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Angola: Peace Monitor, V, 8
Angola: Peace Monitor, V, 8
Date Distributed (ymd): 990502
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+
This issue of the Angola Peace Monitor reports an escalating
humanitarian crisis, including starvation in cities besieged
by UNITA forces, as a military stalemate persists in the
renewed Angolan conflict.
Angola Peace Monitor
Published by ACTSA on behalf of the Angola Emergency Campaign
Issue no. 8, Vol. V
29th April 1999
Hunger stalks besieged cities
There is increasing concern at the growing hunger in the
UNITA-besieged cities of Cuito, Huambo and Malanje. Attacks on
these cities have continued, and there has been an increase in
assaults on vehicles bringing food to them. Access to the
cities varies day by day as government troops fight to keep
UNITA rebels out of shelling range. According to Archbishop
Francisco Vitti of Huambo, people are already dying of
starvation. There are growing fears of a replaying of the
sieges by UNITA of the same cities in 1993, during which over
40,000 people died.
The United Nations has estimated that 780,000 people have fled
their homes since UNITA began retaking territory in earnest in
April 1998. In total 1.5 million people are now refugees in
their own country (Internally Displaced People) with thousands
more having fled to neighbouring countries.
Aid workers have been targeted by UNITA. On 14 April five aid
officials travelling in a clearly marked Save the Children
Fund (US) vehicle on the Gebela - Sumbe road in Cuanza Sul
province were murdered by a UNITA gang. Two of the victims
worked for SCF(US), and the others worked for Oikos, the
Associacao Crista de Mocidade and the Associacao
Congregacional Crista de Angola.
Three were shot dead in the vehicle, whilst the other two were
interrogated before being mutilated. A police unit sent to the
scene was also ambushed, leading to their deaths.
The ambush took place as the aid workers were on their way to
Sumbe to attend a meeting called by the World Food Programme
and the Italian government. The attack has been condemned by
the United Nations.
There was heavy shelling of Cuito for the first two weeks of
April. It is reported that ten people were being killed daily.
The airport was closed on 29 March, although it re-opened on
16 April with the Angolan army, FAA, Chief of Staff General
Joao de Matos being on the first flight.
Shelling of the city continued until 14 April. However there
are news agency reports that UNITA have now been pushed back
by FAA. These reports state that FAA took control of the
districts of Cunhinga and Chipeta 30 Kilometres to the north
of the city.
According to the World Food Programme, food stocks are
critically low, although a nutritional study by MSF Belgium
has found the current situation to be "not grave" yet.
However, food aid is still restricted to most vulnerable. On
2 April a truck carrying food was attacked at Cachingues, 60
km south of city, and ten people were reported killed.
Flights have been arriving at Huambo airport carrying food and
fuel. However, there are serious food shortages. Some roads
into the city have been open, with a convoy reaching Benguela
safely. It is reported that vehicles are travelling as far
north of the city as Alto Hama.
UNITA has infiltrated the city on several nights, with
fighting reported to be the heaviest since the siege began.
Malanje has continued to suffer from heavy shelling which
began on 4 January. At one stage UNITA is reported to have
come within 5 kilometres of the city before being pushed back
Civilians have been attacked on the road between Luanda and
Malanje, a route which thousands have used to escape the
siege. On 22 April twenty bodies were discovered in the
remains of two burnt-out cars on the Luanda-Malanje road, near
the town of Lucala.
A wooden bridge on this road, recently destroyed by UNITA, has
been repaired and traffic can now use the road - but only at
great risk. Food from the WFP has being getting through to the
town, with 1,700 tonnes arriving in March. World Food
Programme plea for funds
The World Food Programme has warned that the increased amount
of food aid needed and a further aircraft to deliver it has
left the UN organisation requiring $8 million immediately.
WFP makes around seven deliveries a day by its air fleet, with
each Boeing 727 taking 17 metric tons of aid.
Among recent promises of aid from the international community:
- Italy has offered $12.5 million for humanitarian de-mining,
food and humanitarian aid, plus $2.5 million to the
- China has announced that it will give $600,000 of aid plus
$3.5 million in unspecified assistance.
- France will be giving food aid and assistance to MSF and to
the World Health Organisation for cholera survey and to FAO
for projects in seed multiplication for IDPs.
