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ZIMBABWE: DRC withdrawal under consideration
Zimbabwe indicated publicly for the first time this week that it was considering a phased withdrawal of its troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), possibly within coming weeks.
A defence ministry spokesman told IRIN an end to the controversial intervention would be linked to the military situation on the ground and the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers.
The spokesman was reacting to a report in the independent weekly, 'The Financial Gazette', which quoted "authoritative" sources as saying that under a preliminary plan, 5,000 troops would be withdrawn at the end of June, with the remainder of the estimated 11,000 soldiers pulling out in July once UN peacekeeping forces are expected to have been fully deployed.
Defence Minister Moven Mahachi also hinted at an imminent withdrawal. "It is possible that we may start pulling out our troops soon. It may be by the end of June or early July, it depends on a combination of factors," Mahachi told the newspaper. "But by and large, as soon as the United Nations peacekeeping forces are fully deployed, we will pull out according to the terms of the peace agreement which has been worked out."
Five African nations have intervened in the DRC war, with Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia fighting on the side of President Laurent-Desiré Kabila, and Rwanda and Uganda backing rebels seeking to overthrow him. Rwanda and Uganda have already started withdrawing from the eastern Congolese diamond city of Kisangani, where fierce clashes broke out between the two former allies earlier this month.
The UN is to deploy 500 military observers and 5,000 soldiers to maintain peace in the vast central African country, the third largest on the continent. South Africa and Nigeria have already pledged battalions.
ZIMBABWE: Three more killed in rural violence
In rural violence this week in the run-up to the 24-25 June parliamentary elections, three more people were killed.
Their deaths bring to at least 27 the number of people who have lost their lives since February when independence war veterans and supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party started occupying hundreds of white owned farms and embarked on a campaign of intimidation in the countryside aimed at farm employees and supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
ZIMBABWE: Veterans insist they will remain on the farms
Zimbabwe veterans leading the land invasions insisted on Monday that they would not vacate the white-owned farms despite calls by a cabinet minister to allow an orderly land redistribution exercise.
Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa said at the weekend the veterans and ZANU-PF supporters who invaded the farms should be prepared to move out to enable a proper resettlement programme.
His remarks were followed by the publication in the state newspaper, 'The Herald' on Friday of a list of white-owned farms to be seized for resettlement by landless black peasants.
Detailed reports of the latest violence, including an attack on British diplomat and Washington's decision to withdraw Peace Corps volunteers from rural Zimbabwe, can be viewed at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/index.phtml
ZIMBABWE: Farm sector losses
The Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) said this week farm output worth more than US $131.6 million would be lost in the initial phase of the accelerated land resettlement plan under which the government will seize 841 farms for the immediate resettlement of rural peasants.
CFU president Tim Henwood said this week: "As the accelerated programme does not envisage providing any infrastructure to people being resettled other than the availability of water, it must be assumed that in the initial phase at least production will be at subsistence levels. It is therefore assessed that the net loss in production will initially be in excess of $5 billion Zimbabwe dollars (US 131.6 million)."
ZIMBABWE: Background of the farm seizures
The farms were initially targeted for resettlement by the government two years ago but their designation for seizure was successfully challenged by their owners in court.
The CFU said if the accelerated resettlement programme was conducted on a planned and orderly basis - with full infrastructure being built to support the settlers, together with an input programme and seasonal finance - it would benefit the nation.
ZIMBABWE: The list of farms scheduled for redistribution
On Friday, 'The Herald" published a list of 804 farms to be seized.
Compensation payments will be made over a five-year period. Economists said it remained to be seen whether Zimbabwean banks which lent money to the white farmers now likely to lose their property will ever see their loans repaid.
Analysts said the Zimbabwean Government will seek to make political capital out of the move, and present it as a political victory. But it risks further international criticism and the land carve-up threatens to aggravate the country's economic hardship.
ZIMBABWE: As observers arrive, MDC fears more violence
As teams of international observers from the European Union, the Commonwealth and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) arrived in Zimbabwe this week, the MDC complained that political intimidation was worsening prior to the elections.
The MDC said it had finalised its list of 120 election candidates, but will not reveal their names for fear that they will become targets of attacks from President Mugabe's supporters.
They will be standing for the 150 seats in the national assembly, 30 of which are personally appointed by Mugabe himself.
ZIMBABWE: ZANU-PF demonstration
ZANU-PF activists marched through central Harare on Thursday, protesting at what they called interference by the British government in Zimbabwean politics. They accused Britain of breaking promises to fund land redistribution.
