UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE/NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE/NAMIBIA NEWS
Edition #7 21 May 1998
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HOLLOW REED FOR ANGOLANS
Angolan refugees have now to choose between the rock - stay as foreigners in neighbouring Namibia - and a promising softer ground - peace that compels them to go home and face the aftermath of war. Neither looks good for Angolans however.
For most Angolans, news of permanent peace in their country is not believable news. This, against a backdrop of untoward woes at the hands of their host, Namibia and the unbearable status of a refugee. With little surprise, Angolan refugees say they are safe in Namibia.
Not to exclude Zambia, Angola and Namibia ought to be the best of friends. Like Zambia, Angola played host to thousands of Namibian refugees during their fight against the occupation of their country by the South Africa of old. And so they were in the time of the tide of apartheid.
Namibian returnees at the eve of independence in 1989 speak well of their neighbours Angola and Zambia as well as Tanzania and Congo, as true friends that positively responded to their call at the time of apartheid siege- hosted them, gave them jobs and at least relieved some of their anguish.
When Angola's civil war erupted, independent Namibia reciprocated rather harshly to their one time hosts. At the time of Namibia's independence in 1990, Angola's civil war escalated. Angolans running away from the ills of war, flocked into Namibia for refuge with others hopeful to receive better status than that of a refugee. They got it all wrong.
Until recently, Angolans lived in more fear in Namibia than they imagined. Their homes were frequently visited by the notorious security officers or by the armed paramilitary mostly at dawn. Those found without documents were arrested instantly. With full knowledge of trouble in their country, Namibian officials went ahead to put on trial arrested illegal Angolans.
Most of them were forced to leave the country or sent to a refugee centre, Osire. In between waiting for repatriation or being sent to a refugee camp, those arrested would be kept on remand usually for months.
The government's crackdown on illegal immigrants is understandable for several reasons. One being that most of the bizarre armed robberies in town were linked to illegal immigrants - the largest number being Angolans. Some Angolans were linked to the boom in the illegal arms sale for food along the border. Cattle rustling became a fashion for others.
But not all Angolans were/are criminally adventurous or illegal immigrants as such. Others tell of tribulations coming from a lack of appreciation for what Angola did to Namibia during the latter's forced occupation by apartheid South Africa.
Twice, in 1994 and early this February, Kuelu-Muene el Samango, Angolan, traveled to Namibia seeking medical treatment for his ailing 82-year old father. Samango however tells a tale of woe at the hands of Namibians in words of grief and annoyance.
Samango's father needed an eye and prostate operation at a state hospital in Windhoek. In 45 days of waiting, Samango paid close to one thousand US dollars for a mattress shared with his ailing father. This amount did not include food. Samango, limping, had to walk to buy food from a nearby shop for his father. A gun shot in his foot during an armed robbery at his house in 1985, left him permanently limping.
When his financial reserves rapidly begun to deplete, Samango shifted to another house to rent a room for close to one hundred US Dollars a month. Still he has to share a single mattress with his father. "It is not like this in Angola, but I prefer to pay this amount here than where we were previously," says Samango in a Portuguese/French accent.
Angolans are only now close to feeling a breeze of peace in their country after over 20 years of warring. Even so, Angola's peace is threatened by many horrifying factors. Lawlessness on the streets, shelled infrastructure, economic stagnation, barbaric state and opposition forces, organised banditry -besides inadequate food and drug supply -all have their share to Angolans' hollow reed.
The Angolans' morale at the Osire Refugee Camp has of late been low. Early this May, the Namibian government announced it was considering closing the camp. This decision comes with the increasing hope of permanent peace in Angola. For this, Angolans are being encouraged to return home as part of a repatriation programme to run from this September until June 1999.
A senior delegation from the Namibian Government, United Nations and Angolan officials recently travelled to Osire Refugee Camp to launch the 1998 final repatriation effort of Angolan refugees based there.
Most Angolans are skeptical and fearful that peace between the former antagonists (Jonas Savimbi and Eduardo Jose dos Santos) does not necessarily entail peace for the rest of the country. They look back to 1992 when the second war in Angola broke out after the repatriation of refugees believing that peace finally reigned in the country.
The government, frightened Angolans believe, should create real peace by eliminating organised gangsters; create a disciplined police force and the restoration of law and order. They understand however that the creation of an overall conducive, livable atmosphere in Angola calls for the concerted efforts of all Angolans. The initial step, Angolans insist, is to create peace on the streets and in the ordinary homes before genuine talk of repatriation can begin.
The Namibian government has left open one door. It says the repatriation is completely voluntary. Refugees not wishing to return to their country only require to have the legal status to stay in Namibia - a statement widely seen as another cruel joke. Once peace in Angola is consolidated, Angolan citizens will no longer qualify for refugee status in Namibia. But this will be decided after the conclusion of the repatriation programme in 1999.
Currently there are 2, 098 refugees at Osire of whom 1, 988 are Angolans, 35 Burundians, 31 Congolese, 20 Rwandans and nine Liberians.
