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Human Rights Developments

In 1993 Angola returned to full civil war. The September 1992 elections had provided Angolans with their first opportunity to express their will in what the U.N. and other foreign observers concluded was a "generally free and fair" process. In the presidential election President dos Santos, as winner, received 49.56 percent of the vote compared with 40.7 percent for rival National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) leader Jonas Savimbi. In the legislative election, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) dos Santos's party, obtained 53.7 percent of the votes compared to UNITA's 34.09 percent. Under Angolan law, the failure of the winner in the presidential election to receive 50 percent of votes cast requires an election run-off. But a second round of the 1992 election did not occur because UNITA rejected the results and returned the country to civil war, such that 500,000 Angolans died in the renewed fighting or from a combination of starvation and disease. Toward year's end, some three million people, particularly children, women and the elderly, were suffering from the consequences of the conflict, including an estimated 1,000 people a day dying in a conflict that neither side could win outright.

Fighting first broke out in the central city of Huambo on October 17 and 18, 1992, and by the end of the month in Luanda also, culminating November 1 in street battles in the city center and in residential districts with at least 1,200 people killed, many of them innocent civilians. Savimbi's nephew and right-hand man, Elias Salupeta Pena, and UNITA vice-president Jeremias Chitunda were shot dead by soldiers on November 1 as they were trying to flee from Luanda. Top UNITA military commander Gen. Arlindo Pena Ben-Ben escaped with injuries, but his foreign affairs spokesperson, Abel Chivukuvuku, was injured and taken into government custody. The government also captured fifteen other senior UNITA officials. Fighting ended in Luanda on November 2 but continued in other provinces.

UNITA's strategy was one of brinkmanship, in clear violation of the May 1991 Bicesse peace accords. It pushed the government to breaking point and prompted a vicious backlash: the seventy-two hour attack by government forces and vigilantes on UNITA positions in Luanda and in towns across the country. Police and civilian supporters of the government razed UNITA offices, extrajudicially executed UNITA sympathizers and purged UNITA from the towns. Eyewitnesses interviewed by Africa Watch said that there were deliberate mass killings by pro-government forces. During those seventy-two hours the government made little effort to stop the killings. Militarily, the government destroyed a significant portion of UNITA's political leadership and support structure by destroying the guerrillas urban and armed militia. However, the government failed to confront UNITA's armed forces (FALA).

By mid-November 1992, the U.N. reported that fifty-seven of Angola's 164 municipalities were under UNITA control and that UNITA maintained an advantage in forty additional ones. UNITA also occupied several provincial capitals, including Uige (Uige province), Huambo (Huambo province), Benguela (Benguela province), Caxito (Bengo province) and Ndalatando (Cuanza Norte province). In spite of U.N. mediation attempts and a ceasefire agreement in November, UNITA continued to make territorial gains in the north. As these military gains continued, the position of those in the MPLA seeking a military response strengthened. President dos Santos installed a new government on December 2, 1992. Of its fifty-three members, eleven were affiliated with other parties that had won seats in the legislative elections. UNITA was offered five posts: Ministry of Culture and four vice-ministries. Among the other appointments was Gen. Joao Baptista de Matos as the new armed forces chief, replacing Gen. Antonio Franca ("N'dalu") who had been negotiating with UNITA in an attempt to avoid renewed civil war.

On December 27, 1992, the government launched its counter-offensive against UNITA. This marked a return to full-blown civil war. Fighting spread across the country with UNITA forced to retreat back from many locations and government forces regaining control of Benguela city and Lobito (Benguela) after fierce fighting. Although the MPLA captured Huambo, the government's objective of dealing UNITA a final blow on the battlefield failed because its forces over-extended themselves and could not sustain their gains under renewed pressure from UNITA. At the end of January 1993, the U.N. estimated that UNITA controlled 105 of the 164 municipalities.

From January 3, UNITA battled to capture the second city, Huambo, shelling it despite a majority of its residents having voted for UNITA in the elections. The town fell to the rebels on March 8, at a cost, according to U.N. estimates, of 15,000 casualties. In January UNITA captured the oil townof Soyo (Zaire) but the government soon recaptured it only to lose it to UNITA once again in May. After June, the major focal point of the conflict for the rest of the year was Cuito, capital of Bie province. The city came under UNITA seige in January. In nine months of siege 35,000 people died, according to U.N. estimates. U.N. relief reached the city in late October following a local cease-fire. Two- thirds of Angola had fallen under UNITA control by November.

