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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Angola: Peace Monitor, VII, 12

Angola: Peace Monitor, VII, 12
Date distributed (ymd): 010919
Document reposted by APIC

Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for Africa at

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+


This posting contains the latest issue of the Angola Peace Monitor, from September 5, which focuses particularly on the UNITA attack on a passenger train on August 10, which killed over 250 people. The train first struck a mine, and then survivors were attacked by UNITA troops waiting in ambush. The Angola Peace Monitor is produced by Action for Souther Africa (ACTSA, in London.

For additional contact information, see below. For recent news on Angola, see and

See also: Update Angola from the Angola Peace Action Network at:

For extensive current news on Angola in Portuguese, see particularly:

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Angola Peace Monitor
Published by ACTSA
Issue no.12, Vol. VII

5th September 2001

Revulsion over train massacre

There has been widespread condemnation of an attack by Jonas Savimbi's UNITA rebels on a civilian train on 10 August, which left over 250 people dead and another 160 injured.

The train was an ordinary scheduled service from Luanda to Dondo, consisting of four passenger carriages, two freight trucks and two oil tanks. It was derailed when it hit an anti-tank mine near Zenza do Itombe, Cuanza Norte province. Witnesses state that UNITA rebels were lying in wait, and many people were murdered as they jumped from the train.

On 13 August UNITA's top general, Abreu Kamorteiro, admitted that UNITA attacked the train, but claimed that it was escorted by a battalion of FAA [the Angolan army], and was carrying fuel and military equipment. According to UNITA, 26 soldiers and 11 police officers were killed. UNITA denies that many civilians were killed.

It appears that UNITA miscalculated the revulsion that would follow the mass slaughter of civilians.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, on 14 August condemned the train attack "in which a very high number of civilians were killed" and noted that UNITA "bears the responsibility for this indefensible loss of life".

A UN Security Council statement on 16 August strongly condemned the "terrorist attack on a civilian train near the town of Maria Teresa. As in previous attacks, such as Caxito, UNITA personnel deliberately targeted civilians". It continued that "Members of the Security Council reiterated their support for all existing sanctions against the UNITA faction headed by Jonas Savimbi pending the organisation's full implementation of its Lusaka Protocol obligations".

It concluded "Members of the Council reiterate their support for the preparations under way for holding elections in 2002 in Angola and state that such actions by UNITA should not be allowed to stymie those efforts".

The President of the European Union stated on 21 August that "the EU is appalled by the brutal attack perpetrated on Friday 10 August by UNITA on civilians travelling on the regular train between Luanda and Dondo (Cuanza Norte Province), which caused around 250 casualties and 165 injured. This terrorist act against innocent men, women and children, cannot but be strongly condemned by the EU. The EU believes that the continuation of such a course of action does not contribute to create the necessary confidence building measures towards a serious and effective dialogue that can lead to peace and national reconciliation in Angola. The EU urges UNITA to immediately cease these kind of actions against civilians that inflict terrible distress to the Angolans, to comply with the provisions and spirit of the Lusaka Protocol and to engage seriously in the search for peace through concrete actions that confirm its declared willingness to dialogue."

In recent months the Angolan government had significantly softened its tone towards Savimbi, calling on him to disarm his troops and rejoin the democratic process. However, the recent high profile terrorist attacks by UNITA may send this process into reverse.

The Human Rights Officer of the Ministry of Justice, Augusto Escrivao, told the official Angolan news agency ANGOP on 22 August that the Angolan government should ask the United Nations to put Jonas Savimbi and his followers on trial at the Hague International Court. Speaking at a press conference, Escrivao stated that "there is evidence of kidnapping of children, elderly people and women in several regions of Angola performed by Jonas Savimbi. There is evidence of the murder of thousands of civilians, criminal acts that are sufficient to justify Savimbi`s trial at the Hague International Court".

The Deputy Foreign Minister, Toko Serao, told a meeting with the Diplomatic Corps in Luanda on 27 August that "the massacre at Zenza do Itombe is a murder of civilians, a real genocide and, like this, it is a crime against humanity that affects the international community". Serao stated that the Angolan government is looking into the steps necessary to bring the perpetrators of the massacre to a court of law.

On 18 August thousands of Angolans demonstrated in Luanda against the train attack. The demonstrators marched to the United Nations headquarters, where Minister for Women and Family, Candida Celeste, handed over a letter calling for tougher action against UNITA.

The responses to the train attack show that UNITA has committed not only a terrorist crime, but also a strategic mistake. Jonas Savimbi had been trying to promote himself as being a victim who is in favour of peace through dialogue. Among other things he has demanded the dropping of sanctions against UNITA. The recent attacks have hardened the international community's attitude towards UNITA, and any suggestion that sanctions should be dropped so that UNITA can legally buy weapons will be met with incredulity.

