US President George Bush on 26 February promised that he would do all in his power to increase cooperation between the United States and Africa, within the framework of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). President Bush gave this undertaking during the brief summit he held at the White House in Washington with Presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, and Festus Mogae of Botswana.
At a press conference given by the three African leaders after the summit, President Chissano said "we agreed on many aspects seeking to increase cooperation between our countries, and with the entire African continent".
"We spoke of the need to support NEPAD", said President Chissano, adding that Bush had promised to use his influence with the other members of the G8 group of most industrialised countries, so that they too would support this initiative, that seeks to rescue Africa from the economic swamp into which much of the continent has fallen.
As for specific areas of possible cooperation with the United States, President Chissano said these should cover all vital areas of socio-economic life, as well as the struggle against terrorism and against its fundamental causes.
President Mogae spoke of the American Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the US law which opens up American markets to African products. He called for improvements, moving from "AGOA 1" to "AGOA 2", so that this legal mechanism can be made easier and more flexible.
The Botswanan leader insisted that only through greater access to the markets of the industrialised world would Africa be able to amass sufficient money to face the continent's most serious problems.
Mogae said the three presidents had also requested American support in the struggle against the endemic diseases that claim the lives of millions of Africans, including AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
President dos Santos stressed his government's commitment to work towards an end of the war against the UNITA rebels. In his initial statement to the reporters, he scarcely mentioned the death on 22 February of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, merely stating that his government is more than ever determined to establish peace, as the "sine qua non" for dealing with Angola's other problems. Dos Santos thought the prospects for lasting peace were now "very good".
Asked whether he had initiated contacts with the rest of the UNITA leadership, for a possible cease-fire, President dos Santos said it was still too early for him to talk to UNITA about this. He thought that members of "the military faction of UNITA" are still in a state of shock and confusion, and they should be given time to recover from the death of their leader so that they can then possibly enter into a dialogue with the government in a more calm and collected way.
Mozambique is on the way to achieving self-sufficiency in rice, according to Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia. The country still has to import rice, mainly to supply the major cities, Maputo, Beira and Nampula cities, but on a smaller scale than in the past.
Mozambique expects to produce about 250,000 tones of rice in this year's harvest, which will cut the deficit from 120,000 tonnes to just 50,000.
Muteia's hopes are based mainly on expectations of harvesting between 120,000 and 150,000 tonnes of rice, planted on about 100,000 hectares in the central province of Zambezia, which is the largest rice-producing area in the country.
Muteia said that Indian agricultural technicians are expected in Zambezia within the next few days to help peasant farmers develop simple but advanced techniques to increase productivity, and also help rehabilitate irrigation systems in Mucelo, in the district of Nicoadala, and in other areas.
"That is important because currently peasants are producing on average about one and a half tonnes of rice per hectare, when it is perfectly possible to produce up to three tonnes using the simple and practical technologies that the Indians use", said Muteia.
"This year our major challenge is to increase total grain production to about 1.9 million tonnes", declared Muteia.
Mozambique produced only about 180,000 tones of rice last year, but more could have been produced, were it not for the floods of 2000 and 2001 that hit areas in the southern and central regions of the country, destroying crops and agricultural infrastructures.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 27 February said that delegates to the Commonwealth-Mozambique Investment Conference had showed willingness to invest in Mozambique.
Speaking to journalists in Maputo, after the three day conference had closed, Mocumbi said "there's a lot of openness, and the various private investors who participated individually had a concrete goal".
Mocumbi stressed "I saw a great enthusiasm and willingness to exchange experiences and find new partners".
The first lesson emerging from the conference is that it is necessary to establish consultation mechanisms between government and the private sector, so that any situation likely to hinder investment be quickly communicated, and solutions found, Mocumbi said.
He added that the government would continue tackling corruption which is said to be widespread within both the public and the private sectors.
Trade and Industry Minister Carlos Morgado said that the Commonwealth investors had expressed interest in investing in tourism and agro-industry.
Some investors already operating in Mozambique, such as the MOZAL aluminium smelter, or the South African energy company SASOL, expressed an interest in stimulating new investment opportunities, said Macamo, in which they would participate directly, or encourage other partners to do so.
