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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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, V, 4

Angola: Peace Monitor, V, 4
Date Distributed (ymd): 981228
Document reposted by APIC

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

Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
Summary Contents: This issue of the Angola Peace Monitor reports the return to open warfare in Angola, as cities in the interior come under attack from UNITA troops. On December 23, the UN Security Council again laid principal responsibility for the return to war on UNITA, and called on both parties to cooperate with efforts to revive the stalled peace process.

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Angola Peace Monitor
Published by ACTSA on behalf of the Angola Emergency Campaign
Issue no. 4, Vol V, 18th December 1998

Thousands flee UNITA all-out assault

Nearly a hundred thousand people have fled their homes in recent days to the town of Cuito, Bie province, in the face of an all-out assault by the rebel movement UNITA. Reports have emerged that around one hundred civilians were killed on 16 December in an attack by UNITA on a disused railway station in Kunje, close to Cuito.

By 14 December UNITA had surrounded Cuito, where thousands of civilians waited at the airport in the hope of securing a flight out of town. Three hundred children were evacuated to Luanda in several private aircraft, before the operation was halted. The AFP news agency reported that the airport was closed following the shooting down of a private Antanov transport aeroplane leased by the government, which had just left Cuito after unloading relief aid. The five crew members and a further five passengers were killed.

A nurse at Cuito hospital said that dozens of injured people were being admitted into the hospital, including civilians and soldiers.

Government counterattack

For some time the town was besieged, with all road and air links cut. However, by 17 December it was reported that the airport had been reopened and that calm had returned to the town following a government counter-offensive. The Commander of the government's army in Bie province, Siminone Mukuni, told Angolan radio that 63 rebels had been killed on 17 December, including many Rwandans, "Banyamulenges" and white mercenaries. The Angolan army state that they destroyed seven UNITA tanks in the counter-offensive.

UNITA has admitted that it has been laying minefields in Bie province. A statement from the organisation said that on 16 December ten of its soldiers, including Lt Col Joao Chiwisi, were killed and 25 wounded by mines "due to an error of coordination".

A source in the Angolan Ministry of Defence stated that the UNITA assault on Cuito and nearby Kunje was halted after a UNITA convoy carrying fuel and other logistics was destroyed in an attack by the Angolan airforce. The source also claimed that fuel depots in Adulo and Bailundo were destroyed in another air strike.

The World Food Programme has 1,000 tonnes of food aid in its warehouse in Cuito, and supplies for December had been distributed prior to the siege. However, distribution may prove difficult as the UN decided on 13 December to withdraw sixty humanitarian staff and their families from Cuito. The UN has stated that there is enough food and medicine in stock for two months at the present rate of consumption. British aid agencies have made an urgent appeal to the British government to make resources available to stop the military crisis becoming a humanitarian disaster.

Several strategic towns around Cuito have been seized by UNITA troops, with the towns Catabola, Camacupa and Cuanza situated on the main highway east of Cuito. On the highway west of Cuito, Chinguar was seized by UNITA forces. Huambo under attack

Further along the highway to the west is the major town of Huambo, another key target for UNITA forces. 25,000 civilians have fled to Huambo seeking safe haven. The situation is so dangerous that the UN on 13 December decided to withdraw 111 staff, leaving only 25 international emergency personnel and a few further local aid workers in the town.

The UN has also withdrawn its staff from the town of Luena, to the east in Moxico province, on the same highway.

The attacks on Cuito reminded Angolans of the horrors of the 1993/94 siege of Cuito in which 30,000 people died. The siege of Huambo led to the deaths of an estimated 10,000. Aid agencies have warned that Cuito's place in Angolan history raises the fear that if UNITA took control it would result in the very widespread murder of the population.

Reports of air strikes

The other area of reported conflict is around the former headquarters of UNITA, in Andulo and Bailundo.

UNITA Secretary General Paulo Gato had claimed on 1 December that the government had launched an air raid on Bailundo. However, four UN observers had been held virtual prisoners in Bailundo by UNITA (see APM no.3, vol.V) until they were finally released on 6 December. These observers reported that there had been no bombing of the town.

The London-based journal, SouthScan, reported that UNITA was claiming that a government offensive on Andulo and Bailundo on 5 December was reversed.

The government has flown reinforcements to Huambo and Cuito who had previously been stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they had been supporting President Laurent Kabila.

The situation in the Central Highlands is building up to conventional warfare, with relatively static positions. Military theory generally holds that in such cases the side with air superiority should defeat their opponents. However, UNITA have modern anti-aircraft weapons (perhaps including the US-made Stinger system) and the season's heavy rain can work in its favour.

