Angola + 8 more

IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 5 covering the period 29 Jan-04 Feb 2000

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News and Press Release
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Originally published
UNITED NATIONS
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ANGOLA: UN should have done more - Annan

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said this week that the UN and the international community should have done more to prevent the resumption of the civil war in Angola just over a year ago.

In remarks made during a wide-ranging interview with IRIN at the conclusion of a month-long session on Africa at the Security Council, Annan was asked to comment on charges that the UN's shortcomings precipitated the breakdown of the 1994 UN-brokered Lusaka Protocol peace accords and the return to civil war.

"I am aware of the criticisms made by various human rights bodies," Annan said. "I agree that the United Nations and the international community as a whole should have done more in Angola." However, he said the international community had accepted that the collapse was due to the failure of the rebel UNITA movement to comply with the Lusaka peace accords.

By starting the year with a month of debate on Africa involving many heads of state, he said the "Month of Africa" at the Security Council had had a "tremendous impact on the world's consciousness - and conscience". He also spoke frankly on the crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone and the UN's failure to do more to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The full interview can be viewed at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN

ANGOLA: SA to tighten UNITA sanctions

South Africa said this week it would crack down on sanctions busting by UNITA, but said it cannot guarantee the closure of all supply channels.

A foreign ministry spokesman made the remarks to IRIN in response to charges by visiting British foreign office minister Peter Hain that the rebels retained a strong and hidden support network in South Africa based on links forged during the apartheid era.

"Once the concrete evidence is there, definitely the law will take its course," South African foreign affairs spokesman Dumisani Rasheleng said. "Our policy has been trying to drive democracy and end conflict in Africa, so how can South Africa turn a blind eye when it comes to UNITA?"

ANGOLA: Diamond certificates

In a related development during the week, the British-based NGO, Global Witness, said the Angolan government had to tighten up its diamond certification system to ensure that stones procured by the UNITA rebel movement were not inadvertently sold on the international market.

The NGO which specialises on links between environmental and human rights abuses, said it appeared that the Angolan Government had listened to criticisms about serious loopholes in its Certificate of Origin system which came into force following the UN embargo on unofficial Angolan diamonds on 1 July 1998.

But the loopholes were undermining international efforts to implement the UN embargo. For the controls to work, it said the Angolan government had to publicly clarify whether the lead institution applying the system was the commerce ministry or the state diamond company, Endiama. It also had to clarify the roles of the National Bank of Angola (BNA) and the ministry of mines, it said.

ANGOLA: Refugee influx into Zambia

Meanwhile, heavy fighting in southeast Angola this week between government forces and UNITA rebels has raised fears of a fresh refugee influx into the all but inaccessible Zambian flood plains along the western banks of the upper Zambezi River.

Humanitarian sources in Zambia told IRIN that relief agencies were concerned at the plight of thousands of refugees crammed into the town of Sinjembela on the Angolan border.

"These people are virtually isolated because they are on the western side of the river. The ferries are no longer working following heavy rains and the roads are virtually impassable," a humanitarian source told IRIN. "We are deeply concerned because these people must be weak enough after fleeing across the border. It is an area where we have been told you can sometimes see and hear the fighting on the other side."

According to official UNHCR figures, an estimated 7,000 people are now in Sinjembela, and so far, with the help of the Zambian military authorities, only one lorry with food has reached them. The sources said they were concerned that their numbers could have increased in recent days. They said they also expected a further influx further north near the Congolese border.

The refugees are among a group of 21,000 Angolans who have fled since October last year when the government stepped up its military offensive against UNITA strongholds in southeast Angola. Last week, in a joint operation by UN agencies, nearly 4,000 refugees stranded north of Sinjembela at a border town called Kalabo, were transported by air and road to a camp at Mayukwayukwa, which now houses more than 10,000 refugees.

ANGOLA-ZAMBIA: Zambian villages attacked

For the second time this month, unknown gunmen at the weekend attacked villages in Zambia's southwestern Chavuma district on the border with Angola, 'The Post' newspaper reported on Monday.

The newspaper quoted a policeman at the nearby Zambezi police post as saying: "The problem is that we do not know whether they are UNITA rebels who have continued to attack the villagers or whether they are (Angolan) government soldiers who have run short of supplies and are resorting to Zambians for food."