Commenting on the figure of the 300 or so delegates, he said that "the massive participation of foreign investors to the conference was beyond our expectations, a sign of great interest in exploiting the business opportunities that our country has to offer".
During the conference Mozambique was praised for its record of good governance, and potential investors were particularly impressed by President Joaquim Chissano's voluntary decision not to seek a further term of office.
The southern province of Gaza is at risk of hunger because of poor rainfall during the last six weeks, which jeopardises hopes of a good harvest from the present agricultural campaign, reports "Noticias" on 19 February.
A mission to assess the situation, that visited the province last week, is soon to produce recommendations on the best ways to try and minimise the impact of drought in this region.
The mission split into two groups, one visiting the northern Gaza districts of Massingir, Mabalane, Chicualacuala and Massangena, while the other concentrated on the districts of Chokwe, Chibuto, Manjacaze, Guija, Xai-Xai and Bilene.
The mission found that the situation cannot yet be described as critical, but it called for close monitoring because of the vulnerability of certain groups, particularly those in semi-arid areas in the districts of Massingir, Chicualacuala, Massangena and Manjacaze.
Evidence of hungry times ahead includes a reduction in the number of meals households are eating, and the fact that no food is being added to people's barns as should be happening at this time of year.
Local farmers and the district authorities told the mission that some crops had been harvested from sowing undertaken between October and mid-November. But anything planted after that time is regarded as completely lost.
Members of the joint military commission between Mozambique and Portugal have unanimously acknowledged "excellent results" achieved by the three cooperation projects developed in Mozambique between 1999 and 2001.
The two parties agreed that these projects, the Naval Technical Schools, support for the recruitment system, and the Maputo Military Hospital Clinical Analysis Laboratory, were a success.
The Portuguese general director of national defence policies Jose Luis Pinto Ramalho met Mozambican Defence Minister Tobias Dai and a number of other high ranking Mozambican officers between 21 and 25 February in Maputo.
The meeting discussed the implementation of cooperation programmes for the period between 1999 and 2001 and negotiated new programmes for the period up to 2004.
Regarding the programmes carried out, the two parties acknowledged advances in projects concerning the Mozambican Navy, the Military Police and the Special Forces.
The meeting also stressed the good results attained with the training of 716 Mozambican military personnel in Portugal, funded by the Portuguese government, between 1990 and 2001.
For the next three years, the joint commission has drafted seven projects and two sub-projects, priority being given to military training within Mozambique.
The most important of these projects is for the restructuring of the Samora Machel Military School, in the northern province of Nampula, to turn it into a fully fledged Military Academy. It is estimated that the future academy will be ready to offer the first course for graduates by 2003.
Ramalho also stressed the good military cooperation relations within the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries under which a Centre for Strategic Analysis has been set up, with headquarters in Maputo, and with subsidiary centres in the capitals of the other member countries.
A new association representing disabled former soldiers in the now disbanded Mozambican Armed Forces (FAM) was formally registered in Maputo on 26 February.
The new organisation calls itself CODDEFAM (Committee to Defend Disabled Soldiers of the Mozambican Armed Forces). The FAM was the Mozambican army that developed out of the FPLM (People's Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique), the guerrilla army of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) that fought and won the war against Portuguese colonial rule.
The CODDEFAM coordinator, Alberto Fernando, told AIM that priority areas for projects to assist the disabled soldiers included agriculture, livestock, mining and the construction of social infrastructures.
He hoped that CODDEFAM would be able to establish partnerships with other associations and with government institutions. "We want projects that will benefit not only disabled ex-FAM members, but also the communities where the projects are based", he added.
The registration ceremony was witnessed by representatives of the Ministry for Women's Affairs and Social Welfare, and of the Ministry for Veterans' Affairs.
The Mozambican and French governments signed an agreement in Maputo on 22 February, under which 1.5 million Euros (about $1.3 million) that Mozambique owes to France as debt service are to be used to fund poverty relief projects.