More than 600 cases of polio, with 33 deaths have been
reported in Angola. This is being linked to the poor
conditions which exist in slums, particularly around Luanda.
Most cases have been found among the refugee population, who
lack access to clean drinking water and decent hygiene
In an attempt to halt the spread of the poliomyelitis viral
disease, 600,000 children under the age of five have been
Military stalemate in run-up to dry season
The conflict in Angola has led to the deaths of 10,000 people,
according to the Angolan journal Folha-8. Despite this loss of
life, there has been no major gain in territory over the last
month. The Angolan army has concentrated on digging in to
defensive positions, whilst UNITA has continued to use a
twin-track approach of tying down FAA forces in the three
besieged cities whilst carrying out hit and run attacks
throughout the rest of the country.
However, FAA troops are undergoing training, and conscription
of all those born in 1978 is being enforced. Sources in Angola
state that preparations are underway for an eventual large
scale assault on UNITA. It is understood that unusually heavy
rains have been reducing the government's air capacity.
However, the dry season is due to start in May, and this may
signal the next phase of the war.
In April UNITA is reported to have stepped up attacks near
Luanda, including an attack on an electricity powerline near
Catate. Two attacks were also reported near Caxito.
The governor of Cuanza Sul province, General Higino Carneiro,
has warned that UNITA troops are flooding into the province,
inflicting big losses on government forces.
The rebels have also reportedly been laying mines on roads in
Uige province, and the bridge over the Kuilo River near Sanza
Pombo has been destroyed.
UNITA took control of the border town of Maquela do Zombo on
26 March, reportedly with the help of rebels from the
Democratic Republic of Congo. It is alleged that this is being
used as a crossing point for UNITA soldiers in the DRC, and
that its airport is used to ferry-in supplies for the rebels.
UNITA claimed that on 14 April it took control of the
strategically important Alto Catumbela, Benguela province, but
this has been denied by the government. The rebels also claim
that heavy fighting has been taking place over Chingwar in Bie
The government claims that it has beaten back an attack by
UNITA on Cunhinga on 25 April, in which the rebels left behind
five armoured cars.
In Uige province, unconfirmed reports state that FAA has
retaken Nsosso (formerly 31 Janeiro) and St Ambuila and
repulsed a UNITA attack on Songo. A UNITA attack on Leua in
Moxico province was also unsuccessful.
New arms and troops
Both the Angolan government and Jonas Savimbi's UNITA are
rearming and recruiting new soldiers in preparation for major
battles that lie ahead.
There have been several reports claiming that UNITA has bought
six MiG-23 fighter jets (the London-based journal Southscan
suggests that the aircraft could be Sukhoi-5's), and six Hind
Mi-25 assault helicopters. If true, it would represent a
spectacular increase in UNITA's capacity. However, a weapons
expert quoted by the South African-based Mail & Guardian, said
that six MiG's were too few to fundamentally alter the balance
of power, and that 18 would be needed.
According to reports the aircraft are being operated by
mercenaries from either South Africa or Ukraine. Reports vary
on where the MiG's are kept, with some saying that they are in
Jamba in the south of Angola, with others claiming that they
are kept in Togo in West Africa.
However, many commentators doubt the veracity of these
reports, pointing to the difficulties in maintaining and
fuelling the aircraft, along with problems of airstrips and
hiding the aircraft. The general consensus is that whilst it
is possible, it is unlikely that UNITA has assault helicopters
and improbable that they have fighter aircraft. One source has
told the Angola Peace Monitor that UNITA did attempt to buy
MiG's over a year ago, but were unable to complete the deal
due to logistical problems.
Despite the belief among commentators that the story is likely
to emanate from UNITA itself for propaganda purposes, the
upsurge in fighting in December 1998 showed that UNITA is much
better armed than expected.
To put the claims of a UNITA air force in perspective, the
International Institute for Strategic Studies publication "The
Military Balance 1998/99" put the Angolan air force capacity
at 45 combat aircraft and 28 armed helicopters, comprising of
inter alia 18 MiG-23's, 9 SU-22's, 4 SU-25's, 4 MiG-21's, and
The Angolan government has been receiving a steady supply of
new arms, including T-72 tanks. According to the Portuguese
daily newspaper Diario de Noticias, the government is also
purchasing long range artillery from Belarus and SU-24 fighter
bombers from Russia.
