Human Rights Developments
Angola remained in a transition phase between war and peace in which respect for human rights did not improve from the low standards of 1995. Both the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA)-led government and the armed opposition group, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), were responsible for abuses, including restrictions on freedom of movement, abduction of civilians and the intimidation of journalists.
Serious violations of the cease-fire continued to decline in 1996, although in December 1995 the government=s capture of a string of UNITA-held hamlets in the north-west brought deadlock and delayed the whole peace process. By October 1996 the majority of reported cease-fire violations by the government and UNITA were limited attacks on civilians designed either to control the movement of food aid in contested areas or to stop people from moving into areas controlled by the other side. However, there were also continued violations of the Lusaka cease-fire protocols by the government=s Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) taking up forward positions.
On March 1, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi met in Libreville, Gabon, and agreed to complete confinement to quarters of troops by June, to form a joint senior military command, and to integrate UNITA forces into the national armed forces by June. They also agreed to the formation of a Agovernment of national reconciliation@ by July, and an indefinite extension of the legislative and executive term to allow the government of national unity to play a constructive role. At that meeting, one of the two vice presidencies was offered by the government to UNITA, which Savimbi formally rejected in August, claiming his party had decided that he should do so.
In May, the National Assembly formally approved an amnesty law for all human rights abuses committed between May 31, 1991 and May 8, 1996: the sixth Amnesty Law passed by Angola=s parliament since 1981. U.N. Special Representative Alioune Blondin Beye immediately afterwards announced that this amnesty law would provide a new impetus for the peace process.
The quartering and reintegration of soldiers under the Lusaka Protocol has been slow. UNITA almost completed its confinement to quarters quota of 62,500 in early October, when most of UNITA=s fifteen camps for its disbanded units closed. However, over 12,000 UNITA fighters left the demobilization camps after having registered, and U.N. figures show that 7,600 of those quartered were under the age of eighteen and many of them were civilians that had been forced into the camps by UNITA. U.N. and aid officials stated that as many as half of those quartered were not real soldiers, suggesting that UNITA was filling its demobilization quota, without reducing its troop strength to the extent claimed. UNITA also retained its elite units outside the quartering process and its top generals in their fighting units ready for a resumption of hostilities.
In June, the first fourteen UNITA officers arrived at a designated base outside Luanda. It was not until September 9 that five generals from UNITA=s army arrived in Luanda to join the Angolan Armed Forces following strong pressure from the U.S. and the U.N. Under the Lusaka Protocol, UNITA generals were made responsible for deciding with other officers of the armed forces how to incorporate 26,500 UNITA soldiers and officers into the army, with the rest being demobilized. A further five generals arrived in Luanda in October, but the reintegration process was many months behind schedule.
UNITA also failed to confine to quarters its self-proclaimed police force, despite strong demands that it do so. UNITA appeared to have replaced uniformed soldiers in some areas with persons which it claimed were its police, even though the establishment of such a force was contrary to the Lusaka Protocol. Road blocks previously operated by UNITA soldiers were under the control of UNITA Apolice.@ Estimates of the strength of this force varied from 5,000 to 15,000. The Lusaka Protocol provided for the incorporation of UNITA members into the National Police so that it would function as a nonpartisan institution. These included arrangements for the participation of 5,500 UNITA members, including 180 officers. This was not implemented. As the year ended, it was increasingly evident that the government=s paramilitary Rapid Intervention Police (or ANinjas@) were also being discreetly redeployed rather than confined to barracks.
UNITA did not hand over all weapons in its possession, in particular its heavy weapons and sophisticated ground-to-air missiles. UNITA surrendered heavy weaponry at N=tuco in the north and Muxinde in the north-east but maintained a reserve arsenal. The U.N. claims that the ammunition and 30 to 40 percent of the weapons handed to it were in poor condition or unserviceable. By October UNITA had handed over to the U.N. 28,762 personal arms and 3,969 crew-served weapons systems.
Although arms shipments significantly declined in the past year, new heavy weaponry including multiple rocket launcher systems from Brazil and Hind helicopter gunships from Russia reached the government in the first half of 1996. These purchases were made after the Lusaka Protocol and ignored Security Council Resolution 976 of February 1995 which called on both sides to cease any acquisition of arms and war material.
