Angola + 4 more

Southern Africa: News briefs, 22 March

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News and Press Release
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COMORO ISLANDS: Coup attempt foiled
A coup attempt this week against Colonel Azali Assoumani's government in the Indian Ocean Comoro Islands has reportedly been foiled, according to news reports on Wednesday. It was the 19th coup attempt in the islands 300 km off the east coast of Africa since independence 25 years ago.

According to official sources quoted by PANA news agency, the coup attempt was led by four military officers. A number of arrests were reported, gunshots were heard in the early hours on Tuesday and telephone lines were briefly disconnected. No-one was injured. The reports said the officers had apparently sought to take advantage of Assoumani's current pilgrimage to Mecca.

The South African foreign ministry said it was looking into the alleged coup attempt against Assoumani who himself seized power in a coup last year. Officials said they believed the attempted coup had been led by two sons of the islands' first president, Ahmed Abdallah, who was himself assassinated in a coup in 1989.

ANGOLA: UNITA rebels claim hundreds killed

The Angolan UNITA rebel movement has claimed that its forces killed 827 government soldiers during clashes in recent days. In a statement issued in Lisbon, carried by news media, UNITA said it had captured two diamond mines in Lunda Norte province.

It also said UNITA forces had captured arms it could no longer buy from its former allies because of UN sanctions.

ANGOLA: Churchmen reportedly killed

In a separate report, the Portuguese Lusa news agency on Tuesday said suspected UNITA forces were believed to have killed six members of the Angolan Baptist Church.

Lusa said the attack occurred in Beu in the northwest province of Uige. The attack, which was not independently verified, Lusa said, had been reported by a priest of the Council of Christian churches in Angola.

ZIMBABWE: Opposition says squatters must leave farms

Opposition groups in Zimbabwe have called on President Robert Mugabe's government to ensure a court order for the eviction of war veterans from hundreds of white farms is carried out.

A statement carried by the South African Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday said the appeal to Mugabe had come from the National Constitutional Assembly, a coalition of civic and opposition groups. It said it would call for Mugabe, Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri to resign unless they ensured the High Court order was carried out.

In a growing row with its former colony, British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain called the occupation of the farms "another sad and downward twist in the spiral of bad governance" in Zimbabwe. Hain criticised Mugabe for failing to enforce the court order.

ZAMBIA: New package for striking doctors

The Zambian government has worked out a new package for doctors who have been on strike since January, Zambian news reports said on Wednesday.

Health Minister David Mpamba said he had discussed the new plan with the doctors and was awaiting their response. He declined to give details of the new package.

"We had a meeting with them, the intention was to show them their new packages effected under the Central Board of Health and I expect all of them to come back," he was quoted as saying.

SOUTH AFRICA-BURUNDI: A refugee orphan's "amazing" journey

A 16-year-old Burundian orphan who survived an "amazing journey" through Southern Africa has been discovered aboard a British ship after it docked at the mid-Atlantic island of St Helena, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reported on Tuesday.

It quoted the manager of the St Helena Line, Tony Bownes, as saying Alain Hakizmana, had succeeded in avoiding detection on the ship by hiding in the top of the funnel.

"Hakizmana apparently fled from his village near Bujumbura in Burundi when his parents, grandparents and 12 brothers and sisters were killed by Tutsi soldiers a month ago," the SABC said. It said he had fled to South Africa by crossing into Zambia and then Mozambique before taking a lorry ride to Cape Town and stowing away.

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