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources told IRIN that on at least one occasion, UNITA rebels have tried to recruit from among thousands of Angolan refugees stranded in Sinjembela.

The two countries have scheduled talks this weekend on defence and security issues.

ANGOLA-NAMIBIA: Refugees also fleeing south

Across Angola's southern borders, the arrival of a 65 Angolans last Friday brought to just over 8,000 the number of refugees now in Namibia, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Hesdy Rathling, UNHCR's Senior Liaison Officer in Namibia, told IRIN that although the number of Angolan refugees moving south to Namibia was not "as dramatic" as those moving east into Zambia, "we are still receiving people all the time, and we are still having to keep a close watch".

Rathling said UNHCR had based a team in the northern border town of Rundu to help screen those crossing over the border. Once screened, the refugees are transported by road to a camp well away from the border zone at Osire, north of the capital Windhoek.

He said that the government estimated there were an additional 10,000 Angolan refugees in Namibia who had settled "spontaneously" in the country's urban centres or in the border districts.

Tension in the border districts has increased since last month when Namibia allowed the Angolan government to use its territory to launch attacks against UNITA strongholds in southern Angola.

ANGOLA-NAMIBIA: Suspects handed over to Angolan army

Namibia has handed a group of 83 suspected UNITA rebels to the Angolan army in a move running contrary to the spirit of international conventions, the Namibian Society for Human Rights (NSHR) said.

The 83 men were paraded before television cameras in the Namibian border town of Rundu two weeks ago. On Thursday, Defence Minister Erkki Nghimtina told 'The Namibian' newspaper that the men, captured in the tense border region by security forces, had been turned over to Angolan army officials in Rundu.

The newspaper quoted Nghimtina as saying, "they are not war prisoners, they are criminals who are killing people at night. They are not soldiers per se."

Che Ngaringombe, an NSHR spokesman, told IRIN: "There has been no public statement about this situation other than what we have seen in the newspaper. We do not believe that this is in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions. If these people are prisoners of war, they can only be returned once their country is at peace. If they are criminals, as the authorities claim them to be, then they should be charged and tried in Namibia under Namibian law. If they ran away from the war, no matter whose side they were on, they should be given refugee status."

ZIMBABWE: Constitutional referendum next week

As Zimbabwe prepared for a referendum next week on a new constitution, Amnesty International said the new draft represented major human rights improvements, especially with respect to women's rights.

But in a statement this week, the human rights group said additional safeguards had to be included in the new draft. In a series of recommendations to President Robert Mugabe, Amnesty called for the abolition of the death penalty, the protection of gay and lesbian rights, and the prohibition of corporal punishment for children. It also said that evidence elicited through torture should be constitutionally rendered inadmissible in court.

The new constitution has been criticised by the opposition for retaining sweeping presidential powers.

ZIMBABWE: Election battle begins

Meanwhile, campaigning for parliamentary elections in March got underway this week with the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), promising to ease the country's economic woes and withdraw an estimated 11,000 troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Speaking at the MDC's first convention, newly elected party president Morgan Tsvangirai, told delegates that "every part of Zimbabwe [was] ready for change. He added: "Frustration and anger can be transformed into action."

Meanwhile on Sunday, President Robert Mugabe launched ZANU-PF's election campaign at a rally at Epworth south of the capital Harare with a promise to introduce measures to prevent the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar. Mugabe said the current foreign exchange shortage was "artificial" and had been caused by exporters banking their money in foreign banks.

According to analysts, Zimbabwe's current economic tribulations are likely to dominate the March polls. An estimated 45 percent of Zimbabweans are currently unemployed and inflation is running at about 60 percent.

ZIMBABWE: Fuel crisis controversy

Controversy over Zimbabwe's fuel crisis heightened this week when it was reported that the finance ministry is investigating allegations that the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) had illegally borrowed foreign currency at black market prices.

The 'Financial Gazette' said a meeting of financial institutions, government departments and security agencies was told that a consortium of unnamed local financial institutions had lent foreign currency to NOCZIM above the controlled market exchange rate. Since September NOCZIM it said bought currency at $45 Zimbabwe dollars to the United States dollar rather than at the official rate of 38 Zimbabwe dollars.

