IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 34 covering the period 19-25 Aug 2000

from IRIN
Published on 25 Aug 2000
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NAMIBIA: Deteriorating security situation

As the security situation in northern Namibian continues to deteriorate, Namibia's northern regional council this week ordered the withdrawal of Angolan armed forces (FAA) from Kavango in a bid to end attacks on villagers by armed groups. The eight regional councillors, all members of the ruling SWAPO party resolved to restrict the movement of the FAA in the border region to the loading and off-loading of supplies at Rundu airport.

The region's acting governor, Johannes Thiguru, told IRIN the council wanted all other FAA troops to return across the Kavango river into Angola. Thiguru said although the council supports the government's granting of logistical support to FAA in its war against UNITA, it wanted Namibian security forces to take charge of the situation in the region.

He added that no movement of FAA forces in the region, whether in uniform or civilian clothing, will be allowed unless they are authorised to do so. Thiguru claimed the council had the power to enforce the resolutions by instructing the regional commanders of the security forces to carry them out. Zen Mnakapa of Namibia's Society for Human Rights (NSHR) said the council only has administrative and limited legislative authority.

NAMIBIA: Landmine kills one, injures 47

In one of the latest incidents in the troubled region, a landmine killed a farmworker and injured 47 others last Friday in northeastern Namibia. The explosion occurred in Omega in Western Caprivi, 270 km east of Rundu, when a truck carrying farm workers detonated an anti-tank mine planted by suspected Angolan UNITA rebels. A woman died of her injuries on the way to the local hospital and 10 people were critically wounded.

A humanitarian source in Rundu told IRIN that there have been "many" mine incidents in the region. He said there were also frequent attacks on villages by suspected UNITA rebels: "Sometimes a week goes by without anything, sometimes it's everyday. It's very difficult, when we think things are under control they become worse."

NAMIBIA: Villagers tortured after death of NDF officer

Meanwhile, Namibian Defence Force (NDF) soldiers allegedly tortured villagers in the Kavango border region this week in retaliation for the death of one of their colleagues, the Namibian Society for Human Rights (NSHR) told IRIN on Thursday.

Zen Mnakapa, a spokesman for the NSHR, said Captain David Poneyimo was shot with an arrow on Monday in the village of Mbunya, about 40 km west of the regional capital Rundu, after he allegedly pretended to be a UNITA rebel and went from house to house threatening to kill people. "The villagers reported the incident to the NDF stationed in the area. The next morning when they went to investigate they discovered that the dead man was a member of the NDF. Soldiers then started beating people and some villagers have been hospitalised because of their injuries," Mnakapa said.

ANGOLA: Searching for common ground on peace

An amnesty offer by the Angolan government to UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi could represent the beginning of a search for a political solution to the decades-old civil war, analysts told IRIN.

Angolan military chief General Joao de Matos said on a visit to South Africa last week that Savimbi could be offered an exemption from prosecution if he accepted peace.

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos also said on national radio on Friday, in response to South Africa's position that the solution to the Angolan conflict is political rather than military: "There are diplomatic, military and political solutions. We look at all avenues to achieve peace." Earlier this month, the Angolan government offered a general pardon for UNITA, which was rejected by the rebel movement.

"There seems to be some kind of olive branch being extended to UNITA by the government," Greg Mills, the director of the South African Institute of International Affairs told IRIN. "This may reflect the position taken by the international community that dialogue is the only way to end the conflict, and the realisation by the military that it would be very hard to win the war."

A more detailed report can be found at: ANGOLA: Searching for common ground on peace, 22 August

ANGOLA: Insecurity hampers relief

Meanwhile, WFP said in its latest report on Angola that the humanitarian situation in Sanza Pombo in the northern province of Uige was deteriorating, while relief interventions had been constrained by insecurity and lack of access. Some 500 cases of malnourished children under five were reported in Sanza Pombo, as well as an influx of newly displaced from Macocola, Quimbele and Buengas. Insecurity has also led to WFP's temporarily suspension of operations in Boccoio, in the southern province Benguela, where 9,000 IDPs are normally assisted.

