Convoy system suspended in Caprivi

The Namibian army has suspended its military escort system along the previously insecure Trans-Caprivi highway in the northeast of the country, The Namibian newspaper reported on Monday.

Since 2000, road traffic had been escorted twice a day between Bagani and Kongola in the Caprivi region, in response to sporadic ambushes officially blamed on Angolan UNITA rebels.

Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Mocks Shivute confirmed the suspension of the convoy at the weekend, despite earlier denials by the defence ministry, The Namibian reported. Shivute, however, cautioned motorists to only travel on the road between 7.00 am and 5.00 pm, and to avoid journeying at night.

"The security situation in the northeastern part of Namibia returned to normal following the signing of the [April] ceasefire agreement between the government of Angola and UNITA," Shivute said in a statement.

He added that ex-UNITA fighters and their families had been moved from the border into designated transit camps inside Angola and no longer posed a threat along the Namibian-Angolan border.

Humanitarian sources told IRIN that the suspension of military escorts since the beginning of the month had provided much greater freedom of movement, although a heavy Namibian Defence Force (NDF) presence remained along the road. The strictly-enforced convoy system had particularly affected people living in small settlements in the region.

In the wake of the Angolan ceasefire, "it's been very quiet, we don't see movement of [refugees] in or out of Namibia," the aid worker said. However, although with the improved security situation a trickle of returning tourists was noticeable, the availability of weapons meant that "the possibility of general crime is very high".

In the meantime, cross-border trade has increased. Alongside basic commodities such as maize and soft drinks, Namibian Windhoek lager has become a popular export item into Angola.