Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

Internal Displacement in Southern Africa: Focus Angola

Publisher WRITENET
Author Anna Richardson
Publication Date 1 April 1999
Cite as WRITENET, Internal Displacement in Southern Africa: Focus Angola, 1 April 1999, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
Comments This issue paper was prepared mainly on the basis of publicly available information, analysis and comment. All sources are cited. This paper is not, and does not purport to be, either exhaustive with regard to conditions in the country surveyed, or conclusive as to the merits of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and are not necessarily those of WRITENET or UNHCR. WRITENET is a network of researchers and writers on human rights, forced migration, ethnic and political conflict. WRITENET is a subsidiary of Practical Management (UK)
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


1.1   The Regional Context

Southern Africa entered the 1990s with three major populations of internally displaced people (IDPs), in South Africa, Mozambique, and Angola. However by the end of the decade only one remains, in Angola.

In South Africa an estimated 3.5 million black citizens were forcibly removed from their homes during the apartheid period, after their areas of origin were decreed "for whites only". At least 1.3 million of these displaced persons were transferred to homelands or bantustans, and were subsequently denied full South African citizenship. While these forced removals declined from 1985, an upsurge of black on black political violence between 1984 and 1994 displaced a further 1 million, particularly in the Kwazulu-Natal area. It has subsequently been confirmed that this fighting, which mainly pitted the Inkatha Freedom Party against the African National Congress, was sponsored and orchestrated by the outgoing National Party Government.

Following South Africa's multi-racial elections in 1994 forced removals ceased and political violence decreased significantly. Those blacks who had been forcibly displaced were granted full citizenship and residency rights and are therefore no longer considered displaced. Estimates of the number of South Africans still internally displaced range from 20,000 to 200,000.[1]

In Mozambique 16 years of civil war between the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique - Frelimo) and Mozambique National Resistance (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana - Renamo) rebels left an estimated 3.7 million people internally displaced. Around 1.8 million were removed from their homes by Frelimo's forced villagization programme. The remainder fled the fighting and took refuge in slums around the capital Maputo, or in a narrow 240-km-long corridor hugging the well guarded Beira railway line.

Internal displacement ceased with the signing of the Rome Peace Accords in 1992. The vast majority of the displaced returned home voluntarily between 1992 and October 1994, when Mozambique's first multi-party elections were held. Estimates of the number of Mozambicans still internally displaced range from 30,000 to 350,000.[2]

1.2   Background to the Current Situation in Angola

For Angola the end of the Cold War, and of apartheid, did not herald the positive new era experienced elsewhere in Southern Africa. Rather, the withdrawal of the support of the Cold War powers, and of the troops of the apartheid government, seemed to liberate the warring parties of all restraints, casting the country into an ever worsening vortex of violence which increasingly affected the civilian population.

Angola has now plunged into its third civil war in as many decades. The first began shortly before independence from Portugal in 1975, when three nationalist groups which had been fighting colonial rule – the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola - MPLA), the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola - UNITA), and the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional para a Libertação de Angola - FNLA) – fought each other for control of the capital Luanda. The MPLA won control of the city and, with the help of the Soviet Union and Cuba, established a single-party socialist government and set about trying to eliminate the opposition. UNITA and the FNLA then joined forces against the MPLA, bolstered by financial and technical support from the United States, and military support from South Africa.[3] The ensuing civil war continued at varying levels of intensity until May 1991, at its height raging in 15 of the country's 18 provinces, and pitting 50,000 Cuban troops against the most elite units of the South African armed forces.[4]

Diplomatic efforts to end the war began in 1988 when, with the end of the Cold War in sight, the Soviet Union indicated that it was no longer prepared to arm the MPLA indefinitely. Under an agreement mediated by the United States, Angola, Cuba and South Africa agreed to the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Angola by July 1991. The first United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM) was set up to monitor the withdrawal of the Cuban forces.[5]

It took a further three years, and six rounds of negotiations, for the MPLA and UNITA to sign the Bicesse Accords, thereby briefly ending the fighting. The peace agreement called for a cease-fire, demobilization of the two armies, a freeze on all arms imports to Angola, the holding of democratic parliamentary and presidential elections, and the establishment of a second verification mission, UNAVEM II, to observe the process.[6]

Eighteen months were allowed from the signing of the accords to the date for the country's first democratic elections. However, by the eve of the elections, in September 1992, one of the key pillars of the accords had barely begun to be implemented - the demobilization of the two armies and the creation of a neutral, 50,000 strong national army composed of soldiers from both sides.

