army (SPLA), is two-and-half hours away by plane, east of
Lokichogio. Our departure was slated for 7 am, but the twin-engine
turbo-prop plane originally from the Royal New Zealand Air Force Squadron
42, was late.

In the meantime, two United Nations Hercules planes, in quick succession,
took off heading for Southern Sudan to carry out their food-bombing mission
deep in the countryside.

Everyday, UN planes fly from Lokichogio on a variety of missions into
Southern Sudan.

The relief supplies are dropped in designated areas agreed on with the
Khartoum government. Lokichogio airstrip is a beehive of activity as the
morning shift gets into top gear, being the key logistical base for the
Sudanese aid programme.

Most aircraft would be UN or UN-leased, especially by the World Food
Programme, others would be for the International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) and, of course, freelance pilots on missions for other agencies not
operating under the auspices of the Operation Life Line Sudan (OLS).

At 7.20 am our plane took off for Yei with little by way of the usual
airline fare of "welcome aboard flight to Yei."

We were airborne cruising at about 20,000 feet in an easterly direction,
carrying two tonnes of medical supplies for three field hospitals operated
by the Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) in Chukuddum, Labone and Yei all in New
Sudan, as the SPLA of Colonel John Garang calls the "liberated" areas of
Southern Sudan.

The passengers and the cargo shared the same cabin and for the veterans of
the Sudanese bush operations, the ride was smooth though most of them were
perched on the medical supplies, making themselves as comfortable as can be
in the circumstances.

It was a classical bush run by dare-devil pilots apparently with little
regard for territorial integrity or sovereignty and, in particular, if the
claimant or offended party is the Khartoum government. For all intents and
purposes, the flight was duly authorised by the SPLA and was flying in
friendly airspace.

Indeed all the passengers had flight authorisation from the SPLA.

This early flight, it transpired, was the most frequent and safest of the
bush flights into Southern Sudan if you have no overflying rights from Khartoum.

Veterans know that Sudanese Air Force bombers, especially the Soviet Antonov
28 or 32 bombers would be prowling the skies and if unlucky, one could
encounter a MiG 21 jet fighter.

By mid-afternoon, the likelihood of being bombed by the slow-flying but
high-altitude Antonov on the ground is more real hence the need to fly in
and out Southern Sudan as early and as quickly as possible.

Overflying Southern Sudan one is quick to note that the vegetation is thick
but also the apparent lack of human settlement or activity on the ground.
Little is seen of wildlife or game.

Flying in silence and in apprehension both the newcomers and the veterans of
the Sudan bush runs are deep in thought occasionally looking out through the
windows anxiously waiting for the bush landing.

The landing at Yei airstrip was bumpy as the turbo-prop plane raced down the
single murram runway with dozens of heavily armed AK 47-toting SPLA soldiers
standing on the ready at the edge of the runway.

Some were armed with rocket grenade launchers lurking in burnt-out airstrip

As the plane came to a halt near anti-aircraft gun position, the veterans
swung into action, moving the supplies for Yei near the cargo door.

In less than 15 minutes, the Yei passengers and supplies had been off-loaded
and the plane was racing down the runway on its shuttle flight to Labone and
Chukkudum field hospitals to the west.

In another 10 minutes, a convoy of six Toyota Landcruiser vehicles was
headed for Yei town some 15 kilometres from the airstrip.

For the newcomer, the entry into Southern Sudan or New Sudan is an
experience, down a narrow earth road with pot-holes big enough to cover a
small car, burnt- out tree stumps and damaged T-54 Sudanese tanks and
personnel carriers line the road to Yei. Occasionally, appear a couple of
SPLA soldiers or locals carrying AK-47 rifles nonchalantly.

In the 20-minute drive to Yei town, the scene was repeated over and over
again but the burnt tank hulks and abandoned junk increase.

About five kilometres outside Yei, the sheer destruction of the town is laid
bare, here.

The empty shells of shops and other permanent structures and houses are
noticeable, none of the houses or shops or structures have a roof, doors,
windows or anything of metalic or moveable, the walls are pork-marked with
bullet and shell holes, the signs of a vicious and bitter gun-battle.

And what remained of the Yei town water treatment works, only jutting pipes,
damaged water tanks and destroyed structures remain.

Nearby, what remained of the then Yei town barracks is rumble of twisted
steel and rubble, the bridge across River Yei is all but a narrow single
lane with no protection barrier on either side.