President Mugabe reaffirmed his support for the illegal land seizures: "We are very actually very happy for them to be there," he told party supporters in Harare.
ZIMBABWE: Former president jailed
Former President Canaan Banana was ordered this week to serve a one-year jail sentence after losing his appeal against a conviction on sexual assault charges.
Banana, 64, was found guilty last year of 11 counts of sodomy and abusing his power to sexually assault and carry out "unnatural acts" with male members of his staff. Homosexual acts are illegal in Zimbabwe. Banana had appealed the convictions, contending they violated privacy rights enshrined in Zimbabwe's constitution.
ZIMBABWE: New cyclone damage estimates
An agricultural official in Zimbabwe has said that floods provoked by Cyclone Eline in February had cost farmers in eastern Manicaland province some 143 million Zimbabwe dollars (3.8 million US).
Wilbert Ndadzungira, Zimbabwe Farmers Union Manicaland provincial manager, told the state-run ZIANA news agency both small-scale and commercial farmers had lost between 55 and 60 percent of their produce. Manicaland, which borders Mozambique, is estimated to have a herd of close to a million cattle; 587 of them were killed in the storms and flooding, and an unspecified number had since died of disease.
ZAMBIA-ZIMBABWE: Instability hurting economic recovery
Instability in Zimbabwe and the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could jeopardise economic recovery in neighbouring Zambia, whose gross domestic product (GDP) growth is forecast to rise to 4.5 percent this year, Standard Chartered Bank reported this week.
The bank said Zambia's real GDP growth was expected to rise from last year's 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent and that annual inflation would have declined to 16 percent by December this year versus last year's 20.6 percent. Standard Chartered said there was a risk that the forecast growth could be hindered by the DRC's civil war and the invasion of commercial farms and politically-motivated violence in Zimbabwe.
"Growth projections for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region have been downgraded because of the cyclone damage and flooding, mostly in Mozambique but also in parts of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe," the bank said in its quarterly publication Business Trends Zambia. "More recently, the farm crisis in Zimbabwe has forced a radical downgrading of growth projections for that economy, with some adverse spin-off for the region as a whole."
ZAMBIA: Tensions along Angolan border creates new IDP crisis
The ongoing emergency situation in the Northwestern Province of Zambia has prompted the Office of the Vice President (OVP)/Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to 9,100 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Kyoshi Nakamitsu, Assistant Programme Officer for UNICEF in Zambia told IRIN this week that UNICEF had been appointed the lead UN agency for IDPs along with the UNDP, WFP and UNHCR. Nakamitsu said: "The number of IDPs is increasing, the Angolan incursions are growing more frequent and it is very difficult for us to deal with this situation."
Recently the UN agencies and the government undertook an assessment mission to the area. An IRIN Focus Report on their findings can be viewed at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/sa/countrystories/zambia/20000531.phtml
ZAMBIA: Chiluba warns Angola
Earlier, President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia warned Angola that Zambia had the capacity to fight back against attacks on Zambian villagers along their common border.
"We want to live in peace with all our neighbours," Chiluba said. "We do not want war with others but those who provoke us must be warned and counselled that Zambia has the capacity and ability to deal with aggression."
The Zambian government last month reported several incursions by Angolan army units and aircraft. "We cannot stand by as our people are robbed of their livestock, women raped and a general atmosphere of instability and uncertainty is created for the people, especially in our border areas," Chiluba said.
ZAMBIA: Angolan soldier captured
In an example of one such recent incident, an armed Angolan soldier has been captured in Zambezi district in Zambia's Northwestern Province after an exchange of fire with Zambian army personnel in which a Zambian soldier and two civilians were injured, 'The Times of Zambia' reported this week.
The soldier was named as Jeremas Evalisto, 24, of Luena district in Angola's southern Moxico Province. He was part of a group of Angolan soldiers who entered Zambia with the intention of attacking villagers in the Zambezi District. But the newspaper said they were confronted by Zambian defence forces patrolling the area.
ANGOLA-ZAMBIA: Eduardo dos Santos warns Zambia
Meanwhile, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, this week accused neighbouring Zambia of helping the UNITA rebels fighting his government.
Speaking to journalists in the Angolan capital, Luanda, Eduardo dos Santos said that some elements in Zambia wanted to maintain a climate of tension between the two countries. Zambia has consistently denied the Angolan claims.
ANGOLA: Russian airmen freed
A group of five Russian airmen kidnapped by UNITA rebels after their aircraft was shot down last year were flown home this week after painstaking negotiations and a long trek through the bush into Zambia, news reports said.
