Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 27 March
Humanitarian sources in Angola on Tuesday confirmed a UNITA rebel attack on the airport of the northern city of Uige, but told IRIN no serious damage was inflicted and the airport was still operational. In a statement sent to AFP in Lisbon, UNITA claimed seven soldiers and 10 policemen died in the raid which they alleged also destroyed some of the airport's buildings. In the same statement, UNITA also claimed to have taken control of the town of Karipande, near Cazombo in the eastern province of Moxico, killing 65 police officers. The statement made no mention of UNITA's losses.
ANGOLA: Civilians flee UNITA raid
An attack by UNITA rebels on an Angolan military post in the south of the country on Monday sent scores of civilians fleeing across the Kavango river and into northern Namibia, the 'Namibian' newspaper reported. It said that more than 100 villagers crossed the border into eastern Kavango following "heavy fighting", and two were admitted to hospital. The newspaper reported that it was believed UNITA attacked the post to loot food and supplies.
Meanwhile, Namibian immigration officials last week confirmed that 36 refugees from Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi were sheltering at the Casava transit camp near the Kavango provincial capital, Rundu. The official Nampa news agency said preparations were being made to transport them to the Osire refugee camp. An immigration official said the refugees from Congo and Burundi had crossed into Namibia from Zambia.
ZIMBABWE-DRC: Kabila non-committal on withdrawal of allies
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila on Tuesday said the withdrawal of allied troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia would take place only when "the objectives that brought them to the Congo have been fulfilled", AFP reported. Kabila was addressing the Zimbabwean parliament. Uganda and Rwanda, which support rebel groups battling to overthrow his government, have already taken some of their forces home.
Kabila expressed satisfaction at the troop disengagement under way in his war-ravaged country. "I am glad to note that encouraging signs have been reported on the front lines, except for a few cases of violations in the northern part of the country, where the enemy attempted to gain ground during the disengagement operation."
Under an accord reached in December, all the belligerent parties in the former Zaire agreed to pull back 15 km from front-line positions by this coming Thursday. Kabila said that according to reports coming from the UN observer mission in the country, MONUC, the ceasefire was holding. Kabila called for the deployment of more observers. Under the accord, MONUC, protected by 3,000 troops would deploy and verify the disengagement after Thursday.
Kabila has been visiting Zimbabwe for two days, his first official visit to an African country since he was installed in January following the assassination of his father Laurent Kabila. The parliamentary session was boycotted by Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) lawmakers. The MDC has been opposed to the country's expensive involvement in the two-and-half-year-old war, arguing that the intervention benefits only a few individuals in the ruling party and government, while costing the tax payer dearly.
Earlier on Tuesday Kabila urged Zimbabwean companies to invest in his mineral-rich country, saying they should take advantage of the strong political ties between the two states. "I hope that this attention demonstrated here will translate into you coming to the (Congo) to look at opportunities to invest," Reuters quoted him as saying in a speech to 200 business leaders in Harare. Kabila added that a bilateral agreement to ease trade barriers between the two countries should make it easier for Zimbabweans to do business in the DRC.
Kabila held talks with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Monday that focused mainly on economic cooperation, officials said. Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the discussions included Zimbabwe's plans to import 450 megawatts of electricity from DRC, as well as potential investments in agriculture.
ZIMBABWE: New legislation targets Britons, opposition and broadcasters
New legislation published in Zimbabwe on Monday would undermine the right of Britons to reside in the country, bar foreign financial support for political parties, and introduce stiff new broadcasting regulations, news agencies reported.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill forces people who simultaneously hold Zimbabwe and British citizenship to choose between staying in the country after relinquishing their British nationality, or renouncing Zimbabwe citizenship and applying for permanent residence. The British High Commission had previously estimated that up to 26,000 Britons live in Zimbabwe, but said it had no idea of how many simultaneously held Zimbabwe passports, DPA reported.
Also gazetted on Monday was the Political Parties (Finance) Bill which means to make it illegal for any member of a political party to receive foreign funding. "This is so sweeping as to make it nonsensical," Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary-general Welshman Ncube commented. "If a friend overseas wants to give me a watch for Christmas, it is illegal. It typifies the complete insanity pervading this government."
Under Zimbabwe's tough new broadcasting law published on Monday the government is to license only one radio and one television service, aside from the existing services of the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the official ZIANA news agency said. Pirate broadcasters face up to two years' imprisonment or a US $90,000 fine. Zimbabwe's Supreme Court in September broke the government monopoly on the airwaves, and one week later the nation's first private radio station began broadcasting in Harare. But the government quickly declared Capital Radio's broadcasts illegal, and police seized all the station's equipment, despite a High Court order barring them from doing so. The new law is a response to the Supreme Court ruling.
