U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Angola
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Angola, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3a4.html [accessed 21 September 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
ANGOLAThe Republic of Angola continued its ongoing transition from a single party state to a multiparty democracy. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has ruled Angola since its independence from Portugal in 1975. The Constitution was revised in 1991 to provide for elections and for the protection of basic human rights, but the Government generally does not respect its provisions in practice. In 1992 President Jose Eduardo dos Santos received a plurality of votes in Angola's first elections, which United Nations observers declared to be free and fair. The second round of the election was not held due to the repudiation of the first round results by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the subsequent return to civil war. In 1994 the Government and UNITA signed the Lusaka Protocol in an effort to formally end 20 years of civil war. In April UNITA joined with the MPLA and 10 smaller opposition parties to form a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation (GURN). As specified in the Lusaka Protocol, UNITA finally filled in April the 70 National Assembly seats won in 1992. The judiciary, where it functions, is not independent of the President and the MPLA. The Government and UNITA continued to implement the Lusaka Protocol's provisions for a cease-fire, including the disarming and quartering of 70,000 UNITA troops, the integration of some UNITA soldiers into the Angolan armed forces, and the demobilization of remaining combatants. This process is taking place under the auspices of the U.N. Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA--the follow-on force to the U.N. Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III). Three observer countries (Portugal, Russia, and the United States) are also monitoring the implementation of the Lusaka Protocol. In July the newly integrated Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) were officially inaugurated. Some 10,000 of the FAA?s 90,000 troops are former UNITA soldiers. The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for internal security. It exercises this function through the National Police. The Paramilitary Rapid Intervention Police, (PIR), created in 1992 as an elite paramilitary force, was restricted to barracks as part of the 1994 Lusaka Protocol; that quartering ended in October. The armed forces are responsible for external security. Prior to implementation of the Lusaka Protocol-mandated cease-fire, they were primarily engaged in fighting the civil war against UNITA. While civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces, there were frequent instances in which the security forces acted independently of government authority. Members of the security forces committed numerous, serious human rights abuses, especially in areas to which the Government recently extended its administration. Angola's developing economy is in transition from a centrally-directed to a market-based model. There are extensive natural resource reserves and rich agricultural lands which have not yet been exploited. Principal exports are petroleum and diamonds, which together with foreign aid, are the country's leading sources of foreign exchange. Oil revenues for 1997 exceeded $4 billion, and diamond revenues were estimated at $850 million. Subsistence agriculture, the traditional livelihood for the majority of the country?s approximately 12 million citizens, was constrained severely by the extensive use of land mines in 23 years of civil conflict, as well as by government and UNITA restrictions on freedom of movement. In 1997 approximately 1.2million internally displaced persons (IDP?s) still relied on emergency food aid supplied by the international donor community. About 1 million Angolan IDP's had returned to their homes by late 1997. Areas under government control suffered from hyperinflation, scarcity of consumer goods, massive unemployment and underemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and continuing pervasive corruption. While the Government took some measures to increase the availability and control the prices of consumer staples, these unsustainable initiatives did not remedy the root causes of economic instability. Areas controlled by UNITA experienced scarcities of consumer goods along with massive unemployment and underemployment. Annual per capita gross national product is approximately $450, but the overwhelming portion of the country's wealth remains concentrated in the hands of a small elite. The average monthly salary of wage earners (a small minority of the labor force) was approximately $10 in rural areas and $50 to $160 in Luanda, a level that falls well short of providing a decent standard of living. Although there was some improvement, the Government's human rights record continued to be poor, and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses. Members of the security forces committed extrajudicial killings, arbitrarily and secretly arrested and detained persons, and often tortured and beat detainees. The Government did not take effective action to punish abusers. The Government continued to inhibit independent investigations of human rights abuses. Government leaders cited the 20-year civil war as a justification for allowing emergency considerations to override concerns about human rights abuses. Prison conditions were life threatening. Arbitrary arrest and detention are problems. The judiciary does not ensure due process and only functions in parts of the country. The Government infringed on citizens? privacy rights. The Government restricted freedom of expression, the press, assembly, and association. While some improvements were made, citizens' freedom of movement continues to be restricted. The judiciary, where it functions, is not independent from the President and the MPLA. Although Angola is nominally a multiparty democracy, citizens have no effective means to change their government. Parliamentary elections due to be held in 1996 were postponed for between 2 and 4 years under the terms of the Lusaka Protocol; presidential elections are not to be held until the United Nations determines that appropriate conditions exist. Discrimination and violence against women were widespread. Children and the disabled continued to suffer as a result of the civil war and poor economic conditions. The Government continued to dominate the labor movement, and there was no improvement in the poor worker rights situation. The human rights situation in territories controlled by UNITA was poor, with numerous extrajudicial killings, disappearances, incidents of torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, denial of fair public trial, forced conscription, and attacks on civilian populations. UNITA tightly restricted freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, and movement. UNITA did not cooperate with independent investigations of human rights abuses by United Nations human rights monitors, the only such monitors in the country.