HRW – Human Rights Watch (Autor)
Human Rights Developments
Angola returned to all-out war in December 1998. The human cost of the war in 1999 was impossible to determine with precision, but the United Nations estimated that more than 2.1 million people had been displaced. The appalling levels of death and destruction were in large part consequences of the widespread and systematic violations of the laws of war for which conflicts in Angola were previously notable. Both the government and rebels, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) were responsible for these violations. In particular, indiscriminate shelling of besieged cities by UNITA resulted in destruction of property and the death of over one thousand civilians.
The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) held its fourth Congress in Luanda from December 5 to 10, 1998. At its opening President dos Santos stated that the only path to lasting peace was the total isolation of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi and his movement. The president called for termination of the U.N. Observer Mission in Angola's (MONUA) mandate and an end to the Lusaka peace process. MONUA withdrew for safety from all UNITA-held areas on December 6.
Just prior to the opening of the congress, the government launched a military offensive in central Angola with air raids on Bailundo and Mungo, followed by attacks on Andulo. Subsequently UNITA forces launched their own attacks and inflicted heavy casualties on the government's forces and on civilians. In the Huambo and Kuito sectors the government was forced to withdraw and in Kuito only escaped further losses because UNITA's mechanized units ran out of fuel. The widening hostilities spread, with laying of new mines and the indiscriminate shelling of Malanje, Kuito, and Huambo by long-range UNITA artillery.
Two U.N. aircraft were shot down near Huambo, on December 26 and on January 2, 1999, resulting in the deaths of fifteen passengers and eight crew members respectively. Both aircraft, chartered by MONUA, went down in areas of active military operations. The two warring Angolan parties denied any responsibility for these incidents and initially showed no inclination to assist search and rescue operations. U.N. investigations of the wreckage of both planes established that they had been tampered with and that there had been efforts to conceal them; the flight recorders had been removed.
On January 27, the National Assembly passed a resolution declaring Jonas Savimbi "a war criminal and international terrorist." It called for legal procedures leading to Savimbi and his direct collaborators being held accountable, in criminal and civil law, both nationally and internationally.
On January 29, President dos Santos appointed a new cabinet and temporarily assumed the functions of prime minister and commander-in-chief of the FAA. At the inauguration ceremony of the new government, the president stated that Angola had to wage war to achieve peace.
On January 26, UNITA occupied the provincial capital of Mbanza Congo in the north, although this appeared to have been retaken on February 12 by government forces. On January 30, UNITA captured theCapenda hydroelectric project, about 50 kilometers south-west of Malanje. After initial successes a second offensive to capture Bailundo was stopped by UNITA in early March resulting in a significant loss of equipment to the rebels and the reported loss of 1,000 men. Fighting continued in central and northern Angola and in mid-September the government launched its third offensive against UNITA, Operation Cacimbo.
The effects of the conflict led to more human displacement. According to the U.N. the numbers of internally displaced persons had reached 1.7 million persons, 15 per cent of the total population, with additional flows of refugees into the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, and Zambia.
On July 24, the Angolan authorities issued an arrest warrant for Savimbi on charges that included rebellion, sabotage, murder, and torture. The warrant also accused Savimbi of kidnapping, robbery, and the use of explosives - including planting of landmines at sites used by civilians. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized the warrant saying it was "wrong," and that "you make peace with enemies, and to make peace you have to have communications, either directly or through third parties."
Mine warfare intensified after hostilities resumed in December 1998 and mines were used by both sides, although Angola had signed the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty in December 1997. This also flew in the face of Angola's strong rhetorical support of an antipersonnel landmines ban. Human Rights Watch received numerous reports in 1999 of renewed landmine warfare in central and northern Angola. At the first meeting of the State Signatories of the Ottawa Landmine Ban Treaty in Onlineuto on May 3-7, 1999, the Angolan government delegation justified the renewed use of landmines saying it was "at war."