A number of attempts were made by the U.N. and its members states in 1993 to mediate in the conflict. In January, peace talks between UNITA and the MPLA in Addis Ababa failed on key issues. A projected second round of talks did not take place. Talks in Abidjan between May 12 and 21 came the closest to agreement of any negotiations so far; a thirty-eight-point protocol was drawn up. But the talks finally failed because of UNITA's inability to compromise. Agreement was reached between both sides on a power-sharing formula, but UNITA refused to agree to an article that demanded UNITA fighters' withdrawal from areas they had occupied since fighting broke out in October 1992. Attempts to reach a compromise on this point were frustrated by the U.N. UNITA wanted the symbolic presence of U.N. peacekeeping forces in the areas from which it withdrew. This would, in UNITA's view, protect its supporters from MPLA retaliation. The U.N. indicated, however, that such a force could only be sent after a full cease-fire had been signed, and then only six to nine months after the event. The talks failed.

Violence also continued in Cabinda, an oil-rich Angolan enclave between Zaire and the Congo, where separatist factions fought for independence. There was a spate of killings and abductions in the region. In mid-1993 one faction, Front for the Liberation of the Cabindan Enclave-Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC), seemed to have suffered a serious internal struggle, accompanied by killings and disappearances. Both UNITA and the Angolan government held talks with the separatist factions in an attempt to form alliances, and those approaches may have contributed to the fighting among the various FLEC factions.

Renewed conflict was being fueled by new arms and foreign expertise actively procured by both the MPLA and UNITA. The government used its oil revenue remittances to fund the conflict; UNITA used its access to diamond-producing areas to fund purchases of weaponry to augment what it captured from government forces. On April 23 the government unilaterally declared that the Triple Zero clause in the Bicesse accords, which prohibited either side from purchasing arms, was obsolete. Both sides also sought recruits in the mercenary market in South Africa and Europe. Britain and several other European Community countries lifted their arms embargo against the government in August.

The numbers of people displaced by the conflict continued to grow, estimated at two million by June 1993. According to the government, Angola required 27,000 tons of food per month plus medical supplies. Commercial food imports into Luanda diminished due to the lack of foreign exchange, with the government forced to spend money on armaments and exporters reluctant to send ships into a war zone. A U.N. World Food Program report suggested that a significant proportion of Angola's harvest would rot due to disruption caused by the fighting, and estimated that 1.9 million conflict- and drought-affected persons would require 337,000 tons of food assistance.

Reports of human rights abuses by both sides increased as the conflict intensified and civilians became victims of calculated violence. Reports from the central and northern provinces indicated that both sides have engaged in killings and intimidation of civilians, especially if they were not from the home ethnic group. These tactics caused massive civilian displacement, especially out of UNITA, held areas, and have encouraged ethnic divisions.

Africa Watch also received frequent reports of violations of the laws of war by both sides, including executions of captured soldiers and cases of children forced to fight on the war front. UNITA was also responsible for gross human rights abuses, including executions of civilians and other deliberate and arbitrary killings. Near Quipungo (Huila) UNITA attacked a train on May 27 in which 225 people were killed and several hundred injured, most of them civilians.

Humanitarian efforts were also hampered by the war. Several relief flights were hit by UNITA fire. In April, a World Food Programme (WFP) aircraft was shot down by UNITA in eastern Angola. UNITA attempted to deny the delivery of food aid to isolated government towns in order to capture them. There were frequent suspensions of relief flights because of these attacks. The government also sought to deny food aid delivery to rebel-held areas. In July, an agreement reached between the government, UNITA and the U.N. allowedthe resumption of some relief flights to agreed locations. Only in late October was the U.N. able to fly again to all towns across the country.

In August, the bombing of Huambo as part of a major government offensive against UNITA destroyed the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) headquarters in the city. In August, a WFP convoy of seventy-five trucks transporting relief aid to some 145,000 war-affected people in Caimbambo and Cubal was attacked by unidentified gunmen who destroyed one truck and damaged two more. Four members of the convoy were killed.

The Right to Monitor

As Angola descended into renewed civil war, human rights monitoring as well as international relief efforts faced extreme dangers. The threat of violence came not only from the warring sides but from freelance bandits and looters.

Both the government and UNITA limited journalistic access and coverage as part of their war effort. More than twenty Angolan journalists died while trying to cover the fighting.

U.S. and U.N. Policy

The Clinton administration initially delayed recognizing the MPLA in the hope that this would give it extra leverage over UNITA. But increasing frustration at UNITA's continued intransigence convinced the administration to recognise the Angolan government on May 19. Soon after recognition, the U.S. opened an embassy in Luanda and sent its first ambassador. An arms embargo on selling U.S. government non-lethal military equipment to the Angolan government was lifted in June.

