Arms Trade and Human Rights Abuses since the Lusaka Protocol

February 1996, Vol. 8, No. 1 (A)



Following the signing in Lusaka, Zambia on November 20, 1994 of a cease-fire protocol between the Angolan government, led by the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), Angola has entered an uneasy period somewhere between war and peace. Sporadic fighting continues, including the laying of mines by both sides and attacks on U.N. and humanitarian agencies. Widespread human rights abuses by the government and UNITA continue, including restrictions on freedom of movement, conscription of child soldiers, and the intimidation, detention and killing of journalists. The government and UNITA continue to acquire new arms, in contravention of the Lusaka Protocol, the 1991 Bicesse Accords, and U.N. Security Council resolutions. Weapons flows have facilitated the fighting and human rights abuses by both sides.

The U.N. Security Council agreed in February 1995 to mount a new peacekeeping operation in Angola, United Nations Angola Verification Mission III (UNAVEM III), authorizing a military contingent of up to 7,000 personnel. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1008 of August 7, 1995 extended UNAVEM III’s mandate for six months, to February 8, 1996.

The Lusaka Protocol formally marked the end of Angola’s brutal and costly “Third War.” Most major cities were besieged in the two years of conflict. Starvation and disease, as well as deaths and injuries from bombing, shelling and landmines, took a heavy toll. It is estimated that 300,000 Angolans, about 3 percent of the population, died as a result of the fighting since October 1992 probably more than in the preceding sixteen years of warfare. The U.N. reported that as many as 1,000 people were dying daily between May and October 1993, more than in any other conflict in the world at that time.

This report is an update of the Human Rights Watch book, Angola: Arms Trade and Violations of the Laws of War Since the 1992 Elections, published in November 1994, just prior to the Lusaka Protocol. Human Rights Watch conducted a fact-finding mission to Angola in March 1995 and additional missions to southern Africa and Zaire later in the year, in order to continue to monitor the human rights situation and the arms flows into Angola.

Despite the signing of the Lusaka Protocol, extensive human rights abuses have continued by both sides. Human rights did not feature prominently in the Lusaka Protocol, which in its Annex 6, no. 1 effectively advocated impunity for past abuses. Indeed, a general amnesty for “illegal acts” perpetrated before a cease-fire was the first issue agreed to by both sides in the 1993-1994 Lusaka peace talks. Nevertheless, in Annex 8, Agenda II.3, 10, the government and UNITA commit themselves “to implement the Acordos de Paz para Angola’ (also known as the Bicesse Accords), the relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and the Lusaka Protocol, respecting the principles of the rule of law, the general principles of internationally recognized human rights, more particularly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the fundamental freedoms of the individual, such as defined by the national legislation in force and various international legal instruments to which Angola adheres.”

The Lusaka Protocol provides for a cease-fire, the integration of UNITA generals into the government’s armed forces (which were to become non-partisan and civilian controlled), demobilization (later amended to demilitarization) under UNAVEM supervision, the repatriation of all 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.

The major political issues covered in the Lusaka Protocol were the U.N.’s mandate, the role of peacekeepers, 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 posts 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 power and patronage.

Despite the Protocol, localized fighting has continued. Even U.N. personnel and humanitarian agencies have not been spared. A U.N. World Food Program plane was hit by several bullets in Malanje on December 9, 1994. In March 1995, UNITA fighters shot down a UNAVEM III helicopter in Quibaxe, fired on two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aircraft near Ganda and ambushed an ICRC truck convoy just west of Ganda, on the central plateau. In separate incidents on October 24 and 25, UNAVEM and U.N. Humanitarian Assistance Coordination (UCAH) convoys were detained and subjected to harassment by UNITA in Benguela province.