"Is it really safe to go home? Are you sure that the war is over?" wary Angolans ask. After the 1992 turn about of events, who wouldn't. "It has happened before. They said it was safe but we had to run again. Who knows what these politicians think. Are they serious about ending the war?" Raquel Bakinda tells a local newspaper.
Still, it remains even hollow a reed for Bakinda and her colleagues who are plagued by the thought of starting afresh: "I have nothing in Angola to go back for. My family, my house - everything is gone. All I have left is my husband and son."
1. DOUBLE TRAGEDY LOOMS FOR GOLD MINE FIRM
A Namibian consultant of Radiation and Occupational Disease has indicated he may institute a legal suit of up to N$250 million (about U$50 million) against Gold Fields South Africa for permanent health damage to an estimated one thousand mine workers.
Dr. Reinhard Zaire represented the Mine Workers Union (MWU) in health damage compensation talks with the recently liquidated Tsumeb Corporation Limited (TCL) before the company went into liquidation.
As well as providing for legal costs for workers who suffer from permanent health ailments, Dr. Zaire says a fund has been set aside for covering medical examinations and diagnosises for workers who suffer from non-permanent health problems as a result of exposure to toxic metals or smoke from the smelter. However, Zaire says the legal suit is subject to the TCL retrenchment packages on offer.
The TCL closed unannounced in April owing to liquidation. Its closure left close to 2000 workers jobless and 8000 dependents destitute. TCL was owned by Gold Field South Africa. So far, neither the government nor the TCL have commented on the colossal law suit.
2. WHO IS WATCHING THE WATCHDOG?
Namibia's Prime Minister Hage Geingob has challenged the media to spell out mechanisms they had in place to watch the watchdog - journalists. Geingob was speaking during the launch of the Media Institute of Southern Africa's (MISA) annual report and a video titled 'Don't Shoot the Messenger'.
Geingob said in most advanced countries, a reporter's story would go under scrutiny before seeing the printing press and he was wondering whether it was the case in most of Africa's newsrooms. He said there was need for fair and balanced reporting something he has not seen yet.
Geingob said the media was normally the first to hoodwink the international community for infringements and yet, he said, people being written about are usually not given the opportunity to have a say on the allegations being made. "So, if you want protection, why should we not be protected by the law," Geingob asked referring to officials tendency of suing. His government, he said, remained committed to a free press.
3. DEBATE ON THIRD TERM FOR NUJOMA RAGES
Debate on whether incumbent President Sam Nujoma should run for the third term has taken a new high in Namibia. Ruling South West Africa Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) National Council members have moved for the amendment of the constitution saying they will if they have to. Presently, the constitution limits the presidency to two five-year terms.
SWAPO members argue that the constitution was a living document like a language - subject to changes with time. They say the constitution was written by Namibians for Namibians thus making it their own creation. This debate however comes ahead of the 1999 presidential elections and SWAPO wants Nujoma to stand as its sole candidate.
Also compelling is the land appropriation issue. In its current form and under Article 3, the Constitution protects the right to property and neither the government nor an individual has the powers to alter this constitutional protection. Things are made difficult for amendment as the constitution itself says all but Article 3 can be amended. Unions have already fired warning shots saying there will be turmoil in Namibia if nothing was done.
SWAPO councilors now say, the constitution was hastily written for the sake of peace as a result of a protracted war and hostilities between the former warring parties. These sentiments are also echoed by the majority SWAPO followers who say the constitution was a compromise and does not reflect the real Namibia they know.
The opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) is firm. It says any amendment would only be in favour of the majority SWAPO. But SWAPO retorts that those who are against amendments do not know what democracy is all about.
4. GOVERNMENT UPHOLDS RESTRICTIONS
Information Minister Ben Amathila has defended Government's decision to place restrictions on foreign journalists visiting Namibia. In an address on World Press Freedom Day, Amathila noted that the Namibian Government had come under attack because of "so-called restrictions" placed on the working visits of foreign media practitioners.
"Namibia, just like the rest of the international community, is bound by existing laws pertaining to the cross-border movement of persons between countries. The free movement of media practitioners across borders is at present not possible," Amathila said. However, he added that the Government would do its best to facilitate the smooth entry of foreign journalists to Namibia "because we need the international exposure".
Late last year Namibian High Commissions abroad issued a list of restrictions on journalists visiting Namibia including requirements that a reporter must give one month's notice of their intention to visit Namibia, apply for a temporary work permit and await bureaucratic processing and approval which normally extend to three months if more.
If the journalist managed to get through these hurdles, he/she still has to report to both the Ministries of Home Affairs and Information on arrival in Namibia. Amathila said the Ministry of Information, together with the Ministries of Home Affairs, Environment, Foreign Affairs and Finance were reviewing the policy on the visits of foreign journalists.
However the media was concerned that such restrictions were only applied to media workers and not all members of the travelling community. These new restrictions, journalists say, would only serve as delaying tactics by the government. If applied, these restrictions would result in journalists missing their stories or giving up hope of ever going to cover events in Namibia.
