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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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, III, 10

Angola: Peace Monitor, III, 10
Date distributed (ymd): 970707
Document reposted by APIC

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Angola Peace Monitor
Published by ACTSA on behalf of the Angola Emergency Campaign
Issue no.10, Vol III, 30 June 1997

UN Security Council confronted with explosive military tension

Military tension in Angola between the Government and the rebel UNITA movement is at its highest since the signing of the Lusaka Protocol peace agreement in 1994, despite the integration of UNITA into the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation, and the incorporation of some UNITA soldiers into the national army. Both sides have accused each other of violent attacks, and more evidence is emerging that UNITA has used the period of relative peace since 1994 to reorganise and re-arm its forces.

The strong possibility of a return to war has led the United Nations Security Council to appeal "in the strongest terms to both parties to refrain from any use of force" in its resolution (SCR 1118) on 30 June 1997. The Security Council decided that the UN Verification Mission in Angola, UNAVEM III, whose mandate ran out on 30 June, is to be replaced by the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola, MONUA.

MONUA is to be a scaled-down presence for the UN in Angola, the major difference being that it will not have "blue helmets", the military peacekeepers of UNAVEM III who were to keep the peace and verify the completion of the military aspects of the Lusaka Protocol.

Despite the serious threat of a return to full-scale war, the UN intends to withdraw its peacekeepers. In his report of 5 June (S/1997/138), the Secretary General stated his plan to withdraw 900 military personnel in June, 500 in July and 2,000 in August. The remaining 800 would leave before the end of September 1997. This is a one month delay over the previous timetable. One infantry company is to be left until the end of November 1997 to protect UN property.

MONUA's mandate is to be reviewed on 30 October 1997, and is to extend until 1 February 1998.

Renewed major clashes

The first major clashes between the Government's army, FAA, and UNITA's military wing, FALA, have taken place along Angola's border with the newly named Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).

Since the defeat of ex-President Mobutu Sese Seko on 16 May at the hands of Laurent Kabila's AFDL, thousands of UNITA fighters who had gone to help the Zairian dictator have been flooding back into the north-east of Angola (see APM no.9 vol III). They have been joined by refugees and militias of the extremist Rwandan Hutu Interahamwe. It has also been reported that joining the influx into Angola were members of Mobutu's defeated presidential guard. Against this background the Government launched in May what it describes as a limited operation to secure the border from this cocktail of armed forces entering its country.

Fighting has taken place in several places, and the Government has made some gains. In particular, it took the town of Luia, where UNITA had an airbase. Reporters visiting the area state that the FAA suffered 10 fatalities, with 47 wounded. UNITA are said to have lost 58 soldiers, with 23 prisoners taken.

The Angolan television company, TPA, and CNN World Reports interviewed some of the prisoners. One was a Zairian, and another was a UNITA soldier who had an identity card issued by the UN at the quartering area Vila Nova, in Huambo (in the centre of the country). Vila Nova is 750km from the area of the fighting, which indicates that UNITA troops have been flown into the area.

According to the independent Angolan news-sheet, Folha-8, the UNITA troops are commanded by General Vatuva, who was a UNITA representative at the Joint Commission, the body composed of the UN, the Angolan Government, UNITA, and the troika of observer states - Portugal, the United States, and the Russian Federation. On 24 June Folha-8 stated that 90 per cent of Angola's 2,500 km border with the Congo is under UNITA's control.

UNAVEM opening eyes

The United Nations Verification Mission in Angola (UNAVEM III) has begun to publicly question UNITA's commitment to the peace process, following months of attempted quiet diplomacy.

A strongly worded statement from UNAVEM III on 25 June states that "UNITA combatants spoken to by the UNAVEM-Troika team which visited the UNITA-controlled areas ... stated that those fighting the FAA were small groups of 'mining police'. This begs the question - how can small groups of 'mining police' engage in the heavy battles which UNITA claim have taken place in the Andrade area?"

The statement also made clear the Mission's displeasure at the Angolan Government for allowing a group of journalists into the battle area on 21 - 22 June, while on 19 June UN team-site observers in Andrade were not allowed out of the town "for their own safety".

Joint Commission calls for an end to fighting

The Joint Commission met on 20 June, and put out a statement calling for the end to the Government military operation.

However, the Joint Commission did state that it "understands the Government's legitimate security concerns along the Angolan borders".

The Joint Commission also called on UNITA to give it information about "the UNITA presidential guard and the mining police, whose existence is not known to UNAVEM III. These forces must abstain from any activity, and wait to be controlled, verified and demobilised".

Fighting prelude to big clash over diamonds

Despite the significant escalation the fighting in Lunda Norte province represents, which reportedly finished on 17 June, commentators warn that it was very limited compared with a possible full-scale confrontation.

UNITA controls 80 per cent of Angola's diamond areas, and earns and estimated $500 million a year from its illegal mining operations. The state diamond organisation, Endiama, has been in negotiations with UNITA for over a year to get UNITA's operations placed on a legal footing.