A meeting of military leaders on January 10, 1995 failed to bring the fighting to an end. A second meeting in Waku Kungo in Kwanza Sul on February 2 and 3 made more progress towards consolidating the cease-fire. Still, the U.N. recorded nearly 1,500 cease-fire violations in 1995, including 235 in March, 110 in July, and seventy-one in November. Most of the incidents consisted of small-scale attacks, ambushes and looting. In many areas, government and UNITA troops are still in close proximity and their aggressive patrolling undermines attempts to increase confidence between sides. In late 1995 the most tense provinces were Uige, Cabinda, Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul, where large troop movements and inflows of new weapons are reported.

Demobilization and integration of troops have been areas of major disagreement, and deadlines continue to slip by. Both sides are to blame: UNITA is frequently accused of insincerity on these issues, and a government military offensive in November was a major setback to the process. The two sides have nevertheless agreed on the incorporation of all UNITA forces into the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA), bringing its numbers to about 160,000, the largest standing army in Africa. Demobilization is to take place gradually, except for child soldiers and the handicapped, who are to be demobilized quickly. Some of the surplus troops are to be channeled into a fourth branch of the armed forces (not the army, navy or air force) to be employed on reconstruction work, such as building roads and repairing bridges.

The two sides have agreed on fourteen of the fifteen quartering areas where troops are to assemble for disarmament. However, only four quartering areas were operational by February 1996. The quartering of UNITA forces began on November 20, 1995 in Vila Nova, Huambo province. By December 1, just 363 soldiers had reported for cantonment; many of these were “boy soldiers” with unserviceable weapons. Only several hundred more had reported when, in late January, Jonas Savimbi promised U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright, who was visiting Angola at the time, that 16,500 UNITA troops would be quartered by February 8, the deadline for renewal of UNAVEM. As of January 31, 1996, the total stood at 4,300.

Despite the signing of the Lusaka Protocol, both the government and UNITA continue to acquire additional weapons. The Bilateral Cease-fire Modalities Timetable, which accompanies the Lusaka Protocol, prohibits the resupplying of military forces with “any military equipment, lethal or otherwise.” Moreover, the “Acordos de Paz para Angola” (1991 Bicesse agreements) are still applicable under the terms of the Lusaka Protocol, and Bicesse contains the so-called “Triple Zero” clause banning both the government and UNITA from acquiring lethal weapons. In addition, U.N. Security Council Resolution 864 of September 1993 clearly prohibits the sale and supply of any military or petroleum products to UNITA, and U.N. Security Council Resolution 976 of February 1995 “calls upon the Government of Angola and UNITA during UNAVEM III’s presence in Angola to cease any acquisition of arms and war material.”

Although arms shipments declined in the past year, new weaponry, especially from Russia and the Ukraine, reached the government, albeit on an irregular basis. In 1995, the government not only received deliveries on pre-Lusaka Protocol orders; as the year progressed it was evident that the government was still purchasing new arms and military equipment.

UNITA has increased its cross-border, sanction-busting operations, bringing in new weapons and supplies both over land and on secret flights from Zaire and Congo to airstrips in the diamond-rich Lunda provinces. UNITA appears determined to maintain its grip on its remaining diamond assets. Neither side is prepared to concede this lucrative area. Sporadic but fierce fighting continued in the diamond areas throughout 1995.

Human Rights Watch believes that the U.N. Security Council should institute a clear, unambiguous arms embargo on Angola, applicable to both the government and UNITA. Attempts by the U.S., U.K., and others in early 1995 to push for a new ban were opposed most notably by Russia. Massive arms inflows have fueled the conflict in Angola, and the accompanying human rights abuses, for many years and will continue to do so unless stemmed. New weapons shipments undermine the demobilization and demilitarization effort which is at the heart of the peace process.

Both the government and UNITA have used foreign “security specialists” (usually a euphemism for mercenaries) during their conflict. These foreign security personnel have not just trained and assisted Angolan forces, they have often participated directly in combat. They have both contributed to and committed human rights abuses and violations of the laws of war. A South African firm, Executive Outcomes (EO), was deeply involved in the conflict from 1992 through 1995. Although the Lusaka Protocol demands the “repatriation of all mercenaries,” EO maintained some 400-500 men in Angola, mostly under contract to the Angolan Armed Forces. This became a very contentious issue, and under pressure from the U.S. and others, the Angolan government finally told EO to withdraw in January 1996. It has, however, been reported that some EO men are being redeployed into front companies.