Human rights violations in Angola increased throughout the year and were at a much higher level than in 1998. UNITA maintained tight control of the population in the areas it controlled and continued to prevent the enjoyment of greater freedoms through arbitrary killings, threats, forced conscription, and the demand of sexual services. In December, UNITA military forces briefly occupied the town of Cunje and killed twenty-five civilians. In April, when some thirty villagers attempted to return to their homes in the village of Muconda in Lunda Sul province UNITA caught them and killed twenty-five of them with knives and machetes.
NGO workers were also targeted. On April 14, Save the Children/USA's Kuanza Sul manager Antonio Ferreira and church NGO worker Pastor Manuel Gabriel were killed by axes during an ambush on the Gabela - Sumbe road. Fereira suffered heavy cuts on his jaw, neck, and spine and was pierced in the heart with a pointed instrument. Pastor Gabriel was murdered with sharp objects and his body mutilated. Mutilations had not been common in Angola's long history of conflict but with the return to war appeared more common place. For example on December 5 two men caught by UNITA had their ears cut off and were sent to the government with a message.
The abductions of civilians by UNITA was commonplace. People of all ages were abducted, but abductees and witnesses point to young men, women, and young girls and boys as preferred targets. In December 1998 two priests and six nuns were reportedly abducted after UNITA took control of Chiguar, Bie province. Foreign workers for commercial firms were also abducted for forced labor or as a political tool to obtain protection or ransom payments or to close down commercial operations. On November 8, 1998 UNITA attacked the Yetwane diamond mine which was partly owned by the Canadian company Diamond Works. Eight people were killed and ten were also abducted, including South African Doug Larsen and
Briton Jason Pope.
On May 12 UNITA claimed to have shot down an Antonov AN-26 near Luzamba and captured its three Russian crew. This was followed on July 1 by a UNITA claim to have shot down an Antonov-12 aircraft in northeastern Angola and captured its five Russian crew. UNITA had attempted to negotiate with the Russian government over their release.
The private property of civilians was frequently pillaged and their homes intentionally burned in violations of the laws of war. For example UNITA looted all moveable properties and left booby traps and landmines when it withdrew from Vila Nova in December.
UNITA since December had besieged the cities of Huambo, Kuito and Malanje and indiscriminately shelled them. There was no sign that in any of these barrages UNITA was targeting only military positions, but ther shelling appeared intended to sow fear and demoralize civilians in addition to closing airports and the access they provided for relief aid. Civilian houses lost roofs, and one church was hit in these attacks. UNITA appeared to have used 120mm artillery in these bombardments. The bishop of Malanje had reported that more than 1000 people had been killed and 700 injured in Malanje by the shelling. On one occasion in March over a hundred shells landed in the city. Because of UNITA's siege Malanje suffered from lack of food, with supplies only for 94,000 of the more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting displaced by the fighting elsewhere who had swelled its population.
The government embarked upon a crackdown on UNITA supporters after the resumption of all-out war. On January 9 two UNITA deputies, Carlos Alberto Calitas and Daniel Jose Domingos were arrested by police. This was followed on January 13 when three more, Joao Vicente Vihemba, Manuel Savihemba, Carlos Tiago Candanda were also picked up. On February 2 the National Assembly lifted the deputies' immunity and they were told they were being held under the provisions in the penal code for those who posed a threat to state security. On May 21 Manuel Savihemba was released but the other four deputies continued to be in jail. Human Rights Watch monitored the trial, which appeared to follow a special procedure not established by law and to drag on. There were also concerns for the health of four of the deputies
Human Rights Watch received a stream of reports indicating government troops too violated the laws of war. For example the government admitted its forces had been indiscriminate in their aerial bombing of Mbanza Congo in February 1999, while its aircraft also bombed other UNITA towns. On December 16, 1998 prisoners were reportedly paraded through Kuito in army vehicles as bystanders called on soldiers to cut their throats; parading prisoners constituted humiliating and degrading treatment under the laws of war. The International Committee of the Red Cross attempts to gain access to prisoners in this conflict had shown little progress at time of writing. In February 1999 after the government retook the city of Mbanza Congo from UNITA, government forces were reportedly responsible for the killing of several civilians who had stayed behind.