The elections passed off remarkably calmly. Ninety per cent of the electorate turned out to vote. On 17 October 1992 UNAVEM II decreed the vote "generally free and fair", and announced that MPLA President Jose Eduardo dos Santos had won 49.57 per cent of the vote against 40.07 per cent for UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi. As neither candidate had won over 50 per cent, a second, run-off election would be held. In the legislature the MPLA won 54 per cent against UNITA's 34 per cent. UNITA refused to accept these results and accused the MPLA of vote rigging.[7]

On 31 October 1992 fighting broke out in Luanda between UNITA and MPLA supporters. By the time it was over on 3 November, the battle for Luanda had claimed several thousand lives and driven UNITA out of the capital.[8] Similar battles erupted in the cities of Benguela, Lobito, Lubango, Malange and Huambo. Within days UNITA's fiercely motivated and disciplined army had captured over 50 per cent of the country from the poorly organized government forces. Significantly they captured the country's immensely rich diamond fields, in the north eastern Lunda provinces, which have financed UNITA's war effort ever since. The country's second civil war had begun.

Unlike the first civil war, which was characterized by conventional fighting between two armies, Angola's second civil war was notable for systematic violations of the laws of war by both the MPLA government and the UNITA rebels, and astronomical civilian casualties. UNITA indiscriminately shelled starving besieged cities, particularly Huambo and Kuito, leading to untold loss of civilian life and the forced migration of hundreds of thousands of terrified Angolans. The Government also bombed civilian targets indiscriminately. Both sides used land mines extensively. It is estimated that 300,000 Angolans - three per cent of the population - died as a result of fighting between October 1992 and late 1994.[9]

By late 1993, UNITA controlled more than 70 per cent of Angolan territory. However, military gains by government forces assisted by South African mercenaries throughout 1994 forced UNITA to make concessions at UN mediated peace talks in Lusaka.[10] As its territorial losses quickened, UNITA became increasingly amenable to proposals for national reconciliation. By the time the Lusaka Protocols were signed on 19 November 1994 government offensives had reduced UNITA's territorial control to 40 per cent of the country.

The Lusaka Protocols provided for a new cease-fire, the release of prisoners, the establishment of a large UN peacekeeping force - UNAVEM III, quartering of UNITA troops with a view to integrating some into the Angolan Armed Forces (Forças Armadas Angolanas - FAA) and demobilizing the rest, the participation of UNITA in national, provincial and local government, and, eventually, the second round of the presidential elections. The implementation of the accords was to be overseen by a joint commission composed of representatives from UNITA, the Government, the UN, and the so-called troika of observer states - Russia, Portugal and the United States.[11]

Implementation of the accords proceeded painfully slowly, with both sides committing numerous cease-fire violations. Fighting continued on and off in the diamond mining areas of the North East. Quartering of UNITA troops, which should have been completed in May 1995, did not begin until November.[12] Between November 1995 and January 1998 the UN quartered 70,660 UNITA soldiers, demobilized 41,796, and incorporated 10,899 into the FAA. On 6 March 1998 UNITA made an official declaration of demilitarization, which was verified and accepted by MONUA, the UN observer mission which succeeded UNAVEM in July 1997.

However, in June 1998 the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Angola, Mali's Alioune Blondin Beye, was forced to admit publicly that UNITA had failed genuinely to demilitarize, and had in fact retained up to 30,000 combat ready troops, and unknown quantities of weaponry.[13]

The inauguration of the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation (GURN), timetabled for January 1997, eventually took place on 11 April 1997. Jonas Savimbi refused to attend the inauguration ceremony in Luanda. The Government includes ministers and vice-ministers from the MPLA, UNITA and a number of other, smaller, political parties.

The handover of UNITA controlled territory to state administration was also slow. It began on 30 April 1997. By 8 January 1998, 239 out of a total of 344 localities listed in the peace plan had been handed over to central government authority. Significantly, UNITA had withdrawn, in December 1997, from its most lucrative diamond mining areas in the Cuango valley, in Lunda Norte.[14] However, from February 1998 onwards UNITA presented numerous excuses for not handing over the remaining territory under its control, particularly its headquarters in Andulo and Bailundo, in the central highlands. UNITA alleged that the Government persecuted UNITA personnel whenever it took over control of UNITA held towns.[15] From March onwards, as violent attacks proliferated throughout the country, UNITA reasserted its control over dozens of towns previously handed over to the Government, after administrators and police sent from Luanda fled in fear.