UNITA's mining company, Sociedade Geral das Minas, has been offered five mining concessions, and UNITA has been offered a stake in the Sociedade Mineira de Desenvolvimento, which has been awarded major mining concessions in the Cuango valley. However, the failure of UNITA to reach agreement to hand over the diamond regions has caused an impasse.

The diamond-rich province of Lunda Norte is likely to be a focus for the Government in its attempts to regain control of the country - of which UNITA controls over two thirds at present. Lunda Norte is also of the highest strategic importance for UNITA. Apart from their crack-troops returning from Zaire, there have been reports that 2,000 of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi's "Presidential" guard have been flown to the area.

During recent clashes UNITA lost some 10 - 15 per cent of the areas it held in the diamond region. Angolan commentators warn that unless a formula for the disarmament and quartering of UNITA's army is found, a large scale return to war is likely.

UNITA's military capacity

Evidence is emerging that UNITA's military capacity is greater than previously feared. Under the Lusaka Protocol, UNITA committed itself to disarming, quartering and demobilising its armed forces. However, the UN Secretary General in his report on 5 June to the Security Council, admitted that the proportion of deserters from these quartering areas has exceeded 35 per cent.

According to Folha-8 there have been regular flights taking UNITA soldiers to the Lundas from near the Huambo quartering area at Vila Nova.

The Minister for Territorial Administration, Faustino Muteka, wrote to the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Angola, Alioune Blondin Beye, on 5 June warning that UNITA still has an estimated 35,000 soldiers at its disposal.

The Minister alleges that UNITA maintains the following: - in the Northern Region, 26 battalions, 11 guerrilla columns and 20 platoons, an estimated 6,000 men headed by Brigadier Alex;
- in the Eastern Region, 29 Battalions, seven guerrilla columns and 17 platoons, an estimated 6,000 men headed by Brigadier Mbule;
- in the Central Region, 33 battalions, 30 guerrilla columns and 23 special groups, an estimated 11,000 men, headed by General Chimuco;
- in the south, UNITA two battalions, eight guerrilla columns, nine special platoons, around 1,200 men headed by Brigadier Yendelele;
- in Kuando Kubango around nine battalions, five guerrilla columns, six special commando groups, around 5,000 men headed by Brigadier Kalutotay.

New arms for UNITA

According to the South African-based Mail and Guardian, large quantities of new arms have been entering the country destined for UNITA, including new Stinger missiles - advanced hand-held anti-aircraft weapons.

There have also been detailed allegations by the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa that east European and South African arms for UNITA have recently been smuggled into Angola via northern Mozambique.

These allegations have been strongly questioned by the media in Mozambique. Journalists with good connections with the Mozambican security services maintain that the authorities have no knowledge of the alleged trade, and question whether Mozambique is being used as a "whipping boy" for other undisclosed reasons.

Defector warns of UNITA's military capacity

A former UNITA Colonel who defected after refusing to take part in further fighting, has warned that Jonas Savimbi intends to launch another war in order to renegotiate the terms of the Lusaka Protocol.

Colonel Altino Rafael Cassange, who deserted in May, warned a press conference on 24 June that UNITA maintained 75 per cent of its forces outside of the quartering areas. He estimated that the total number of troops at Jonas Savimbi's immediate disposal was 60,000 men.

The Colonel stated that UNITA maintains intact various bases and airstrips in the north-east, north and centre of the country, and has hidden various types of weapons from the UN. Their main concentration is in the Lundas, Malange, Kuanza Norte, Bengo and Uige. The defector detailed how UNITA had switched tactics since the fall of Mobutu in Zaire. He pointed out that UNITA was planning for an urban guerrilla war because "one cannot have a front without a rear-base".

Government forces strengthened by UNITA

The strength of the Government's army, FAA, has increased through the incorporation of some ex-UNITA elements into their ranks. UNAVEM reported on 20 June that 11,123 former UNITA soldiers had been incorporated into FAA. In total, 18,000 soldiers are due to join FAA. However, there have been problems getting UNITA fighters to join FAA voluntarily. Either they do not wish to follow a military career, or are carrying out the orders of their UNITA commanders.

One of the central military figures in Lunda Norte is Adriano Makevela Mackenzie, who joined the Angolan army in 1992. Many of his troops were integrated into FAA through the Lusaka Protocol.

In its 24 June issue, Folha-8 interviewed Lopes Antonio "Escuirinho", a former UNITA soldier who joined FAA in January 1997 after being quartered in Quibaxe. He stated that he had participated in combat against UNITA.

Under the Lusaka Protocol, the second in command of FAA is a member of UNITA, General Arlindo Chenda Ben Ben. This is one of the many contradictions within the current situation.

Military tensions rise in other regions

There have been reports that military tensions are at breaking point in provinces other than the Lundas.

UNITA has claimed that there have been offensives against it in the south-western province of Huila, and that three towns controlled by UNITA have been taken back by the FAA in Benguela province. It also claims that an offensive has been launched by the Government in the north west of the country, between Soyo and Pedra-de-Feitico.