Savimbi hunted in Moxico

There is speculation that the current attacks by UNITA on soft targets is a desperate attempt to divert the Angolan army away from its main focus of hunting down and capturing Jonas Savimbi and his military commanders. The Angolan army has been chasing Savimbi through the bush since he was driven out of his stronghold in Andulo in 1999.

Sources state that Jonas Savimbi is currently in Moxico province, constantly hounded by the army and the airforce. With his options being rapidly eroded, military sources expect that Savimbi will either have to move into Zambia or back into the centre of the country.

Indeed, some UNITA fighters have recently fled into Zambia. According to an AFP report, the heavily armed UNITA troops entered Zambia on 13 August. The report quotes a Zambian intelligence officer as stating that "it seems there is heavy fighting on the Angolan side and the rebels are running away because most of them have run out of bullets".

Other advances by the army in Moxico have been reported. According to the army the son of General Altino Sapalalo "Bock" was freed from captivity when FAA took a UNITA base at the end of July. General Bock was executed on Jonas Savimbi's orders following UNITA's failed assault on Kuito in December 1998.

In the light of FAA advances in Moxico province, UNITA has kept up its attacks against civilian targets elsewhere.

On 24 August UNITA attacked a bus killing at least 50 people near the town of Cacolo, Malange province. According to Radio Ecclesia a missile was fired at the bus, and the rebels shot at people trying to escape.

On 1 September UNITA attacked a convoy of civilian buses 50 km from Sumbe, Cuanza Sul province, killing 38 people and injuring 52.

On 19 August UNITA attacked the village of Anha do Norte, Benguela province, killing nine and injuring 14. The village is at the site where the state oil company, Sonangol, plan next year to build a massive oil refinery, costed at $3 billion.

On 24 August UNITA attacked the town of Cunje, near to Kuito city.

The Angolan army has continued to make advances against the few remaining pieces of UNITA-held territory.

ANGOP reported on 17 August that FAA had taken the UNITA military base at Kalussinga, Bie province. In April FAA uncovered a large arms dump at Kalussinga containing 1,000 rocket-propelled grenades.

More people flee homes

There have been further movements of people to
government-controlled towns as attacks by UNITA and operations by the Angolan army continue.

Two thousand people recently fled fighting around the towns of Beu and Cuilo Futa for the town of Maquela do Zombo, Uige province. Many others have fled from the fighting across the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, two thousand people have recently arrived in Kimvula.

A further 3,000 people are reported to have recently fled heavy fighting around Gamba, near Nharea, Bie province. Nharea was formerly a UNITA stronghold and the site of major diamond mining by UNITA.

In Cuanza Sul over a thousand people have fled fighting around the villages of Munenga and Cabuta.

In Cuanza Norte almost a thousand people have fled fighting in the Samba-Lucala and Samba-Caju districts to Lucala.

The World Food Programme on 31 August complained that some people fleeing to the provincial capitals of Malange, Cuando Cubango and Bengela were ambushed. It stated that intensive fighting has been reported around Cuemba, Muhango and Chicala.

The government has previously been condemned by some NGOs and western diplomats for herding people out of Cuemba to the nearby town of Camacupa to use them as human shields.

However, a Save the Children food security assessment document for Kuito covering the period 14 to 23 July, draws more complex conclusions: "Military activity - whether as a deliberate strategy of destabilisation by UNITA, or as a government strategy to clear areas believed to contain UNITA insurgents - is cited frequently as the initial cause for what in effect turns out to be the first in a series of displacements. Subsequent displacements, e.g. from Cuemba to Camacupa and Camacupa to Kuito, come about because authorities are overwhelmed and do not have the resources to cope with the demand; so they send those most in need of the assistance on to the next place. This is an understandable response, but begs the question: why was no provision made by them when it must have been clear to the government forces, and through them the local authorities, what was going to happen".

The report also states that "where the government pursues military strategies which lead to the displacement of the civilian population, it is clearly neglecting its obligation to make adequate provision for their welfare, placing unreasonable burden on already strained capacity".

However, the food shortages in Cuemba were, in turn, related to the problems of delivering supplies by air to the nearby city of Kuito after two UNITA at tacks on civilain aircraft. SCF states that "The poor pipeline in June stems largely from the suspension of flights - a situation that was outside of the control of WFP and therefore understandable".

On a positive note, the road link between Lobito and Huambo has been re-established following the rebuilding of the bridge over the river Colongue, which was opened on 17 August. The previous bridge was destroyed by UNITA in 1998.

Some returnees

More than 600 Angolan refugees have returned to Angola from Congo-Brazzaville.

The repatriation was organised by the UNHCR, who organised a convoy from Pointe Noire to Cabinda. Many of the returnees had been living in Pointe Noire for eight years.

The UN news agency IRIN reported that according to UNHCR, there are still more than 12,000 Angolan refugees from Cabinda in Pointe Noire.

