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Instability hits economy

Continued insecurity in Namibia’s northern Kavango region has taken its toll on the tourism-dependant local economy.

Along the Kavango river border with Angola, a number of guest lodges have closed, and others are operating on skeleton staff since UNITA rebel attacks began in December last year.
The hit-and-run raids, which have reportedly claimed 50 lives including those of three French tourists, are in retaliation for the Namibian government’s green light to the Angolan army (FAA) to use Kavango as a rear base in an offensive against UNITA positions in southern Angola.

UNITA insurgency has targeted villages and civilians rather than military installations, and has involved abductions of children, stock thefts and the laying of land mines. The attacks have been especially common along the river, a narrow stretch of water that can be easily forded during the dry season. Kavango residents also blame the allegedly undisciplined FAA for the prevailing insecurity. Frustrated and angry, they accuse unpaid FAA troops of being more interested in trading in Namibia rather than combating UNITA.

“The situation is still claiming many lives and properties of Kavango residents and fear is increasing dramatically,” regional governor Sebastian Karupu told a visiting Angolan delegation last week led by the speaker of the Angolan parliament, Ventura De Azvedo. He urged the Angolan people to “come to the negotiating table to discuss their problems and try and ensure peace”.

According to a representative of small businessman in Rundu, the regional capital, in March alone his members lost US $36,000 and are being forced into bankruptcy. A spokesman for Kavango farmers told IRIN that continued cattle thefts were also having a disastrous affect. “Now everything is gone, especially by the riverside and we can’t farm. Most farmers survive from their livestock which they also use to pay school fees,” he said.

The Namibian security forces have been unable to halt the UNITA raids. They blame alleged UNITA collaborators in the Kavango who share ethnic and business links with Angolans across the border in Cuando Cubango, a province under UNITA control since 1975. Not one armed rebel has been killed or captured inside Namibia since December, although the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) is 100-150 km inside Angola on hot pursuit missions, a senior police officer told IRIN.

He said it was impossible for the security forces to cover the entire Kavango region: “UNITA sneak in to kill and rob and then run back.” He said the FAA had managed to clear UNITA bases from along the river, but UNITA units were infiltrating from 200-300 km north of the border with the help of local sympathisers. “They leave their (transport) oxen 50-100 km from the border and then cross into Namibia ... They are fighting to survive, we’ve learnt they are suffering, there is no food in Angola. What he (a UNITA soldier) has is only his firearm.”

Member of Parliament for Rundu, Ambrosius Haingura told IRIN: “If the problem of (the Angolan conflict) is not solved, we’ll continue to have this problem. What we are seeing is a spill over of that conflict.” He added that where there is instability “there will always be an economic impact. We need to get the region stabilised for people to get on with their normal lives.”

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:

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