Angola + 5 more

IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 7 covering the period 12-18 Feb 2000

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ZIMBABWE: Voters reject draft constitution

In a dramatic result, the Zimbabwean electorate overwhelmingly rejected a draft constitution proposed by the government of President Robert Mugabe that would have consolidated presidential powers and allowed the requisitioning of white-owned land for resettlement without compensation.

In a two-day referendum in which 1.3 million Zimbabweans participated at the weekend, 55 percent of the electorate voted "No" to the proposed draft, against 45 percent who voted "Yes".

Nick Ndebele of Zimrights told IRIN: "Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF is understandably shocked by this as they expected rural people to vote "Yes". This could mean that the majority of Zimbabweans, including the rural poor, are fed up with the ruling party and are now clamouring for change."

Mugabe reportedly told the nation this week, after the announcement of the results, that his government would respect the wishes of the people and that the draft constitution will not be implemented.

At the same time, the eight opposition activists who were arrested in a Harare township at the weekend during the referendum campaign were this week acquitted after the magistrate ruled that they had no case to answer.

ZIMBABWE: British minister calls for reform

Britain, in reaction to the referendum results, said this week that Zimbabwe must face up to the need for democratic reform and economic recovery. Writing in the London 'Financial Times', British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said: "The overwhelming victory for the 'No' vote demonstrated a deep dissatisfaction with the government."

Hain said President Robert Mugabe now had the opportunity to unite the country around a programme of reform and recovery. "I appeal to Mr Mugabe not to miss this moment and to face these challenges head on."

ANGOLA: Humanitarian assistance

A report by the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) this week said a total of 1,137,962 internally displaced people and others considered vulnerable around the country would receive deliveries of 15,715.17 mt of food items. The largest consignment will be allocated to more than a quarter of a million people camped in and around the city of Malanje, some 350 km east of the capital, Luanda.

The next major group of beneficiaries are over 197,000 people in the country's second city, Huambo, in the central highlands, and over 193,000 in Bie, also in the central highlands. WFP described security within the Malanje city limits and its immediate surrounds as "stable".

The city was held under siege by the UNITA rebel movement for several months last year until the situation was eased following a government offensive last October.

ANGOLA: Rebels to release Russian airmen

The Russian government has reached an agreement with the Angolan rebel movement UNITA paving the way for the release of six Russian airmen taken prisoner last year after their aircraft was shot down in northern Angola.

In a dispatch from Moscow this week, the Russian RIA-Novosti news agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying an agreement had been reached with UNITA officials in Europe for the release of the men to a third country.

ZAMBIA-ANGOLA: Security concerns over refugees

Angolan refugees who have crossed into southwestern Zambia and are stuck on the western side of the upper Zambezi river, need to be urgently moved away from the border due to security concerns, humanitarian sources told IRIN this week.

The refugees, overwhelmingly women, children and youths, are scattered across a 160 km-wide front from Imusho in the south, at the corner of the Namibian-Angolan border, to Shangombo further north. Estimates of numbers vary from 10,000 to 17,000 people, with the bulk concentrated in encampments dotted around the hamlet of Sinjembela.

About 23,668 Angolans have reportedly fled to Zambia since October following the resumption of war between the Angolan armed forces and the UNITA rebel movement. A detailed report on the refugees can be viewed at:

ZAMBIA: Health crisis deepens

Zambia's University Teaching Hospital (UTH), the country's main health institution, is eerily quiet these days. The calm does not denote silent efficiency, but a crisis in which essential drugs are not available, junior doctors have been locked out, and all but emergency cases go elsewhere for treatment.

The hospital's 143 demoralised junior doctors went on strike last month in protest over conditions and the lack of essential drugs. The government responded by sacking 81 of them. It called in some 30 doctors from provincial hospitals and recruited five foreign doctors to help out at UTH, in addition to Cuban and Russian medical personnel already assisting at the hospital. The full report is available on:

ZAMBIA: Good maize crop expected

Despite erratic rains and production difficulties faced by farmers, Zambia is expecting a good early crop of its staple maize.

