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Saturday, 1 January, 2000, 04:04 GMT
Pyramids party as Africa celebrates
Egypt hosted one of the most spectacular celebrations
African partygoers toasted the new year in style - despite the spectre of war and poverty and fears about the millennium bug.

In Egypt, 50,000 people flocked to a musical extravaganza featuring French musician Jean-Michel Jarre at the pyramids near Giza.

Into 2000
Floodlights lit up the ancient landmarks and electronic music reverberated over the desert, as rings of watchful security personnel and police guarded the plateau.

At the stroke of midnight, the Pyramid of Cheops was swathed in lasers and fireworks.

The only glitch was the weather, with fog shrouding most of the pyramids for much of the evening.

In South Africa, 81-year-old former president Nelson Mandela lit a candle of freedom in his old prison cell on Robben Island and passed it to his successor, President Thabo Mbeki.

In South Africa, Nelson Mandela lit a "freedom flame"
"It symbolises that the freedom flame can never be put down by anybody," said Mr Mandela, from the island where he spent 18 of his 27 years in jail for fighting apartheid.

Huge parties were held in all of the Rainbow Nation's major cities, as they were across much of the continent.

In East Africa, motorists raced through the streets of the capitals of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, waving flags and cheering wildly.

In Tanzania, about 900 foreign tourists climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, as part of their celebrations.

In Uganda, the leader of the country's largest tribe, Buganda, held a party for 20,000 people at his palace outside Kampala.

And in Kenya, a huge concert was being held at the Carnivore restaurant in Nairobi while international celebrities sipped champagne on the island of Lamu.

Soldiers guarded millennium floats in Durban
In Ethiopia a huge party for 5,000 guests was held at the Sheraton Hotel in the capital, Addis Ababa, with fireworks and a concert headlined by Congolese superstar Papa Wemba.

Yet it is still only 1992 in Ethiopia and for most of the population the millennium will pass by unnoticed.

A group of British World War II enthusiasts ventured to the neighbouring warring African nation of Eritrea for their New Year's Eve celebrations.

Bug fears

But in Ivory Coast, days after a bloodless military coup, the new regime cancelled the country's planned New Year's fireworks display, muting its biggest holiday of the year.

Papa Wemba was at Addis Ababa's Sheraton Hotel
Nigeria, however, did manage huge fireworks displays across all its major cities, despite serious Y2K disruption.

Private telephone companies with thousands of subscribers were disconnected from the state firm Nitel over fears they were not Y2K compliant.

Banks closed on New Year's Eve after just a two-hour work day, and all aeroplanes in the country have been grounded for the entire period.

Speculation in Africa has been widespread over the possible impact of the millennium bug and banks across the continent have seen panic withdrawals as the new year approaches.

But although some workaholics will be anxiously watching computers and equipment in case the millennium bug strikes, for most Africans technology has little direct impact on their lives.

And for the continent as a whole, hope will spring eternal that the dawn of a new millennium will herald less suffering and less conflict.

See also:

31 Dec 99 | Africa
29 Dec 99 | Africa
24 Dec 99 | Africa
31 Dec 99 | Africa
Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


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