Over 200 new IDPs from Muambulo have been registered in Saurimo in Lunda Sul, and more are reported to have arrived from Alto Chicapa and Dala. An influx of 1,000 new IDPs fleeing insecurity in N'harea was reported in the central highlands city of Kuito. Around 250 new displaced were reported in Namacunde, in Cunene Province, of which 108 have been registered by inter-agency teams involving WFP. More people fleeing insecurity in Rhundu, Kuangar and Dirico have been seen in the area of Marco 25, on their way to Namacunde.

ANGOLA: De Beers suspends operations in north Angola

South African diamond giant De Beers said last Friday that it had suspended exploration activities at Cambulo, in Angola's Lunda North Province, due to military instability in the area. Charles Skinner, director of De Beers' Angola division, said however that prospecting would continue at Lucapa, also in Lunda North Province and at Saurimo, in Lunda South Province.

ZIMBABWE: Appeal for aid to displaced

A Zimbabwe human rights group has appealed for funding to help repatriate the last remaining group of displaced people it was sheltering who were driven from their homes by pre-election political violence. ZimRights director Munyaradzi Bidi told IRIN his organisation plans to start returning some of the remaining 335 displaced people on Wednesday, but said resources have been exhausted after caring for nearly 6,000 others who returned home after the election.

Bidi said although the situation in some of Zimbabwe's districts was still volatile, ZimRights is confident many of the displaced can go back. The police commissioner, according to Bidi, had offered to provide a police escort for those returning. They will be travelling to their homes in Mashonaland East and the Midlands.

ZIMBABWE: Government curtails evictions of squatters

The Zimbabwean government has condemned a police operation to evict war veterans and illegal squatters from white-owned farms. Jonathan Moyo, chief spokesman in President Robert Mugabe's office, said: "The government regrets and takes full responsibility for the manner in which the police have sought to evict homeless families."

Zimbabwean police on Monday burned down huts and brick houses built by liberation war veterans on an occupied white-owned farm in Chitungwiza, about 10 km south of the capital, Harare.

Moyo said the government intended to remove illegal occupiers from white-owned farms not among about 3,000 properties targeted for confiscation and handing over to landless blacks, but that it would be done gradually and "within the usual standards of human dignity and common decency".

ZIMBABWE: Random land reform putting farm output at risk

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) warned this week that the country risked losing a substantial slice of its agricultural output from the 2000/2001 farming season if the government continued implementing its "haphazard" land redistribution programme. CFU deputy director Jerry Grant said the resettlement programme had thrown the whole farming sector into turmoil and most farmers had stopped farming over fears that their farms could be acquired to back the plan launched earlier this month.

"We now stand to lose the entire farming season unless a pragmatic land reform exercise which everyone in the industry subscribes to is implemented quickly," Grant said. "At this rate, we are throwing the whole sector into turmoil and we stand to severely affect production levels."

ZIMBABWE: Foreign reserves expected to remain weak

Zimbabwe's foreign reserves are expected to remain low while the national currency devalues further over the next six months, the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe said this week. "The currency situation remains critical, with huge imports backlogs mounting," the bank said in its weekly treasury commentary. "The currency, although continuing to be managed, is expected to devalue further in line with inflation differentials over the next six months," the bank said. "The situation might improve if the market observes the set parameters and discourages the parallel market."

ZIMBABWE: IMF, World Bank team to review ailing economy

A team from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank arrived in Zimbabwe this week for meetings with government and opposition officials to assess the country's ailing economy. The team, including six officials from the IMF and three from the World Bank, is due to leave on 11 September.

BOTSWANA: Caprivi suspects face extradition

Fourteen Caprivi secessionists who fled to Botswana in August 1998 are to appear in court next week for hearings on their extradition to Namibia, where they are wanted on charges including treason, murder and illegal possession of arms and ammunition.

