Angola + 8 more

IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 4 covering the period 22-28 Jan 2000

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ANGOLA: UNITA warns of guerrilla campaign

Despite military pressure by the Angolan government, the UNITA rebel movement has returned to the propaganda battle with a series of statements warning that it is about to intensify its guerrilla campaign.

In the latest posting on its Web site, UNITA acknowledged the success of the government's offensive "over a wide front" and the difficulties caused by "heavy aerial reconnaissance and bombings" which had forced rebel units retreating from the central highlands to move only by night.

But the "latest indications" are that UNITA "have completed the restructuring and redeployment of its forces" and has decided to "intensify the guerrilla campaign", the dispatch said. It added that local military commanders have been given "carte blanche in terms of initiating guerrilla actions".

Meanwhile humanitarian sources said fighting continued in the central highlands around Andulo, with increased insecurity reported on the road to Huambo. Military tension has also heightened around Luzamba in the northern province of Lunda Norte, while clashes have taken place at Cuimba in Zaire Province on the Congolese border.

ANGOLA: Ukraine denies supplying UNITA

Ukraine has again denied allegations that it has supplied weapons to Angola's UNITA rebel movement, and instead said it is stepping up military cooperation and arms shipments to the Luanda government.

First Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Chalyy said Kiev had assured the UN Sanctions Committee on Angola that Ukraine has not and will not supply UNITA, the official news agency UNIAN reported this week.

On a visit to Kiev in July last year to discuss the accusations of supplying Unita, Ambassador Robert Fowler, the chairman of the UN Sanctions Committee, reported that he had received "categorical assurances" from senior officials that Ukraine had not flouted the ban.

However, in August 1999, a Ukrainian-registered 'Azoz Avia' Iluyshin-76 was impounded in Zambia and the crew arrested by the Lusaka authorities for sanctions busting to UNITA. Last year, the London office of Human Rights Watch published a list of aircraft compiled by the United Nations that had entered UNITA-controlled territory without prior notification. The list included five Ukrainian-registered planes.

NAMIBIA: Nujoma reiterates support for Angola

As Namibian and Angolan forces at the weekend jointly shelled suspected UNITA rebel strongholds in southern Angola, Namibian President Sam Nujoma reiterated his government's support for Angola which has been granted the right to launch attacks from Namibian territory.

Nujoma's assurances to Angola were made during a visit to the area last week. Local media reports said heavy shelling by Namibian and Angolan government forces had been reported from Bangani, a town in the northeast Caprivi Strip 675 km from the capital, Windhoek.

Meanwhile, the Namibian Society for Human Rights (NSHR) warned the government this week that it would be in contravention of the Geneva Convention on the rights of prisoners of war if it hands over a group of captured UNITA rebels to the Angolan government. The Namibian Defence Force paraded a group of 81 suspected rebels to the media last week at the Kavango regional capital of Rundu near the Angolan border, where the Angolan army has now based some of its forces.

Namibian Defence Minister Erkki Nghimtina said the suspected rebels would be handed over to the Angolan government. In remarks carried on television, he said: "They are citizens of Angola, and Angola will deal with them."

ZAMBIA: Refugees airlifted

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, this week visited the town of Kalabo in Zambia where thousands of Angolan refugees were stranded on the western bank of the Zambezi River by rising flood waters.

Her visit coincided with a joint air relief operation by UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) aimed at ensuring food deliveries and transporting the refugees to safer camps away from the Angolan border, UNHCR spokesman Dominik Bartsch told IRIN.

Bartsch said the estimated 5,000 refugees in the Kalabo area would be taken inland to the Mayukwayukwa refugee camp. He said the agency hoped to airlift about 400 refugees a day. Further south, 7,500 people camped near the Sinjembela border town would be moved to a new camp near Sioma. The transfer of the Sinjembela refugees, however, could not be conducted by air for lack of a landing field in the area, he said.

Ogata said she agreed with African leaders that the international community was paying less attention to refugees in Africa than in other parts of the world. "But it is not for UNHCR alone to change the situation," she told reporters. "It is up to the whole international community and the industrialised countries."