The government's inability or unwillingness to pay the majority of its army and police personnel resulted in widespread extortion and theft. Government personnel frequently confiscated food, including donated relief supplies, livestock, and personal property, often after forcibly depopulating areas and robbing the displaced people. Relief efforts in Kuito after UNITA's siege was lifted were hampered by looting when the aid workers withdrew: government troops looted the World Food Program warehouses and the warehouses of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Handicap International, and the U.S. charity CARE's warehouse was also looted in this three-day looting frenzy by government troops in mid-December 1998. Human Rights Watch also interviewed an eyewitness who described the stripping of crops from fields by government troops near Uige in March 1999, and a man who said he was shot in the legs for not immediately offering his possessions to hungry soldiers.
The government persisted in its strategy of manipulating the reporting of UNITA human rights abuses, even as those abuses had been of a severity needing no exaggeration to merit concern and outrage. For example when the C-130 U.N. aircraft was shot down on January 2, 1999 the government claimed that UNITA was holding seven survivors. When the U.N. search team reached the crash site late, however, it concluded that all the passengers and crew had been killed in the crash. In July the government claimed that UNITA had massacred up to one hundred people in Chipeta. However an investigation by the U.N. concluded that those reports were no more than government propaganda.
With the return to war, the space that opened up for independent media and foreign journalists based in Angola was eroded away again in 1999. On January 11, two Angolan journalists from Radio Morena in Benguela were arrested by police for having rebroadcast a news program that featured UNITA Secretary General Lukambo Gato. Radio Ecclesia, which broadcast the Africa program of the Portuguese radio station Renascenca, also became the target of police attention for broadcasting material that included UNITA officials. Foreign journalists including reporters from Portugal's Diario de Noticias and the BBC World Service received threats about their coverage of UNITA.
The government issued a formal warning on January 21 when Minister for Social Communication (Information) Pedro Vaal Neto warned that licenses to publish would be revoked if the independent media continued to cover stories about young people not wanting to be conscripted into the armed forces.
The harassment of the media continued throughout the year. In August Radio Ecclesia was raided twice by police after it rebroadcast an interview with Jonas Savimbi. The editor of the independent newsletter Folha 8 , William Tonet was also told that he can not leave the country in August and detained in October and the editor of Agora was warned to keep his paper out of controversial issues. A number of other independent and state media journalists were also warned to keep their reports pro-government.
The renewed conflict and accompanying human rights abuses and violations of laws of war were being fueled by new flows of arms into the country. The government became once again a prime arms purchaser in sub-Saharan Africa. The government paid for its arms purchases through bank loans, oil profit remittances, and mining and other concessions. With the decline of international oil prices in the first half of 1999, the government was short of cash and used some of the U.S.$870 million of funds generated from signature bonus payments on three oil exploration and concession blocks. The multinational oil companies BP-Amoco, Exxon, and ELF had a dominant role in these blocks. Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus featured as prime sources of arms to the Angolan government.
UNITA also purchased weapons and fuel from foreign sources as well by using revenue generated by diamond sales. Such purchases violated an international arms and oil embargo imposed by the U.N. in September 1993 and a diamond embargo in June 1998. Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine were sources of supplies for UNITA and sanctions busting operations worked through Cote D'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Togo, Central African Republic, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia.
Defending Human Rights
With the country back at war in 1999 the churches became bolder than in the past in their calls for peace and an end to human rights abuses. In January the Catholic Church issued a strongly worded pastoral letter, stating flatly that the war did not represent the people's voice, that both sides neglected the welfare of their troops, and that the troops on both sides stole from the people. A number of Catholic bishops subsequently called for reconciliation and condemned human rights abuses. At the end of its congress in Lubango in July the bishops issued a further denouncement of the war. The conflict "has become twice-deadly...it kills with weapons and kills with hunger" the bishops said. Indiscriminate attacks on civilians and aid workers were acts of "cowardly banditry," the statement added. They also criticized those who provided weapons to the Luanda government and UNITA rebels, and said the conflict was fed by greed for Angolan petroleum and diamonds.