'The Namibian' newspaper reported on Friday that the extradition request was made by the Namibian government two weeks ago. It relates to the outbreak of secessionist violence in Namibia's northeastern Caprivi Strip in August 1998, when members of the Caprivi Liberation Army attacked government installations in the Strip's capital, Katima Mulilo. The raid left 14 people dead, among them four members of Namibia's security forces.

Mengesha Kebede, UNHCR representative in South Africa, told IRIN the suspected secessionists, on their arrival in Botswana in 1998, admitted to a joint Botswana government and UNHCR eligibility committee that they were involved in the Katima Mulilo attack. "The committee had recommended that they be refused refugee status as they had committed crimes in their country," Kebede said.

He that the refugee conventions do not cover people who have committed crimes in the countries from where they are fleeing. He added that the 14 had been kept in protective custody in Botswana pending the outcome of their extradition hearings.

COMOROS ISLANDS: OAU rejects Comoros peace deal

The Organisation of African Unity has rejected a peace deal aimed at eding the Comoros secessionists crisis. The proposed deal was put together by the military regime in Moroni and the separatist leaders on the island of Anjouan. The new deal would give each island control of most of its affairs, but leave religion, citizenship, currency, foreign policy and defence in the hands of what, for the moment, is being called a new Comoran entity.

An OAU spokesman said it would undermine unity and territorial integrity of the Comoros. He said both sides had to accept the agreement brokered by the OAU last year - the Antananarivo Accord. The OAU accord would have delivered a degree of autonomy to the three Indian Ocean islands, but Anjouan refused to sign.

SWAZILAND: Country edges closed to constitutional rule

Swaziland will edge closer to constitutional rule next month when a government body completes work on a report that pro-democracy groups hope will lead to a return to plural politics. But, the country's banned opposition has poured scorn on the work of the constitutional review commission and dismissed its activities as "political window dressing". The constitutional review commission said it would submit a report on public submissions on political reform to King Mswati III in September.

The banned People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) said it was "unimpressed" by the commission's announcement - and the entire political reform exercise. "It does not mean anything," PUDEMO president Mario Masuku told IRIN. "The whole exercise is a farce. To begin with, the composition of the commission is suspect, because it is led by a member of the royal house."

"Moreover, the media was banned from reporting on submissions to the commission, and group submissions were not allowed," he added. "Nothing progressive can be expected from the commission."

An IRIN focus on political reform in Swaziland can be found at: SWAZILAND: IRIN Focus on political reform, 21 August

SWAZILAND: Protest over labour law

Swaziland's trade unions plan to protest a new labour law which they say would restrict the right to strike and could win the backing of the United States government, union activists told IRIN.

Jan Sithole, the general-secretary of Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) said the Industrial Relations Act, which the government of King Mswati intends to pass on Friday, withdraws trade unions' right to protest on socio-economic issues and "is a direct attack on the workers' right to freedom of association and curtails the workers' right to engage in protest action on issues affecting them." He added: "Some clauses in the Act give employers the right to claim civil damages from trade unions arising out of strike action, whether the action was legal or not."

Lutfo Dlamini, Swaziland's labour and enterprise minister, last week said the government would ease the clauses that restrict industrial action. "The Act now proposes to allow employees who are not engaged in essential services to take part in peaceful protest actions to promote or defend the socio-economic interests of workers," Dlamini said.

ZAMBIA: Debt relief initiative questioned

Zambia could qualify for debt relief in November under a controversial International Monetary Fund (IMF) initiative. Zambia's Finance Minister Katele Kalumba said last weekend that an IMF team would assess Zambia's economic performance to determine its qualification for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

However, debt cancellation activists claim the HIPC initiative is not a solution to the debt burden faced by poor countries. Zambia, say the activists, needs total cancellation of its estimated US $6.5 billion external debt stock.