According to a report in the official government news agency, ANGOP, UNITA has destroyed a bridge in the municipality of Quimbele, Uige province on 23 June. The London-based Times stated on 25 June that UNITA is mobilising its forces in Uige. The Portuguese radio station, Radio Renascenca, reported on 11 June that the government alleges that UNITA soldiers are fighting in Bie province and have tried to take the outskirts of Kuito.

Extension of state administration halted

The process of extending Government control to areas occupied by UNITA has ground to a halt following violence against officials taking part in the operation.

The most serious incident happened in Quibala, in Kuanza Sul province on 30 May, where deputy minister for local government, Miguel N'zau Puna, and UNITA's chief representative on the Joint Commission, Isaias Samakuva, were beaten by a hostile UNITA crowd. Africa Confidential states that they were beaten and called "traitors". N'zau Puna was a general in UNITA's army, before setting up the Angolan Democratic Forum.

Ceremonies on 28 May at Alta Hama and Vila Nova in the central Huambo province, were met by violent pro-UNITA crowds. On the same day, in Londiumbali UNITA crowds refused to allow the hoisting of the Angolan national flag. An attempt was made to attack N'zau Puna.

According to Angolan-based BBC World Service journalist, Barnaby Phillips, Isaias Samakuva claims that the attack was carried out by local hotheads. Phillips points to speculation that there are serious divisions between Luanda-based UNITA politicians who are making a go of the peace process, and hard-line generals who remain with Jonas Savimbi outside the capital and the process.

Repatriation of refugees delayed by UNITA occupation

The return of 27,000 Angolan refugees based in north west Zambia is being delayed because of UNITA's occupation of most of Moxico province. According to Angola's ambassador to Zambia, Manuel Augusto, the repatriation will now be delayed until August at the earliest.

There are more than 300,000 Angolans who fled fighting in the country. There are 200,000 in Congo, 96,000 in Zambia, 12,000 in Congo-Brazzaville and 1,000 in Namibia. A further 15,000 are scattered in 32 other countries.

The UNHCR needs to raise $38.2 million to pay for the return programme, but has so far only raised $4.6 million.

IOM gets part of funds

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), who last month put out an urgent appeal for $48 million to fund the return of ex-combatants to civil society (see APM no.9 vol III), had by 4 June received $4 million. On 13 June the IOM warned that it may have to suspend operations in Angola by the end of June if more money is not forthcoming.

Poor rains lead to harvest shortfall

The World Food Programme published a report on 26 May pointing out that poor rainfall has led to this year's harvest failing to meet the needs of the population. The WFP estimates that there will be a 530,000 tonnes deficit to be met by imports, of which 251,000 tonnes will need to be met by food aid.

Angolans accused in Congo-Brazzaville violence

Both the Angolan Government and the rebel UNITA movement have been accused of having a role in the present violence in its northern neighbour Congo-Brazzaville. The London-based newsletter, Africa Confidential, published on 20 June reports of UNITA fighting alongside the current President Pascal Lissouba's militias. UNITA has moved its main African office to Brazzaville following the downfall of Mobutu in Zaire. Africa Confidential also accused the Angolan Government of channelling arms to the Cobra militia led by General Denis Sassou Nguesso. Sassou Nguesso was the President from 1979 to 1992.

UNITA dissident MP resigns

A further hurdle to the smooth operation of the Angolan parliament, the National Assembly, was cleared when a deputy expelled from UNITA formally resigned from parliament.

Norberto de Castro was elected through the 1992 elections, but contrary to UNITA policy took his seat in the National Assembly. (see APM no.8, vol III). UNITA expelled de Castro from the rebel movement, and has demanded that he be expelled from the legislature as well.

Two other parliamentarians expelled by UNITA, Fatima Roque and Honorio van Dunem, have also resigned.

UN need more powers - Government

The Angolan Government on 24 June called for the UN to increase the power of its verification mission, as it needs "effective intelligence and reconnaissance mechanisms to detect and identify UNITA's undeclared military and para-military forces outside UNAVEM control".

The Government document, sent to the UN Secretary General, states that UNAVEM "should not minimise the gravity of the current situation in the Angola peace process, but fulfil its responsibilities as the international guarantor of the Lusaka Protocol, proceeding responsibly, among other tasks, to ensure the monitoring and verification of the demilitarisation of UNITA". The Government further proposed that 25 June be declared the deadline for the completion of the incorporation of UNITA forces into the Angolan army, and that 5 July be the end of the quartering of the Rapid Intervention Police. The Rapid Intervention Police, known locally as "Ninjas", have a strong and fearsome reputation for fighting UNITA in the urban areas after UNITA's return to war in 1992.

The Angola Peace Monitor is produced every month by ACTSA - Action for Southern Africa, the successor organisation to the British Anti-Apartheid Movement. It is produced as our contribution towards the work of the Angola Emergency Campaign, which seeks to highlight the need for international action in support of peace and democracy in Angola.

ACTSA, 28 Penton Street, London N1 9SA, e-mail, fax +44 171 837 3001, telephone +44 171 833 3133. Back issues of the Angola Peace Monitor are available on the World Wide Web at

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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