5. HAIL AND SUSPICIONS FOR CLINTON
While the six sub-Saharan diplomats at a forum hailed Clinton's six-nation visit to Africa as a catalyst to a new beginning in US-Africa relations, other attendants expressed doubt and suspicions for the visit.
The diplomats representing Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana and Senegal (Clinton's stops) as well as Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe, joined together to discuss the global significance and reactions to Clinton's historic March 22 - April 2, 1998 African tour. The diplomats attending a forum at Columbia University on April 21, discussed what they hoped would become a foundation for the growing partnership.
Diplomats said it was indeed time for "partnership and not paternalism" adding that they need to give this new beginning of partnership a chance. While all representatives welcomed current US policy of supporting the region's struggling democracies, preventing armed conflict, among others, a few also stressed the need for continued US aid to developing infrastructure, telecommunications, agricultural sectors and human resources.
They stated that Africa still needed development assistance to build up those capacities as well as increased trade ties, but added, they as Africans would not want to see this partnership as a one-way track. They said they no longer want to be indebted to the West - Africa's most crippling economic factor.
Many attending the forum were however skeptical of US motives and policies in the region and expressed doubt that Clinton's visit would have any lasting impact on US-Africa relations. Some pointed to inconsistencies in current US foreign policy in terms of race relations which they claimed belied any real possibility for a constructive engagement. Others voiced concern over what they saw as US continued manipulation in the affairs of Africa in the pursuit of self-interest.
These doubts and suspicions may be right as, after all, the US says it does not have permanent friends but permanent interests.
6. ACCORD RULES OUT ARMED CONFLICT
Namibia and Botswana currently locked in territorial disputes involving islands along the Linyanti-Chobe river, initialled an accord opting for a non-military solution. This was the first telling accord the two countries have held since the beginning of the disputes.
The two countries reached this diplomatic solution behind closed doors this April at a meeting involving senior officials from both countries. The signing provides for the adoption of the terms of reference of the Joint Commission of Technical Experts on the Delimitation and Demarcation of the boundary between Namibia and Botswana along the Linyanti-Chobe River.
The agreement still needs to be signed by the two Governments. The Joint Commission responsibility will be to demarcate the stretch along the Linyanti-Chobe River, about 350 kilometers long. The territories disputed are the 3. 5 square-kilometer Kasikili-Sedudu Island and the 91 square-kilometer Situngu Island.
Botswana already stationed a number of troops on both islands. And the week ending March, Namibian troops were reported to have marched into Botswana, a claim Namibia dispelled as untrue. Meanwhile, the Namibian government has announced the legal case on the Kasikili-Sedudu territorial dispute would be heard at the Hague early next year.
7. WATER TARIFF HIKE SHOCKS RESIDENTS
NamWater, a parastatal for the management and distribution of pipe water in Namibia, has announced new water tariffs. NamWater says it will from this year increase water prices by 20 per cent for five years running.
NamWater's justification of this prohibitive increase is that, due to the scarcity of water in the country, there is a high cost involved in supplying and securing the availability of water at places where it is needed. For this, NamWater was forced to operate on a full-cost recovery measure. At present water tariffs are heavily subsidised by Government.
Residents have reacted saying this was a decision over the top. They argue that most citizens were not employed to afford such yearly high tariffs. Worse still, the majority of the working class receive too low wages to afford high water tariffs. They also point out to the fact that government has just increased income taxes and on services which together left them with nothing for take-home.
Namibia has a semi-arid to arid conditions mostly characterised by long spells of drought.
8. FRENCH PRESIDENT TO TEST THE WATERS
The government has announced French President Jacques Chirac is expected to visit Namibia sometime next month. Chirac, who served as French Prime Minister before taking over as President, will arrive in Namibia on June 25 and leave the next day.
Namibia will be the first leg of Chirac's four-nation visit to Africa which includes South Africa, Mozambique and Angola. It will be Chirac's first visit to Namibia. Nujoma met Chirac in June 1996, when on a state visit to France.
But analysts say Chirac is gauging the depth of relations southern Africans have for France as a friend after US President visit to Africa.
Meanwhile, President Sam Nujoma has left for the Democratic Republic of Congo to attend a Conference on the Great Lakes region. The gathering, being held in Kinshasa, will be attended by several heads of states and has been convened to principally look at the issues of bringing peace and stability to the Great Lakes as well as to discuss the launching of a regional development initiative.
9. LANDMINE CLEARING REGISTERS PROGRESS
More than 100 000 landmines and unexploded ordinances as well as hundreds of hectares of minefields were cleared during the first phase of a US-backed mine-clearing operation in northern Namibia.
The Ministry of Defence disclosed this ahead of the official completion of Phase One of the demining operation. Phase Two will follow shortly. The mines are a hangover from the pre independence war years, and the demining operation to clear them got underway in 1995.
Between 1989 and April 1998, countrywide, 107 people were killed and 250 people were injured by landmines, anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordinances. Most of the fatalities and injuries were recorded in the far northern regions of the country.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Tue, 09 Jun 1998 15:10:02 +0200 Subject: NAMIBIA NEWS ONLINE #7 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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