Zambia + 3 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 12 January

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ZAMBIA: Concern grows for refugees
The humanitarian community in Zambia said on Wednesday it was concerned at how it would maintain access to the increasing number of refugees fleeing Angola into a remote area of southwest Zambia along the upper Zambezi valley.

"People have been crossing into one of the most remote areas. As the conflict across the border moves north in Moxico Province, we can expect a further influx," Hans Jensen-Fangel, director of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) office in Zambia told IRIN on Wednesday.

Commenting on the sudden arrival in recent days of nearly 8,000 Angolans near the southwestern town of Sinjembela, he said: "They have turned up in one of the most inaccessible parts of the country." As the rainy season continues he said, lorries carrying emergency supplies to the region were often stuck in mud for hours. At the same time, the river has not risen sufficiently for the deployment boats with supplies.

ZAMBIA: President condemns doctors' strike

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba has condemned a strike by junior doctors' saying that the action was aimed at blackmailing the government.

Chiluba told state television that the Zambian government was committed to providing good health care to patients and that it was ready to listen to the doctors' grievances. "I am a unionist myself and I'm dealing with the strike with a lot of empathy, but doctors' stay-away from work meant that patients were given a prescription for death." Junior doctors went on strike on 21 December to call for improved conditions within state hospitals and to demand a wage increase.

Over the weekend Cuban doctors were called in to take over from senior staff who had been treating all emergencies and the most critical cases. But Zambian medical experts were quoted as saying that the Cuban doctors were finding it difficult because of the language barrier.

Government signs accord with First Quantum

Meanwhile, news reports said on Wednesday that the Zambian government had signed an agreement with First Quantum Minerals (FQM) and Glencore International AG for the sale of the Nkana and Mufulira copper mines for an estimated US $43 million.

According to a government statement, the signing of the accord is for the sale of a 90 percent interest in a new company to be incorporated in Zambia by FQM and Glencore. Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) will retain a 10 percent stake.

ZIMBABWE: Government dismisses UN advice on elections

The Zimbabwean government has dismissed recommendations by elections experts from the United Nations, saying that their advice contained "nothing new."

Zimbabwe media reports quoted Tobaiwa Mudede, the country's election supervisor as saying: "The team did not recommend anything to us but were told the situation and why we wanted to carry out the voter registration exercise."

During their fact finding mission the UN team found that between 10 and 25 percent of the people on the voters' roll were now dead and that about 2 million of the estimated 5.8 million registered voters had moved constituencies since the last elections. Earlier this month President Robert Mugabe dismissed reports that parliamentary elections would only take place in June. He said that polls would most likely take place in March, but not later than the end of April.

Inflation rate falls

Zimbabwe's inflation rate fell for the second straight month in December to 56.9 percent official statistics said on Wednesday. Latest figures from the government's Central Statistical Office (CSO) said that the inflation rate had dropped from just over 70 percent in October to 61.2 percent in November and dropped a further 4.3 percent in December.

COMORO ISLANDS: Anjouanese to vote in referendum

The breakaway island of Anjouan in the Comoro Island archipelago will go to the polls in a referendum on 23 January to vote as to whether or not the island will remain part of the Comoro federal republic.

According to media reports the referendum will focus on the April 1999 Antananarivo accord which called for the transformation of the island chain from a federal republic to a looser union with a more a decentralised form of government. Anjouan refused to sign the accord, and last month the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) warned Anjouan that it had to sign the accord before February or face isolation.

In a new year's message the island's leader, Colonel Said Abeid Abderemane said: "This deal does not respond to our aspirations. We want total independence." Anjouan declared itself independent from the Comoro Islands in August 1997.

[ENDS]

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