December 7, 2001

Angolan refugees into Zambia

Nearly 1.000 Angolan refugees crossed into neighbouring Zambia since the beginning of December, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. „From December 1, we have received about 984 Angolan refugees,“ Kelvin Shimo, UNHCR spokesman in Zambia said. The UNHCR official did not explain why such a large number of Angolans were arriving, although tens of thousands have over the years fled to Zambia to escape renewed fighting between government forces and internationally-isolated UNITA-rebels.

Shimo said the refugees were being transported to the Nangweshi refugee camp, situated about 150 kilometres inside the border. Shimo said Nangweshi camp had reached its maximum capacity and could not take in any more refugees, however. The UNHCR and the Zambian government are planning to set up another camp once suitable land is found. Angolans account for 203.000 of a total 261.000 refugees housed in Zambia.

Meanwhile, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said his war-torn country was getting closer to peace. He said his government's military and political efforts and cooperation with the United Nations had „accelerated the advent of peace“. „The adverse factors, the forces that for some time were creating obstacles to a normal life, now have less capacity to do so,“ he said. „They are in decline.“

Dos Santos said many parts of Angola were enjoying greater peace than they were two or three years ago and showing signs of progress such as construction and more traffic. He rejected the possibility of autonomy for the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda, where some rebel groups are seeking independence. „We define Angola as a unitary state,“ he said. (NAMIBIAN)

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