Time for repatriation of Angolans extended

The extension is in line with an agreement reached at a meeting between the governments of Angola and Zambia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In the past three years, the exercise of repatriation has benefited 63 324 Angolan refugees and around 48 441 are still to be sent back to their country of origin. Millions of Angolans were displaced by many years of civil unrest in the country, which is, however, enjoying relative peace at the moment as preparations for elections scheduled for this year ‘ although indications now are that they may take place next year ‘ gather momentum. According to a UNHCR document released last week, Zambia must conclude, until March 20 this year, the integral enquiry of intentions of Angolan refugees confined in its camps in order to update the statistics and get precise information on the willingness of these citizens to go back home. The note states that 80 percent of the number of refugees located at Nangweshi camp want to return to Angola. In the meeting, the commission recommended the parts involved in the Tripartite Accord to work out a plan of action for repatriation during this year, which should be submitted and approved at the next meeting scheduled for May. It was also recommended that the Zambian government should complete and share information related to the areas of return of spontaneously settled refugees, and the contracting parties should keep contacts with donors as a way to request funds to secure lasting solutions. This was the seventh meeting of the Tripartite Commission between Angola and Zambia and the UNHCR. The sixth took place in September last year. Meanwhile, the World Bank has advised Zambia to accelerate growth in various areas if the current economic strength is to be sustained. The bank said Zambia should find ways of boosting investment by creating a conducive environment for business transactions. World Bank executive director for Africa Mathias Sinamenye said at a Press briefing in Lusaka that the current appreciation of the local currency would enhance the economic strength. Sinamenye said Zambia had huge potential of expanding its economy if it effectively used its available vast natural resources. Sinamenye, who was in Zambia to visit some of the World Bank projects, said HIV/AIDS and poverty remained the major challenges faced by most African countries. He said the bank’s projects in Zambia were mostly in the agriculture and water development sectors. He said the World Bank was ready to provide funds for HIV/AIDS support but individual countries should devise programmes on how to apply for the funds. Sinamenye said the macroeconomic indicators for Zambia had shown major improvement and stabilisation. He said Zambia might also benefit from the multilateral donor debt relief initiative that would start in July. He said the relationship between Zambia and the World Bank was getting stronger in various aspects and commended the government for attaining the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point. In another development, Zambians have been challenged to set up firms in the mining industry. The call was made by Bank of Zambia Governor Caleb Fundanga, who said the mining industry was enjoying continued favourable copper prices that provided a good investment environment. He said this after touring Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) operations in Chingola and Chililabombwe. Fundanga said Zambians were among the most knowledgeable nationals who had succeeded in keeping the Zambian mining industry afloat in difficult times. He was happy with the changes that had taken place at KCM since the departure of Anglo American Corporation (AAC). “We wanted to see how things have changed since 2003 when we last visited and we would like to commend the group of Zambians that carried KCM until Vedanta Resources came on board,” he said. Fundanga said there had been a lot of developments, which showed that the mine was moving forward in a strong way. “Most of these sophisticated technologies are handled by Zambians and it is surprising that not many Zambians own copper mining companies despite being knowledgeable,” he said. The central bank governor also commended KCM’s health facilities, which he said, were of world standard. Fundanga dismissed continued assertions that the appreciation of the kwacha was politically engineered, saying those who continued to utter such statements clearly did not want to learn or understand how things worked. He said the appreciation of the local currency could be attributed to increased copper production.

March 2006
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