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IRIN-SA Weekly Round-Up 5 covering the period 28 Nov-4 Dec 1998

[Cote d'Ivoire]
Les troupes françaises ont libéré mardi dernier des élèves dont l'école était prise au piège dans le conflit (CNN News)

ANGOLA: : UN observer mission should stay

Amid new concerns for the safety of 13 members of the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), the UN Security Council was told this week the mission’s mandate to remain on should be renewed because of fresh tensions and a deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Western diplomats in the Angolan capital, Luanda, said they were concerned for the group of MONUA men, most of them Indian nationals held in territory controlled by the UNITA rebel movement. Two are based in the town of Bailundo and 11 in Andulo, both within 100 km of the central city of Kuito. The diplomats said they were worried because of reports that government forces were preparing to attack Andulo. MONUA officials in Angola said the 13 who were to have been redeployed a month ago, had not been given clearance by UNITA to leave because of poor weather conditions and a damaged runway.

The troika of Angola observer nations, Russia, the United States and Portugal, said in a draft resolution to the Security Council that “the international community will hold UNITA responsible for their safety and security”.

In the draft resolution the three observer states backed an earlier recommendation by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the MONUA mandate should be extended. They also appealed to the government and UNITA rebels to guarantee the freedom of movement and “urges the international community provide financial and other resources” for continued emergency relief in Angola.

More internally displaced people

As the resolution was considered in New York, the latest report by the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (UCAH) in Luanda said the number of people internally displaced since January had risen to over 350,000 confirmed cases while the number of reported cases was estimated at over half a million. Recent fighting, especially in central Angola had all but forced humanitarian aid down to a trickle, the UCAH report said.

It said food deliveries to displaced people in the tense Huila province had been further curtailed by an attack on 26 November on a WFP food convoy in which two vehicle operators were killed.

As a result, 15,000 people due for the relief since August, would have to wait longer for emergency assistance, it said.

In the provinces of Huambo, Uige and Malange, it cited a significant increase in political and military tension during the past week. Troop movements in the provinces had prevented the delivery of humanitarian aid and had also made humanitarian assessment missions impossible. It was also concerned that large numbers of those displaced were children, especially in Moxico province, and the central highlands.

Grenade attack

An Angolan government soldier died taking the lives of nine other people when he detonated a hand grenade in a crowded market stall on Tuesday in the Angolan town of Caala, some 50 km west of the city of Huambo. A UCAH spokesman said he had no further details on the attack in which an unspecified number of people were believed to have been injured. Diplomats said it appeared to have been an isolated incident.

Concern over new mine laying

In commemoration of the signing a year ago of the Ottawa Treaty on the eradication of landmines, the Angolan NGO, Comite Angolano para o Banimento das Minas, had started a new campaign against mines with ICRC and UNICEF. Although 16,000 mines had been removed in Angola with international community assistance, experts said this week they estimated that there were still five to seven million mines still concealed across Angola. “There are numerous reports,” UCAH said, “indicating that new mines continue to be laid.”

UN representative meets foreign minister

Meanwhile, in continued efforts at dialogue, UN Special Representative Issa Diallo met Angola’s foreign minister, Venancio de Moura, on Tuesday. In his first meeting with Diallo, Radio Nacional de Angola, quoted De Moura as saying the UN-brokered Lusaka Protocol providing the basis for a peace plan had been deadlocked since June. The government, he said, was no longer on talking terms with UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi and his camp and would instead pursue dialogue only with those “genuinely interested” in peace, including groups which had split from UNITA.

ZIMBABWE: Unions challenge government ban on strikes

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said it planned to challenge in court a ban on strikes announced at the weekend by President Robert Mugabe. A group of human rights lawyers in Zimbabwe also condemned the ban imposed under special presidential powers.

“We are seeking legal opinion on the matter and we will take appropriate action for the redress of this situation,” Gibson Sibanda, president of the ZCTU told a news conference. The ban prevents trade unions and employees’ organisations from inciting or participating in collective mass strikes to protest government policies.

ZCTU Secretary-General Morgan Tsvangirai described the ban as a “desperate measure”. The ban prevented the ZCTU staging a series of day-long work stoppages on Wednesdays in protest against a 67 percent fuel price increase and the human and economic costs of the country’s military intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) group urged “Zimbabweans to take seriously the issue of their human rights” and said the “outrageous” measure should be rescinded.

Fugitive ex-president meets Mandela

The Reverend Canaan Banana, Zimbabwe’s fugitive former president found guilty of sodomy last week, this week held talks in Pretoria with South African President Nelson Mandela hours after it was reported that he might have taken refuge in South Africa.
A presidential spokesman told IRIN that the meeting had taken place at Banana’s request, and that he had not formally sought refuge.

Last week,the 62-year-old cleric and father of four who was president of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987, fled to Botswana just days before he was found guilty in absentia of 11 counts of sodomy and indecent assault. At the start of his 17-day trial last June, he pleaded not guilty to all counts.

In headline news reports on Friday, South African officials insisted that the Zimbabwe government was aware of the meeting with Mandela, that they had received no formal request for his extradition, and that since the meeting they had no idea of Banana’s whereabouts.

NAMIBIA-BOTSWANA: Caprivi exodus continues

A group of 47 Namibians fleeing secessionist tensions in the northern Caprivi Strip crossed south into Botswana this week swelling the number of asylum seekers to 849, a UNHCR spokeman said.

Meanwhile, the Botswana authorities released the first group of Namibian refugees who were detained when they started coming during the last week of October and early November. The 104 who appeared in court last Friday, have now been released on bail, the spokesman said. All except two of their leaders, who were told stay in the capital, Gaborone and report daily to the police, are being housed in refugee camps. The 104 are due to appear in court on 11 December. More than 1,000 San bushmen have also crossed from Caprivi into Botswana, but they have not formally sought asylum, the UNHCR said.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Botswana cites divisions over DRC intervention

Botswana President Festus Mogae told an international trade meeting in Cape Town this week that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) had been causing divisions within the 14-member South African Development Community (SADC).

“For the time-being, SADC is less focused than it normally is, but this is a short-term phenomenon. I’m sure it will recover its focus before long,” he said. Although he did not go into details, he insisted, however, that there was “no bitterness” among SADC leaders, who had all endorsed Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola’s military interventions to stop the overthrow of DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila.

SADC members are South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Malawi, Mauritius,Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Seychelles. Mogae said the region could “ill afford the instability” which would ensue were Kabila to be overthrown.

SADC free trade zone

Meanwhile, South African Trade Minister Alec Erwin told the same meeting said he was confident that the SADC would be able to establish the framework for a free trade zone next year. Erwin also said Southern Africa would also have to consider the creation of a currency union if the SADC region truly wanted to develop its full economic potential. He said the free trade agreement, which envisages an eight-year tariff reduction scheme, had been approved in principle, but that the terms of phasing down tariffs were still being negotiated. Erwin described the current SADC inter-country payment system as ineffective and expensive, and said it was an obstacle to regional development.

The new free trade zone, he added, would create a market of more than 140 million people.

Mandela speaks out on AIDS

South African President Nelson Mandela this week pledged that Pretoria would work closely with neighbouring countries and the UN in the fight against AIDS. In a speech marking World AIDS Day, Mandela disclosed new government figures showing that 1,500 people a day were being diagnosed with the disease in South Africa where the number of those infected currently tops three million.

“Although AIDS has been part of our lives for 15 years or more, we have kept silent about its true presence in our midst. We have too often spoken of it as if it was someone else’s problem.”

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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