The agreement was signed by Adriano Maleiane, the governor of the Bank of Mozambique, and Odiles des Desert, the director of the Maputo office of the French Development Agency (AFD).
Maleiane explained that this agreement is a contribution to the Mozambican State Budget, specifically to the government's Action Programme for the Relief of Absolute Poverty (PARPA).
This supplementary measure by the French government comes on top of its decision to wipe out the greater part of Mozambique's debt under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief initiative.
Negotiations in Moscow between the Mozambican and Russian authorities have led to an agreement whereby Russia will cancel over 50 per cent of the debt owed by Mozambique.
Finance Minister Luisa Diogo, speaking to Radio Mozambique from Moscow, said that under the deal over $300 million of the total debt of $509 million will be cancelled.
The money that would otherwise have been spent in servicing the debt to Russia, is to be spent on poverty alleviation programmes within Mozambique.
The former Soviet Union was once the largest of Mozambique's creditors, and after the break-up of the USSR the debt was inherited by Russia. As of late 1997, Mozambique's debt to Russia stood at $2.54 billion, but negotiations resulted in reducing the debt stock by 80 per cent. The remaining debt was still unbearable, and Russia agreed to negotiate "favourable conditions" for its repayment.
It is not yet clear over what period Mozambique will be expected to pay the remaining $209 million, or whether the debt might be reduced even further.
Much of the debt originated in the purchase of military equipment and oil from the Soviet Union, which Mozambique needed to defend itself against aggression from the South African apartheid regime.
Japan has announced that it is increasing its financial aid to boost development projects in Mozambique to the tune of $145,000. The money is for community assistance projects, mostly aimed at post-flood reconstruction.
The money will be handed over to four institutions: three NGOs and the Namaacha Secondary School, near the border with Swaziland.
$54,000 has been earmarked for the building of a health post in Xai-Xai, in the southern province of Gaza, and $10,000 will be used for a medical and psychological care centre in Chokwe, also in Gaza.
$50,000 will be used in the building of a health post at Namacurra in Zambezia province, while the remaining $30,000 will be used to set up a Natural Science laboratory in the Namaacha secondary school.
The EU has announced that it will significantly increased its aid to Mozambique. Under an agreement signed in Maputo on 18 February, the EU has pledged to disburse an average of 150 million euros (about $131 million) per year to support development activities in Mozambique over the next five years.
The European Union will this year provide Mozambique with 157 million euros - this represents a substantial growth over the 2001 figure of 117 million euros.
Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao, speaking after the signing of the agreement for the 2002-2006 period, said that "the increase of the EU aid shows that there's an increase of trust in us". Simao added that the confidence of the Europeans in Mozambique is based on the "excellent results" attained by the previous five-year government plan (1995-1999).
The new agreement aims at vital areas likely to lead to an improvement in the living conditions of the population, and contributing to the reduction of poverty. The key areas are health, social infrastructure and communications, agriculture and rural development, education, and activities to combat the spread of the lethal disease AIDS.
South African Transport Minister Dullah Omar visited Maputo on 22 February for discussions with the Minister of Public Works, Roberto White, on how to improve the performance of the toll road between Maputo and the South African town of Witbank.
Contrary to initial expectations, the new road has not yet made a great difference to the amount of South African trade using Maputo.
The road itself is in excellent condition, but there are two blockages: one is the border control at Ressano Garcia, and the other is the absence of an easy entry from the road into Maputo port.
"It is precisely because there are these difficulties in crossing the border, and in entering Maputo port, that much of the South African commercial traffic is still using Durban", White admitted to reporters.
The optimistic projections, when the toll road opened in 2000, was that between 25,000 and 32,000 vehicles a day would drive through the Maputo tollgate. But the average has been between 16,000 and 18,000 vehicles.
The main reason for commercial traffic not reaching the desired levels is that the Mozambican and South African governments have not yet delivered on their promises to build a "one-stop" border post at Ressano Garcia.
Currently every vehicle passes through passport and customs control on one side of the border, then drives on a couple of hundred metres to do the same thing on the other side. If there is a queue of vehicles, a couple of hours can easily be lost.
