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The "normal" seasonal flooding of the Okavango river in northern Botswana has began, a disaster official said on April 13. The situation in the Okavango delta, which had been experiencing unusual flooding since February, was expected to be compounded, according to Joyce Mosweu, director of the National Disaster Management Unit in Botswana.

About 992 households had been affected in Ngamiland province, where the delta is located. While no casualties had been reported, there had been extensive damage to roads and infrastructure, she added.

The delta normally floods in May, when Angola receives seasonal downpours, but heavy rains in the neighbouring country during the past two months had caused the Okavango river to begin swelling since February.

The condition of the 600 people residing on the river islands of Jao Flats and Xaxaba, who had been refusing to move to drier areas since February, had now become a "serious cause for concern", Mosweu said. [Source: IRIN]

Central African Republic

The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) and six labour unions have reached an agreement on the regular payment of salaries, a union official told said on 13 April. A representative of the Union Syndicale des Travailleurs de Centrafrique, Noel Ramadan, said the agreement was reached on 10 April following negotiations held on 22-25 March and on 2, 7 and 9 April. The negotiations were held with the aim of preserving peace during the transitional period, he said.

Under the agreement, the government undertook to pay salaries regularly and to be transparent about state revenues, Ramadan said. "We care for our country, that's why we took part in the negotiations and the government has been sensitive to our claims," Jean Richard Sandos, a unionist representing the Confederation Nationale des Travailleurs de Centrafrique, said.

In a communiqué issued after the signing of the agreement, the government said its plan to reduce salaries would not affect civil servants earning less than the local equivalent of US $400. [Source: IRIN]


Ethiopia’s divided free press association must unify to fight for journalists' rights, an international media watchdog urged on 12 April. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) warned of a "crisis" within Ethiopia’s fledgling media and called on the country’s journalists to resolve recent splits. It said the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists'

Association (EFJA) must convene its fourth General Assembly with a view to reunifying itself.

The IFJ also urged the government to review a controversial new press law, which, it said, could be used to curb criticism. "The law provides for the jailing of journalists who make reporting errors, allows the government to confiscate foreign newspapers entering the country, and gives the authorities 30 days to answer journalists' questions," the IFJ said.

In 11 recommendations made in the report, the IFJ proposed ways through which the EFJA could reconstitute itself and "restore some [of its] credibility". It urged the EFJA to provide "concrete services" to its 150 members, 60 of whom are in exile. The EFJA was banned and its leadership replaced by a new executive in January during a meeting organised by government officials. The move sparked outrage among international media watchdogs, including the IFJ, which expressed "growing alarm" at government attempts to "silence" the association. [Source: IRIN]


Nearly 10,000 people have been affected by extensive flooding in western Kenya, especially in Nyando District, Nyanza Province, where a river burst its banks and inundated 166 homes, the Kenya Red Cross said on Tuesday. Two people had drowned, it added.

"Thousands of those affected have been displaced from their homes," Tony Mwangi, Kenya Red Cross public relations officer, said. "The water level in the river is still rising and we expect more flooding in the nearby Budalangi area."

Nyando is about 500 km west of the capital, Nairobi, while Budalangi is another 50 km farther west. The two areas are prone to flooding. Last year 25,000 people there were affected by floods, Mwangi said. This year, he added, the number of those affected was likely to be lower because the government had erected dykes to prevent the floods from spreading.

"We are setting up temporary camps on higher ground to accommodate some of the people," Mwangi said. "We have provided tarpaulins, blankets, chlorine tablets, jerry cans, mobile latrines and mosquito nets as an initial response."

He said the entire sanitation system in the area had been affected. "There is a danger of a disease outbreak, and we have sent a team of volunteers to assess the situation," Mwangi said.

Local media reports in the capital, Nairobi, said between six and 11 people had been killed by the floods. The reports said thousands of displaced people were camping in church and school compounds in Nyando. Heavy rains had also destroyed roads in Nyamira District, while people in the Coast Province had appealed to the government to monitor the River Tana, which drains water from the Mt Kenya region. [Source: IRIN]

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