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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
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Angola: Peace Monitor, V, 7
Angola: Peace Monitor, V, 7
Date Distributed (ymd): 990331
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+
Summary Contents: This issue of the Angola Peace Monitor
reports little change in the military situation combined with
rising humanitarian crisis for civilians, including displaced
persons, residents of besieged cities, and expected victims of
new food shortages with an expected loss of a quarter of the
maize harvest due to war. It also contains updates on
accusations of Zambian support for UNITA.
Angola Peace Monitor
Published by ACTSA on behalf of the Angola Emergency Campaign
Issue no.7, Vol. V
26th March 1999
[Slightly condensed; full version available on web at
UN lowers flag in Angola
On 20 March the United Nations formally lowered its flag at a
low-key ceremony in Luanda marking the ending of its observer
mission, MONUA. The UN Secretary General's Special
Representative, Issa Diallo, left Angola on 15 March. The
formal closing of MONUA leaves only a handful of staff in
Angola to pack up and ship UN equipment out of the country.
This may take between four and six months.
The United Nations and the Angolan government are continuing
to wrangle over the future role of the United Nations in
Angola. In question is the future of the political and human
rights function of MONUA. The military function of MONUA will
not continue. There are suggestions that a political unit will
be kept in New York to monitor the situation and to be
available should the conditions for further negotiations
between the government and the UNITA rebel movement return.
The issue of human rights monitoring is also under discussion.
During the period when MONUA is disbanding, UN staff will
continue to monitor human rights in the country. However, the
UN hopes to have 30 to 40 human rights monitors, perhaps
working with the UN aid agencies. It has been suggested that
this unit will be under the umbrella of the United Nations
Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (UCAH).
Human rights monitors are finding their work increasingly
difficult as the military conflict reduces their freedom of
movement. For their own safety UN monitors are to a large
extent restricted to government-controlled towns. Travel in
the war zones is highly regulated, and there is little hope of
monitoring human rights abuses in UNITA-held territory.
Other UN agencies will continue their operations in Angola.
The United Nations Development Programme still provides
technical assistance to the Angolan government and the World
Food Programme has a vital role in importing and airlifting
food aid for people fleeing from the fighting (see below).
The UN appears keen to tighten the sanctions already in place
against UNITA, and the Chair of the Sanctions Committee in
charge of this matter is likely to set up an investigation
into sanctions busting. Sources suggest that he may set up
task forces to look into the key areas of arms, diamonds,
petroleum and financial sanctions busting.
One key question is whether they will make the findings of
such an investigation public. The United Nations does not have
a good record concerning transparency on Angola. For example,
they have not published the preliminary findings of the
investigation into the death of the previous UN Special
Representative, Alioune Blondin Beye, in a mysterious air
crash. Nor has there been any public airing of the preliminary
findings of the shooting down of two UN aircraft over
UNITA-held territory in December and January. ...
Furthermore, widespread human rights abuses in Angola have not
been publicised by MONUA's Human Rights Division. Despite
having improved its work over the last year, it has not
publicly distributed reports.
Humanitarian disaster looms
The threat of widespread starvation is haunting several
Angolan cities as UNITA guerillas continue to besiege key
According to figures produced by the United Nations, more than
300,000 people have recently fled to government-controlled
cities in the face of attacks by UNITA. Around 650,000 people
have left their homes since UNITA restarted its military
campaign in earnest in April last year. The cities of Malanje,
Cuito and Huambo are under siege and are swollen with
refugees. The capital city, Luanda, receives a fresh flood of
refugees each time fighting intensifies.
Angola's second city, Huambo, has had its population of
300,000 residents swollen by about 120,000 refugees from the
neighbouring countryside. Roads are too dangerous, so all aid
must be flown in by the World Food Programme. A survey in
Huambo by Save the Children Fund, WFP and UNICEF found that 20
per cent of children were showing signs of malnutrition,
including low weight and kwashiorkor. Of these, 3 per cent
were severely malnourished. As a result of the survey 1,500
children were placed in extra care centres and received extra
food and medical attention.
The town of Cuito has been under an increased threat from
UNITA since the beginning of March. UNITA troops have closed
in on the city, causing thousands of people to leave the
surrounding towns and countryside for the relative safety of
the city. Heavy fighting was reported at the town of Cunhinga,
30 km to the north. On 25 and 26 March UNITA began shelling
Due to the deteriorating security situation, aid flights have
been halted into the city. The WFP tried to resume flights on
23 March. However, on landing at Cuito Airport, the airplane
had to leave without unloading its 17.5 tonnes of food due to
the imminent danger. The WFP has stated that without further
flights it only has stocks to last two weeks.
International aid workers were warned to leave the city on 12
March, and a few days later the airport was closed. If food
aid does not arrive regularly the threat of starvation will
become serious. Save the Children Fund estimates that more
than 15 per cent of children in the city are malnourished. It
is estimated that 60,000 refugees are hiding in Cuito.
