Namibia + 5 more

IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 12 covering the period 18-24 March 2000

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News and Press Release
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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for Southern Africa
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e-mail: irin-sa@irin.org.za

SOUTHERN AFRICA: New appeal for flood relief operations

The government of Mozambique and UN agencies this week launched a fresh appeal to donors for US $102 million.

Updating an appeal launched on 23 February, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the funds were being sought for 650,000 flood victims in the provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Sofala, Inhambane, Manica and Tete for six months until the end of August.

"The overall requirements are US $160,535,650, and the government of Mozambique has so far received contributions amounting to US $58,691,546," OCHA said in a statement. OCHA said it is prepared to serve as a channel for contributions. Full details of the appeal, and how contributions can be made, can be seen at http://www.reliefweb.int

A team from the US Army Corps of Engineers is working with the governments of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia to check the structural integrity of all major dams along the region's other great waterway, the Zambezi River.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) announced the establishment of a disaster response task force to complete assessments and provide periodic reports on the impacts of the flooding on crop production and food security throughout southern Africa. The task force will be led by the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development Coordination Unit's regional early warning office based in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Although the weather was set to improve in coming days, several rivers in Mozambique still remained dangerously high. Major humanitarian relief operations continued also in Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and parts of northeast South Africa. Full details of these operations can be viewed at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/

NAMIBIA: Amnesty International cites human rights abuses

Amnesty International this week accused the Namibian and Angolan security forces, as well as the Angolan rebel movement, UNITA, of violating the rights of people in the volatile northern Namibian towns bordering war-torn Angola.

Amnesty said civilians on both sides of the Okavango river, which forms the border between southeastern Angola and much of northeastern Namibia, had been subjected to extra-judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, forcible deportations and beatings.

The report is a sequel to a two-week investigation in the area by Amnesty's researchers last month. It said some civilians have "disappeared" without trace, while those suspected of assisting UNITA or of being illegal immigrants had been handed back to the Angolan authorities apparently without being given the opportunity to request asylum. "Civilian life has been disrupted." the report said.

For full details of the report, see: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/sa/countrystories/namibia/20000323.htm

NAMIBIA: Nujoma sworn in for controversial third term

As Namibia marked the 10th anniversary of its independence on Tuesday, President Sam Nujoma was sworn in for a controversial third five-year term.

At televised ceremonies in the capital, Windhoek, attended by South African President Thabo Mbeki and several other visiting heads of state, members of a new cabinet named at the weekend were also sworn in following the sweeping
victory in last December's elections of Nujoma's ruling South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO).

Among the dignitaries was the former Finnish president, Martti Ahtisaari, who helped steer Namibia to independence from South Africa in 1990 when he oversaw one of the most successful peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. Ahtisaari said that he was "delighted" to be back in Namibia to see the achievements made over the last 10 years.

In his inauguration address, Nujoma, 70, said: "The main objectives over the next five years for my government will be to accelerate the process of job creation by increasing support for small and medium scale enterprises."

Nujoma, who has been in power since independence, also said his government had to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS, unemployment, and access to better health care, education, water and electricity.

Nujoma sought a controversial third term after his party removed a two-term limit from the constitution last year. In December he won 77 percent of the votes in the presidential race.

SWAPO won 76 percent of the parliamentary seats, well above the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution.

Analysts in Namibia told IRIN that the costly deployment of Namibian troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the decision last November to allow neighbouring Angola to use Namibian border bases to launch attacks against UNITA rebels had undermined confidence in Nujoma's government. A list of the new cabinet and explanations of the changes Nujoma made can be seen at http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/

ANGOLA: UN inter-agency humanitarian mission

Carolyn McAskie, Emergency Relief Coordinator ad interim of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) visited Angola this week at the head of an inter-agency mission.

A UN statement said the mission had been sent at the request of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. During a six-day visit, McAskie travelled to the towns of Huambo and Kuito in the central highlands, and also held talks with President Eduardo dos Santos and other senior officials.