This week, IRIN prepared a focus report on the fuel crisis in Zimbabwe. It can be viewed athttp://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/sa/countrystories/zimbabwe/20000201.htm

ZIMBABWE-DRC: Concern over fighting

Zimbabwe is "concerned" over fighting in northwest Congo and the advance of rebel forces, defence spokesman Colonel Chancellor Diye told IRIN this week.

He said that although the situation was "quiet" on the frontline manned by Zimbabwean troops, rebels of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) advancing westwards along the Congo river "could end up bumping into our positions. Naturally from a military perspective one gets worried."

Diye, meanwhile, refused to comment on the controversy over the British government's supply of spare parts to Zimbabwean Hawk warplanes operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He said these were "political issues". He however said that with the continued presence of a British army training team in Zimbabwe, "as far as we're concerned our relations continue."

ZIMBABWE-BURUNDI: Bujumbura accuses Harare

Burundi this week accused Zimbabwe of providing military training facilities to rebels of the Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD). It also said weapons were being shipped to the rebels via Zambia and Tanzania.

In a tangled web of intrigue, the charges are highlighted by a court case due to start in a small town in Zambia. IRIN has prepared a focus report on the controversy. It can be viewed at:http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/sa/countrystories/zimbabwe/20000203.htm

MOZAMBIQUE: Refugee influx from central Africa

In a new regional refugee influx, people fleeing conflict in the Great Lakes region of central Africa have started crossing into Mozambique's remote northwest Niassa Province.

Mengesha Kebede, the UNHCR Representative in South Africa, told IRIN this week the refugees had been crossing into Mozambique since the end of last year. They now number an estimated 300 people, most of them women and children.

"They have come mainly from the Democratic Republic Congo and the Great Lakes region after walking along the Zambian border and then crossing over into Mozambique," he said. "They did not attempt to go to well established refugee camps in Tanzania."

He said UHNCR had sent emergency food and other supplies to the refugees and was helping the Mozambique government provide for them. He said UNHCR wanted to ensure that others entering the country can be assisted. He said UNHCR had a dispatched a team to Niassa to conduct a survey of the situation.

COMORO ISLANDS: OAU warns separatists

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) this week said it would no longer recognise the travel documents of separatist leaders in the island of Anjouan.

In the first step in a series of sanctions against the breakaway island, it said the Anjouanese leadership had failed to meet a 1 February deadline to sign an agreement aimed at reunifying the islands in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

"Travel restrictions, non-recognition of their travel documents and passports, freezing of bank accounts and other financial transactions, inside and outside the Comoros, and blocking of all repatriation of funds by members of their families, external allies and sympathisers will form part of the first phase of the measures," the OAU said in a joint statement with the South African government.

"Even as we contemplate other more punitive measures against the separatist movement, we hope that the separatist leaders will still heed our call, even at this late hour, and sign the accord without any further delay," the statement said.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Regional food security update

Southern Africa faces the possibility of food shortages, according to the latest report of the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS).

Although normal or above-normal rainfall was expected, it said most of the sub-continent had experienced was extended dry spells or excessive rains creating a situation which hit agricultural production.

FEWS said that maize, the staple food for most of the region, was one of the crops which was likely to be affected. Maize is more sensitive to dry conditions than for example sorghum or millet.

According to the update, Zimbabwe's harvest was likely to be lower than last year. This could result in communal households who are reliant on crop incomes experiencing some kind of food insecurity in the coming months.

Below-normal rainfall in most of Zambia led many farmers to delay planting their crops beyond the normal planting time of late November to mid-December, and in some cases farmers were still busy planting in early January. FEWS said that concerns about the poor rains during the main rainy season (October to December) saw maize grain supplies dwindle.

All crops in Malawi were affected by the erratic start to the main rainy season, but maize posed the most serious concerns FEWS said. The agency added that an increased demand for maize drove market prices up by an estimated 19 percent in December in the south and by an estimated 27 percent in the central regions. According to FEWS, by the middle of December official maize stocks were about 225,000 mt.

In Mozambique, FEWS said that as yet it was still too early to determine the effects of these erratic rainfall patterns on the March/April harvest. By the end of November last year, Mozambique's cereal stocks had dropped to 360,000 mt compared with 460,000 mt in September. But, according to the update, these stocks combined with the first crops from 1999/2000 season would be more than sufficient to meet national demands until April, and lower maize prices meant that more households were able to buy maize to meet their needs.

Johannesburg, 4 February 10:50 GMT

[ENDS]

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