As for a speedy entry into Maputo port, this will require building a spur off the motorway, budgeted at $2.5 million.
With the traffic nowhere near projected levels, Trans-Africa Concessions (TRAC), the consortium operating the motorway, wants to increase the tolls. White said there was consensus that there should be a "small revision" in the tolls.
"Immorality in public administration is a kind of cancer", declared Ali Dauto, chairman of the Legal Affairs Commission of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 19 February.
He was introducing a public discussion on a bill against corruption that his commission has drafted. The meeting, on the Assembly's premises, was intend to gather opinions from civil society, in order to improve the bill before it is formally submitted to the Assembly plenary.
Dauto said that corruption can be found at all levels of the state, from the localities up to the central structures of the public service. "Corruption creates profound discontent among citizens, and a chasm between the rulers and the ruled", he warned. "It leads our institutions to lose their credibility".
Recent reports on the phenomenon, he added, "show that corruption is reaching alarming proportions in our country".
Hence the decision to draft the new bill aimed at all corrupt dealings that involve officials who work in the state, municipalities, publicly-owned companies, private companies in which the state is the main shareholder, or companies which have been granted leases to operate public services.
The bill proposes that any of these officials who requests money or other advantages in return for abuse of his or her position can be sentenced to up to eight years imprisonment. The same penalty will be applied to the person offering the bribe.
Any official who deliberately fails to carry out his or her duties, or holds them up, can be sentenced to a year in jail. The same penalty is envisaged for people who reveal confidential information, or who interfere with, or frustrate public tenders.
The bill also gives corrupt officials a chance to repent: those who change their mind, repudiate the bribe and return the money, will not go to jail.
Perhaps more important than simple repression are a number of administrative changes proposed in the bill, aimed at cutting away the discretionary powers of officials.
Thus, unless other laws specify a different time limit, all requests to a state authority must be answered within 45 days. If there is no answer within that time, the request is automatically deemed to have been granted.
This should end the game whereby corrupt officials keep people who have requested licences or permits of one sort or another waiting for months, telling them "Come back tomorrow", "Come back next week", "My superior is not here right now" and so on, until eventually money is exchanged and the licence is granted.
Of equal importance is the demand that all administrative acts that affect citizens' rights must be fully explained. So when a citizen makes a request to a state department, the director will no longer be able to reply with the one word "Rejected".
The bill also proposes that all contracts to which the state or local authorities are party must contain an anti-corruption clause, and any contract without such a clause shall be null and void.
A further new proposal is that all officials must declare their assets. To date, it has only been top state officials, such as ministers and provincial governors, who must provide a list of their property.
The draft presented by Dauto took no stand on the issue of whether such declarations should be public. The lists submitted by members of the government have simply been deposited, first with Administrative Tribunal, and now with the Supreme Court - and the public has no access to them.
Peasant farmers in Massingir district, in the southern province of Gaza, are hopeful that the recently rehabilitated Marringuele irrigation will stimulate agricultural production in the region.
The irrigation system, repaired under the auspices of the Ecumenical Committee for Social Development (CEDES), was recently handed over to peasants who were victims of the massive floods of February 2000 in the Limpopo valley.
Since the 2000 floods, there has been a steep decline in food production in Massingir, but the repaired irrigation system is giving farmers new hope.
The rehabilitation work, which lasted 10 months, covered 100 of the 250 hectares belonging to the Marringuele peasants, and cost $160,000, of which 90,000 were disbursed by the Japanese government, and the remainder by the Mozambican state, and by Norwegian and German church bodies.
In a first stage, the system is to benefit about 63 peasants, who are members of the ASAMA Agricultural Association.
In order to take the best advantage of the irrigation system, the peasants will be trained on the "soil use, irrigation systems and food security monitoring", said CEDES general director Venancio Nhandime.
He urged the peasants to take greater responsibility and work in closer cooperation, placing the group before individual interests, always having production in mind in order to improve their living conditions.
The irrigation system is expected to help diversify the local residents' diet and hopefully make that area a new "granary" for Gaza province.
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