Zimbabwe + 2 more

Southern Africa: IRIN News Briefs, 20 January

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NAMIBIA: Government says it has captured UNITA rebels
Namibia said it had captured up to 81 UNITA rebels in the north of the country it claimed were responsible for recent cross-border attacks that have killed seven civilians, including three French tourists.

State television showed the alleged UNITA members being paraded in front of reporters in the northern town of Rundu. "They are going to handed over to the Angolan government. They are citizens of Angola, Angola will deal with then," Defence Minister Erkki Ngimtina told a news conference in the capital Windhoek on Thursday.

Namibian television quoted one of the prisoners as saying that he had been part of UNITA since 1985 and that UNITA members were going hungry and were "killing people to survive".

Meanwhile, Ngimtina has defended his government's decision to allow Angolan government troops to launch attacks on UNITA from Namibia. "It was a blessing for us when the Angolan forces came here. UNITA no longer has the capacity to do what they want to do." He said that violence along the border was "nothing new" and that an estimated 40 Namibians had been killed due to UNITA raids since independence in 1990.

NAMIBIA: Army to escort trans-Caprivi travellers

Meanwhile, the Namibian army is to escort travellers along the trans-Caprivi highway in the northeast of the country, army chief-of-staff Major-General Martin Shalli said this week. Shalli told a media briefing that troops would escort vehicles along the 200 km stretch of road that links the border town of Bagani and Kongola.

NAMIBIA: Nujoma to stay away from UN talks on DR Congo

Namibian President Sam Nujoma will not attend the UN-hosted talks on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in New York next week, Namibian media reports said on Friday. Namibian Foreign Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab, president of the UN General Assembly, will represent Windhoek at the talks. Namibia joined Zimbabwe and Angola in defending the government of Laurent-Desire Kabila against Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebels in August 1998.

Meanwhile, South African President Thabo Mbeki has called on the UN to speed up its decision on peacekeeping in the DRC. Mbeki said his government would be prepared to contribute troops and equipment. Speaking after talks with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mbeki said: "South Africa would be prepared to contribute to the peacekeeping force. It would be armed groups whether logistical or whatever."

ZIMBABWE: Mugabe gets right to seize whites' land

President Robert Mugabe has at the last minute pushed through an amendment to the country's draft constitution which makes it possible for the state to seize land owned by white farmers by force. If Zimbabweans approve the draft constitution in a referendum next month, Mugabe will be able have enforce his threats of seizures without compensation. An estimated 1,400 farms were listed for seizure in November 1997, but the legal right to compensation forced Mugabe to back down.

SOUTH AFRICA: Representative elected to UN body

A South African, Patricia January-Bardill, has been elected to the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the South African department of Foreign Affairs said on Friday.

In a statement sent to IRIN, South Africa's Ambassador to the UN was quoted as saying: "For us, representing a country that was the victim of the most cruel form of racism known as apartheid, this victory can only add to our process of racial reconciliation." January-Bardill was elected to a four-year term of office beginning on 20 January.

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