Angola's civil war continued. There was little sign of greater respect for human rights as the violations of the laws of war for which this conflict has been notable continued. Both the government and the rebels, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), have been responsible for these violations. The number of internally displaced persons grew to an estimated 2.5 million, approximately 20 percent of the total population of Angola. Road access remained restricted throughout the country; only coastal roads and routes within security perimeters of major provincial cities were usable by humanitarian agencies. More than 70 percent of all humanitarian assistance was delivered by air because of insecurity on the roads.
An Angolan army counteroffensive pushed UNITA out of its strongholds in the central highlands of Angola in late 1999. In late October 1999, the government showed film footage of its control of the important UNITA bases at Bailundo and Andulo. Throughout late 1999 and for the first four months of 2000, the government continued to enjoy a string of successes. On December 24, government forces captured UNITA's former headquarters at Jamba. The government claimed that it had captured 200 UNITA soldiers during the fighting. It said 400 had been captured during fighting for Calai, which was taken by the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) on December 10. The government claimed to have destroyed more than 80 percent of its fighting capacity, while seizing 15,000 tons of weapons, munitions, twenty-seven tanks, seven artillery emplacements, thirty missiles, and other equipment from the rebels.
During the first quarter of 2000, the government appeared to be in the ascendance on the battlefield and UNITA appeared disoriented, its actions limited to sporadic guerrilla attacks. As the year progressed, this changed, with UNITA adapting back to guerrilla attacks and high-profile hit-and-run ambushes on main roads. On April 30, a U.N. World Food Program convoy was attacked 85 kilometers inland from Lobito, in an area supposedly cleared of UNITA forces. The identity of the attackers remained in doubt.
The level of UNITA violence against civilians increased significantly as UNITA's tactics changed during the year. In January, as the FAA approached Chinguar town, UNITA embarked upon a killing spree, aimed at ensuring that residents would not be captured by government forces. Some 140 soldiers and civilians were reportedly killed. UNITA was also reportedly responsible for extrajudicial executions in localities such as Camaxilo in Lunda Norte, Katchiungo in Huambo, and Quimbele in Uige.
Deliberate mutilations have not been commonplace in the Angolan conflict, but the number of incidents increased during the year, with UNITA forces reportedly cutting off ears and hands. The purpose appears to have been to send a warning to others not to betray UNITA, or to attempt to flee to areas controlled by government forces. It was a response to the rebels' greater isolation and battlefield losses. Accounts of torture were not commonplace but were sufficient to suggest that the rebels used torture to attempt to extract information, especially from individuals thought to have military knowledge about the government's intentions.
UNITA increased its forcible recruitment of children and adults in its war effort. In ambushes on main roads, UNITA forces killed and looted, but also captured civilians and forced them to work for them. This appeared intended to compensate for the continued flight of people out of UNITA's grip, but violence and forced recruitment were also said to have been in retaliation for "not following orders," when UNITA demanded that residents abandon villages. Similarly, UNITA retaliated against villages who continued to cultivate land near areas that the government had recently taken over. Conscription of children continued to be commonplace with boys and girls as young as ten seized and trained as soldiers by the rebels.
Freedom of movement continued to be denied in all areas controlled by UNITA. A permit for travel even to the next village was demanded by those in command. In the central highlands, UNITA was also responsible for forced displacement as it lost or captured territory, and its forces continued to loot and destroy private property. Government officials, traditional authorities and aid workers were especially targeted during UNITA's operations. On August 9, the U.N. strongly condemned an armed attack on Catete which resulted in the deaths of a humanitarian worker and three other civilians.
After many months of negotiations, five Russian pilots were released at the Zambian border in June. However, UNITA officials said a British and a South African diamond mine worker missing after a UNITA attack in November 1998 were dead. On August 18 De Beersannounced it had suspended its diamond exploration at its site in Cambulo, Lunda Norte. The announcement followed an attack by UNITA on another diamond mine near Camafuca during which seven workers were abducted and a South African security consultant killed.
In September, an armed UNITA unit destroyed a Total/Elf/Fina oil well near Soyo, in the northwest of the country. Meanwhile, a faction of the Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave (FLEC) kidnapped three Portuguese and Angolan nationals working for a construction company in Cabinda province.
There were numerous allegations of continued abuses by government forces, although these were fewer than those regarding UNITA. The government's late 1999 and early 2000 offensives included a scorched earth policy, burning villages and killing civilians, particularly in Cuando Cubango and Lunda Sul provinces. Government forces reportedly executed villagers. In at least one location in Lunda Sul, a mass grave that the government claimed was holding victims of UNITA's excesses was in all probability the result of systematic extrajudicial killings by the government.
In the central highlands, allegations of rape by government soldiers increased. Soldiers broke into houses and raped women, or raped women they encountered working in the fields. These occurrences were widespread near military camps. Rape was especially commonplace during batidas, house-to-house searches, when units arrived in an area, and ordered local people to collect food and non-food items for them and to help transport looted goods. Those who refused to do so were often beaten and sometimes raped. These searches and foraging operations were especially common in areas recently occupied or reoccupied by government forces, such as large areas of Bie, Huambo and Uige provinces. The U.N. reported that in June some army and local police elements were accused by local NGOs of perpetrating human rights abuses, including the killing of suspected UNITA sympathizers in Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul, Malanje, and Moxico provinces.
