Angola + 7 more

IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 11 covering the period 11-17 March 2000

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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for Southern Africa
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Fax: +27 11 880 1421
e-mail: irin-sa@irin.org.za

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Regional humanitarian flood relief operations

As a major international humanitarian relief operation continued to alleviate the plight of hundreds of thousands of flood victims across southern Africa this week, UN officials told IRIN they were starting to gradually switch the focus from the acute emergency phase to longer term rehabilitation and reconstruction.

In Nairobi, Kenya, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's outgoing Special Humanitarian Envoy to Mozambique, Ross Mountain, this week praised the rapid international response to the crisis. He also lauded the government's cooperation with the international humanitarian community.

Earlier, the Paris Club of creditor nations agreed to suspend, rather than cancel Mozambique's debt repayments. Mozambique's Foreign Minister, Leonardo Simao, said the decision fell short of regional demands that the debt be
cancelled.

Although he called it a step in the right direction, he said he hoped all bilateral and multilateral debt would be cancelled later this year so that the country can rebuild its infrastructure.

Flood relief operations continued throughout the week despite rainy spells in Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. Detailed IRIN reports on the operations, Mountain's remarks and the debt alleviation and other related issues can be viewed at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Epidemic risk due to floods

More than 10 million people face the risk of epidemics as the result of the floods in the region, the health ministers of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa said in a statement at the weekend.

The ministers said they were concerned at the possible spread of infection through the deficiency of drinking water as the majority of flood-hit areas do not have functioning water systems. They formed a committee to collect information about the number of displaced persons in their countries who are in need of accommodation, the regular supply of drinking water and all cases of malaria, diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid and meningitis.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Protecting civilians in armed conflict

A two-day workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe aimed at bringing an African perspective to humanitarian issues involving the protection of civilians in armed conflicts this week expressed concern that civilians in conflict are being deliberately targeted and their rights systematically violated.

Organised by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), the workshop participants included high-level government officials, military personnel, policy analysts, think-tanks and civil society representatives as well as international and regional organisations mainly from Southern Africa.

The 35 participants suggested that an African culture of peace needed to be promoted, and should include provisions for early warning of impending conflicts and early action. The workshop also emphasised the need for further work in the region in the fields of advocacy, research, education and training.

The workshop examined concrete proposals for improving the protection of civilians in armed conflicts and agreed on ways of forging partnerships between OCHA and African think-tanks on humanitarian policy issues and advocacy, an OCHA statement said.

The co-hosts of the workshop, Martin Barber of OCHA and Dr Donald Chimanikire of IDS stressed that the workshop was not a "once-off" event, but should mark the beginning of joint policy initiatives in the region.

Participants also agreed that special efforts were needed to protect the rights of children and women in conflict situations.

The UN reported in 1997 that there were over nine million internally displaced persons and 4.5 million refugees in Africa because of armed conflict. Many of these victims were exposed to systematic atrocities and had no adequate physical protection as they had been forced to flee their homes, leaving behind their families and possessions.

ANGOLA: UN report names African, and European sanctions busters

The UN Security Council this week began hearing from African and European nations which were been accused in a new report this week of violating sanctions against the UNITA rebel movement in Angola.

The report was prepared by a panel of experts established by the Security Council under Robert Fowler, the Canadian UN ambassador who chairs the Angola sanctions committee. It said that three African countries, Togo, Rwanda and Burkina Faso, had been breaking the sanctions by providing UNITA with fuel and arms.

It also said Belgium had failed to stop the import of illicit diamonds, and that UNITA had been buying weapons directly from Bulgaria, a country seeking to join NATO.

Officials said the Security Council was scheduled to hear from the representatives of each of the countries named prior to considering the report's recommendations that steps be taken against the nations accused of illegally profiting from the 30-year Angolan civil war. The report said UNITA, led by Jonas Savimbi, had been able to pay for its illegal weapons with diamonds mined from the territory under its control.

The panel of nine experts, under Fowler, took six months to compile the report. In it Fowler stressed that the purpose of the Security Council "was not to punish UNITA but rather to promote a political settlement" by requiring UNITA to comply with the obligations it undertook when it signed the 1991 Bicesse Peace Accord and the UN-brokered 1994 Lusaka Protocol peace accords. The idea was to limit "UNITA's ability to pursue its objectives by military means".

The report also said western European countries have unofficial UNITA presence without direct support of these governments. These UNITA representatives are said to be most active in Belgium, France and Portugal. Switzerland and the United States also have UNITA representation.

Sections of the report were leaked to the media in New York earlier in the week prompting all the countries named to issue statements of denial.

ANGOLA: UN allegations denied

In Brussels, a government spokesman said Belgium would defend itself against charges that lax controls on the Antwerp diamond market, which handles 80 percent of the world's uncut diamonds, had enabled the sale of UNITA diamonds.

The spokesman said Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign minister currently on a week-long visit to Angola and other African countries, would make it clear the country's eight-month-old coalition government was publicly committed to tightening the controls. The Belgian government said it viewed some of the criticism as "harsh" and would tell the Security Council that Brussels was considering appointing UN observers in Antwerp's Diamond High Council.