Formal military assistance to the Angolan government did not appear to be on the immediate agenda of the U.S. administration, although the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) expanded its presence in Luanda. Except for recognition of the MPLA government, there was a strong sense of continuity from previous administrations' policies. For more than half the year, U.S policy towards Angola was ad hoc; only in August did Robert Cabelly, special advisor to Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs George Moose, draft a policy document for the first time. Apparently as a result of this advice, emerging U.S. policy towards Angola appeared to concentrate on diplomacy rather than a military approach, encouraging both sides to return to peace talks. At the urging of key members of Congress, for example, the administration in late October appointed a special envoy to assist U.N. peace efforts and attend the talks that began that month in Lusaka. Testimony by administration officials in Congress concentrated on the peace process; apparently in order to foster progress in the negotiations, officials said virtually nothing about abuses by either side. Nor did Congress press for a stronger human rights stance; rather, Congress continued to be preoccupied by events elsewhere, such that Angola policy remained determined by the State Department and favored the MPLA. The Defense Department, however, believed that U.S. policy should be even-handed between both sides, inasmuch as eventually stability in Angola would require a major role in government for UNITA.

In the context of this inchoate policy, the administration and Congress approved the selling of non-lethal military equipment to Luanda beginning in June. The equipment included the sophisticated U.S.-made Global Positioning System (GPS), a guidance system for relief drops and/or bombing. Sales of military items of any kind to a goverhnment engaging in a pattern of gross abuses of human rights like the Angolan government, is prohibited under human rights provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act, and should not have occurred in this case.

The U.N. presence in Angola was greatly reduced by renewal of the conflict. Staff of the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM II) in September 1993 numbered forty0three international civilian staff; fifty military observers; eighteen police observers; eleven military paramedics, and seventy-five local staff. UNAVEM military and police staff continued to be deployed at five locations (Luanda, Lubango, Namibe, Benguela and Sumbe).

After the presidential and legislative elections of September 29 and 30, 1992, UNAVEM II sought to mediate actively in the conflict despite its increasingly irrelevant limited mandate for monitoring and verification. Eight Security Council resolutions, beginning in October 1992, have gradually extended UNAVEM's mandate and condemned UNITA for violating the Bicesse accords. In January 1993, while extending UNAVEM's mandate, the Security Council also advocated greatly reducing UNAVEM staffing levels, to thirty military observers; eighteen police observers and forty-nine internationalstaff. UNAVEM withdrew from the oil-rich Cabinda enclave in early March following an attack on its compound by unidentified gunmen. A March resolution of the Security Council appealed to both sides to 'strictly abide by applicable rules of humanitarian law, including unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in need.

At the end of April, showing increasing exasperation with UNITA, the Security Council condemned attacks on humanitarian flights, particularly by UNITA. UNAVEM's staffing levels were reduced further after a June resolution that also held UNITA responsible for the breakdown of peace talks and for thereby jeopardizing the peace process. On July 15, the Security Council warned UNITA that international sanctions might be imposed unless it signed a cease-fire by mid-September. As UNITA continued military actions past that date, the Security Council warned that oil and arms embargo would be imposed in the absence of a cease-fire by September 25. When the deadline passed, sanctions were imposed.

The U.N. Special Representative on Angola, Margaret Anstee, retired following the collapse of the peace talks in May. Her replacement was a former Malian foreign minister, Alioune Blondin Beye. U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali had selected Sergio Viera de Mello, who represented the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cambodia, but UNITA opposed his nomination on the grounds that his country of origin, Brazil, has been too friendly with the Angolan government.

UNAVEM's mandate was to be renegotiated whenever a cease-fire could be reached, and UNAVEM III created for the next stage.

The Work of Africa Watch

Africa Watch was active in monitoring human rights abuses in the conflict and held meetings with senior government, UNITA and U.N. officials. In January, Africa Watch released Land Mines in Angola, the result of extensive research carried out in the country in 1992. It contained a technical assessment of mine-laying in Angola and examined the makes and types of mines that have been used, and the methods of their use. The report also examined the human impact of land mines, finding that civilians were the most common victims. In examaning mine clearance initiatives during the interim period up to the September 1992 elections Africa Watch discovered that some of these were seriously flawed. The report concluded that only a complete ban on the use of anti-personnel mines could remove the unreasonable danger they posed to civilians. Information obtained subsequent to publication of the report indicated that many land mines had been planted by both sides in the renewed conflict.

Africa Watch also worked closely with humanitarian organizations in drawing attention to Angola's plight and briefed and lobbied politicians and the media. Africa Watch staff gave a series of public talks and press interviews on Angola in the United States, southern Africa, Australia, France, Portugal and Britain.

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