(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

IRIN-SA Weekly Round-Up 6 covering the period 4-11 Dec 1998

ANGOLA: UN mission told to stay as fighting intensifies

The United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) to 6 February 1999 as fighting between government forces and the rebel UNITA movement intensified this week. The UN also appealed to the international donor community for US $66.7 million for humanitarian aid.

Western diplomats and analysts in the Angolan capital, Luanda, reported increased fighting all week along north-south front of some 300 km between the central towns of Kuito and Quela and government forces sought to seize UNITA strongholds. In what was described to IRIN as a state of undeclared war, the clashes started at the weekend after a group of 14 MONUA observers held for a month in two UNITA-controlled towns were airlifted to safety.

Through the Portuguese-language media at home and abroad, both sides engaged in a war of words. In his opening address to the fourth ruling MPLA party congress which ended on Friday, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos called the UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi “a running dog” of “the agents of foreign interests” who had long sought to dominate Angola and exploit its wealth.

His speech was carried in a Radio Angola report monitored by the BBC: “All attempts that we have made to integrate him in normal life have been fruitless. All patriots who are active in UNITA ranks have also come to the same conclusion. Against the murderous wrath of that man we must, therefore, mobilise and unite all the Angolan people,” he said. “The only way to attain definitive peace today is to isolate Dr Savimbi and his warmongering wing domestically and internationally, as well as to neutralize him politically and militarily.”

On Monday, a day after the weekend speech, Portuguese Renascenca radio carried the UNITA reaction from its Secretary-General Paulo Lukamba Gato:

“Jose Eduardo dos Santos has declared war. Not only did he declare war but his forces are acting on it. I must tell you that at the moment we are being bombed.” He added: “I can also tell you that at the moment Jose Eduardo dos Santos is moving troops from Quitona to Huambo... The congress speech is irrelevant. We shall see on the ground what will happen.”

Meanwhile, the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (UCAH) in Luanda told IRIN that the number of internally displaced people had increased from 350,000 confirmed last week to 360,000 or more.

“Current military activities in central parts of the country will undoubtedly have their impact on vulnerable groups. But the consequences will only be seen in the weeks to come,” a spokesman said.

In New York, when the appeal for US $66.7 million was made, the UN reported that sustained conflict, renewed laying of anti-personnel mines, widespread banditry and insecurity had “all created a dramatic impact on the already devastated conditions in Angola” where the under-five mortality rate was almost 30 percent and where only 31 percent of the population had access to clean drinking water.

In the resolution extending the MONUA mandate, the Security Council said, “the primary cause of the crisis in Angola and of the current impasse in the peace process is the failure by the leadership of UNITA” to comply with its obligations under the UN-brokered Lusaka Protocol of 1994. It called on UNITA, which has been at war with the government since independence in 1975, “to comply immediately and without conditions with its obligations” of complete demilitarisation of its forces and full cooperation in the “immediate and unconditional” extension of State administration throughout the country.

Following grim reports over the past month on the deteriorating humanitarian situation and increased fighting in Angola, the Security Council said both sides should cooperate more closely with UN Special Representative Issa Diallo.

COMORO ISLANDS: OAU military chiefs seek to defuse crisis

A delegation of African military chiefs flew from South Africa to the Indian Ocean Comoro Islands this week in a bid to seek ways of mediating an end to secessionist fighting which has already claimed over 40 lives since the weekend.

A South African government spokesman told IRIN the delegation led by South African army Brigadier-General Jan Lusse, with senior officers from Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania, would make recommendations on behalf of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) at a meeting in Ouagadougou,
Burkina Faso, next week.

After meetings with South African officials, OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim said no decisision about any military intervention would be taken until the officers reported back. “The use of force is the last possible consideration,” Salim told a news conference in the South African capital, Pretoria. “The objective of this mission is to make a proper, professional assessment of the situation and examine all the options on how to assist in the restoration of the normal situation in Anjouan and how to end the current state of affairs.”

A militia faction seized control of the capital of Anjouan, where summary executions, looting and burning have followed three days of fierce fighting since Saturday in which the South African government spokesman said more than 40 people had been killed.

“It is a difficult situation, made worse by economic deprivation in the islands of Anjouan and Moheli where secessionists are seeking closer ties with Paris as French overseas territories like the other island in the archipelago, Mayotte,” the spokesman said. “This is a country which has suffered some 17 coups in the last 15 years.”

Salim said he was concerned at a growing humanitarian crisis in
which thousands of people had been forced to flee their homes.

The OAU, he added, had received a number of appeals for intervention from the Comoran government - “not an intervention to settle the political problem, but a humanitarian intervention to save lives and so on.”

A senior South African diplomat told IRIN it was ironic that Salim had arrived in South Africa on Sunday night, to explore earlier plans of an inter-island conference to prevent just such an outbreak of violence.

LESOTHO: Interim political authority sworn in

An Interim Political Authority (IPA) representing the country 24 political parties was sworn in this week to govern the country and prepare it for a general election in the year 2000.

The structure came into being after a South African-led military intervention which was sent in three months ago under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to prevent a coup.

The IPA will also establish a new Independent Electoral Commission to recruit and train election officers.

Concern for journalist

Meanwhile, the international press freedom watchdog, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), said this week it was concerned for the plight of a journalist in Lesotho who had criticised the South African-led military intervention in the mountain kingdom.

In a letter to the South African defence ministry, a copy of which was sent to IRIN, RSF said the journalist, Naleli Ntlama had been in hiding since 26 November after South African soldiers had visited his house and left a message saying they would “be back”. They had earlier ransacked the house after he had published an article calling the intervention an “invasion” and an “occupation”. RSF called on the South African authorities to stop the harassment and to identify and punish the soldiers responsible.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Executive Outcomes announces its closure

The controversial military organisation, Executive Outcomes (EO) this week said it would close down at the end of the month. The move was announced as the South African parliament prepared to promulgate legislation in the New Year which will outlaw mercenary activities.

EO, which was the focus of a UN investigation of mercenary activities, made the announcement in a terse statement at a shareholders meeting in the South African capital, Pretoria. Its director, Nico Palm, said the company “looked back with pride” at what he called successful contributions to the peace processes in Angola and Sierra Leone.

“Over the past two years, the majority of governments in Africa have endeavoured to achieve and maintain law and order. The nature of these efforts do no justify EO’s involvement,” Palm said.

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