The government’s ongoing suppression of freedom of the press has heightened the feeling of anxiety, fear and confusion in the country. The killing on January 18, 1995 of Ricardo de Mello, the editor and publisher of the independent Luanda-based daily Imparcial Fax, by an unknown assailant, had a profound impact on the fledgling press. Imparcial Fax closed, and most of its remaining staff left the country. Many other journalists have received warnings about filing reports critical of the government. Human Rights Watch has learned that journalists it visited in 1995 also received anonymous warnings. Conditions are the same in the provinces.

The U.N.’s attempt to set up an independent radio station was also blocked by the government, which refused throughout 1995 to allocate broadcasting frequencies or to permit it to operate. Freedom of expression is even more tightly controlled in UNITA dominated areas, with no criticism of the party tolerated.

Free circulation of persons and goods, as required in the Lusaka Protocol, continues to be abused by both sides. Dozens of Angolans interviewed by Human Rights Watch in 1995 complained of not being able to move freely to their homes and that soldiers heavily “taxed” them when they traveled.

A disturbing characteristic of the Angolan conflict has been the use of child soldiers. International law forbids the use of children under the age of fifteen as soldiers in armed conflict. Human Rights Watch believes that no child under the age of eighteen should take part directly or indirectly in armed conflict. Both sides continue to use child combatants, including those less than fifteen years of age. UNITA has redeployed some child soldiers to work as bonded labor in its diamond areas. There are no precise figures on the numbers, but some estimates suggest thousands.

Street children also suffer abuses in Angola’s urban areas. UNICEF estimates that Luanda alone has 4,000 street children, mostly boys. Their daily life on the streets is characterized by sexual exploitation, forced labor, and arbitrary, underage military conscription.

Release of prisoners held by both parties to the conflict has been slow. In March, both sides provided the ICRC with lists of detainees. By January 29, 1996, the government had handed over 346 UNITA prisoners to the ICRC and UNITA had released only forty-four. The Lusaka Protocol provides that the prisoners should all be released, and not exchanged on a reciprocal basis.

Arbitrary detention and assault on suspects by the police remain widespread. Prison conditions across Angola are appalling. The government has several times announced that it will improve over-crowded prison conditions, but there has been no evidence of this happening.

Throughout most of 1995, the U.N. was virtually silent on human rights issues in Angola. UNAVEM’s Human Rights Division hired five competent human rights monitors, who appear to have carried out serious investigations, but their reporting has not been made public. UNAVEM has not publicly denounced abuses by either side, nor made an effort to establish accountability for abuses. UNAVEM has given a low priority to human rights, and has seemed unclear about the role of the Human Rights Division. There is little indication that the work of the Human Rights Division has been appreciated or taken seriously.

In November 1995, the Division was expanded to eight monitors and became more active. With this expansion, it will soon become evident whether human rights monitoring and reporting is given a high priority by the rest of UNAVEM. U.N. staff witness human rights violations against civilians daily. One clear lesson from UNAVEM II was that human rights abuses need to be confronted. UNAVEM III has the mandate to do this through its police and military personnel and civilian human rights monitors. It would be particularly disappointing if UNAVEM III fails to adequately investigate and make public human rights abuses as has been the case with many other U.N. operations because the U.N. Special Representative for Angola, Alioune Beye, is also a Commissioner of the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples.


