Angola: Human Rights Watch Report, 9/26/99

Angola: Human Rights Watch Report, 9/26/99

Angola: Human Rights Watch Report
Date distributed (ymd): 990926
Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
+US policy focus+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains the summary from a new report released by Human Rights Watch, entitled Angola Unravels: The Rise and Fall of the Lusaka Peace Process.The report cites human rights violations by both UNITA and the Angolan government.It also identifies the UN and U.S. policy of "see no evil, speak no evil" -- failing to speak out against violations of the peace accord and failing to make a serious effort to enforce the sanctions against UNITA for its failure to disarm -- as a principal factor responsible for lack of respect for the process and the return to war. In other words, despite abundant evidence that this was happening, the international community repeated precisely the same error that led to the breakdown of the previous Angolan peace process in 1991-1992.

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Angola Unravels

Human Rights Watch
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New York, NY 10118-3299
Tel: (212) 290-4799
Fax: (212) 736-1300

Full report available at:


Angola returned to all-out war in December 1998, the fourth period of open warfare in living memory. The human cost since fighting resumed is impossible to determine with precision, but the United Nations estimates that nearly one million people have become internally displaced persons because of the renewed conflict, 10 percent of Angola's population. This return to war also represented the end of the uneasy peace process that began with the Lusaka Protocol in Zambia in November 1994. It was a peace process overseen by two U.N. peacekeeping missions, UNAVEM III, and its successor, MONUA, at a total cost to the international community of U.S.$ 1.5 billion.

The Lusaka Protocol was signed at a moment when the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebels were in a weakened position and wanted to stop its territorial loses to the government. The Lusaka Protocol provided for a cease-fire, the integration of UNITA generals into the government's armed forces (which were to become nonpartisan and civilian controlled), demobilization (later amended to demilitarization) under U.N. supervision, the repatriation of mercenaries, the incorporation of UNITA troops into the Angolan National Police under the Interior Ministry, and the prohibition of any other police or surveillance organization. As a backdrop to the protocol, a Security Council embargo on arms and oil transfers to UNITA had been in place since 1993, while both the government and UNITA had agreed to halt new arms acquisitions as part of the accords. But the embargo on UNITA was not enforced, and both sides openly continued major arms purchases throughout the process.

The major political issues covered in the Lusaka Protocol were the U.N.'s mandate (verification and monitoring of the Lusaka Protocol), the role of peacekeepers (supervision), the completion of the electoral process, and national reconciliation. Under the provisions for reconciliation between the parties, UNITA's leadership would receive private residences, political offices in each province and one central headquarters. UNITA would also hold a series of post as ministers, deputy ministers, ambassadors, provincial governors and deputy governors, municipal administrators and deputy administrators, and commune administrators. The government would retain all other positions of patronage.

Human rights issues were kept as a subtext in the Lusaka Protocol, mentioned only as a commitment to general principles of human rights in the protocol's annexes on national reconciliation and on the U.N.'s mandate. On amnesty both the Angolan government and UNITA's position was crystal clear: the Lusaka Protocol would provide that "the competent institutions shall grant an amnesty...for the illegal acts committed by anyone in the context of the current conflict."

A joint commission, comprised of the U.N., government and UNITA representatives, with the U.S., Portugal and Russia as observers (known as the Troika), oversaw the implementation of the Lusaka Protocol. Any accord violation verified by the U.N. or reported by one of the parties would be discussed in the Joint Commission. In practice the commission became a depositary for human rights and military violation reports but there was little inclination by the U.N. to investigate or publicize these incidents.

Although the U.N. was the largest peacekeeping operation in the world at its peak, only in 1995 was a significant U.N. peacekeeping operation approved by the Security Council, and the delays in deployment resulted in its reaching full strength only in late 1996. The delay in the U.N. peacekeeping deployment facilitated abuse of the accords by UNITA and the government, but the fundamental mistake was a policy of turning a blind eye and impunity toward breaches of the accords, as advocated by the U.N. Special Representative Blondin Beye. A U.N. official told Human Rights Watch in 1995 that "the situation is too sensitive for serious human rights monitoring. Making public what we know could undermine the peace process and put us back to war."