To compound the problem, not all trees or paths or even the road is safe as
there are mines that need to be cleared and detonated, having been left
behind by fleeing Sudanese troops when the SPLA rebels threw them out in a
swift and ferocious three-day fighting from the Ugandan border areas in
March 1997.

The signs of the bitter fighting are evident as one draws closer to the town
centre, all buildings have the bullet and shell marks and the town's only
petrol station is looted bare, the underground tanks are all an ominous sign
of what happened here as the number of scattered burnt T-54 and other
armoured personnel carrier shells with their gun turrets destroyed bear
testimony. Its is strange the burnt tank shells are lonely with no children
playing about as would have been the case elsewhere.

For Yei, a town of more than 30,000 people, better known in its hey days as
Little London, the wheel has turned a full 360 degrees.

The town is on a slow road to recovery, but the road ahead is fraught with
immense challenges, the most immediate being the rehabilitation of the
infrastructure, the residential and community houses, the rebuilding of the
water and sewerage system and most vital and crucial the resuscitation of
the health system and civil society structures.

The rehabilitation of Yei is a multi-faceted multi-million dollar
undertaking and is of political, economic and military value to the SPLA's
New Sudan dream and perhaps, that is why the town has had a symbolic value
to the SPLA/SPLM and her allies and sympathisers and drawn the wrath of the
Khartoum government.


6. Senegal: Women researchers want more push

Panafrican News Agency (PANA), 4 February 1999

By Aly Coulibaly

Dakar - Penda Mbow is a research assistant at the Cheikh Anta Diop
University of Dakar where she teaches history.

She has already conducted indepth research on Islam and Slavery in Muslim
countries and earnestly wants to do more. But she has not even been able to
publish the works produced in 1992 for lack of financial resources.

Awa Faye's case is not different, even though she is involved in the crucial
domain of medicine at the Fann Hospital, also in the Senegalese capital.

She says she has conducted clinical research on tetanus, malaria, HIV/AIDS
and meningitis which have virtually remained dormant because of lack of funding.

These handicaps discourage women in joining the world of academia.

Women constitute 16 percent of the teachers in all faculties and schools of
the Cheikh Anta Diop University. They make up 26 percent of researchers in
higher education in the country of 8.6 million people, according the latest

In 1996, close to 15 percent of the lecturers in the Arts and Humanities
faculty were women against 20 percent of women working with researchers at
the Fundamental Institute for Black Africa.

''In order to have a greater number of women in research, there is the need
to apply some kind of positive discrimination in employment'' in favour of
women, says Jeanne Lopis Sylla, a researcher at the Linguistics laboratory
of the institute, who has many published works to her credit.

All three women -- Penda, Awa and Jeanne -- believe that the quality of work
done by women researchers, the seriousness of their commitment in collective
research programmes are commendable, though barely recognised.

In any case, their academic achievements tend to be undermined by social ad
psychological biases in a field largely dominated by men.

For instance, only 36 out of 257 Grade Two research assistants selected in
1995 were women. UNESCO education specialists are also worried over the near
absence of women in the decision-making process at all levels of education
in Africa.

According to UNESCO, an average of between 5 percent and 7 percent of the
post of University rectors and vice-chancellors are held by women. This
proportion should be increased in order to attain the ideal of parity

This concern on the part of UNESCO comes as a relief to Penda, Awa and
Jeanne, who believe that a researcher's view of society, despite the
constrainst involved, is very important.

Jeanee believes that any researcher, male or female, is primarily concerned
with the quest for excellence through objectivity. The gender is immaterial.

Experts say inadequate funding is the bane of research in Africa, though the
womenfolk suffer the greater handicap, largely because here academics is
supposed to be the preserve of the menfolk.

''Carrying out a clinical research presupposes the ability to conduct
adapted diagnosis as it is the case in other parts of the world,'' Awa
points out.

For her, lack of financial means is difficult to accept ''especially when
one lives and works with sick people.''

Jeanne suggests that the university, state or donor agencies could help
initiate further supporti programmes involving or undertaken by women.

A good researcher cannot work without textbooks and journals, says Penda,
spends some 25,000 CFA francs on local newspapers and about 60,000 francs on
textbooks on a simple reasearch study.