Zambia, according to the development NGO Oxfam, currently spends about US $136 million per annum on debt service, which will increase to US $235 million in 2002 because of upcoming loan repayments to the IMF. Oxfam added in a statement last weekend that in six African countries, including Zambia, debt payments will outstrip spending on basic education even after these countries have qualified for HIPC. The debt relief package which the IMF and World Bank are offering Zambia is a "fraud", Oxfam alleged.

ZAMBIA: IMF rejects Oxfam's claims

Meanwhile, the IMF's Africa department associate director Ernesto Hernandez-Cata said in a letter to London's 'Financial Times' this week that there was no basis for recent statements by Oxfam that the HIPC initiative "worsens" Zambia's financial position.

"It is true," wrote Hernandez-Cata, "that despite these efforts, debt service payments next year will be higher than this year, because of repayments to the IMF, which have been zero for a number of years. But this is not a proper basis for an assessment of the impact of HIPC," said Hernandez-Cata.

ZAMBIA: Former Zambian minister launches opposition party

Zambia's former environment minister Ben Mwila launched an opposition Republican Party last Saturday, vowing to end the reign of President Frederick Chiluba's Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). Mwila told a crowd in the small copper mining town of Luanshya, 400 km from Lusaka, that he was "dedicated to uprooting dictatorship and launching a movement for accountable and inclusive democracy".

MOZAMBIQUE: No food shortages - WFP

The UN's World Food Programme told IRIN this week that contrary to some recent local media reports, Mozambican flood victims are not experiencing food shortages.

"We have received no new requests from any tier of government for food so I can only say no, people are not currently experiencing food shortages," WFP spokesman Inyene Udoyen said. "The stories of food shortages that I have heard are usually about possible shortages if the farmers do not get a decent crop, which is why WFP is extending it's emergency operation until March 2001 to provide assistance to those who will either not be able to plant or will not get a good yield."

Some media reports from Maputo have alleged that flood victims, particularly in the central parts of the country, were going hungry. But, Udoyen stressed: "Some areas might have a poor crop, but these have access to other traditional coping strategies, such as forest fruits, fishing, and hunting. In such areas, WFP's Food Fund would provide food via food-for-work projects as decided by the communities."

MOZAMBIQUE: Donor funds needed for demining

Donor pledges of US $7 million made earlier this year for demining in Mozambique in the wake of the country's severe floods are yet to materialise, but emergency work has been carried out to enable the resettlement of people who lost their homes. Jakob Kaarsbo at UNDP in Maputo told IRIN that immediately after the floods it was impossible to judge accurately what was needed to tackle the problem of landmines left over from Mozambique's civil war that were washed downstream by the flood waters. "If we could start with US $3 million we could do something. Even with US $2 million we could start doing a reconnaissance," he said.

According to official figures, two million mines were planted in Mozambique over 13 years of civil war. Although a major survey has been underway in the north of the country for more than a year, the flooding affected the south and centre of the country, dislodging mines and dropping them in areas that were previously considered safe.

SADC-DRC: South Africa calls for tough line

South Africa this week criticised Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Laurent-Desire Kabila for stalling the Congolese peace process and said that regional leaders will decide on whether to impose punitive sanctions. South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Sunday that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) "should not be held at ransom by one person". She added that sanctions "probably would work to some degree" to persuade Kabila to accept the deployment of UN peacekeepers throughout the country and agree to the mediation of former Botswana president Ketumile Masire in internal all-party talks.

SOUTH AFRICA-LIBERIA: Envoy to monitor journalists' case

The South African government on Thursday dispatched its ambassador at the Organisation of African Unity, Kingsley Mamabolo, to the Liberian capital, Monrovia, to monitor the welfare of four journalists arrested on charges of espionage and to liaise with Liberian authorities. South Africa's Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has also sent a diplomatic note to her Liberian counterpart protesting the detention of the journalists, among them a South African.


Johannesburg, 13:30 GMT

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