ANGOLA: Journalist on trial on state security charges
The trial of a journalist with the state-owned 'Radio Nacional de Angola' and the independent 'Folha-8' newspaper, Andre Domingos Mussamo, opened in Luanda this week.
Mussamo is accused of violating state secrecy and spying on a local governor, allegedly arising out of the theft of classified documents. The journalist found out about an official letter sent by the Cuanza Norte provincial governor to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. He is alleged to have written a report on the letter which he did not publish. The case is scheduled to continue.
ANGOLA: UNHCR to return Congolese from Angola
UNHCR announced at the weekend that it planned to start returning Congolese refugees to their homes, some of whom have been in exile in Angola for 23 years.
UNHCR spokesman, Ron Redmond, said the repatriation of 1,850 refugees would begin this month. "There are an estimated 11,000 Congolese refugees still living in Angola. Of those, 1,850 have so far applied for return to the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo)," Redmond said.
UNHCR said that because most locations of return were in government-held and peaceful areas, UNHCR would assist the refugees with transport to their home towns. "We are currently looking at the possibility of airlifting returnees to main destinations in DRC," Redmond added.
MOZAMBIQUE: Emergency food still needed
A new crop and food supply assessment by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and WFP has said that 60,000 mt of emergency food aid was needed for 650,000 people in flood affected areas and for people in areas which had experienced crop failures.
"Districts that have experienced significant production losses are generally located along the river basins, wetlands, mangroves and swamps of the southern and central Mozambique," the assessment noted.
It added that WFP assistance would be primarily targeted to the most vulnerable populations living in the flood affected areas and isolated from the markets by the destruction caused by the floods.
The country was swept by the worst floods in living memory following cyclones in February and March. IRIN Focus Reports on this assessment and the reconstruction conferences starting next week can be viewed at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/index.phtml
BOTSWANA: Post-floods recovery
The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest update on Botswana that repairs and reconstruction of roads and bridges damaged in recent floods would cost an estimated US $646.9 million.
It said that the repair and construction of bridges at border crossings would cost US $56.3 million.
"The Director of the Office of the National Disaster Management (in Botswana) indicated the cumulative number of damaged houses was 17,796 and the estimated number of displaced people was 106,776," OCHA said.
LESOTHO: Last of SA, Botswana troops leave
The last South African and Botswana soldiers stationed in Lesotho for a year to help rebuild the kingdom's fractured army left the country Tuesday, news reports said on Wednesday.
"Our task here was to help retrain the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) and over the year we have been here we have managed to retrain the five companies," SADC team commander Colonel Teddington Nqapayi said on SABC television.
NAMIBIA: Night curfew imposed along Angolan border
Namibia's defence minister, Erkki Nghimtina, this week imposed a night curfew along Kavango River border with Angola.
Nghimtina, who described it as a "control measure", said the moved would allow the army to "flush out" bandits who have been launching night-time raids on Namibian villages. "We want to control movements across the river at night so that we don't make mistakes," he said.
Nghimtina added that any unauthorised person seen moving around in the vicinity of the river at night would be regarded as hostile.
NAMIBIA: Landmine injures 11 people
Meanwhile, 11 people were injured near the Angolan border at the weekend when an anti-personnel mine exploded in a church in the Kavango region in northern Namibia. The explosion occurred some 60 km west of the Namibian border town of Rundu.
"I understand that it was one of those make-shift bush churches, and following the collection someone stepped on an anti-personnel mine," Police Chief Inspector Hophni Hamufungu said. "We suspect once again it was UNITA bandits who planted the landmine, but as yet we cannot confirm this," he added.
SOUTH AFRICA: Preparing for the UN DRC peacekeeping mission
As a team of South African officials returns from UN headquarters in New York to report back in coming days on South Africa's participation in a UN peacekeeping mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), one of the country's leading experts on peacekeeping, spoke to IRIN about the challenges facing the mission.
A detailed interview with Cedric de Coning, Assistant Director and Programme Manager for Peacekeeping at the Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), can be viewed at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/sa/countrystories/southafrica/20000530.phtml
SOUTHERN AFRICA: SADC weighs OAU summit boycott
Ministers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are planning to meet to advise the region's leaders on whether to boycott next month's Organisation of African Unity (OAU)) summit in Lome, Togo.
Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who is chairman of the community, said: "An SADC ministerial meeting will take place, but I do not know the date, to provide advice to the heads of state on the matter," Chissano said. "We must make a study to see what the situation is and know who will take part or not." The Angolan government has been campaigning for a boycott because of the Lome's alleged support for UNITA rebels.
Johannesburg, 2 June 10:45 GMT
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