Angola + 4 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 1 March

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NAMIBIA: Concern over new landmines
The Namibian Campaign to Ban Landmines (NCBL) on Wednesday expressed alarm at reports that landmines targeting people and vehicles are allegedly being planted on Namibian soil by warring Angolan government forces and UNITA rebels.

"The NCBL is very disturbed by and extremely alarmed at incidents of new use of anti-vehicle mines (AVMs) as well as anti-personnel mines (APMs) presumably planted on Namibian soil by the Angolan warring parties," said a statement issued by the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR). NSHR director, Phil ya Nangoloh, who is also the NCBL coordinator, added: "Since the arrival of Angolan forces in Namibia in November last year, mines have become a very serious menace to civilian lives especially in the now war-stricken northeastern border areas of the country."

NAMIBIA: National Assembly backs Angolan deployment

In a related development, 'The Namibian' reported that the National Assembly this week rejected an opposition motion calling for Angolan forces to be removed from Namibian soil.

The motion was defeated by 35 votes to 13 after members of the ruling Southwest Africa Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) outnumbered the combined opposition. The motion on the security situation in northeast Namibia was tabled by Katuutire Kaura, leader of the opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA). In a heated debate, Kaura rejected allegations that the opposition was not sympathetic to the suffering of people in the northeast.

ZAMBIA: Troops for Sierra Leone, DRC

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba has said his country will contribute troops for the peace-keeping missions in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A report in the 'Times of Zambia' on Wednesday quoted him as saying 800 Zambian soldiers would be sent to Sierra Leone in coming weeks. He also said Zambia would be sending an unspecified number of soldiers to the DRC where the UN Security Council last week adopted a resolution for the initial deployment of 5,500 observers. Last year, Zambia contributed police officers to the international mission in Kosovo.

ANGOLA-SIERRA LEONE: De Beers move welcomed

Guarantees by the South African diamond giant, De Beers, that it will no longer purchase diamonds from rebel movements in Africa have been described as a "very welcome" development by the London-based NGO, Global Witness.

In a statement, Global Witness said: "De Beers has taken a lead that the rest of the diamond industry must now follow. De Beers has clearly understood that it is no longer acceptable to buy diamonds originating from conflict areas and we commend this move as a major first step in the difficult process of excluding conflict goods from the legitimate market place." Global Witness has repeatedly expressed concern over diamond sales from Sierra Leone and Angola.

ANGOLA-SOUTH AFRICA: Mbeki says relations good

South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Wednesday that relations between his country and war-torn Angola are good even though they have differing views on the conflict in Angola.

Mbeki told a news conference: "In practical terms relations between South Africa and Angola are in fact very good. The only issue of debate, and that was not a matter that should result in conflicts or enmities, was how to resolve the conflict in Angola." He said he appreciated Angola's sensitivities after the country had seen earlier agreements collapsing.

His comments followed remarks last month by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos who said South Africa should not "meddle" in Angolan affairs. He made the remarks after Pretoria urged the Angolan government and the UNITA rebel movement to negotiate a solution to the crisis.

ZIMBABWE: DRC deployment hits flood relief

The Zimbabwe government has come under criticism for being unable to provide sufficient relief to flood victims because too many of the country's aircraft and helicopters are currently deployed with the Zimbabwe intervention force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

News reports on Wednesday quoted officials as saying an estimated 300,000 people in the eastern and southern provinces were in need of urgent relief following floods caused by Cyclone Eline. Local Government Minister John Nkomo said only three helicopters had been made available, but that more were needed for the relief effort. Opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai was quoted as saying military aircraft were aiding a foreign government at the expense of disaster victims at home.

SOUTH AFRICA: Government criticised over Great Lakes

The leader of the opposition United Democratic Movement (UDM) in South Africa, Bantu Holomisa, has criticised the government for failing to respond to allegations that it had provided arms to Rwanda and Uganda.

Holomisa, who made the allegations recently in parliament, said in a statement the foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her deputy, Aziz Pahad, had shown "indifference" to parliamentary procedures by failing to respond. "This raises questions about their sincerity about the promotion of democracy on the continent when they have been busy arming non-democratic regimes in Uganda and Rwanda which has resulted in the proliferation of weapons of war in the Great Lakes region and has a clear linkage with the wars in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo," Holomisa said.

SOUTH AFRICA: More malaria cases forecast

The South African authorities said on Wednesday that they expected the number of malaria cases to reach epidemic levels this year following heavy rains and flooding caused by Cyclone Eline.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) said 310 people had died of the mosquito-borne disease last year. "Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said that South Africa could face an epidemic this year because of flooding caused by Cyclone Eline. She said that 42,000 cases of malaria were reported in South Africa in 1998 and last year, making the outbreak of malaria the worst in the country in three decades," the SABC said. The outbreaks occurred mainly in the country's three low-lying provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Northern Province.

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