Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Ethnic clashes continue to wreck havoc in western Ivory Coast. Although a ceasefire has held firm in the rest of Cote d'Ivoire since 3 May last year, there have been continued clashes near the Liberian frontier in an area that has become known as the "Wild West." Most of these have involved informal gangs of gun and machete wielding fighters organised on ethnic lines. Last year many of these skirmishes and raids involved indisciplined bands of Liberian militiamen armed by both the government and rebels before the ceasefire. However, in recent months most have been confrontations between villagers of the local Guere tribe and settlers from Burkina Faso, Guinea and other parts of Cote d'Ivoire who grow cocoa in the region, reports IRIN. The western region was a stronghold of the MPIGO rebels who were more notoriously indisciplined than the MPCI group who controlled the north of the country.

In a related story, the UN information service reports that 50,000 returnees in need of assistance in [Guinea]. The fighting in Ivory Coast has displaced nearly 50,000 Guineans living in that country. Those that returned are living in precarious conditions in remote areas inGuinea near the Ivorian border and urgently need assistance, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In fact, that number includes a dozen or so relatives of a close friend of mine living in northeastern Guinea. There are so many displaced people in southern border regions of Guinea that returnees now [represent] eight percent of the population in the remote frontier prefectures of Lola, Beyla, Kankan, Mandiana and N'Zerekore. It also noted that 50 percent of the returnees were children. The returnees live in more difficult circumstances than the 80,000 refugees in Guinea from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. [U]nlike the returnees, the refugees receive substantial aid from the UN refugee agency UNHCR and several other relief organisations.

The Star runs an article with a delicious title: Jackboot on the other foot for crony of Mugabe's. One of dictator Robert Mugabe's relatives has been tossed in prison. The South African daily notes [Philip] Chiyangwa, Zanu-PF chairperson of Mashonaland West province, was arrested over the weekend while Mugabe was out of the country - and police have defied a High Court order that he be released. Chiyangwa was arrested on Saturday after being implicated in a Z$61-billion [approximately US$1400 million] fraud scandal. The flamboyant Chiyangwa, a black empowerment crusader, has now gone back to court in a bid to force the police to respect the High Court order. But magistrate Sukai Tongogara ordered that he be remanded in custody until today while she considers the application. Previously, the police have defied court orders only in favour of Mugabe's enemies.


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