The panel of nine experts, under Fowler, took six months to compile the report. In it Fowler stressed that the purpose of the Security Council "was not to punish UNITA but rather to promote a political settlement" by requiring UNITA to comply with the obligations it undertook when it signed the 1991 Bicesse Peace Accord and the UN-brokered 1994 Lusaka Protocol peace accords. The idea was to limit "UNITA's ability to pursue its objectives by military means".

Meanwhile, the rebel movement, reacted to the report in statement in Portuguese e-mailed to IRIN by saying: "It is with considerable repulsion and disdain that UNITA takes note of the false speculation raised by Mr Fowler.

"As we have always said, the unjust sanctions imposed against UNITA by the UN reflect the arrogance and racism of those who pretend to serve the needs of ordinary Angolans so that they can exploit the country's petroleum and diamond resources."

The report accused Rwanda's vice-president Paul Kagame of allowing UNITA leaders into the country to arrange diamond sales and weapons deals. "The government of Rwanda categorically denies these allegations and reserves the right to address them squarely when the report is officially presented to the Security Council," a Rwandan government statement said.

Togo's president, Gnassingbe Eyadema, allegedly provided money to family members of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi and helped ship weapons to the rebels. Eyadema is alleged in the report to have at least once received a "passport size" package of diamonds from Savimbi. Togo's government dismissed the charges as "baseless".

South Africa said it would follow up on charges that some of its nationals were doing business with UNITA and take necessary legal action.

The report also said western European countries have unofficial UNITA presence without direct support of these governments. These UNITA representatives are said to be most active in Belgium, France and Portugal. Switzerland and the United States also have UNITA representation.

ANGOLA: Luanda without water for past week

Residents of the Angolan capital Luanda have been without running water since Tuesday last week following a cut to the city's water mains.

Maria Flynn, Information Officer for WFP, told IRIN on Wednesday the authorities expected to have the system up and running again on Friday. "We are very concerned about the school children and those in nursing homes around the city who are beneficiaries of our feeding programme," Flynn said.

People in Luanda said temperatures at this time of year are high and that many were suffering as a result of the cut which came without warning. Government officials quoted by the official media blamed technical problems.

ANGOLA: Journalists in court

The trial of three prominent Angolan journalists charged with writing and publishing "defamatory" articles against President Eduardo Jose dos Santos, started in Luanda's provincial court last week and was conducted in public, against the state's wishes to hold the hearings in secret, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) told IRIN this week.

Rafael Marques, appeared together with the editor of 'Agora' newspaper Antonio Freitas and the director of the newspaper Aguiar dos Santos. MISA representatives in Namibia told IRIN that the accused journalists have filed a brief of about 20 pages and offered about 500 pages of documents as evidence in their defence.

Marques was arrested last October after writing an article in 'Folha 8', an independent bi-weekly newspaper, in which he accused the Angolan president of being a dictator who made personal gains out of the country's 25-year civil war. He was detained for 41 days before being released on bail of US $80 under strict conditions that included denying him the right to travel outside Angola.

"The plaintiff, President Dos Santos, will be called upon to declare whether or not he accepts the defendants' declaration," said the MISA official. He added that if Dos Santos accepted the journalists' declaration, the charges would be dropped. If he does not, the trial will go ahead.

Amnesty International last November said that 20 Angolan journalists were detained last year on charges of defaming or slandering the state and crimes against the security of the state. It said that journalists' homes and premises were searched and materials confiscated. Journalists have also been made to sign agreements that they would not publish or broadcast certain information, Amnesty International added.

ZIMBABWE: Ex-guerrillas threaten war

Veterans of Zimbabwe's independence struggle this week threatened to go back to war and declare a military government if the ruling ZANU-PF of President Robert Mugabe loses parliamentary elections scheduled next month.

Quoting Andrew Ndlovu of the War Veterans Association, news reports said if the opposition won the elections a military government would be installed for five years "to set things straight". Ndlovu's comments follow the trouncing of ZANU-PF in the recent referendum on a draft constitution that proposed to increase Mugabe's executive powers and grant the state the right to seize white-owned farms without paying compensation.

The war veterans, shortly after the referendum, started a mass invasion of white-owned farms, an action Mugabe publicly supported.

ZIMBABWE: Britain accused of "crusade" against Harare

Zimbabwe Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge has accused British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain of engaging in a relentless verbal onslaught against the Zimbabwean government.

In a statement carried by 'The Herald' newspaper, he said Hain "has been on an unprecedented anti-Zimbabwe crusade". Britain recalled its ambassador from Harare last Thursday to protest the opening of British diplomatic bags by customs authorities. Hain said Zimbabwe violated diplomatic protocol and had behaved in an ''uncivilized'' way by forcing open the shipment.

Mudenge said Hain was a "loose cannon" who had repeatedly criticized Zimbabwe over its internal governance, in particular the confiscation of white-owned land. "Up until now I have chosen to ignore these unprovoked utterances as the excesses and over zealousness of a junior minister keen to make a name for himself," Mudenge said.

