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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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, 9

Angola: Peace Monitor, V, 9
Date Distributed (ymd): 990602
Document reposted by APIC

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

Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+ +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This issue of the Angola Peace Monitor reports continued war and escalating humanitarian crisis in Angola, as well as limited new steps by the UN to investigate sanctions violations by UNITA and by the Angolan government to address the country's economic crisis.

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Angola Peace Monitor
Published by ACTSA on behalf of the Angola Emergency Campaign

Issue no.9, Vol. V
28th May 1999

WFP warns of growing hunger

The World Food Programme has warned that unless it receives new stocks soon, food for the most needy in Angola will run out.

Speaking to the UN news agency IRIN, Francesco Strippoli, the WFP representative in Angola, said that the international community would soon face a new human tragedy in Africa if the Angola crisis became another "forgotten emergency".

At the end of April the WFP appealed for $8.8 million to charter cargo aircraft to fly food to areas cut off by the fighting. It still has food stocks at the ports, but is limited in its ability to fly food to the besieged cities.

According to the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (UCAH), since the middle of last year 924,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and were now dependent on aid. The figure is rising as people arrive in Cuito Cuanavale and Cuando Cubango from Moxico province.

In Malanje city, 400,000 people have been cut off by UNITA rebels surrounding the city. The WFP is feeding 80,000 people. Flights into the city have been limited due to sporadic but intense bombardment by UNITA. Shelling of the city was halted on 12 May, but began again on 19 May. A road is open to the capital, Luanda, but has been subjected to many deadly attacks. The WFP office is operated by Angolan staff with international organisations having withdrawn their international staff.

The WFP has raised concerns that despite sending food to the city, malnutrition has been growing. The WFP has suggested that some of its stocks are being diverted away from the most needy.

In Cuito city 61,000 people are sheltering from the fighting around their homes, and food stocks are running out. In the north of the country, Uige airport was opened for the first time in six months, but the airport in Negage was closed for security reasons.

Meanwhile, the situation in the southern area of Lubango is deteriorating as 60,000 people have recently fled to the area. According to the World Food Programme, unless replenished, stocks are only enough for 60 days.

Dry-season escalation in fighting expected

Senior army officer Lt-Gen Jose Ribeiro Neco has given a bleak picture of the military situation to the Angolan parliament, the National Assembly, as signs of a dry-season government offensive continue to grow.

Briefing parliament on 7 May, he said that the scale is tipped in favour of Jonas Savimbi's forces, which he estimated to be 60,000 strong. He pointed out that UNITA is concentrating its forces in the central highlands. Here UNITA is trying to capture the cities of Huambo and Cuito.

The Lieutenant-General said that UNITA troops in the east of the country aim to disrupt diamond production, and in the north-west aim to disrupt the Soyo oil installation.

The officer said that the Angolan army is currently holding defensive positions. Sources state that they will continue with this strategy until new recruits are better trained and until military hardware - which has been constantly arriving in Angola - is in place.

The first training course of land forces in Cuanza Sul was reported on 15 May. The 60 day course was part of the training of new recruits prior to the much trailed major offensive against UNITA planned for July/August.

Parliamentary delegation condemns Savimbi

A senior all-party Angolan parliamentary delegation visited London in May on a tour organised by the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU). The delegation was headed by the speaker of the National Assembly, Roberto de Almeida, and included senior UNITA deputy Jaka Jamba.

During a meeting organised by the Angola Emergency Campaign and hosted by Mike Gapes MP in the British House of Commons on 17 May, the delegation expressed their rejection of the return to war by Jonas Savimbi.

UNITA veteran Jaka Jamba denounced Savimbi's decision to dismiss the political path. However, he also stated that UNITA deputies had not accepted the leadership of Euginio Manuvakola, who was placed as leader of the UNITA parliamentary group by the Speaker of the National Assembly (see APM no5, vol.V). Jaka insisted that this in-fighting between the majority of the UNITA parliamentary group and UNITA-Renovada was not an unhealthy position, as there is more than one trend in the UNITA parliamentary group, and that they did not want to create another monolith nor another Savimbi.

According to Jaka Jamba, the delegation has been looking at recent changes in the British constitution resulting in the setting-up of the Scottish parliament and Welsh Assembly. He expressed interest in changing the Angolan constitution to allow for a major devolution in power.

UN sets up expert panels to beat UNITA sanction busting

The UN Security Council on 7 May adopted Resolution 1237 (1999) which sets up expert panels to look at how UNITA is breaking UN sanctions, and how the international community can tighten the sanctions.