Angolan Government

Human Rights Watch calls on the Angolan government to:

Permit freedom of movement;

Permit free and unhindered journalistic coverage in state administered territory;

Allow immediately the U.N. to set up its independent radio station in accordance with Security Council requests;

Facilitate U.N. staff in conducting their human rights mandate;

Encourage government officials to attend U.N. human rights training seminars;

Bring to justice military and security personnel suspected of violations of human rights and humanitarian law in open trials before independent tribunals and punish those found guilty in a manner consistent with international standards;

Reinforce the code of military conduct among troops, emphasizing that looting and other illegal conduct will result in disciplinary proceedings and punishment;

Stop importing weapons;

Stop recruitment of minors and use of child soldiers; refrain from seizing those under the age of eighteen for military service or permitting them to participate in hostilities;

Ensure that government troops stop laying antipersonnel landmines and ensure that mine clearance initiatives are not blocked by government officials; support the growing international movement to ban all production, stockpiling, transfer and use of antipersonnel mines;

Release all prisoners of war to the International Committee of the Red Cross.


Human Rights Watch calls on UNITA to:

Permit freedom of movement and facilitate voluntary family reunification;

Permit free and unhindered journalistic coverage in UNITA zones;

Cooperate with relief efforts and human rights specialists and educators, and facilitate their access to all parts of the country;

Stop unlawful killings and other abuses, and take steps to insure those responsible will be brought to justice; UNITA’s leadership should be made publicly accountable for such killings and other abuses by those under their authority;

Reinforce the code of military conduct among troops, emphasizing that looting and other illegal conduct will result in disciplinary proceedings and punishment;

Stop forced portering;

Respect the “Triple Zero” clause of the 1991 Bicesse Accords and U.N. Security Council Resolution 864, prohibiting the importation of weapons and petroleum products;

Refrain from involuntary recruitment; stop recruitment and use of child soldiers; refrain from seizing those under the age of eighteen for military service or permitting them to participate in hostilities;

Stop laying antipersonnel landmines and assist international and domestic initiatives to clear mines;

Release all prisoners of war to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

United Nations

Human Rights Watch recommends that the U.N. Security Council:

Institute an arms embargo on Angola, applicable clearly to both the government and UNITA;

Strongly encourage all member states to submit information on past weapons exports to Angola to the U.N. Register on Conventional Arms;

Ensure that U.N. human rights specialists observe, investigate, bring to the attention of responsible authorities, and make public violations of international humanitarian law and internationally recognized human rights principles by all parties; when U.N. monitors obtain information, it should be made highly transparent, so that it is evident, as quickly as possible, when infringements have been committed and by whom;

Continue to pressure the government to permit an independent U.N. radio station.

The Observing Troika (Portugal, Russia, United States)

Human Rights Watch recommends that Portugal, Russia and the U.S., as observers in the peace
process, should:

Impose immediate national arms embargoes, applicable to both the Angolan government and

Release details immediately on any weapons transfers to any party in Angola;

Maintain pressure on the Angolan government and UNITA to respect human rights and permit freedom of movement across the country;

Encourage the U.N. to put a high priority on human rights monitoring, including public reporting and denunciations of abuses;

Support mine clearance efforts with funds and logistical aid.

South Africa, Zaire, Congo and Other Governments in the Region

Human Rights Watch calls on South Africa, Zaire, Congo and other governments in the region to:

Assist the U.N. in its attempts to monitor UNITA sanction-busting;

Stop mercenary support which contributes to continued human rights violations in Angola;

In particular, the government of Zaire should take all measures to stop the use of Zaire as a conduit for illegal arms trade, and should not allow UNITA to maintain rear bases in Zairian border areas.




      Angolan Government
      United Nations
      The Observing Troika (Portugal, Russia, United States)
      South Africa, Zaire, Congo and Other Governments in the Region

      The U.N.

      Continued Weapons Flows
      UNITA Procurement
      Purchases Since the Lusaka Protocol
      Transparency in Arms Transfers

      UNITA “Security Specialists”

      U.N. Radio Station

      UNITA Areas
      Attacks on Civilians

      Child Soldiers


      NGO Mine Clearance Initiatives

      Angolan Human Rights Monitoring
      U.N. Human Rights Monitoring



Human Rights Watch      February 1995      Vol. 7, No. 4 (D)

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