A UN statement said the mission, which included officials from UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF, was aimed at undertaking "a comprehensive assessment of existing coordination arrangements. This mission occurs at a time of increasing attention to the issue of coordination of assistance for internally displaced peoples (IDPs)".

ANGOLA: WFP employee critically injured in landmine blast

A WFP employee was critically injured at the weekend when the vehicle which he was driving detonated an anti-tank mine in southern Angola's Cunene Province.

Benjamin Antonio Liberdade, 44, an Angolan national and father of 10 has worked for WFP since 1994. He was evacuated by an aircraft operated by Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) to hospital within hours of the blast on Saturday outside the town of Cuvelai, some 900 km southeast of the capital, Luanda.

WFP spokeswoman Maria Flynn told IRIN other passengers in the four-wheel drive vehicle included a WFP employee and a local government official, neither of whom were injured.

"It is with deep sadness that I received this terrible news," said Ronald Sibanda, the WFP Representative in Angola. "To lay mines near civilian populations is completely inhuman. The victims are almost always innocent people who present no threat to the warring parties."

Flynn said the incident occurred about 1630 (1530 GMT) on Saturday at a new camp for displaced people some 7 km from Cuvelai. At the time, WFP staff were monitoring a food distribution programme for some 1,000 beneficiaries by their local implementing partner, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NCR).

"Our employees risk their lives every day in the service of the hungry and destitute of this world," Sibanda said. "We try to give them as much protection as possible, such as installing ballistic blankets in our field vehicles. We believe that this protection kept at least two of the passengers free of injury."

In Angola, five WFP employees were killed in the line of duty between 1996 and 1999. Several others were wounded.

ANGOLA: Journalist tried in secret

The public were ordered to leave a Luanda courtroom on Tuesday half-an-hour after the start of proceedings against a prominent Angolan journalist charged with defaming President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

The trial of Rafael Marques, Angolan representative of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa who works for the newspaper 'Folha 8', has been described as a landmark case by human rights groups monitoring the proceedings.

"After 30 minutes, Judge Joaquim de Abreu Cangato excluded the public from the courtroom," the New York-based the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement on Tuesday. "Officials from the US and Portuguese embassies, several human rights activists, and journalists were among those in attendance until they were all forced to leave."

It said the proceedings continued all day in secrecy. Marques, 28, and two co-defendants have been charged with criminal defamation in connection with published articles critical of the president.

The case has been closely followed by the CPJ, Amnesty International, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and other rights groups. If convicted, Marques faces from two to eight years in prison.

Jeanette Minnie, Regional Director of MISA told IRIN: "MISA considers the trial to be a case of landmark significance as it challenges the validity of the notorious Angolan Press Law."

ANGOLA: UNITA rebels claim hundreds killed

The Angolan UNITA rebel movement this week 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 reported this week that 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.

ZAMBIA: Two Angolan soldiers held

The Zambian authorities have arrested two suspected Angolan government soldiers following an exchange of fire near the Angolan border with armed men clad in military fatigues, 'The Post' newspaper reported this week.

"Zambian security sources revealed that fighting had been intense in Chizeze on the Zambian side and the two Angolan soldiers are being held in central Chavuma at one of the Zambia Army camps," it said. The newspaper cited at least three cross-border raids in recent weeks by armed men. The newspaper said senior Angolan officials and Zambian officials had declined all further comment.

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 this week.

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.

ZAMBIA: Blood shortages

Meanwhile, the 'Times of Zambia' reported this week that most Zambian government hospitals were facing critical shortages of blood, making it difficult for them to carry out major operations.

The newspaper quoted Mpamba as saying that the shortage is caused by the prevalence of AIDS and HIV in the country as most of the donated blood is rejected after screening. "We have this problem because of the AIDS prevalence but we are doing everything possible to control the situation," Mpamba said.

ZAMBIA: Farmers urge ratification of agreement

Zambian farmers this week urged the government to resolve outstanding issues over the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and sign the agreement as soon as possible to enable them to fulfil their export quotas.