The renewed conflict, and accompanying human rights abuses and violations of laws of war, were fueled by new flows of arms into the country, although arms purchases by the government significantly declined. Ukraine, Russia and Israel apparently remained the government's suppliers of choice. The Israel Aircraft Industries confirmed in May that it had exported weapons worth $86.5 million to Angola since 1997, including twenty-seven aircraft. The Slovak Republic delivered a number of military aircraft in early 2000 that were purchased through an oil-backed loan. In mid-September shipments of weapons from the Ukraine were unloaded at Luanda port.
A series of United Nations embargoes on UNITA remained in force, and the U.N.'s Security Council's Sanctions Committee on Angola produced a fifty-four-page report in March on UNITA sanctions-busting. (See Arms.) It was put together by an independent ten-person Panel of Experts, mandated in May 1999 to investigate sanctions violations. The report contained detailed new information, including evidence that President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo and President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso were playing an important role in supporting UNITA. The report also documented claims that Rwanda was an important location for gunrunning and diamond trading with UNITA, and that its government had full knowledge of this and was providing protection. Libreville in Gabon has been an important refueling location for sanctions-busting planes after they had been inside UNITA areas. It was found that most of the weapons imported by UNITA were from Bulgaria. UNITA's arms were believed to be funded largely by the illicit trade in diamonds. It also appeared that UNITA has had a general aversion for banks and normal banking channels, although its leaders had used credit cards. As already noted, the Sanctions Committee found that air transport has been the lifeline to UNITA.
Both Angolan government troops and UNITA rebel forces continued to use antipersonnel mines (See the Arms Division entry below). The number of mine victims was up sharply in 1999 (from 103 in 1998 to 185 in 1999 in Luena alone). There were worrying reports that Angolans trained in humanitarian de-mining had been employed to plant new mines.
In Luanda and along the coast, areas under government control, there was greater tolerance for discussions about rights, and a slight improvement in the observance of human rights by the police, but at the same time there was an ongoing campaign of harassment against independent journalists.
The privately owned media expanded its efforts throughout the year to inform Angolans about public affairs, criticize maladministration and corruption, and voice a variety of opinions. The government responded to these efforts by using powers under the law, and also by going beyond these powers, to stifle freedom of expression. In July, the government introduced a draft media bill that advocated harsh sentences for defamation.
At least six journalists were convicted of libel or defamation by government officials after November 1999 and faced possible imprisonment. At this writing, they were all awaiting the results of appeals. As in previous years, pretrial and trial procedures failed to conform to the requirements of international human rights law.
On December 10, the directors of Folha 8 and the privately owned weekly newspapers Agora and Actual, were ordered by the head of the Department of Selective Crimes in the National Department for Criminal Investigation (DNIC) to withhold stories they were about to publish. These concerned a report by the British organization Global Witness, saying the government had used its oil wealth corruptly. Folha 8 and Actual suppressed the text of the article, leaving blank pages, and Agora published an article approved by the DNIC, but was forbidden to mention the police action. In contrast, the government controlled media published detailed rejections of the Global Witness report.
The Luanda Provincial Court convicted journalists Rafael Marques and Aguiar dos Santos of defaming President dos Santos on March 31. Both were sentenced to six months' and three months' imprisonment respectively and asked to pay a large fine. Both were granted bail and have appealed their sentences.
Journalists outside Luanda suffered more. Isaias Soares in Malanje and Andre Mussamo and Isidoro Natalicio in Kwanza Norte province faced harassment. Mussamo was arrested in N'dalatando on December 2, held in incommunicado detention for two weeks, and detained for a further three months. He was put on trial on May 28 for obtaining "state secrets" and revealing them. He was acquitted on June 2.
On February 18, 2000, the opposition Angolan Party for Democratic Support and Progress (PADPA) led protests against a 1,600 percent rise in the price of fuel. The president and secretary general of PADPA were arrested and accused of not obtaining official permission to demonstrate although this is not required for a peaceful assembly under Angolan law. Despite the arrests, the demonstrators protested outside the Luanda Provincial Government buildings on February 23 and were dispersed by police who beat some of them. Police armed with rifles surrounded a second demonstration on February 24 and arrested ten of those present, including the leaders of two opposition parties. Many of the demonstrators were beaten, three of them badly. On February 25, the police apologized for the arrests. On March 11, there was another demonstration against the fuel price and against the authorities' attacks on freedom of expression and assembly. This demonstration proceeded peacefully and there were no arrests.
On March 29, the Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops of Angola and São Tomé and Principe issued a pastoral letter appealing to the government not to dismiss dialogue and to grant a general amnesty in order to assist national reconciliation. The bishops also appealed for a greater respect for human rights. Angolan Church leaders have since continued to seek a negotiated peace. In June, they organized a march for peace that culminated in an open-air ecumenical service in Luanda with the participation of other members of civil society and of political parties, with the exception of the ruling party and government.
The churches' advocacy on this issue resulted in a slight shift in the government position on negotiations. On June 19, President dos Santos reaffirmed the validity of the Lusaka Protocol and indicated that UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi and his supporters could be "forgiven" if they renounced war.
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