A preliminary report is to be presented to the Security Council by 31 July, and the final report will be given by Christmas. They will seek to identify who is helping UNITA to break sanctions, and to recommend measures to end such violations.

The Security Council expressed concern at continuing sanctions-busting and has set up two expert panels.

The first will look at how UNITA funds its war machine - in particular diamond smuggling, and how it gets petroleum products. The banking structures of UNITA are also to be investigated.

The other expert panel will look at military support for UNITA, including where the rebels get their weapons from, and whether they use mercenaries. In a first step towards tightening the sanctions the Chair of the UN Committee on Sanctions, Ambassador Robert Fowler, has visited Southern Africa. He met with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos on 13 May, and then went on to visit South Africa where he met with officials from the diamond company De Beers. The Canadian ambassador also visited the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia, and is due to travel to various European countries including Britain and Belgium.

It remains to be seen whether these reports will be made public. On one hand, some officials argue that the publication of the report may make the authors hold back from some of the more sensitive political issues - such as the alleged connivance of some government officials in Angola and Zambia. On the other hand, to withhold the report would be against the public interest, say campaign groups.

There continues to be serious legal constraints to the implementation of sanctions. Senior UNITA members still operate in Britain and France, despite being listed by the UN as being people who should have their travel documents, visas or residence permits cancelled.

Anibal Kandeya is still in Britain despite his visa running out on 10 November 1997. Isaias Samakuva currently moves in and out of France, reportedly on a diplomatic passport from Cote d'Ivoire.

Tension continues between Angola and Zambia over allegations that the latter has been heavily involved in sanctions busting. However, a meeting between the two was held on 10 May in Swaziland. Sources suggest that the meeting did not resolve anything as Angola maintains that Zambia continues to be a major supply route for UNITA, allegations denied by Zambia.

NATO hits Angolan embassy

The Angolan embassy in Belgrade was hit by a missile on 20 May. Damage was caused to the building, but there were on casualties. The nearby Swedish embassy was hit during the same incident.

Russian aircraft crashes, UNITA claims hostages

The United Nations Security Council has condemned UNITA for shooting down a civilian Russian Antonov-26 aircraft near the town of Luzamba in north-eastern Angola. UNITA has claimed that it shot down the aircraft and was holding "three Russian mercenaries", later named as Alexander Zaitsev, Serge Tchesrokov, and Sergy Zaharov. Six Angolans were also on board the aircraft, although there is no information on their fate.

There have since been reliable reports that the aircraft crash-landed after developing engine problems on take-off from Luzamba.

A statement by the President of the UN Security Council (S/PRST/1999/14) on 19 May 1999 said that the Security Council "strongly condemns the criminal act by UNITA against commercial aircraft, namely the shooting down of an Antonov-26 aircraft on 12 May 1999 near Luzamba and the taking hostage of its Russian crew, while the fate of its Angolan passengers remains unknown". The Council stressed that "UNITA and its leader Mr. Jonas Savimbi carry full responsibility for their security".

UN investigates crashes

Ironically, whilst the United Nations has condemned UNITA for shooting down the Antonov-26 (which may in fact have been an accident), no condemnation has been made over the shooting down of two World Food Programme aircraft just after Christmas 1998. The United Nations Security Council has shown signs that it is getting impatient with the UN machinery over a delay in investigations into three suspicious air crashes in which UN personnel died. UN Security Council Resolution 1237 (1999) on Angola S/RES/1237(1999), adopted on 7 May 1999, expressed "concern at the delays in the investigations into the downing on 26 December 1998 and 2 January 1999 of two aircraft chartered by the United Nations and the loss under suspicious circumstances of other commercial aircraft over UNITA-controlled areas in Angola as well as the crash on 26 June 1998 in Cote d'Ivoire of the aircraft carrying the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Angola and other United Nations personnel, and reiterates its call upon all concerned to cooperate fully with and to facilitate an immediate and objective international investigation of these incidents".

Unpublished preliminary findings on the plane crash which killed UN envoy Alioune Blondin Beye suggest that there is no evidence of foul play. However, there has been complete silence on the shooting down of the two WFP aircraft, despite widespread acceptance that UNITA was responsible. There has also been no explanation of why experienced pilots were flying from Huambo at such a low altitude.

Angola criticised over landmines

The Angolan government has been criticised by participants of an international conference on landmines in Maputo, Mozambique, at the beginning of May.

Conference participants noted that both the Angolan government and UNITA were planting mines, but highlighted that Angola was a signatory to the Ottawa treaty banning their use.

The Angolan government has claimed that it uses mines in a defensive capacity, protecting cities from invasion by UNITA forces. However, anti-landmine campaigners strongly reject such arguments.