The president of Zambia National Farmers Union, Ajay Vashee said Zambia is currently expected to export 10,000 mt of soya beans, 1,500 mt of beef, 5,000 mt tons each of groundnut and soya bean cakes and two million litres of orange juice.

Vashee said Zambian farmers had been waiting for two years for the government to sign the SACU agreement, a delay which has made farmers lose an opportunity to increase the quotas given under the South African veterinary protocol. SACU is made up of South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana.

ZIMBABWE: Government defends farm invasions

The government of President Robert Mugabe has challenged a High Court ruling last week that ordered former liberation fighters to leave hundreds of white farms they have occupied over the past month, the country's attorney-general said in a statement.

Patrick Chinamasa said he had held talks with the police chief to assess what he called "the rather volatile and fluid situation" and the "security implications" of police intervention. "I believe that an objective consideration of this further information and submissions might persuade the court to come to a different conclusion," Chinamasa said in the statement.

The High Court on Friday set a Monday deadline for squatters to leave the more than 600 properties they have invaded to back Mugabe's plans to forcibly acquire white farms to resettle landless blacks. The invaders have disregarded the court order and the country's police have made no efforts to evict them.

The Commercial Farmers Union, a grouping of 4,500 mostly white members who had appealed to the court to declare the invasions illegal, warned at the weekend that if the squatters did not withdraw it could plunge Zimbabwe into anarchy. The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a grouping of civic and labour bodies, has also called on the government to evict the squatters. Mugabe said it was immoral for 4,500 farmers to own 70 percent of Zimbabwe's prime farming land while blacks are squeezed into unproductive areas.

ZIMBABWE: Agriculture minister on corruption charges

Kumbirai Kangai, Zimbabwe's Minister for Land and Agriculture, Kumbirai Kangai, appeared in court this week court on charges of involvement in a multi-million dollar corruption scandal.

Facing two counts of violating the Prevention of Corruption Act by flouting tendering procedures at the state-run Grain Marketing Board (GMB), he is the most senior figure yet confronted in connection with government corruption. He was remanded on bail to appear in court on 14 April.

Kangai, who denied the charges, has served in President Robert Mugabe's government since independence in 1980. He was also ordered to surrender some of his property title deeds, not to interfere with witnesses, and not to go to the GMB premises or his own office without the escort of a senior police officer.

Analysts said it was likely that the decision to charge him had been approved by Mugabe, who has repeatedly cited corruption as a problem in his government. The country's energy minister, Enos Chikowore, resigned last month over the country's fuel shortage crisis.

ZIMBABWE: Former mayor arrested

In a related development, police this week arrested the former mayor of the country's capital, Harare, on charges of corruption and abuse of power during his tenure.

Solomon Tawengwa was sacked from his mayoral position last June after a government inquiry found evidence of corruption and abuse of power. He was charged with flouting procedures in the awarding of council contracts. Tawengwa was also a leading member of President Robert Mugabe' ruling ZANU-PF party.

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. It was the 19th coup attempt in the islands 300 km off the east coast of Africa since independence 25 years ago.

The coup attempt was allegedly 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.

MALAWI: National AIDS conference

Malawi opened a two-day conference with its development partners on Friday week to raise resources for implementing a new plan to combat HIV/AIDS.

A conference statement described Malawi as one of the countries worst hit in the world by the epidemic. With at least eight percent of the country's population of 10 million already infected, it described HIV/AIDS as the most critical development challenge for the country.

The conference will discuss a five-year plan, known as the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework 2000 - 2004. It was launched by President Bakili Muluzi on October 29, 1999, after 18 months of a nationwide consultative process.

"It outlines Malawi's first comprehensive response to the epidemic. The response is anchored on personal responsibility and multi-sectoral approach at all levels and in all societies, public and private," the statement said. "The main objective is to reduce HIV infections, especially among the youth, and improve the quality of life of those infected and affected by the epidemic by making information and tools for support and prevention available to all citizens."

Johannesburg, 24 March, 12:00 GMT

[ENDS]

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