Angola + 4 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 26 November

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ANGOLA: Journalist released on bail
Angolan journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques was released on bail on Thursday having spent nearly six weeks in detention, reports said on Friday.

Prior to his release Marques, 28, was finally charged with criminally defaming Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Under Angolan law the charge of criminal defamation carries a maximum sentence of one year's imprisonment. The trial has been scheduled for 15 December and in the interim he has been forbidden from making any public statements.

The charges arise from an article he wrote in July entitled 'The Dictatorship's Lipstick'. In the article Marques accused dos Santos of being one of Africa's worst dictators and of profiting personally from the country's ongoing civil war.

ANGOLA: Togo releases diplomat

Angolan diplomat Casimiro Manuel da Silva has been released by the Togolese police, the Angolan Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. Foreign ministry spokesman Joao Pedro said da Silva, a second secretary of the Angolan Embassy in Nigeria, left the police station in Lome without negotiations or mediation.

Da Silva was detained by the Togolese police, accused of intending to kidnap a son of Jonas Savimbi, head of Angola' s UNITA rebel movement. Angolan Foreign Minister Joao Miranda denied the accusation on Tuesday, saying that "it can't be true because it is not the orientation of the Angolan government."

ANGOLA: UNITA breaks silence

UNITA broke a long silence on Friday to announce that Savimbi was reorganising his military machine for a counter-offensive against the government.

UNITA Secretary-General Paulo Lukamba Gato told Reuters in a satellite telephone interview that Savimbi was in Angola but declined to give his whereabouts. "The boss will never abandon Angola, he will never abandon his people. He prefers to be among his people and die with them," Gato said.

"He is busy reorganising the army, reorganising all units, and the situation should change very soon," said Gato, Savimbi's number three.

ZAMBIA: Promises no asylum for Savimbi

Meanwhile, Zambia has promised not to give asylum to Savimbi if he tries to flee Angola, where he faces death or capture at the hands of the army, Angolan Foreign Minister Joao Bernardo de Miranda said on Thursday.

"What we wanted was for Zambia to promise not to let Savimbi leave Angola through Zambian territory," De Miranda told reporters in Luanda. Zambia's minister of Foreign Affairs Keli Walubita and the President Frederick Chiluba "have made that promise," he said.

De Miranda, on his way back from an official visit to Zambia and Zimbabwe, said that Harare had also promised Angola they would not aid Savimbi.

ZAMBIA: Budget boost with ZCCM sale

Zambia can run a growth-oriented budget next year provided it ends "the financial bleeding of the economy" caused by the need to prop up Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines, Finance Minister Katele Kalumba said on Thursday.

He told a news conference the government was spending US $14 million a month on keeping ZCCM going while it sought buyers for the company it could rely on, Reuters reported.

"We are going through a difficult patch," Kalumba said. "The government is committed to getting a buyer who does not walk away from the ZCCM sale deal. We have to end the financial bleeding of the economy through the ZCCM losses."

The government has signed a heads of agreement with Anglo American Plc for the sale of the main ZCCM assets of Nchanga, Nampundwe and Konkola. The deal has to be concluded by 31 January 2000, and Kalumba has said a contract would be signed before end-December.

The government is in talks to sell the ZCCM assets of Nkana and Mufulira to Canada's First Quantum Minerals Limited and Poland's KGHM Polska Miedz SA respectively. It expects the deals to be finalised before the end of the year, Reuters said.

ZIMBABWE: Loses rise in Congo

Zimbabwe has allegedly lost 164 men and US $202 million of military equipment since beginning military operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the weekly 'Financial Gazette' reported on Thursday.

The report added that 434 Zimbabweans have been injured in the fighting.

Defence Minister Moven Mahachi, interviewed in the 'Financial Gazette', refused to confirm the figures, which the independent paper says Zimbabwe has sustained since it began sending troops to back President Laurent-Desire Kabila in August 1998.

"Yes we have lost equipment in the war but I haven't quantified it. Publicity about our losses will not benefit Zimbabwe but enhance those who are fighting against us," Mahachi told the paper. Mahachi said he would confirm the figures at the end of the war.

Official government figures put the cost of military operations in the DRC at three million dollars per month. Those figures were called into question last month when the British 'Financial Times' alleged Harare was spending eight times more than it was declaring.

ZIMBABWE: Rebels surround troops

DRC rebels said on Thursday they had surrounded 3,000 Zimbabwean and Namibian soldiers allied with government forces after they refused to surrender their guns, Associated Press reported.

Kien-Kiey Mulumba, a rebel spokesman, said government troops had launched attacks in and around Ikela, 700 km northwest of the capital, Kinshasa, in a bid to link up with their allies who were entrenched at the town's small airport. The rest of the town was in rebel hands, he said.

"The Zimbabwean general at the airport is refusing to surrender. We offered him a land corridor if he leaves weapons and heavy artillery behind," Mulumba said on the telephone from the eastern rebel stronghold of Goma.

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