President to step down

In a step that could offer Jonas Savimbi an honourable exit from political life, the President of Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, has announced that he will not stand in the next presidential elections. President dos Santos made the announcement on 23 August to the Central Committee of the MPLA.

Dos Santos, who is 59 years old, took up the post of President in 1979 after the death of Agostinho Neto, having previously served as foreign minister and minister of planning.

The government is keen to go ahead with elections in 2002, but there is growing debate over whether the conditions will exist for voters to freely express their will.

The government has pointed out that elections were held in 1992 when UNITA was better armed and controlled more of the country, and also warns that such a long period without elections raises questions about legitimacy which can only be answered through the popular vote.

However, a note of caution was raised by the presidential advisory council on 1 August when it set out three conditions for elections. The Council of the Angolan Republic stated that elections should be held only after the drafting of a new constitution; adopting a new electoral law; and stabilising violence to allow free movement of goods and people.

The council is chaired by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and is made up of representatives of political parties, civic organisations and religious bodies.

President dos Santos has also called for a national census prior to elections.

This analysis is in keeping with a recent visit by the US Consortium for Elections and Political Processes Strengthening (CEPPS), which found that the conditions for new elections do not exist. The delegation, which included representatives from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, visited Angola for a fortnight in August.

The head of the CEPPS delegation, David Kramer, has pointed out the key problem with elections in Angola is not the logistical and security difficulties which do not exist in Angola. He pointed out that elections cannot bring peace to Angola, and that a climate of understanding is needed. In particular, he stated that participants must respect the results of the elections.

If Jonas Savimbi was to match President dos Santos' decision not to stand in the next presidential elections, it would undoubtedly resolve some of the most crucial problems facing Angola. It would also open the door for UNITA to reorganise as a political force able to mount an election campaign. Currently UNITA is split into three factions: UNITA Renovada - headed by Eugenio Manuvakola; another larger group which refused to join Renovada but which remained in Luanda when Savimbi returned to war - led in parliament by Abel Chivukuvuku; and the military wing - led by Jonas Savimbi.

SADC to take action against UNITA

At the end of its Heads of State summit in Malawi on 14 August, the Southern African Development Community issued a communique which, inter alia, listed action the region intended to take against UNITA.

The communique stated that SADC has approved measures in response to the UN sanctions against UNITA, including the installation of mobile radar systems to detect illegal flights across SADC borders, an international certification system for diamonds, and the creation of a task force to compile data and to formulate a strategy to stop the supply of petroleum products to UNITA.

The summit also endorsed the creation of an ad-hoc committee, coordinated by President Chissano in his position as Chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security - whose appointment as chair removes President Robert Mugabe's long hold on the body. The committee will be composed of representatives from Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and will compile a report on how SADC member states are implementing UN sanctions against UNITA. The report will be submitted to the UN.

The summit also announced that the next Heads of State summit would be in Angola in 2002.

WFP receives grain to cover 2001 needs

The WFP has told IRIN that a donation of 6,000 tonnes of resources from the United States has guaranteed food rations until the end of December.

Cautious optimism over diamond conference

The latest leg of the Kimberley Process - which seeks to draw up an international certification scheme to be adopted by the UN to stop the trade in conflict diamonds - is to take place in London on 11 to 13 September.

NGOs are optimistic that progress will be made at the London meeting, and are hopeful that a final agreement can be reached in Gaborone, Botswana, in November before being taken to the United Nations General Assembly to meet the end of year deadline.

Issues yet to be resolved include how to maintain the audit trail all the way from the mine to the jewellers. Whilst there is general agreement on how to maintain a certificate of origin regime for packages of diamonds from producer countries such as Angola, it is less clear what happens to these packages when they get split up and mixed in new packages in third countries.

IMF demands more reforms

The International Monetary Fund has concluded that the macro-economic targets set out in Angola's staff monitored programme have not been met. Following an IMF delegation to the country from 17 to 31 July, the Bretton Woods institution has given the country until October to make further progress.

On 16 August the IMF announced that the Angolan economy needs to reduce inflation, improve transparency in the public sector, and implement further structural reforms.

The IMF accepted that there has been some progress, especially in the diagnostic study of the oil sector, the completion of the external audit of the 1999 accounts of the central bank, the approval of further privatisation, along with other economic reforms. However, it criticised the government for a failure to produce and publish data on government revenues and expenditures.

The Angolan government hopes that by following the IMF's economic policies, there will eventually be the opportunity to restructure the country's debts towards cheaper, longer-term loans, along with access to soft loans from institutions such as the World Bank.

The Angola Peace Monitor is available on the ACTSA web site at:

The Angola Peace Monitor is produced every month by ACTSA - Action for Southern Africa. ACTSA, 28 Penton Street, London N1 9SA,
fax +44 20 7837 3001, telephone +44 20 7833 3133.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by Africa Action (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Africa Action's information services provide accessible information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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