ZIMBABWE: Appeal for flood relief funds
Zimbabwe's Department of Civil Protection has appealed for US $550,000 to repair infrastructure including roads and bridges destroyed by flash floods in February, a report on Monday by AlertNet said. Severe flooding hit northern and northeastern Zimbabwe in February, killing 13 people and making 30,000 homeless. Bridges and roads were washed away in the Guruve, Muzarabani and Centenary districts of Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Masvingo and in Tsholotsho district in Matabeleland North province, the report said.
SOUTH AFRICA-ZIMBABWE: Manuel defends government stance
South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel has defended his country's "quiet diplomacy" approach to the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, saying there was little point in his government "shouting at its neighbour across the Limpopo", the 'Financial Times' reported.
"I don't think we should be asked to apologise for talking in the way that we do. We can't afford an implosion in any one of our neighbouring states," he said on Monday. South Africa has come under pressure to take a more forceful stance towards finding a resolution to instability and democratic infringements in Zimbabwe, the newspaper reported. But President Thabo Mbeki has pursued a policy of constructive engagement with Robert Mugabe, his Zimbabwean counterpart, and has allowed Zimbabwe to build up considerable arrears for the supply of its power with Eskom, the South African electricity utility, to alleviate its economic crisis.
In a presentation to investors in London, Manuel distanced his country's land reform policies from the land invasions that have taken place in Zimbabwe and emphasised that South Africa could not be held accountable for its neighbour's woes. He acknowledged that land issues in the two countries were similar but said that reform in South Africa would be undertaken under judicial supervision and within the ambit of the constitution. "In South Africa, the land issues may appear similar but the measures of treating them are qualitatively different," he commented.
SOUTH AFRICA: Harassment and rape hampering girls' education
In schools across South Africa, thousands of girls of every race and economic group are encountering sexual violence and harassment that impede their access to education, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released on Tuesday. School authorities rarely challenge the perpetrators, and many girls interrupt their education or leave school altogether because they feel vulnerable to sexual assault and exposure to HIV/AIDS, the report concludes.
'Scared at School: Sexual Violence Against Girls in South African Schools', confirms earlier reports that sexual violence is especially rampant in South African schools, and also outlines the negative effects this has on girls' education - the most important basis for gender equality - in that country, the US-based rights group said.
Girls are learning that sexual violence and abuse are an inescapable part of going to school every day, so they don't go, said Erika George, counsel to the Academic Freedom Program at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. "South African officials say they're committed to educational equality. If they mean it, they must address the problem of sexual violence in schools, without delay."
Girls fall victims to fellow students, but more often to teachers and school employees. Teachers can misuse their authority to sexually abuse girls, sometimes reinforcing sexual demands with threats of corporal punishment or promises of better grades, or even money. Typical assaults are rape and sexual coercion by teachers and school employees, sexual abuse, advances, and harassment by teachers, abuses of authority taking advantage of vulnerability, "dating" relationships, rape and sexual violence by fellow students, sexual harassment and violence in transit to and from school.
To view the report visit: http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/03/sa-0327.htm
SOUTH AFRICA: NAM health ministers call for cheaper drugs
Health ministers from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) adopted a declaration in Johannesburg on Tuesday stating that poor countries had a right to resort to special measures to source cheap medicines including treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, news reports said.
"Countries should not be hindered in their efforts to exercise the options available to them under international agreements ... to access life-saving and essential medicines," the declaration issued at the close of the 25th NAM health ministers meeting was quoted as saying. The resolution was adopted by delegates from 33 countries and 20 health ministers.
The resolution said poor countries should be allowed various options, including parallel importation of medicines and compulsory licensing. The health ministers also declared their support for the South African government in its court battle with 39 big pharmaceutical companies over measures to access cheap medicine.
AFRICA: Damage to agriculture from storm-related disasters must be reduced
Citing the need to reduce the impact of storm-related disasters on agriculture, FAO has proposed a disaster management strategy, a statement by the Rome-based agency said.
Storm-related disasters have increased in frequency and intensity during the past decade. In tropical areas, the devastation caused by hurricanes rose dramatically during the 1990s, due in part to the increased population living in storm-prone areas, a FAO report said on Monday. "The economic cost of damage to crops and infrastructure from floods in Central America in 1998 was estimated at US $8.5 billion and that in Mozambique (February-March 2000) at US $1 billion, reflecting a substantial dent in the GDP of the countries affected," the report indicated.
Each vulnerable country or region needs a strategy that incorporates long-term measures to reduce vulnerability to storm-related disasters. Measures should be integrated in the overall development program of the country, and in particular for storm and flood-prone areas. In addition, the strategy should include an early-warning and storm-forecasting system and a preparedness plan for relief and rehabilitation.
"A long-term development programme for reducing agricultural vulnerability to storm-related disasters should be developed on the basis of land-use evaluations, vulnerability and risk assessments, inventory of traditional community land-management practices and local coping strategies, as well as an assessment and identification of crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry practices and farming systems suitable for vulnerable areas," the report said.
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