LESOTHO: Parties discuss elections

Officials from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations this week met with representatives of Lesotho's Interim Political Authority (IPA) to discuss an election timetable to seal the country's fragile peace process.

Edward Omotoso, the UN Resident Representative to Lesotho, told IRIN the meeting was held to discuss progress of an election timetable signed in December last year between the IPA and the Lesotho government. They also discussed the formation of panel of experts, to be in place by mid-February, to look at all issues related to the elections and to recommend a possible election date.

SADC members Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are acting as guarantors for the implementation of the peace process.

LESOTHO: Cholera claims 28 lives

An outbreak of cholera in the southern districts of Lesotho has already claimed the lives of 28 villagers following heavy rains this month, health officials told IRIN this week.

"The worst affected areas in the Mohale's Hoek district are the Mekaling and Morifi villages, where villagers have reported 28 deaths," a doctor in the Health and Social Welfare ministry told IRIN, adding that of the 1,862 villagers screened 22 were seriously ill.

The doctor said health officials visited nine of the 10 catchment areas in the district to assess the situation. "We discovered that there is inadequate sanitation and unprotected water sources, which has led to the contamination of water sources on which households depend."

SOUTH AFRICA-DRC: IRIN Focus on peacekeeping debate

As African leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York this week to find a solution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the question of whether or not South Africa will send troops to the embattled central African nation has once again been raised.

In a report to the Security Council last week, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended the initial deployment of over 5,000 troops to protect and facilitate the work of 500 unarmed UN military observers.

The full report can be viewed on:

SOUTH AFRICA: IRIN Focus on the poverty challenge

Despite the widely-held perception in Africa that South Africa's streets are paved with gold, the reality is different: According to the latest surveys, South Africa is confronted with persistent poverty, widespread joblessness, low economic growth and a highly inequitable income distribution system.

"South Africa is experiencing a deep social crisis," said Zola Skweyiya, the minister of welfare, population and development. "We are sitting on a time-bomb of poverty and social disintegration." In fact, Skweyiya added, the country's welfare system has been failing those who most need its support.

The full report can be viewed at:

BOTSWANA: Funding for AIDS programmes

The Botswana Christian Aids Intervention Program (BOCAIP) is to receive a five-year grant of US$400,000 to support HIV/AIDS counselling and assistance programmes for women and children, from the US-based Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

Botswana's health minister, Joy Phumaphi, welcomed the grants: "They provide education, care and support in line with our pledge to provide more assistance to people suffering from HIV/AIDS," she said

ZIMBABWE: Fuel shortage worsens

Zimbabwe's fuel shortages were expected to worsen after it was announced by industry sources that the 350 km pipeline carrying fuel from the Mozambique coast had been shut because of non-payment.

The fuel crisis started last month after the state-owned National Oil Company of Zimbabwe said it could not pay fuel bills estimated at some US $47-million.

ZIMBABWE: Protests planned against judiciary

Zimbabwean human rights and civic organisations are planning demonstrations on 9 February in support of calls for an international investigation into allegations of corruption in the judiciary.

The protesters plan to march to the police chief's office, President Robert Mugabe's office and the Supreme Court where they will hand over a petition demanding an end to the death penalty and the immediate suspension of all pending executions of condemned prisoners.

COMORO ISLANDS: OAU rejects referendum result

Anjouan's international isolation is set to continue after the island's secessionist leadership claimed victory in a weekend referendum endorsing its breakaway from the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros.

Anjouanese officials reportedly said that 90 percent of voters on Sunday rejected an April 1999 agreement, aimed at ending separatist demands by providing greater autonomy for the three islands of the Indian Ocean archipelago within a transformed union.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which mediated the 1999 Antananarivo agreement, said it would not acknowledge the 'No' vote. It had warned the Anjouanese leadership, whose 1997 breakaway is not internationally recognised, that failure to sign the accord by 1 February would trigger economic sanctions.

A South African government official told IRIN this week that an OAU committee is preparing details of a sanctions package which would target self-styled president Lieutenant-Colonel Said Abeid and his administration, but not the 200,000 Anjouanese.

Johannesburg, 28 January 09:20 GMT


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