news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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, 7

Angola: Peace Monitor, V, 7
Date Distributed (ymd): 990331
Document reposted by APIC

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

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.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 targets.

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 the city.

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.

Military situation

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 government-controlled towns.

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 long-term.

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 capital.

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 Benjamin Mwila.

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.

Zambian denials

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 past.

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 nations.

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 tensions. ...

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.

URL for this file: