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Lands minister to run for Namibian president

Namibia's ruling Swapo party nominated the Lands Minister, Hifikepunye Pohamba, yesterday to run for president in November's elections, virtually installing him as successor to the veteran Sam Nujoma.

If elected, Mr Pohamba is expected to speed up controversial land reforms that he championed with Mr Nujoma's backing, emphasising redistribution of white-owned land to poor black farmers with compensation, analysts said.

Mr Nujoma, who has ruled since independence in 1990, is due to retire after his third five-year term. Swapo's nominee looks certain to win, given a fragmented opposition.

Mr Pohamba, 70, a favourite of the 75-year-old president, won the nomination after a second round of voting in which he received 341 votes to 167 for the former Foreign Minister Hidipo Hamutenya. Analysts said Mr Hamutenya may now leave Nujoma's South West Africa People's Organisation to try to unite the opposition behind him.

Mr Pohamba was a founder of Swapo and a key figure in the anti-South African liberation struggle. For nearly half a century he has been a close friend of Mr Nujoma.

"I will devote my time to the improvement of the well-being of the Namibian people and the preservation of peace and democracy," he said in an acceptance speech.

Namibia, a former German colony in south-west Africa, covers a large area but has only 1.9 million people, most of them poor despite its immense wealth in diamonds and other minerals.