It has been reported that UNITA has around 150 Ukrainian and
100 South African mercenaries, along with up to 600 Moroccan
troops. In addition, the Mail & Guardian reported on 9 April
that indications have surfaced of Ugandan troops being
seconded in support of UNITA.
South Africa has recently expelled 43 foreign pilots accused
of ferrying supplies to UNITA along with 23 aircraft. South
African police have blamed this group for 200 cases of
violation of the SA civil aviation rules.
There have also been reports that, following a meeting on 2
April of heads of state from Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the
Democratic Republic of Congo, there has been an agreement for
joint operations against UNITA, probably focussing on the
recapture of Maquela do Zombo on the border with the DRC. On
28 April it was reported that UNITA troops had been driven
back into Uige province by FAA in an operation in the DRC.
The Namibian Defence Force have denied that they are to take
part in joint operations in Angola.
Angolan diplomatic advances
The Angolan government has been busy developing its
international contacts in an attempt to persuade the
international community that the achievements of the Lusaka
Protocol have not all been undone by the resumption of war.
Under the auspices of the Lusaka Protocol senior UNITA
generals were incorporated into the command structure of the
unified army, FAA. Several thousand UNITA troops were also
inducted into the army.
Furthermore, UNITA deputies were allowed to take up their
places in the country's parliament, the National Assembly, and
four UNITA members were brought into the cabinet of the
Government of Unity and National Reconciliation.
The officially-recognised UNITA-Renovada, is free to operate
in Luanda, although UNITA members loyal to Jonas Savimbi have
Several senior diplomatic missions have visited Luanda in
- the vice-president elect of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku,
visited Angola on 6 and 7 April
- on 7 April the Heads of State of Zimbabwe, Namibia and DRC
came for a meeting with President dos Santos
- on 7 April President dos Santos met with Gedeon Magete, the
diplomatic adviser of Burundian President Pierre Buyoya
- on 2 April the Moroccan Minister of Information, Mohammed
Messari, announced that support for Jonas Savimbi was
"something in the past"
- on 21 April the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes, Aldo
Ajello, met with government ministers.
The leader of the rump of the UN peacekeeping mission to
Angola, MONUA, General Kofi Obeng, visited Foreign Minister
Joao Miranda. The mission is to be wound up by 70 Bolivians
and other administrative staff. Discussions are still underway
on what form the United Nations assistance to Angola will take
(see APM no7, vol V).
The chair of the UN Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Robert
Fowler of Canada, is due to visit Angola in May. However, the
proposed task forces to look into the key areas of arms,
diamonds, petroleum and financial sanctions busting have not
yet been set up, probably due to bureaucratic delays.
In another development, following a meeting in Botswana the
United States and SADC members have agreed to hand to the UN
Sanctions Committee intelligence in their possession on
illegal arms supplies to UNITA.
Angolan arrested over Zambian bombings
Silva Cassamano Quiberto was arrested by Zambian police on 31
March and charged with murder in connection with the 13 bombs
which went off in Lusaka on 28 April. Two other people have
A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the
Angolan, Zambian and Swazi governments after the Swazi king
offered to mediate to reduce tensions between the two
countries following allegations of Zambian support for UNITA
(see APM no7, vol.V).
It was reported that the Angolan air force was due to strike
at targets in Zambia, including an oil depot suspected of
being used by UNITA. The reports state that the operation was
aborted after diplomatic pressure from the United States and
Independent journals under fire
Concern is being raised over legal action being initated by
the Angolan government over articles appearing in three
independent Angolan journals, Expresso, Agora and Folha-8. An
article on the activities of President dos Santos' daughter is
the source of one complaint, whilst the editor of Folha-8 is
being prosecuted over an article which allegedly encouraged
people to avoid military conscription. The editor has denied
the charges, pointing out that his son is conscripted.
IMF programme may be relaunched
Following the appointment by the Angolan government of a new
financial team at the end of January, moves are underway to
revive the International Monetary Fund's "staff-monitored
programme". The programme had previously fallen through partly
due to a lack of transparency in oil revenues.
The new Finance Minister, Joaquim Durate da Costa David, along
with the new governor of the National Bank, Aguinaldo Jaime,
have good reputations, although the problems of regularising
the country's finances are still magnified by the huge fall in
oil prices (despite a recent partial recovery).
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: http://www.anc.org.za/angola
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
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