Military analysts in Luanda predict that the conflict in the Central Highlands will be a long drawn-out affair. This is likely to lead to a humanitarian disaster for civilians situated in besieged towns, reminiscent of previous sieges.

Government forces regrouping

The Angolan government's army, FAA, is regrouping and reinforcing following the major UNITA offensive against it in the Central Highlands.

Military analysts have stated that UNITA had executed a carefully laid plan to seize control of strategic locations. UNITA had surprised some with their use of tanks, assault vehicles and long-range artillery. Sources suggest that FAA was also surprised at the huge concentration of UNITA forces in the area.

FAA Chief of Staff, General Joao de Matos, said on 12 December that "UNITA is better equipped than ever before". The General accused the United Nations of adopting a passive attitude, although its mission had been to disarm UNITA.

UN ponders future role

The escalation in the conflict has led the United Nations to reassess its role in Angola. On 17 December the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated that "The United Nations will soon have to decide whether it can still play a useful peacekeeping role in the present rapidly diminishing security and political space".

Informal discussions among members of the Security Council were due to take place in New York on 17 December, with a view to releasing a Presidential Statement on Angola. However, the bombing of Iraq was likely to cause delay. Pressure is mounting on the Security Council to meet again to discuss the crisis. A Security Council review is likely not only because of the escalating conflict, but also statements made by Angolan government ministers questioning the continued presence of MONUA.

Territorial Administration Minister, Faustino Muteka, stated on Angolan television that "MONUA is no longer doing anything here. It only complicates things. I am saying that as an Angolan official. Twice MONUA failed to check things, and later on admitted that UNITA was still armed. I signed thousands of protest notes to MONUA informing it that UNITA was not demobilising soldiers; that weapons being handed over were obsolete; that UNITA was training forces in specific areas; and that UNITA was receiving weapons in various areas. We mentioned this in those notes. Yet, MONUA never investigated the situation. We must ask MONUA why has it never gone to those areas and checked what the government was reporting?"

Sympathy with this view was expressed by a diplomat close to the peace process in the International Herald Tribune on 16 December. The unnamed diplomat "said that the current fighting proved the futility of a reconciliation effort in which the UN, the United States, Portugal and Russia ... too often looked the other way and accepted UNITA's talk of peace even as the rebels were unmistakably preparing for war".

The diplomat continued that "we all know it was wrong, we all knew that arms were coming in and nobody tried to stop it". The article quotes a US official saying of Savimbi "he's got ambition, he's got ego, he's got money, and he's got arms".

MONUA mandate extended

The UN Security Council met on 3 December and adopted Resolution 1213, which gave the go-ahead to extend the UN Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) until 26 February.

In the resolution, the Security Council condemned Jonas Savimbi for ignoring letters sent to him on 6 October by the UN's Special Representative in Angola, and on 24 September by the Foreign Ministers of the three Observer States to the Lusaka Protocol.

It is understood that an attempt to have Jonas Savimbi specifically named as the major obstacle to peace, as British ministers have recently done, was vetoed by the United States. The final resolution emphasised that "the primary cause of the crisis in Angola and of the current impasse in the peace process is the failure by the leadership of UNITA in Bailundo to comply with its obligations".

In a significant move the resolution noted the "importance of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General maintaining contact with all elements of UNITA in Luanda [our emphasis] in order to revive the stalled peace process and encourage the transformation of UNITA into a genuine political party". This is a signal that the Special Representative may focus efforts on contacts with UNITA-Renovada and the UNITA leadership around Abel Chivukuvuku rather than with Jonas Savimbi.

The Security Council warned that it was ready to consider imposing further sanctions against UNITA, and called on the Secretary General to report on ways of improving the implementation of sanctions already in place.

On 3 December the Angolan government issued a communique which stated that it "cannot understand the UN's passive attitude, especially when similar situations in other parts of the world, namely Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia have warranted sterner measures by both the United Nations and the international community".

MPLA chooses new Secretary General

The leading political party in Angola, the MPLA, has removed three senior figures from its Central Committee following a congress in Luanda.

The week-long congress began on 5 December, and in a secret ballot on 9 December MPLA Secretary General Lopo do Nascimento, former Prime Minister Marcolino Moco and current Prime Minister Fernando Franca Van Dunem, were removed from a Central Committee which had been expanded from 158 to 251 members.

Also dropped were the provincial governors of Lunda Sul, Goncalves Muandumba, and Alexandre Kananito of Uige. New members of the Central Committee include Minister of Public Administration, Pitra Neto, the ambassador to Portugal, Jose Patricio, and Jose Leitao.

