Eyewitness

August 18, 2000

Security along Namibia's northern border with Angola is deteriorating. Scores of people are being killed or abducted by Unita, the Angolan rebel force, and alleged atrocities by Angolan troops, who have been permitted to operate in the region since December, are being reported in Namibia.

But during the recent heads-of-state meeting of the Southern African Development Community in Windhoek, Namibian students were barred from protesting against the failure to end the conflict - even though they had received permission to demonstrate. Students said the ban was an infringement of "a democratic right to air concern".

Greg Mills, national director of the South African Institute of International Affairs, based at the University of the Wi****ersrand, said the instability in the Caprivi strip has implications for southern Africa. "Namibia, Angola and Zambia are very inter-connected, with strong clan ties," he said.

The three countries are allies of president Laurent Kabila in the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which Unita is involved.

"Unita rebels in Angola are waging a guerrilla war and rely on surrounding areas for supplies. Unita has close ties with clans in Namibia. Secessionists in Caprivi are an example of a marginalised, cross-border clan seeking greater self-government. But the extent of the grievances that have led to instability in northern Namibia are much wider," Mills said.

"There is dissatisfaction about the way Namibian president Sam Nujoma is using involvement in the Congo for personal and narrow political interests not shared by many Namibians.

"Namibia has low economic growth and high joblessness, particularly among young people, in rural areas and in the north. Many people's political ambitions are not finding expression through the Swapo government, and independence expectations are not being met," he added.

"There are strains of unhappiness about the country's regional activities and, internally, about the economy, government's political intolerance and its reaction to land and self-governance claims."

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