She says good libraries, well equipped research laboratories and, above all,
better remuneration to researchers irrespective of gender would go a long
way in boosting research work by women who have dared to venture into the field.

In Senegal, university lecturers earn between 150,000 and 500,000 CFA francs.


7. South Africa: Mandela's Parliament Speech on Internet Friday

Panafrican News Agency, 4 February 1999

Cape Town - Transparency enters a new era with the live Internet broadcast
of South African President Nelson Mandela's historic final state of the
nation address to parliament in Cape Town Friday.

For the first time, cyber surfers around the world will be able to enter the
government's new official website and watch as the present accounts to the
people of South Africa for the achievements and challenges of the first
momentous five-year term of post-apartheid governance.

"Without the efforts of our international friends, we would have waited much
longer for democracy in South Africa. Many thousands already visit our
website daily and we are delighted that they will be also able to share this
historic occasion with us. This live broadcast will be the first of many,"
presidential spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said.

Mandela is expected to pay a glowing tribute to the African National
Congress government in his one-hour speech.

Official sources said Mandela will emphasise progress in delivering services
such as water, telephones and electricity to poor South Africans.

The government has built some 600,000 houses, 400,000 houses short of the
promised one million dwellings, and provided water to three million more
homes. Half the country's homes have electricity, compared with fewer than
one-third before the 1994 all-race elections.

The opening of parliament will be attended by 490 members of parliament, who
will be required to process the 41 pieces of legislation identified by
Cabinet as priority legislation.

Among the priority bills set for debate in the National Assembly and the
National Council of Provinces are the controversial pieces of legislation
which were returned by Mandela to Parliament.

These are the Tobacco Control Amendment Bill, the Liquor Bill and the
Broadcasting Bill. Other bills will be submitted from the departments of
justice, mineral and energy, finance, defence, welfare and transport.

Mandela's address to parliament will be broadcast on the government
communications website at from 1100 (0900 GMT) Friday.


8. Mozambique: Mozambicans sold as sex slaves

Panafrican News Agency, 4 February 1999

Johannesburg - Young Mozambican girls are being sold as sex slaves in South
Africa, after being enticed into the country with false promises of
employment, according to the South African police.

The police said hundreds of young Mozambicans were smuggled across the
border by this new brand of slave trader last week. Some have already been
sold as sex slaves in the Pretoria area.

It is unclear how many Mozambicans in all have been enslaved, but the
business appears to have been going on since at least 1994.

However, the police have arrested one man in Winterveld, north of Pretoria,
who confessed to have been smuggling girls into the country since 1994.

The police freed several girls and young women, aged between 13 and 25, who
had entered South Africa illegally last week and were in the custody of the

The man was detained after one of the slaves earlier escaped, and alerted
the residents of Winterveld about happenings in their midst.

The arrested man had at least 20 Mozambicans under his control, and had
already sold 12 others, while some had fled into the Pretoria region.

Inspector Amos Phalane at the Winterveld police station said that a cartel
has been operating in the area, selling girls to clients, since 1994.

He said clients pay between 300 and 500 rands (nearly 100 US dollars) per girl.

The buyers select the girls they want, and those who are not so attractive
are forced to work in bars and other places, where they eventually become

The police have released the names of some of the Mozambicans they freed
(but withheld the names of the 13-year-olds).

The victims said they had been smuggled over the border in the back of a
truck, and had been promised good jobs and living conditions in South Africa.

The police revealed another case involving young Mozambicans of both sexes
who were forced into sexual slavery, or obliged to undertake forced labour
in the Vosloorus area, on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Seven Mozambican girls recruited in late 1998 and sold as sex slaves in
Johannesburg's central Hillbrow neighbourhood were freed. But they rejected
assistance offered by the Mozambican consulate to ensure they returned home
safely, according to Aristides Andiano, second secretary at the consulate.

In September, the police detained a couple who were keeping 18 young male
Mozambicans in captivity in Dennilton, in Mpumalanga province, awaiting to
be sold to local farmers as slave labourers.

Such slaves can buy their freedom in the unlikely event of having 450 rands
(90 dollars) to do so.

Slaves who have escaped say that the traffickers also threaten disobedient
captives will be dumped into the Kruger National Park, on the border with
Mozambique, where the danger of meeting up with hungry lions is considerable.

Last year at least five Mozambicans, who attempted crossing the park in the
hope of finding employment in Mpumalanga, were devoured by lions.