UNITA continued its crossborder, sanction-busting operations, bringing in new weapons and supplies both overland and on secret flights from Zaire and Congo to airstrips in the two diamond-rich Lunda provinces. In January, an Antonov 32 transport plane which crashed in Kinshasa, Zaire, killing 350 people, was found to be carrying petroleum products into UNITA areas, also contrary to U.N. sanctions imposed in 1993. An aircraft involved in a further crash in Kinshasa in June was believed to have been carrying military equipment from Bulgaria for UNITA.
UNITA appeared determined to maintain its grip on its remaining diamond assets. Sporadic but fierce fighting continued in the diamond areas. UNITA earned around US500 million a year from control of diamond production. UNITA did not reply to a government offer to allow it to retain control of the mines in return for selling the diamonds to the state-owned Endiama company.
Although the Lusaka Protocol demanded the Arepatriation of all mercenaries,@ the South African firm Executive Outcomes (EO) maintained some 400 to 500 men in Angola, mostly under contract to the Angolan Armed Forces. This became a contentious issue, and under pressure from the U.S. and others, the Angolan government finally told EO to withdraw in January. A number of its soldiers were redeployed into companies linked to EO, such as Branch Mining, Shibata Security and Stuart Mills Associates.
Repatriation of prisoners of war has been slow. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) supervised the release of 523 prisoners of war. Of these, 361 had been held by the government and 162 by UNITA.
Arbitrary detention and assault on suspects by the government=s police force remained widespread, and there continued to be many accounts of police requiring payment in return for release. Following a spate of strikes by government workers, the government embarked on aggressive policing with its Rapid Intervention Police in June. A German priest, Father Konrad Liebsher, was arrested on June 26 for distributing leaflets containing Adissenting@ information and released on July 3 after being sentenced to a one month sentence suspended for two years for encouraging discontent. In August, the government launched AOperation Cancer Two,@ rounding up over 2,000 West Africans and Lebanese and ordering their summary expulsion.
Some 40,000 people remained trapped against their will by UNITA in its former headquarters of Jamba in the south, where conditions were very bad. Although UNITA claimed it had invited the international community to help evacuate them, in effect UNITA refused to allow civilians to move out of UNITA zones. The Namibian authorities exacerbated the situation by keeping its border near Jamba closed, fearful that an open border would permit a mass exodus of Jamba residents onto Namibian soil.
Press freedom remained illusory, although President dos Santos told Human Rights Watch/Africa in December 1995 that in Angola Athere is more freedom of the press than anywhere.@ In 1996 journalists continued to be targeted and intimidated. In March, Pires Ferreira, the sports editor at the government-run Jornal de Angola was fired after filing stories in a different newsletter about government abuse of power in his own paper. In June, the news program, AOpiniao@ on government television was terminated by the government for being too Acontroversial@ after a feature on freedom of expression. Journalists in the provinces were also intimidated. Joao Borges the correspondent for ANGOP, the Angolan news agency in Bie province, was fired after the governor of Bie province, Paulino dos Santos, blamed him for publishing an anonymous letter in a weekly newsletter about the governor=s abuses of power. Rafael Marques, a journalist from Jornal de Angola, was banned from his newspaper when he returned from study leave abroad in October because he had previously organized a strike and had published in Europe a series of articles about the lack of a free press in Angola.
The government continued to refuse a permit for a U.N. radio station to operate in Angola although this was mandated by Security Council Resolution 976 of February 1995. The government claimed that constitutionally only the state could run a short wave radio station. After months of delay, Voice of America radio opened a temporary office in Luanda in March to work with Angolan journalists for a year with a view to providing them some degree of protection. UNITA continued to tolerate little press freedom and its radio station, Voice of the Resistance of the Black Cockerel (Vorgan), continued to disseminate hostile anti-government propaganda in contravention of the Lusaka Protocols.
On September 23, Angola=s foreign minister confirmed to the U.N. General Assembly that Angola supported all efforts aimed at the complete elimination of the production, use and trading of anti-personnel mines in both international and domestic conflicts. The U.N. estimated that Angola had up to fifteen million mines and over 70,000 mine amputees. The National Institute for the Removal of Mines and Explosive Devices (Inaroe) estimated in May that 800,000 had been cleared since the November 1994 Lusaka Protocol. In 1996 some mines continued to be planted along roads in acts of economic banditry and sabotage.