However, sources state that Cuito only has 300 tonnes of food
left for distribution.
The crisis is at its worst in Malanje City, where up to
200,000 people have fled a UNITA advance. It is estimated that
400,000 people are now trapped in the city, which 7,000 UNITA
soldiers surround. Heavy shelling by UNITA has left more than
600 people dead.
UNITA has blown up a bridge on the main Malanje-Luanda road.
Until recently several trucks carrying aid were entering the
city daily. Flights in and out of the city have been possible
only sporadically. Food stocks are under severe strain.
Harvest left to rot as war spreads
The Early Warning Unit of the Southern African Development
Community's Food Security Organ, has stated that Angola's
maize harvest is likely to be cut by a quarter because of the
war. Planting was disrupted in many areas, and despite good
rains the harvest will be left to rot in many areas where
farmers have fled to government-controlled towns. The SADC
organisation estimates that the country will need to import
322,000 tonnes of maize, 16,000 tonnes of wheat and 76,000
tonnes of rice in 1999.
Over the last month there have been no major gains by either
army, although both sides have claimed territorial and
tactical advances. In the present situation it is almost
impossible to get independent verification of military claims.
However, it is known that UNITA has advanced to within firing
range of Cuito, and that it has forced the Angolan army, FAA,
to retreat from the UNITA stronghold of Andulo after heavy
fighting at Triunfo, 14km away. ...
Neither side has so far achieved its short-term objectives.
UNITA has failed to seize control of Huambo or Cuito, whilst
FAA has not been able to take control of Andulo and Bailundo.
Tension in the diamond-rich Lunda region is high, with
sporadic guerilla attacks on diamond mines and
Analysts suggest that UNITA is likely to open another front in
the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda, where it is estimated to have
1,500 soldiers. Tension is already high in the province
following the kidnapping of five workers of an oil support
firm. The police assume it to have been the work of one of the
separatist movements operating in the province. The province
is an important centre for Angola's oil industry, although oil
production is all based offshore.
Overall, battle lines are moving back and forward, with
neither side gaining the upper hand. Sources in Angola suggest
that UNITA troops are well-armed and trained, but are facing
shortages of food. Many government soldiers are poorly trained
and armed, although it is understood that steps have been
taken to address this. Military analysts suggest that the
coming dry season, along with the withdrawal of thousands of
Angola's most trained soldiers from the Democratic Republic of
Congo, may tip the balance in favour of the government in the
Dangerous tensions with Zambia
Relations between the neighbouring states of Angola and Zambia
have deteriorated to an all-time low following persistent
allegations that highly-placed officials in the Zambian
government are helping UNITA get arms into, and smuggle
diamonds out of, Angola. The heightened tensions are spilling
over into the Zambian domestic political scene, with ten local
journalists being arrested and bombs being planted in the
Angolan allegations of top-level collusion
The Angolan government clearly believes that Zambian officials
have been central to the UNITA operation to bring
sophisticated arms into Angola.
In a three-page letter sent on 9 March to Ambassador Robert
Fowler, chair of the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee
on Angola, the Angolan government alleged that Zambian
Vice-President Christon Tembo, and Energy Minister Benjamin
Mwila, have helped with arms smuggling to UNITA through the
Zambia Intelligence and Security Services (ZISS). The letter
also claims that Benjamin Mwila set up a runway for large
transport airplanes at Zambezi Lodge.
The letter alleges that the South African firm Mextex
International has been using airports and Zambian airspace "to
supply material to UNITA military forces with Zambian
government consent". The Angolan government has named four
airports: Mpolo near Lusaka; Mwansabombwe in Luapala province;
Kasama in the north of the country; and Mfuwe International
Airport in Luangwa national park.
It is alleged that Aero Zambia chairman David Torkoph
constructed Mwansabombwe airstrip. Aero Zambia has recently
been accused of flying supplies to UNITA (see APM no.6 vol.V).
Other allegations against Zambia
The Zambian journal, The Monitor, has accused the Minster for
Foreign Affairs, Keli Walubita, of aiding UNITA. It alleges
that the only petroleum filling station in the Zambezi and
border area of Zambia is owned by Walubita.
The publication's source states that "Mr Walubita could be an
innocent man but he certainly does know who his biggest
customers for fuel supplies are, it is UNITA and he should not
condone that for monetary gains."
In a further blow to the Zambian government's credibility, the
London-based publication Institutional Investor, suggested
that two former ministers have been dealing with UNITA.