Several peace initiatives were also launched by, among others, the Angolan Reflection Group for Peace (GARP) and the Angolan Group for the Promotion of the Culture of Peace (GAP). Both these groups sought to buildup a culture of human rights and call for accountability for past rights abuses.
The Role of the International Community
By early 1999 following the outbreak of war and the shooting down of two U.N. aircraft, the secretary-general decided that the U.N. Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) could do no more. He recommended that its mandate be terminated on February 26 to be followed by a phased withdrawal. The Security Council opposed this, calling for a continued multidisciplinary U.N. operation in Angola. MONUA's mandate expired in February and the U.N. special representative in Angola, Issa Diallo, left Angola on March 15, marking the end of the peacekeeping operation. For the next five months the U.N. negotiated with the Angolan government over permission for a follow-up U.N. operation. Eventually in late July the Angolan government permitted a thirty-strong United Nations Office in Angola (UNOA) which would include twelve human rights specialists.
The U.N. also focused its efforts on trying to open up neutral humanitarian corridors for relief aid. For much of the year the Angolan government opposed this but by August it had moderated its position to show some interest in assisting aid distribution. In January Canada's ambassador to the U.N., Robert Fowler, took over the Angola Sanctions Committee. Fowler toured southern Africa in May and Europe in July, and made nineteen preliminary recommendations. At the end of July, two ten-person expert panels were convened, with an initial mandate of six months.
The U.N.'s human rights division, which had done little during much of the Lusaka peace process, improved in late 1998, helped by the hiring of a human rights professional to head it. However, the return to war in December curtailed its activities dramatically and it had in 1999 been unable to play the role envisaged for it, performing little serious investigative work on rights abuses; publishing no findings, and discouraging journalists from talking to it.
European Union, Norway, and Canada
The European Union (E.U.) had played a supportive role in the Angolan peace process but lacked the leverage of the United States. Portugal, the former colonial power and a member with Russia and the U.S. of the "Troika" monitors in the peace process, continued to play an important role but disappointingly was not active in pressing rights issues. During the year the E.U. issued a number of communiques which included condemnations of human rights abuses by both sides.
Angola in 1999 was the U.S.'s second largest site for investment and third largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of this trade was from Angolan oil production, which exceeded 750,000 barrels per day. U.S. investment in the petroleum sector was valued at over $4 billion, with billions more of investment planned. The U.S. continued to be Angola's largest trading partner, purchasing 50 per cent of its oil exports.
On October 28, 1998 U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice visited Angola on the second leg of a seven-nation tour in the region. The U.S. delegation visited Angola to discuss the Angolan peace process and the current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Bilateral relations had cooled so much by this stage that Rice failed to see President dos Santos or any official of substance. During her visit Susan Rice proposed the creation of a Bilateral Consultative Commission to broaden and deepen the engagement between Angola and the United States, a proposal the Angolan government later responded to positively in December, leading to further discussions between the two governments. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Witney Schneidman then visited Angola to discuss trade issues and how to proceed with the Bilateral Commission.
Schneidman arrived in Angola on February 12 for a three day visit. His primary focus was to discuss bilateral economic relations and the current situation of the war, and urged support for a continued U.N. presence in Angola. Schneidman's visit represented a new U.S. policy focus toward Angola, emphasizingtrade and commerce and down-playing controversial issues such as human rights. The U.S. Assistant Trade Representative for Africa, Edward Casselle visited Luanda in July to encourage more business.
Senior Angolan government officials met with their U.S. counterparts on June 30 and July 1 in Washington D.C. as a first step toward establishing a Bilateral Consultative Commission to expand cooperation between the two countries. The first meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission was held September 30 in Washington D.C during which the main focus was trade and investment.