On 12 December the first meeting of the Central Committee elected Joao Lourenco as Secretary General, replacing Lopo do Nascimento.

The changes in the make-up of the leadership of the MPLA reflect a strengthening of the position of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. It is understood that Joao Lourenco was strongly backed by the President, and is being tipped as his eventual successor.

New report on diamond trading and UNITA

A non-governmental organisation, Global Witness, has released a major report on the international complicity in funding UNITA's war machine in Angola. The report, A Rough Trade - The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict, published on 14 December, estimates that between 1992 and 1998 UNITA has earned $3.7 billion from the sale of diamonds.

The report shows how De Beers and its Central Selling Organisation controls 80% of the world diamond market, and that they have consistently bought up Angolan gem quality diamonds. In response to the report, De Beers has made clear that it has instructed its buyers not to purchase any diamonds which could have come from UNITA.

The report states that international sanctions imposed on the trade in non-authorised Angolan diamonds on 1 July have not had any significant impact. It says that routes have changed, with countries such as Zambia becoming a new transit point for smuggling. A large proportion of these end up in Antwerp, Belgium.

Criticism of inaction against sanction busting

The report also criticises the Angolan government for its failure to impose rigorous controls over its system of Certificates of Origin (CO). In particular, there is no printed name next to the signatures on the COs, they are signed by a number of different people, the government has not given the Belgian government a list of approved signatories, nor is there one identifiable official stamp.

According to reliable diamond industry sources, UNITA's earnings from diamonds may drop in 1998 to around $200 million, from $600 million in 1997. This is partly due to UNITA losing control over some diamond mines, and the drop in diamond prices. However, more significantly, UNITA has exhausted the most easily available diamonds in some areas under its control, and the reduction in diamond revenues reflects this.

Amnesty International calls for respect for life

Amnesty International called on 14 December for all armed forces in Angola to respect the Geneva Convention and avoid killing civilians in the renewed fighting.

Amnesty said that "all combatants must be made aware that killing and torture of prisoners are war crimes for which they should be held responsible".

UN launches consolidated appeal

The United Nations has launched its 1999 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Angola. UN agencies and the International Organisation for Migration are appealing for $66 million for projects focussed on short-term emergency needs.

The largest item required in the budget is $25 million for food security, followed by $11.6 million for health, nutrition, non-food items, water and sanitation. The appeal is looking for $11 million for resettlement and reintegration.

The World Food Programme is due to get the largest slice of the appeal - some $31 million, and UNICEF is due to get almost $15 million.

The 1999 appeal is less than the 1998 appeal ($81 million) and the 1997 appeal ($199 million). This is because previous appeals were based on optimistic readings of the security situation in Angola. The appeals assumed a gradual return to peace, leading to projects for rehabilitation and development.

Despite this, the 1998 Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeal for Angola was a relative success. By 11 November 1998 the appeal had received $56 million - 68% of its target. As the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) points out, this is one of the highest funded appeals in terms of percentage received against requirements. This is all the more creditable given that the UNHCR and the IOM had both reduced their funding requirements by $11 million due to the worsening violence.

The top ten donors to the 1998 Appeal were:

USA            US$ 29,879,418
Sweden         US$ 8,952,715
United Kingdom US$ 3,190,630
Denmark        US$ 2,189,781
Norway         US$ 1,961,789
Italy          US$ 1,756,589
Japan          US$ 1,430,000
EC-ECHOUS      US$ 1,421,110
Switzerland    US$ 984,552
Finland        US$ 735,457 

Notable successes of the UN agencies include: giving food aid to one million people; vaccinating 300,000 against meningitis and 230,000 children against six vaccine preventable diseases; the rehabilitation of schools and health posts; providing emergency relief for more than 100,000 newly displaced people; the incorporation of 1,500 UNITA health workers into the National Health system; and the clearance of mines from 2 million square miles.

However, the living conditions for Angolans remain intolerable. The Appeal points out that the humanitarian crisis is "not only the result of the present conflict but also the consequence of the quasi-total disruption of the socio-economic structures and services".

For the 1999 Appeal, it is assumed that there will be an escalation of the conflict, short of a full return to war. The appeal hopes to be flexible enough to alter its programme should the situation deteriorate or improve. However, no development projects are included in this appeal. Projects for rehabilitation and development will have to be funded outside the appeal. There is a specific emphasis on the need to ensure that humanitarian and human rights activities complement each other. However, this may conflict with a main objective which is to "defend and advocate respect for the universal principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence".

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
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). 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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