Human rights violations were a key factor in undermining the Lusaka peace accords. With better human rights monitoring-and reporting-of rights abuses the ease with which both UNITA and the government could abuse Angolan's rights could have been reduced and attempts made to make those responsible accountable. The impunity with which rights were abused eroded confidence in the peace process and created a vicious cycle of rights abuse that steadily worsened. With the peace process disintegrating Beye ordered a change of strategy shortly before his death in May 1998 and his depleted U.N. mission became for the first time more robust at investigating human rights violations. This was too late to save the peace. The U.N.'s practice of ignoring the two parties deceptions and depredations and its own lack of transparency had encouraged both parties to regard the peace process with contempt, and both the Angolan government and UNITA had determined that war was their preferred option.

The U.N.'s human rights division which had done little during much of the Lusaka peace process improved in 1998, helped by the hiring of a human rights professional to head it. However, the return to war in December curtailed its activities dramatically and for the first seven months of 1999 the Human Rights Division was unable to play the role it envisaged, spending much of its energy on trying to carve out a future and could perform little serious investigative work on rights abuses; it produced no publication. The division had also discouraged journalists from talking to it. It remains questionable what can be achieved unlessthe Human Rights Division can obtain a clear-cut mandate which includes investigative work and the dissemination of its findings.

The Angolan government has been responsible for widespread human rights violations during the Lusaka peace process, especially in 1998. These abuses undermined UNITA's confidence in the Lusaka peace process and included:

* torture, "disappearance," and summary execution, particularly of UNITA supporters in areas where government control was newly established in 1998;

* the indiscriminate killing of civilians and pillaging during military operations;

* arbitrary recruitment into the military;

* forced displacement of the civilian population;

* use of indiscriminate weapons, such as antipersonnel landmines in 1998 and 1999;

* harassment and censorship of the media;

* harassment of the loyal political opposition.

UNITA has also committed systematic and horrendous human rights abuses during the Lusaka peace process and in the new war, including:

* indiscriminate shelling of besieged cities;

* summary execution;

* torture;

* mutilation of the dead and living;

* abduction of civilians, including women and children, and sometimes treating them like slaves;

* recruitment of child soldiers and other arbitrary recruitment, and denying unaccompanied minors the opportunity to be voluntarily reunited with their families;

* taking foreign nationals hostage;

* restriction of the movements of civilians in areas it occupies, confiscating food from them, and forcing them to do unpaid labor;

* cruel and inhuman prison conditions.

UNITA has since December 1998 laid siege to a number of cities and towns, most notably Malanje and Kuito. UNITA rained many shells per day on Kuito in late December 1998 resulting in over 150 civilian casualties. Shelling of Malanje started in January 1999 and has continued ever since, resulting in at least 600 civilians killed. UNITA's siege of Malanje is causing increasing starvation amongthe civilian population and humanitarian relief flights to the city have had to be suspended from time to time.

Mine warfare has intensified since hostilities resumed, with the fresh laying of antipersonnel landmines by the government around besieged cities in mine belts and along roads to obstruct UNITA access. This is doubly deplorable because the Angolan government signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Treaty) in Canada in December 1997. UNITA has also been laying new mines, on roads, in fields, and as minefields to slow down the government's military offensives. The mines laid by both the government and UNITA have resulted in civilian victims.

UNITA used the Lusaka peace to shield itself from further territorial losses and rebuild its military. In 1996 and 1997 UNITA procured large amounts of weapons and fuel, while at the same time slowly fulfilling a number of its Lusaka Protocol obligations. For the second time in the decade UNITA failed to fulfill its pledge to demobilize, handing over a fraction of its weapons to the U.N. and failing to quarter many of its elite troops. UNITA also failed to transfer to government control all the territory it was meant to under the provisions of the Lusaka Protocol. In reality UNITA fulfilled only the obligations that it felt were not strategically essential to its security, and which would not preclude a return to war. It dragged out even its minimal concessions to buy time. By mid-1998 the government had lost its patience with UNITA and serious preparations were underway to return to war.

The renewed conflict, and accompanying human rights abuses and violations of laws of war, were fueled by new flows of arms into the country, despite the U.N. arms embargo on UNITA in place since 1993. UNITA purchased large amounts of weaponry from foreign sources. Human Rights Watch believes that some of these weapons originated from private sources in Albania and Bulgaria. UNITA was effective in "sanctions-busting" through neighboring countries, especially South Africa, Congo, Zambia, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), and also Togo and Burkina Faso. Zaire was the most important sanctions-busting gateway into Angola until the overthrow of President Mobutu in mid-1997, the locus then shifting to Congo-Brazzaville until late 1997, when the Angolan government assisted in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Pascal Lissouba. By 1998 the frequency of sanctions-busting flights to UNITA declined, partly due to tighter restrictions regionally, but also due to UNITA's return of the diamond-rich Cuango valley to government control. Much of UNITA's sanctions-busting in 1998 was for logistical supplies, mining equipment, and the fuel whichis essential for UNITA's war effort. UNITA's siege of the city of Kuito ended in January 1999 because its forces ran out of fuel and had to withdraw.

