Civil war persisted in Angola, accompanied by a dramatic escalation of violations of the laws of war. The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), a rebel group led by Jonas Savimbi, killed, abducted, and terrorized civilians with impunity. Government forces abused civilians during forced relocations and beat or killed civilians displaced in the course of looting, extortion, and forced recruitment of boys and men.
The situation worsened since the breakdown of the Lusaka Peace Protocol in mid-1998 when UNITA resumed fighting. In 2001, the numbers of internally displaced persons grew to over four million, and some 435,000 Angolan refugees lived in camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia, and Namibia. Within Angola, security was limited to areas within a narrow perimeter around the government-controlled provincial capitals and the major municipalities, making safe land travel almost impossible. Humanitarian aid delivered by air only reached 10 to 15 percent of Angola. Ambushes of civilians and humanitarian workers increased, preventing travel by humanitarian ground convoys and impeding delivery of aid to thousands in desperate need.
UNITA stepped up hit-and-run tactics against civilians. Rebels used terror as a policy, to obtain supplies and coerce and intimidate civilians. Indiscriminate killings, mutilation of limbs or ears, and beatings were used by rebels to punish suspected government sympathizers or as a warning against betraying UNITA. UNITA continued to forcibly recruit men and teenage boys to fight. Girls were held in sexual slavery and used as a source of forced labor.
In an apparent bid for international attention, UNITA struck against government targets several times while foreign officials visited Angola. For instance, in early May the visiting United Nations (U.N.) secretary general's special adviser for Africa, Ibrahim Gambari, commented that "Progress is being made to find solutions for the conflict and to end war in Angola." But on May 5 the rebels attacked Caxito, a provincial capital sixty kilometers north of the capital, Luanda, killing more than 150 people and kidnapping sixty children from a Danish-run orphanage. After an international outcry, rebels handed over the children to a Catholic mission.
Similarly, during a visit by a U.S. delegation, the Consortium for Electoral and Political Processes Strengthening (CEPPS), there to evaluate conditions for national elections, UNITA blew up a train 130 kilometers from Luanda. Passengers fleeing the flames were ambushed, leaving 256 dead and more than 170 wounded. During the last week of August alone, rebels killed 268 civilians. On August 31, they ambushed a bus near Cacolo, thirty kilometers from Malanje, and set the bus on fire with passengers still alive inside, killing fifty-three passengers.UNITA deliberately targeted humanitarian workers and aircraft. On April 15, they looted a warehouse belonging to relief organizations in Benguela province. In June, rebels launched missiles towards two planes carrying relief supplies near the cities of Kuito and Luena. That same month, they attacked the city of Uige, forcing evacuation of U.N. and other humanitarian workers. Civilian vehicles were also ambushed in Bie, Benguela, Huila, Cuanza Sul, Cuanza Norte and Malanje provinces. During a May 14 attack on a truck convoy in Benguela, two people were killed and fifty kidnapped.
In late 2000, government forces mounted an attack on UNITA forces in central Angola. Fighting reached neighboring Namibia, with Namibian troops taking part. In November, a government assault in Malanje aimed at controlling towns near the DRC border drove many civilians to Malanje's provincial capital. UNITA regained control of the area in February and March, leading the government to undertake another campaign in April. When no displaced civilians appeared, concerns arose over their safety. Also in February, UNITA forces held the town of Quibaxe in Bengo province, killing and abducting many civilians and causing others to flee. An estimated 8,000 people from Quibaxe were missing.
Unprecedented numbers of internally displaced persons were registered in twelve of the eighteen provinces throughout the year, with an average of 30,000 new arrivals each month. The most affected areas were Golungo Alto, Caxito, Mussende, Camacupa Cuemba, and Matala. Humanitarian services were overburdened. In Matala, in January, for instance, some 28,000 displaced persons were living in desperate conditions and the average of seventy new arrivals registering daily found no food, shelter, or health care. In September, there were some 60,000 newly displaced with 24,000 in the provinces of Cuando Cubango, Moxico, Luanda Sul and Norte, and 10,000 in Bie province alone. As of early October, there were 160,000 in Kuito and 60,000 in Camacupa and Catabola. Eight people died daily in Cuemba from lack of food and medicine.
The internally displaced primarily suffered abuses at the hands of UNITA. Yet allegations of abuse by government forces continued, ranging from forced relocation to killing and looting. Violations occurred mainly during military operations and while army and police implemented "limpeza" ("cleansing") operations near recently recaptured towns, to clear the area of the local residents, ostensibly for their safety, but thereby depriving UNITA of a potential source of food and labor. During cleansing operations, government troops forced families to move from the area carrying goods looted by the army; those who refused were beaten or killed. Allegations of soldiers raping women during these operations were confirmed in Moxico and Malanje provinces.
Those driven from their home areas by government forces were in many cases first moved to the government-controlled municipalities. Conditions for the displaced in these areas were often terrible, with insufficient assistance, sanitation, health services, and security. In addition to extortion, the army also forced displaced persons to accompany government troops to search for food in mined or otherwise insecure areas. When the numbers in the municipalities became overwhelming, the government relocated the displaced women, elderly, and children to internally displaced camps on the outskirts of the provincial capitals under government control. Men and adolescent boys were often forced to remain in combat areas to fight.
