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The Oil Diagnostic in Angola: An Update
Human Rights Watch, March 2001
(Download PDF Version - 17 Pages)

First Page

Further Details on the Oil Diagnostic

The Cooperation of Corporations

Arms, Oil, and a Lack of Government Transparency and Accountability

Signature Bonus Payments and Arms Procurement after the Collapse of the Lusaka Peace Accords in 1998

Arrests over Arms-for-Oil Deals in 1993-1994

Recent Arms Flows to the Angolan Government

Oil Mortgaging

Government Attempts to Limit Public Criticism Over the Use of Oil Revenues


Arms, Oil, and a Lack of Government Transparency and Accountability

The Angolan government has been involved in a protracted war with UNITA, and its weapons procurement to pursue the war, using revenues derived from oil extraction, has been characterized by a marked lack of transparency and accountability. Defense spending is the government's largest expenditure. According to IMF estimates, defense spending averaged 34.6 percent of government expenditure from 1995-1999, reaching its highest level in 1999 (41 percent of expenditures) after the collapse of the Lusaka peace process at the end of 1998. 34

In some cases, payments for weapons bypassed the Ministry of Finance and central bank and were made directly through Sonangol, or through the Presidency. The lack of transparency surrounding these purchases has meant that there have been substantial discrepancies between government estimates of defense spending and independent estimates. For example, official government figures stated that defense spending amounted to 11.1 percent of government expenditures in 1997-1998.35 However, the IMF estimated that 40.0 percent of expenditures were for defense spending and noted that less than half of these expenditures (18.1 percent) were actually recorded by the government.36 In 1998-1999, defense expenditures amounted to only 27.2 percent of government spending, but 13.8 percent was unrecorded. There were no unrecorded defense expenditures in 1999.37 Defense spending estimates for 2000 and 2001 were unavailable at this writing.

Public accounting is particularly necessary in the case of arms purchases by governments that have committed human rights violations and where there is a high probability of future misuse of weaponry. All parties to the conflict in Angola-fuelled largely by the control and sale of diamonds by UNITA and oil by the government-have committed gross and widespread human rights abuses. Government violations included torture, "disappearance," summary executions, indiscriminate killing of civilians, pillaging, arbitrary recruitment into the military, forced displacement, use of indiscriminate weapons such as antipersonnel landmines, harassment of the political opposition, and restrictions on the press. For its part, UNITA has been responsible for summary executions, torture, mutilations, abductions of women and children, hostage-taking, and restricting the movements of civilians.38

Of particular concern is the Angolan government's use of indiscriminate weapons such as antipersonnel landmines. The Angolan government signed the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (the Mine Ban Treaty) in December 1997. However, government forces have systematically laid new mines and minefields since Angola signed the treaty, as Human Rights Watch witnessed at first sight in both 1998 and 1999. In 2000, Human Rights Watch received numerous reports of new landmine warfare in central and northern Angola and across Angola's borders with neighboring Namibia and Zambia.39

Human Rights Watch has called repeatedly for the international community to implement a complete arms embargo against the government of Angola and UNITA, and for full disclosure of all weapons purchases and military transfers since the signing of the Lusaka Peace Accords in 1994. Such disclosure should include providing information on arms sales to the U.N. Register on Conventional Weapons. To date, however, the international community has failed to impose a comprehensive embargo and only the 1993 U.N. arms embargo against UNITA is in place._ During the final years of the Lusaka peace process (1995-1998), no country submitted details of their weapons transfers to Angola to the U.N. Register on Conventional Weapons.40

    Several events drew international attention to the linkage between arms, oil, and the need for government transparency and accountability in Angola: arms-for-oil deals with the Angolan government in the early 1990s that led to investigations and some arrests of individuals by French authorities; weapons procurement paid for by oil signature bonus payments after the collapse of the Lusaka peace accord at the end of 1998; an arms-for-oil deal between the governments of Angola and Slovakia in 2000; and the seizure of a Ukrainian freighter in the Canary Islands carrying arms destined for Angola in February 2001.