The U.N. was ineffective in dealing with UNITA's sanctions-busting efforts in 1995 and 1996, and largely turned a blind eye to their violation of a 1993 U.N. oil and weapons embargo. Its bona fide interdiction efforts were made more difficult by the slow deployment of the peacekeepers pledged as part of the Lusaka Accord. In October 1997 the U.N. imposed an additional package of restrictions on UNITA, blocking foreign travel by their officials and closing their offices abroad. Surprisingly, only in June 1998 did the U.N. target the direct and indirect export of diamonds from UNITA areas and freeze UNITA bank accounts, despite these being the prime source of revenue for UNITA's purchases of fuel and weapons.

UNITA financed the rebuilding of its military through its control of Angola's diamond wealth. Most of the diamonds were smuggled to Europe via Zaire (DRC) and Congo Brazzaville, although South Africa, Namibia, Rwanda, and Zambia have also been conduits. UNITA's export of diamonds during the Lusaka process netted the rebels some U.S.$1.72 billion. Money from the diamond trade had by 1993 replaced the assistance UNITA previously received from the United States and South Africa. U.S. covert aid to UNITA reportedly totaled about U.S.$250 million between 1986 and 1991.

There were also arms shipments to the government throughout the Lusaka process. This was not illegal, but undermined the spirit of the Lusaka Protocol and contributed in undermining confidence in the peace process. The weapons were purchased from a range of countries including, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, and South Africa. Russia, a Troika member (one of the three governments serving as an official observer/mediator in the peace process) undermined its official position by selling large amounts of weapons to the government, resulting in a number of shipments to Angola. Portugal, also a Troika member, entered into military agreements during the peace process. The government's procurement of weapons reached record levels again in 1999, matching the high levels of purchasing in 1994; Russia again features as the prime source of arms to Angola. During the Lusaka peace process no country submitted details of their weapons transfers to Angola to the U.N. Register on Conventional Weapons.

The government has paid for its arms purchases through bank loans, oil profit remittances, and mining and other concessions. With the decline of international oil prices, the government is short of cash and has used some U.S.$870 million of funds generated from signature bonus payments on oil exploration and concession blocks thirty-one, thirty-two, and thirty-three to pay for its weapons purchases. The multinational oil companies BP-Amoco, Exxon, and Elf play a dominant role in these blocks.

The failure of the Lusaka Peace Process was not only due to the bad faith of UNITA. The U.N.'s strategy of refraining from disclosure of public action against violations of the accords, its lack of transparency, and its failure to implement U.N. embargos undermined any respect that UNITA or the government had to observe the Lusaka Protocol. With the collapse of the Lusaka peace process this strategy of see no evil, speak no evil appears to have backfired badly. Twice this strategy has been used and twice the peace accords have collapsed and the country has returned to war. This could have been avoided if the U.N. had deployed its peacekeepers promptly and empowered them to undertake "sensitive" monitoring and reporting of cease-fire and embargo violations and gross human rights violations. There also needed to have been an initial arms embargo placed on both sides and an embargo placed on UNITA's use of diamonds once it became evident that the rebels were using this resource to rearm. There is also an urgent need for a clean break with the past, by making Angola's leaders accountable for their actions and cognizant of the potential penalties they face if they knowingly endorse abuses of human rights.

The United States supported a number of human rights initiatives during the Lusaka peace process, although by 1998 it had increasingly lost any political influence it had over the Angolan government because it was blamed for having been one of the primary architects of the peace process. Sweden played an especially important part in supporting a number of human rights programs and played a leadership role in raising them at the U.N. during its tenure on the Security Council (1997-1998). Other European Union countries were surprisingly quiet on rights issues, limiting the bulk of their efforts to drafting strong words for presidential statements.


Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Sun, 26 Sep 1999 13:25:52 -0500 Subject: Angola: HRW Report

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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