Angola + 4 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 8 December

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ZAMBIA: Holbrooke seeks DRC mediator
Richard Holbrooke, US ambassador to the United Nations, said on Wednesday the main aim of his current African tour is to find a "facilitator" to bring together the parties in the Congo civil war.

"The main point is that we are trying to find a facilitator," Holbrooke told reporters after meeting Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, who played a key role negotiating July's fragile peace accord. Chiluba said Organisation of African Unity (OAU)leaders will meet in Addis Ababa next week to discuss names from an undisclosed list. "The choice of a facilitator is still elusive," he told a news conference after meeting Holbrooke.

ANGOLA: Landmine deaths

At least 52 people were killed by landmines in eastern Angola's Moxico Province between January and November, official media reports said on Wednesday.

The reports quoting Medecins du Monde, International Veterans Foundation and Jesuit Services, all NGOs based in the area, also said 59 people had their legs amputated over the same period.

MALAWI: Election recount underway

An inspection of polling materials began this week in Malawi following a Supreme Court ruling to allow opposition parties access to the ballots of the controversial June general elections.

Electoral commission lawyer Arthur Nanthuru said the first ballot boxes were opened on Monday at a government warehouse whose gates were manned by soldiers, news reports said. Heavily armed Malawian soldiers have been deployed to provide security during the inspection and have been instructed to allow only eight officials from each contesting party and the electoral commission to do the inspecting.

The police were initially withdrawn from the exercise after supporters of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and the opposition clashed on Monday, after camping at the warehouse for the whole day, AFP reported. The recounting and inspection was due to last 21 days.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Free trade area

Southern African Development Community (SADC) trade ministers are to hold a two-day meeting next week in South Africa on the implementation of a regional free trade area, the 'Times of Zambia' reported on Wednesday.

South Africa's ratification of the trade protocol, bringing to two-thirds the number of states that have accepted the trade pact, means the way is now open to launch the free trade area with a market potential of 200 million people, the paper said. Of the 11 member states which initially signed the protocol in Lesotho in 1996, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have so far ratified. The trade ministers meet on 17 December.

[ENDS]

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