An article on corruption in the Zambian government suggested
that former commerce and trade minister Enock Kavindele was
sacked because of his possible involvement in providing arms
for UNITA. The article also suggested that the late former
Finance Minister, Ronald Penza, was involved in arms
smuggling. It stated that "Penza added them (companies he
bought at dirt-cheap prices from the privatisation programme)
to a murky portfolio of offshore business interest linked to
gun running and drug trafficking."
In contrast the death of Ronald Penza was also raised in an
article by Southern African News Features that told of "the
murder of Ronald Penza, in an incident at his home clumsily
passed off as an armed robbery, in which police shot all
suspects, amid rumours that the former finance minister was
trying to expose the activities of colleagues involved in
diamond smuggling for UNITA".
The report in The Monitor also links Zambian President Frank
Chiluba with the gunrunning story. His son, Miko Chiluba, is
a director of Chani fisheries, which Aero Zambia vice
chairman, Moses Katumbi, owns. The publication also points out
that one of the cabinet ministers under suspicion, Benjamin
Mwila, is also President Chiluba's uncle. Other sources state
that senior UNITA General Smart Chata is also a relative of
The article by Southern African News Features points out that
"the nearest infrastructure large enough to support a military
rearming of the sort that has been going on in the Angolan
bush, according to diplomats, is in the copperbelt cities of
Ndola and Kitwe, with the international airport, hangers and
vast warehouses". The article states that on at least one
occasion the airstrip at Kasama was used to fly weapons to
UNITA's base in Andulo. It also alleges that arms are paid for
through the sale of diamonds smuggled via Solwezi in
north-western Zambia or Zambezi Lodge.
Zambia has strongly denied all allegations placed against it.
Recently Foreign Affairs Minister Keli Walubita and Home
Affairs Minister Katele Kalumba visited the United Nations in
New York, where they rejected allegations of smuggling.
In another round in its public relations campaign, the Zambian
government on 9 March flew a number of journalists to the
border with Angola in an attempt to clear its name.
Journalists were flown to inspect an airstrip, which was found
to be full of pot-holes in its tarmac. However, it is thought
unusual to have a large tarmac airstrip, where normally a dirt
strip would suffice for small aircraft, raising suspicion that
the airstrip had received large aircraft at some point in the
The Zambian government claims that OAU emissaries have cleared
Zambia of the charges following a visit to alleged smuggling
centres. Many of the allegations against UNITA are out of
date, relating to activities in 1996 and 1997. Since then
supply routes to UNITA have frequently been changed. However,
the central allegation of top-level Zambian government
collusion with arms smuggling to UNITA has not been resolved,
and continues to create a dangerous atmosphere between the two
Bomb blasts linked to enmity
Various diplomatic sources have claimed that a series of bomb
blasts that rocked the Zambian capital on 28 February is
directly linked to the tensions between the two countries.
Up to a dozen explosions hit Lusaka, and cut electricity and
water for several hours. An explosion inside the Angolan
embassy resulted in the death of an Angolan security guard.
Some analysts suggest that the explosions were designed as a
warning by the Angolan government to its Zambian counterpart
to keep out of Angolan affairs, and point to the fact that one
of the explosions was actually inside the Angolan embassy. A
UNITA statement sent to Reuters blamed the Angolan government
for the attacks.
Other independent analysts have suggested that UNITA may lie
behind the attacks, to speed up the deterioration of the
relationship between the two countries. The Angolan government
has criticised Zambia for failing to protect its Embassy.
According to Angolan ambassador to Zambia, Manuel Augusto, a
bomb was planted in the office of one of Angola's first
secretaries, and virtually destroyed the building.
The seriousness of the situation was underlined by the arrival
of a bomb investigation team from the United States FBI, as
well as experts from the Netherlands. The findings of the FBI
investigation were handed to the Zambian government, as will
the findings of the Dutch team.
Journalists arrested over army article
Ten journalists at the Zambian daily newspaper, The Post, have
been arrested and charged with espionage following an article
on 9 March which questioned the ability of the Zambian army to
withstand an assault by its Angolan counterpart.
The Chief Editor of The Post, Fred M'membe, was arrested on 22
March when he went to police headquarters to protest at the
harassment of his colleagues. The ten journalists are all on
bail and are expected to appear in court on espionage charges
on 16 April. If found guilty, the minimum sentence is 20
years, with a maximum of life.
M'membe alleges that police were following him and his
reporters to their homes at night and that police detective
Moses Ndakala told him: "Your story carries a byline of Staff
Reporters, forcing us to arrest all the reporters so that they
can disclose who gave them the information". The charge says
the journalists "jointly, and with persons unknown, collected,
obtained, published and communicated to the public information
that might be or was intended to be directly or indirectly
useful to Angola or other foreign powers."
SADC attempts to bring two sides together
The issue of the dangerous relationship between the two
members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
was raised during the meeting of SADC defence ministers in
Swaziland on 19 March. Following the discussion, the two
countries agreed to hold formal meetings to try to reduce
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