Mozambique and Uganda welcome fleeing farmers

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The Independent Online

Uganda and Mozambique are preparing to welcome with open arms white farmers who are forced to flee from their land in Zimbabwe. More than 300 white farmers are already attempting to buy huge tracts of land in areas of neighbouring Mozambique bordering the eastern regions of Zimbabwe.

The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) is sending an investment promotion delegation to Zimbabwe to persuade farmers there to invest in Uganda.

Mozambique had been inundated with inquiries from Zimbabwean farmers, the country's President, Joaquim Chissano, said on his return from a summit of southern African leaders last week at Victoria Falls. Any large-scale emigration would have to be negotiated between the two governments, he said, but "we are open to any investment".

He quoted immigration officials in the central Manica Province as saying that at least 320 white farmers had crossed the border last week seeking to find out whether there was farming land for sale on the Mozambique side of the border.

Australia was last week reported to be preparing contingency plans to give "safe haven" visas to white Zimbabwean farmers facing expulsion from their lands.

Philip Ruddock, Australia's Immigration Minister, said: "Obviously the first priority is to see if the representations that we are making, and the approach that the international community is taking, will lead to a situation where people can stay on in their homes and in their country in safety.

"But if the situation deteriorates and there is a need to respond, Australia has done so in other situations generously, and we would do so here."

In Kampala, Dr Maggie Kogozi, executive director of Uganda's foreign investment promotion agency, was quoted in local press reports as saying: "We are conducting an investment mission to South Africa and Zimbabwe next month and if we meet any white farmers they will be welcome."

Dr Kigozi said agriculture, agro-processing, fish and horticulture were among the key sectors where the UIA was intent on bringing in large-scale farmers. "We think Zimbabweans would find the facilities they need here and they will do much better here because our climate is much better."