AROUND THE REGION news briefs

DRC: Ceasefire proposal agreed Lesotho: No compensation for looted business
Five countries involved in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) conflict agreed to sign a ceasefire, along with the rebel Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD), Namibian President Sam Nujoma announced on 18 January. The announcement followed talks in the Namibian capital Windhoek between the presidents of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda, and Angola’s defence minister.

A statement issued by participants after the meeting said “significant progress” had been made towards achieving greater mutual understanding.

According to media reports, the rebels welcomed the initiative but now had to examine the text in detail. The RCD was not invited to the Windhoek meeting.

On Tuesday, Rwanda urged the rebels to sign the ceasefire agreement, Reuters reported. The RCD “should be led one way or another to place their signature on the accord,” Rwandan Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana said.

He confirmed that Kigali would sign the agreement, reached by Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda on 18 January 1999. (IRIN)

Lesotho businesses devastated in September’s political upheaval had claimed about R300 million from the Lesotho National Insurance Group. However, very few businesses affected, less than 2 percent, would benefit, and these were big companies covered for politically motivated damage, for which about R40 million had been claimed, the vice-chairman of the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Thabang Nyewoe said last month.

Most of the businesses destroyed, which had claimed about R240 million from the LNIG, were covered by standard policies related to damage from fire or theft, and insurers would not pay them out for the damage incurred in September’s riots. Nyewoe said the LNIG would consider paying businesses which had political riot insurance cover.

The shareholders of the LNIG are British and German insurance groups and the Lesotho government.

Referring to security problems, Nyewoe said there was “a hit list” of traders who were targeted to be killed. After the crisis in the wake of the May general election, the spate of killings of traders had become serious and would adversely affect investment, he said.

Business leaders expressed concern over the lack of security in the operation of their businesses and criticised the “slovenly” manner in which the police dealt with crime reported by the business community. (MRB)

Samora Machel monument inaugurated
Presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Nelson Mandela of South Africa on 19 January inaugurated a monument to the memory of Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel, and the 34 others who died when the presidential aircraft crashed into a hillside in the South African locality of Mbuzini on 19 October 1986.

The monument has been built at the crash site. Designed by Mozambican architect Jose Forjaz, the monument incorporates some of the wreckage of the plane. Central to the monument are 35 tubes of special steel, representing the 35 Mbuzini victims.

The tubes are so well constructed that, when the wind blows, they emit sounds of various tones. It therefore appears as if the monument itself is singing a lament for the Mbuzini dead.

The South African government paid for the monument, which cost about US$240,000.

Exactly how Samora Machel’s aircraft, a Soviet-manufacured Tupolev 134, which was returning from a summit in Zambia to Maputo, came to be so far off course, is still not clear. But the available evidence points to the use of a decoy radio beacon, broadcasting on the same frequency as the Maputo beacon, to lure the plane to its destruction. The only people with the motive and capacity to mount such a decoy were the South African military of the apartheid era.

A Mozambican government source, cited in a recent issue of the daily paper Noticias, declared: “We believe this was a an act of terrorism, and probably an act of state terrorism”.

“Building monuments is good, but the best way to honour the liberation struggle in this region would be to clarify who killed Samora Machel,” added the source.

A unilateral inquiry held by the apartheid regime blamed the dead Soviet pilot for the crash, but the Mozambican authorities never accepted the legitimacy of this inquiry or its conclusions.

In 1996, on the 10th anniversary of the crash, Mandela promised to resume the investigations, pledging that “we shall leave no stone unturned to ensure that, in the fullness of time, nothing but the whole truth is known about these events”. (AIM)

Angola: Diamond sales fuel war

Military analysts believe the heavy fighting in the highlands will settle into a long drawn-out struggle as government forces fight to take the Unita headquarters bases of Bailundo and Andulo. The siege of Kuito in 1993-4 resulted in an estimated 30,000 deaths, while the siege of Huambo led to the deaths of an estimated 10,000 people.

In this situation the battle between the two sides is increasingly likely to be decided by their respective economic resources - a battle between diamonds and oil. The government is facing falling world oil prices and consequently substantial drops in its revenues; Unita is facing a military limitation to its diamond diggings as well as sanctions against the sale of smuggled gems. And its profits are dropping with the fall in the world price for diamonds. It is seeking to boost its revenues by increasing smuggling through new routes including rebel held DR Congo.

On the government side the war against Unita eats up more than 16 percent of the budget. Oil accounts for 90 percent of Angola’s export revenue and in 1999 is expected to bring in some $4.5 billion, or around 42 percent of gross domestic product, but world oil prices are expected to fall further.

Angola has a $600 million trade deficit, and a foreign debt of more than $6 billion. (MRB)