In July a mass grave was discovered by mine-clearing teams near Soyo. Many skulls, including those of children, were found with bullet holes in them, with remnants of the region=s typical women=s clothing found around many of the bones. Soyo was occupied by UNITA in 1993-94. Both UNITA and the government denied responsibility and the National Assembly called for an inquiry.
The Right to Monitor
The absence of effective publicity or lobbying on human rights issues by any sector of civil society remained noticeable. The Luanda-based Angolan Association of Human Rights (AADH) remained the sole functioning human rights group. It held a seminar on human rights for the police and prison services in Luanda in June and attended various domestic and international meetings on human rights. The National Assembly also maintained a cross-party human rights commission and UNITA reported its human rights concerns through its Lisbon-based Association of Surviving Angolans (ACAS).
The Role of the International Community
During 1996 the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III) was the biggest and most expensive U.N. peacekeeping operation in the world, costing around US$1 million a day. There remained strong pressure, particularly from the U.S., not to allow the operation to drag on indefinitely. Largely for this reason, UNAVEM-III=s mandate was renewed by the Security Council repeatedly but for only short periods: on February 8 (three months), May 8 (two months), July 11 (three months) and October 11 (two months).
With the peace process badly delayed, it became a U.N. priority to reduce UNAVEM=s 7,264 strong military component. It had been originally planned that UNAVEM III would complete its mission in February 1997. However, due to slippage in the Lusaka Protocol=s timetable, the mandate was likely to be extended beyond February 1997 in a cut-down form; reduction of UNAVEM=s presence was to commence in December.
In late November 1995 UNAVEM held its first human rights seminar in Luanda, focusing on the role of the Lusaka Protocol in the protection of human rights and on UNAVEM=s plan of action in this area up to February 1997. In early 1996 the Human Rights Unit of UNAVEM expanded its coverage with a presence each provincial capital, and a series of human rights regional seminars on human rights were held in government and UNITA controlled zones under its auspices. In April, the Human Rights Unit produced a report on the human rights situation in Angola, but it was not made widely available. The unit continued to employ skilled personnel but their efforts were frustrated by a lack of political will in UNAVEM to see human rights as an important aspect of its mandate. UNAVEM=s human rights unit appeared to exist mainly to fulfill reporting requirements by the U.N. Security Council.
European Union countries played a less dramatic but still significant role. The E.U. allocated $210 million in aid in June and provided ECU 300,000 for six human rights specialists working for UNAVEM=s Human Rights Unit, through a project of the Netherlands-based European Parliamentarians for (Southern) Africa (AWEPA).
The U.S. remained one of the most influential forces in the Angolan peace process and Angola was a key country of interest for the Clinton administration. The first official trip by an Angolan head of state to the White House took place on December 8, 1995. The warm public embrace of President dos Santos by the Clinton administration dramatized the complete reversal of U.S. Cold War policies in Angola, particularly since President Clinton had met very few African heads of state.
In 1996 the U.S. provided $190 million in emergency funding for post-war reconstruction in addition to being one of the main financial contributors to UNAVEM. In 1995 the U.S. provided more than $8 million to nongovernmental organizations carrying out mine clearance and mine awareness programs but the extension of this support was complicated by new congressional restrictions limiting funding to operations with direct U.S. military participation. U.S. military cooperation in Angola was not to begin until the unification of the two armies was completed. It was proposed that a U.S. firm, Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) would then be responsible for assistance to the new unified army.
The central focus of U.S. policy in Angola remained the implementation of the Lusaka Protocol. An extraordinarily high number of senior U.S. officials visited Angola in 1996: U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher; U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeline Albright (January); USAID Administrator Brian Atwood (February); Deputy Commander of the European Command General James Jamerson (March); Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, George Moose (January and July); and Paul Hare, President Clinton=s Special Representative (January and April).
Other countries played a less dramatic but still significant role. The E.U. allocated US$210 million in aid to Angola in June and provided US$3740.93 for six human rights specialists working for UNAVEM=s Human Rights Unit, through a project of the Netherlands-based European Parliamentarians for (Southern) Africa (AWEPA).