Gains were made in strengthening the legal framework to protect the internally displaced--a new law, the Norms for the Resettlement of the Internally Displaced, was passed in January 2001, and several other plans of action were drafted. However, practical mechanisms for their implementation were not put in place, particularly at the provincial and municipal levels. Many of the internally displaced camps were located at the outskirts of government-controlled towns, serving in effect as a human shield or buffer zone against UNITA attacks. The internally displaced were regularly subjected to assaults at the hands of the security forces in the camps and served as a source of exploitable labor by nearby landowners. Regular looting and extortion by the security forces of the displaced populations provided a source of goods, including food, to the security forces, which were often not paid for months.
A continuing flow of military arms and equipment sustained the conflict. On February 26, Spanish authorities intercepted a Georgian freighter in the Canary Islands en route to Angola, carrying an undeclared 636-ton cargo of Russian-made weapons. On September 30, a shipment of five hundred anti-tank rockets from Iran bound for Angola was seized at Bratislava airport. Two days later, the Angolan army uncovered a large cache of weapons close to the Mavinga airport.
In one positive development, government use of antipersonnel mines appeared to decline in 2001. Nevertheless, troops reportedly laid mines at night around defensive positions, removing them in the morning. UNITA continued to lay mines to prevent residents from fleeing to government-held areas or to keep them from reaching their fields. Rebels also used anti-vehicle mines to interrupt transpor-tation and ambush humanitarian convoys and civilian vehicles. 70 percent of the casualties were civilians, and more than half were displaced people fleeing fighting.
Freedom of expression in Angola remained a concern. Restrictions on journalists continued, despite assurances by the vice minister of social communications, who met with the Committee to Protect Journalists in October 2000 and May 2001. On July 7, Gilberto Neto, a reporter for the independent weekly Folha 8, and Philippe Lebillon, a researcher from the London-based Overseas Development Institute, were arrested at an airport in Malanje province and escorted back to Luanda. During interrogation at the National Directorate of Criminal Investigation, their documentation and equipment were confiscated.
Neto was also blocked from leaving the country at Luanda International Airport on August 23. He was charged with endangering state security and defaming the police. (He had reported in 1999 on a police raid on the independent, church-affiliated Radio Ecclesia.) The charges were not pursued in court. In an earlier case in December 2000, immigration authorities at Luanda Airport prevented Raphael Marques, a free-lance journalist, from leaving Angola. They confiscated his passport and he was sent home without explanation, although he carried a provincial court order lifting any travel restriction against him. In July, several reporters, including British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) correspondents, faced obstacles in covering the violent forcible relocation of residents from the Boa Vista district of Luanda. On the positive side, Radio Ecclesia resumed broadcasting countrywide. That same month, the director of Radio Morena in Benguela was dismissed following a broadcast about a UNITA attack.
While authorities allowed some open discussion of public affairs, especially through the privately owned media, it cracked down on opposition political parties by denying freedom of association and assembly, in some cases violently. In December 2000, the army seriously injured a Catholic deacon suspected of being a sympathizer of the separatist Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave (FLEC) and beat other members of the church. A month later, members of the army and police beat, arrested and detained eight members of the Party for Democracy and Progress in Angola (PADPA) for protesting against the government. In March, local authorities blocked the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) from activities in Bie. In three other cases, UNITA-Renovada representatives were threatened, arrested, and tortured. The provincial secretary of the Party for Social Renovation (PRS) was detained and four militants of the Democratic Party for the Progress of the Angolan National Alliance (PDP-ANA) were detained and interrogated about their political activities. In April, the Provincial Government of Luanda dismissed a petition by church groups to organize a march on peace and human rights, and in July it refused to allow a demonstration by Boa Vista residents, citing security concerns.
Human rights activity increased, mainly in the capital, as the government allowed civic and church groups to discuss human rights violations and concerns about the war--for example in conferences held by two organizations, the Open Society and the Women's Movement for Peace and Development. However, the ability of human rights organizations to function outside the capital was greatly constrained by insecurity, and no human rights groups were able to obtain access to or function in UNITA-held territory. In October, D. Zacarias Camuenho, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Angola and Sao Tome and a member of the Inter-Ecclesiastical Committee for Peace in Angola (COIEPA), was awarded the 2001 Sakharov Human Rights Prize by the European parliament, signaling the growing importance of the churches as a possible mediator between the two parties in the conflict. In July, COIEPA launched a sensitization campaign to end the war, while the Open Society and the Catholic Pro Peace Movement followed suit with an antiwar campaign in September.
Medicines Sans Frontieres released a report in November 2000 titled "Angola: Behind the Façade of Normalization, Manipulation, Violence and Abandoned Populations" detailing the heavy price paid by civilians in the conflict. The report highlighted the increasing violence and policy of terror by both sides, but mainly blamed UNITA. Oxfam echoed those condemnations in a September 2001 report on the catastrophic humanitarian situation of Angolans.
An economic reform program agreed on by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the government of Angola in April 2000 was designed to monitor oil revenues. Angola is the second largest oil exporter in sub-Saharan Africa and gains significant revenues from its oil exports. Dampening hopes for greater government transparency and accountability, the government failed to publish required auditing reports, despite two deadline extensions. (See Business and Human Rights.)
International donors continued to criticize the government's chronic under-funding of humanitarian services for its citizens, and in recent years donor support for humanitarian operations was reduced. Donors urged the Angolan government to use its substantial revenues from oil sales on humanitarian services rather than on military spending. Additionally, with the changing military situation, the move away from conventional warfare to counterinsurgency strategies was expected to reduce military spending by the government.
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