Efforts to bring economy out of crisis

The Angolan government's new economic team, appointed in January, have taken steps to try and revive the ailing economy. In May the team restructured over half a billion dollars of the country's foreign debt, floated the national currency, and appointed a new governing board of the state diamond company, Endiama.

Economic collapse

The economy took several devastating blows in 1998 including:

  • oil prices dropping from over $18 a barrel to under $10
  • the slide back into war which led the government to increase the defence spending to 38% of the total budget
  • farmers and their families left crops unharvested as they fled to government controlled areas
  • the government slashed its budget by a quarter in June 1998, and a tight monetary policy left state workers without pay for many months
  • widespread corruption led to further dislocations in the economy.

Uphill struggle

The economic team have an uphill struggle. Whilst oil prices have partially recovered, the war is far worse than in 1998. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the fighting and are crowded into the main cities including Luanda, Huambo, Cuito and Malanje. This year's harvest is expected to be very poor, and new military hardware currently being imported will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The economic team have had a major success in borrowing $575 million from Warburg Dillon Read/Union Bank of Switzerland. Most of the money is to pay off several other loans which were previously taken at less favourable rates of interest. Only about 5 percent of the loan is new money. The four year loan, signed on 18 May, is backed by an oil sale contract between the state owned oil company, Sonangol, and BP Oil International.

The government has publicly recognised that it has borrowed about as much as it can on the international market. It is estimated that Angola owes $12 billion, and that the money from the sale of oil produced by Sonangol goes straight to the lenders.

Another big source of revenue for the government is signature bonuses given by oil companies wishing to explore the Atlantic for new oil reserves.

On 7 May the government approved the granting of prospecting rights for Blocs 31,32 and 33 in deep water off the Angolan coast. Block 31 was awarded to BP-Amaco (with a 40 percent stake) along with Exxon, Marathon, Elf and Sonangol Bloc 32 was awarded to Elf (with a 30 percent stake) along with Prodese, Sonangol, Exxon, Marathon and Petrogal. Bloc 33 was awarded to Exxon (with a 45 percent stake) along with Elf, Saxon Oil, Neaze, Petrogal and Sonangol.

The state oil company, Sonangol, is to have a 20 percent share in all the blocs. It is estimated that the signature bonuses for each of these was up to $300 million each, giving the government around $900 million.

Diamond chief sacked amidst corruption investigation

The Chairman and Managing Director of the state diamond company, Endiama, have been sacked following allegations that the latter, Paulino Neto, was diverting diamond revenue and diamonds. An investigation is underway to find out what happened and whether any illegal activities took place.

A new board has been appointed, with General Agostinho Dias Gaspar as its chairman,

In another move, the Governor of the Angolan National Bank, Aguinaldo Jaime, is requiring diamond companies to deposit funds for diamond sales in national banks.

Any policy changes in the diamond sector are not expected to be reflected in a rapid increase in revenue as the diamond producing areas under government control are under pressure from Jonas Savimbi's UNITA forces. However, in the long-run a more transparent diamond sector is one of the key requirements for an International Monetary Fund structural adjustment programme. This in turn would open the door for a thorough restructuring of Angola's foreign debt.

Other steps to normalisation

The government has announced that it will stop fixing the rate of the Angolan Kwanza against the US dollar. This will reduce the value of the Kwanza at banks to the price available through street sellers.

The large difference between the official exchange rate and the parallel market has been blamed for a system of widespread theft from the country through government officials buying dollars at the official rate and selling them at the street rate.

The government has also promised to make the late payment of workers' wages a thing of the past. A huge domestic debt has been built up by the government failing to pay civil servants for several months. This in turn plays havoc with the national market, with thousands left without money.

IMF and World Bank assured

These measures and others have persuaded the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank not to pull out of Angola. The World Bank has placed a moratorium on new loans to Angola until September, at which time reforms to the Angolan economy will be evaluated.

Among other reforms promised by the Finance Minister, Joaquim David, include the promise that the oil account will be audited. Revenue from oil has been the source of huge speculation as its use has been shrouded in secrecy. The World Bank and the IMF have insisted that the oil account be audited before any IMF programme could be agreed.

Minister David agreed to the IMF and World Bank demands for auditing during a recent visit to their headquarters in Washington.

Pamphlet condemns Savimbi

Organisations within the Angola Emergency Campaign have just published a 14-page pamphlet "Wanted for Murder - Jonas Savimbi". It lays out the case for the setting up a UN International Criminal Tribunal on Angola, to investigate and indict Savimbi for crimes against humanity. Copies are available at 1 pound each from PO Box 839, London NW1 7EF

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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