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DATE=6/9/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-250422 TITLE=NIGERIA/CLASHES UPDATE (L/S VER) BYLINE=JOHN PITMAN DATELINE=ABIDJAN CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: AFTER MORE THAN 10 DAYS OF VIOLENCE, CALM HAS REPORTEDLY RETURNED TO THE CITY OF WARRI, IN SOUTHEASTERN NIGERIA. VOA'S JOHN PITMAN HAS MORE FROM OUR WEST AFRICA BUREAU. TEXT: ON WEDNESDAY, A HEAVY POLICE AND ARMY PRESENCE WAS REPORTED ON THE STREETS OF WARRI. WITNESSES SAY ORDINARY PEOPLE WERE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE CALM TO LEAVE THEIR HOMES IN SEARCH OF SUPPLIES. OVER THE LAST 10 DAYS, UP TO 200 PEOPLE HAVE DIED IN CLASHES IN AND AROUND WARRI BETWEEN GANGS OF YOUTHS FROM THE IJAW, ITSEKERI AND URHOBO ETHNIC GROUPS. /// OPT FOR LONG VERSION; KEEP FOR SHORT VERSION /// NEWS REPORTS SAY MANY PARTS OF WARRI WERE BURNED IN THE FIGHTING, WHICH ALSO FORCED HUNDREDS OF RESIDENTS TO FLEE THEIR HOMES. /// END OPT /// AT ISSUE BETWEEN THE GROUPS IS A DISAGREEMENT OVER THE PLACEMENT AND CONTROL OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICES. /// OPT FOR LONG /// ALL OF THE GROUPS CLAIM TO HAVE BEEN PERSECUTED OR IGNORED OVER THE YEARS BY THE FORMER MILITARY GOVERNMENT, WHICH THEY ACCUSE OF RULING THROUGH ETHNIC FAVORITISM. /// END OPT /// THE APPARENT PAUSE IN THE VIOLENCE COINCIDES WITH THE POSTPONEMENT OF A MAJOR SUMMIT ON THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS FACING THE NIGER RIVER DELTA. THE SUMMIT WAS TO HAVE BROUGHT TOGETHER LOCAL ACTIVISTS, OIL COMPANY REPRESENTATIVES, AS WELL AS A GOVERNMENT DELEGATION LED BY PRESIDENT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO. A NEW DATE FOR THE SUMMIT HAS NOT YET BEEN ANNOUNCED. /// REST OPT -- DROP FOR SHORT VERSION /// THIS LATEST EXPLOSION OF VIOLENCE IN THE DELTA, AND THE POSTPONED SUMMIT, COMES LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AFTER PRESIDENT OBASANJO TOOK OFFICE, AMID PROMISES TO WORK FOR A QUICK RESOLUTION TO THE CRISIS IN THE DELTA. TO DO THIS, THE NEW PRESIDENT WILL NOT ONLY HAVE TO DEFUSE THE ETHNIC TENSIONS, BUT ALSO ADDRESS THE EFFECTS OF DECADES OF UNDER-DEVELOPMENT IN THE DELTA, ESPECIALLY POVERTY. NEWS OF THE SUMMIT'S POSTPONEMENT ALSO COMES AS PRESIDENT OBASANJO BEGINS CLEANING HOUSE (MAKING CHANGES) IN THE TOP RANKS OF THE NIGERIAN MILITARY. ON T/U/E/S/D/A/Y, THE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCED THE RETIREMENT OF 11 TOP-RANKING GENERALS, INCLUDING TWO FORMER COMMANDERS OF THE WEST AFRICAN "ECOMOG" PEACEKEEPING FORCES IN LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE. ACCORDING TO AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT, THE RETIREMENTS OF FORMER ECOMOG COMMANDERS GENERAL TIMOTHY SHELPIDI AND GENERAL RUFUS KUPOLATI -- AS WELL AS THE NINE OTHER TOP OFFICERS -- WERE ALL VOLUNTARY. SINCE TAKING OFFICE ON MAY 29TH, GENERAL OBASANJO HAS MADE REORGANIZING AND DE-POLITICIZING THE MILITARY A TOP PRIORITY. (SIGNED) NEB/JP/PCF 09-Jun-99 3:18 PM EDT (1918 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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