ZIMBABWE: Trial set for journalists

Two journalists of 'The Standard' newspaper are scheduled to appear before a full bench of appeal judges on 20 March arising out of an article they published last year alleging a military coup plot against President Robert Mugabe, the media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) reported on Wednesday.

In a constitutional test case, the lawyers for the two journalists, Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto, will challenge the validity of Section 50 (2) of the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA), under which they were charged. Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa has argued that the legislation used by the pre-independence regime of Ian Smith should remain in the statute books.

In a widely reported case, both men sustained serious injuries as a result of torture while in military police detention in January last year.

ZIMBABWE: Editors warned

In a separate development, MISA reported that the two senior editors of the 'Zimbabwe Independent' had been cautioned over a Reuters picture the paper on March 3 showing a group of naked Austrians in a stampede to take advantage of a special offer outside a Vienna department store.

Editor-in-Chief Trevor Ncube and Deputy Editor Iden Wetherell on Tuesday made "warned-and-cautioned" statements at Harare Central Police Station. MISA said police were making "inquiries" under the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act. The editors, in a statement, insisted the picture was not indecent.

"At a time when Zimbabweans are facing unprecedented hardships as a result of gross economic mismanagement and corruption it is significant that the attorney-general, a member of the cabinet, has instructed the police to investigate a newspaper that has been outspoken in its criticism of government for not upholding the rule of law," said a statement signed by Ncube.

NAMIBIA: Rocket attacks in Rundu

At least two of four 122 mm rockets fired from Angola on Sunday landed near the high-density residential area of Sauyemwa, just one km from the tense northern Namibian border town of Rundu, 'The Namibian' reported this week. No one was injured in the attacks.

The newspaper said the other two rockets, allegedly fired by Angolan UNITA rebels, hit an open space near a hut on the southern side of the Kehemu settlement on the outskirts of Rundu. The report added that when the shelling started, people who had gathered at a recreational spot near the town fled the "Rundu Beach".

A Namibian Defence Force (NDF) spokesman confirmed the explosions, but added: "There is nothing like war here in Rundu. Explosions don't mean people are fighting."

Meanwhile, suspected UNITA rebels reportedly shot dead and robbed two people last Friday along the Trans-Caprivi highway when they attacked a government vehicle in the country's far northeast, 'The Namibian' said.

An NDF spokesman told the newspaper that a group of between 10 and 20 attackers were involved in the incident. The report said the attack brings to 12 the number of known people shot dead in suspected UNITA attacks since Namibia allowed Angolan government forces to operate from its territory last November.

ZAMBIA: New deadline for mine sales

The sale of 70 percent of Zambia's copper mining industry is now scheduled to be completed by the end of this month, South African-owned Anglo American said this week. The sale would be entered into between the government-owned Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) and Zambia Copper Investments (ZCI), a unit of Anglo American.

"Subject to the fulfilment of remaining conditions, which include the approval of ZCI shareholders, completion of the transactions are now scheduled to occur on 31 March," Anglo and ZCI reportedly said in a joint statement.

Konkola Copper Mines plc, a subsidiary of ZCI, will acquire ZCCM's assets of Nchanga, Konkola and Nampundwe mines in which ZCI will hold a 65 percent stake. The International Finance Corporation and the Commonwealth Development Corporation will each hold a 7.5 percent interest in Konkola Mines plc, while ZCCM will retain a 20 percent stake in the company.

The deadline for the sale has since been postponed twice after Anglo and the Zambian government signed heads of agreement on the transfer of the assets in early January.

ZAMBIA: Seeds for small farmers

The Programme Against Malnutrition announced this week it had completed the distribution of about 500 mt of assorted seeds in 31 districts around the country in a programme started last year, its director Freda Luhila said.

"Farmers dealing with food security crops will be able to generate income and supplement other basic household requirements," Luhila said. She added that it was important for people to move from dependency on one crop by planting not less than three different crops.

She said this was the only way small scale farmers were going to strengthen their food security.

AFRICA: Annan weighs DRC peace mission

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has urged the United Nations this week to move an observer force into the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as quickly as possible.

He made the remarks after meeting in the capital, Harare, this week with UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet.

Zimbabwe is believed to have deployed around 12,000 troops in the DRC backing President Laurent-Desire Kabila's government soldiers against rebels supported by Rwanda and Uganda.

Mugabe insisted there would be no unilateral withdrawal of Zimbabwean troops from the DRC without the prior exit of Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers.

His remarks came as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Security Council has authorised a mission to monitor the ceasefire in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signed last July.

Speaking in London at the commemoration of Commonwealth Day, Annan said: "The Security Council has authorised a mission to monitor the ceasefire and facilitate the implementation of other provisions of the Lusaka Peace agreements, including the 'national dialogue' between Congolese parties."

Annan continued: "The Security Council has given me the heavy responsibility of deciding when conditions are ripe for deployment of this mission - and my Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, is currently in the region making an on-the-spot assessment."

Johannesburg, 13:30 GMT

[ENDS]

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