Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Former workers occupy German embassy


A group of ex-contract workers in former communist East Germany have occupied the German embassy in the Mozambican capital Maputo, a spokesman for the Ger-man foreign office said in Berlin on Wednesday.

The group reportedly included about 40 Mozambican nationals, representing in total 11,000 people who used to work on contracts for the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) 20 years ago.

German ambassador Ulf Dieter Klemm and other diplomats in the embassy were holding talks with the group on Wednesday, after initially abandoning the building when it was seized by the group on Tuesday.

The foreign ministry spokesman said "the ambassador was holding talks with the people inside the embassy and the Mozambique government with the aim of resolving the issue."

Witnesses in Maputo said extra police had been posted outside the embassy.

South African radio said the former migrant workers are demanding that the German government pressure Maputo to release about US$11 million, a portion of the many millions of US dollars paid by the GDR to Mozambique as social security payments for the workers.

Between 13,000 and 17,000 Mozambican migrant workers were estimated to have worked in East Germany before the fall of communism in 1989 and 1990.

There have been earlier demonstrations over the issue. Last year, two people were shot and wounded when the former workers clashed with security forces during protests.

The Mozambican government has paid out about US$7 million to the workers, but they insist they are owed much more.

President Joaquim Chissano last week instructed the labor ministry to address the problem, the South African news agency SAPA reported.

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