Yields for irrigated maize have eased government concerns that it would have to import to cover a forecast shortfall after early rains gave way to a dry spell in December at the critical phase of crop germination. Meanwhile, peasant farmers who planted late pending the arrival of fertilisers have been saved the costs of replanting, and are now benefiting from a better rainfall. For a full report go to:

NAMIBIA: Rights group cites violations

Amnesty International this week said it is to publish a report documenting human rights abuses in northern Namibia following the arrival of Angolan government troops in the area last December.

Gillian Nevins, a researcher with Amnesty International's secretariat in London, told IRIN that the report will document violations by all sides. She said the abuses included forced repatriation by the Namibian authorities of Angolan refugees, the conscription of Namibian children into the Angolan army, rape and extra-judicial killings.

Earlier this month 'The Namibian' newspaper reported that the Namibian government had handed a group of 83 suspected UNITA rebels to the Angolan army. Defence Minister Erkki Nghimtina told 'The Namibian' that the men, captured by security forces, had been turned over to Angolan army officials in the northern Namibian border town of Rundu.

Meanwhile the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) chief of staff, Major General Martin Shalli, was this week quoted as saying: "I don't know what they are talking about. It's all nonsense."

NAMIBIA: Tensions affect tourism

Tourism in Namibia has fallen off because of tensions along the country's northern border with Angola, news reports said this week. At least ten luxury game lodges had been forced to close, leaving at least 200 people without jobs since December when the government granted Angolan forces the right to use Namibian territory to launch attacks against UNITA.

The reports said some of the lodges had closed because they could not guarantee the safety of their guests. "Lodges that have been empty for the past two months have closed because of concern for the safety of their employees and families," said Brian Black, chairman of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN).

BOTSWANA: Floods damage assessment

Assessments of the flood crisis in Botswana carried out by the humanitarian community this week show that over 30,000 people are in need of emergency assistance, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported. Since a government appeal for humanitarian assistance on 10 February, OCHA said assessments carried out by the national emergency services, the Botswana Red Cross and Medical Rescue International-Botswana, had confirmed severe damage to infrastructure and property.

"An estimated 10,000 households - around 60,000 people - have been affected. Over 34,000 people, including some 13,000 children under 12 years, require emergency assistance," the OCHA report said. The country urgently needs 5,000 tents large enough each to accommodate up to eight people, 30,000 blankets, 5,000 resettlement kits with eating and cooking utensils, and approximately US $1 million dollars for a one-month supply of emergency food.

A full report on the floods in Botswana can be viewed on:

BOTSWANA: Refugee influx from Namibia, Angola

Tensions in the remote northeast Caprivi Strip of Namibia have resulted in a new influx of refugees into Botswana in recent days, officials told IRIN this week.

UNHCR reported that 250 Namibians and 50 Angolans had sought refuge in Botswana from Caprivi, a strip of Namibian territory sandwiched between Angola to the north and Botswana in the south.

Officials in the Botswana capital, Gaborone, said the Namibians were mainly members of the minority San and Khoi communities who were being housed at the Dukwe refugee camp.

MOZAMBIQUE: Flood relief priorities

A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team sent to assist with flood relief operations in Mozambique has said that the most pressing problem facing the humanitarian community this week is accessing people, both to rescue those trapped by floodwaters and to deliver badly needed relief assistance to affected populations.

Katarina Toll Velasquez, leader of the UNDAC team dispatched by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN this week the priorities of assisting tens of thousands of flood victims, were to rescue trapped people, transport them to safe ground, and ensure their basic needs were provided for.

A full report on the floods can be viewed on:

MOZAMBIQUE: RENAMO threatens to set up "parallel" government

Mozambique's opposition RENAMO party has threatened to set up a "parallel" government if the authorities fail to conduct a recount of votes cast in the general election last December.

Speaking at a weekend news conference in the capital, Maputo, RENAMO leader Afonso Dhlakama said his party had given the government 10 days to recount the votes. He said the "RENAMO government" would be established in the six northern and central provinces where the party won a majority of votes. "There will be fighting if the government tries to hinder RENAMO's governance in the north," Dhlakama reportedly said.

Johannesburg, 18 February 12:00 GMT


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