The already brittle peace process suffered a significant setback with the death of the indefatigable mediator, Blondin Beye, in a plane crash in Côte d'Ivoire on 29 June 1998. The joint commission ceased to be effective from July onwards. From September the Government broke off all dialogue and contact with UNITA. The security situation continued to deteriorate throughout the country, provoking a new flood of civilian displacement. Angola's third civil war officially began in the first week of December 1998, when the Government responded to UNITA provocation by bombarding Andulo and Bailundo.[16] The UN Security Council finally terminated MONUA's mandate on 26 February 1999, having declared that there was no peace left to observe in Angola.


2.1   How Many are They?  

A UNDP report written in 1995 divided Angolan's displaced population into the following five categories:

·        Those displaced between 1992 and 1994 - 1.2 million.

·        Those displaced between 1975 and 1991 - 2 million.

·        Returning refugees - 330,000.

·        Soldiers to be demobilized under Lusaka - 100,000 plus 250,000 dependants.

·        Soldiers previously demobilized under Bicesse - 73,000.[17]

All statistics on Angola must be viewed as indicative rather than empirical, however this list appears largely accurate. Thus, following Angola's second civil war almost 4 million of the country's estimated total population of 12 million were considered displaced. To this list can now be added the 730,000 Angolans who have so far been displaced since April 1998, when the country again began to descend into conflict. This figure is mounting every day.

The long duration of Angola's civil war, coupled with the vast area over which people have been displaced, many of them several times, makes an accurate determination of IDP numbers and their needs extremely difficult. To better co-ordinate tracking of and assistance to IDPs a National Sub-Group on IDPs and Refugees was created in March 1995, incorporating the Government of Angola, UNITA, UN Agencies and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs).[18] Within this sub-group the United Nations Humanitarian Assistance Co-ordination Unit (UCAH - Unidade de Coordenação para Assistençia Humanitaria), and the Angolan Social Assistance Ministry (MINARS - Ministerio de Assistencia e Reinserção Social) have jointly taken the lead in monitoring IDPs and co-ordinating assistance to them. However, MINARS is widely considered to be understaffed and under-funded, rendering it more a symbol of government involvement and control than a truly effective relief operation.[19] MINARS is also renowned for systematically overstating the numbers of new IDPs in what is seen as an attempt both to exaggerate the gravity of the humanitarian situation, and to acquire more humanitarian aid for the country.[20] Generally therefore MINARS makes an initial count of new IDP populations, UCAH then checks and revises MINARS' estimation, and solicits and co-ordinates assistance from national and international organizations.

A major impediment to keeping track of IDPs in Angola is access, which is constrained by logistical, security and political factors. Angola is an immense country with an infrastructure almost entirely destroyed by the war. There is no road access to large parts of the country. In many areas where roads do exist they are impassable because of a lack of maintenance, landmines, and bandits. Now, with the resumption of fighting, road travel has become unthinkable in most of the country. Access by air is, evidently, only possible for those towns which have serviceable airstrips. Due to the new conflict it has become impossible to land at many airstrips, including all those in UNITA territory and at the airports of Malange, Mbanza Congo, and periodically Kuito and Negage. Flying has become significantly more hazardous after a number of aircraft, including two MONUA cargo flights, were shot down while overflying combat zones.[21]

Historically, the MPLA has been the party of the cities, while UNITA has been the party of the bush. UN agencies and NGOs necessarily run their operations from government controlled territory.

Access to IDPs who have converged upon urban centres has generally, therefore, not been a problem. However, access to IDPs who have found refuge in UNITA controlled territory has never been simple, and has now become completely impossible. In its 1996 appeal for funding, UCAH stated that 200,000 IDPs were in need of assistance in UNITA territory. As the Lusaka peace process proceeded, and UNITA returned control of many areas of the country to state administration, access to many of these IDPs was facilitated. However, since the resumption of fighting, UNITA has reasserted its control over the majority of rural Angola, in many provinces leaving the Government in control only of the provincial capitals. Since the beginning of 1999 virtually all communication with UNITA has ceased, in line with the MPLA's efforts to isolate UNITA completely. UNITA has withdrawn from the national sub-group on IDPs, and indeed all other bodies created during the peace process. The last NGO which was working in UNITA territory, Action International Contre la Faim, curtailed its operations in March 1999. The World Food Programme (WFP), which transported emergency aid to both MPLA and UNITA territory throughout the post electoral war, is operating only in government controlled areas.[22] To date all attempts by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to obtain access to both sides of the lines have been rebuffed.[23] Thus, by the end of 1998, UN and NGO personnel only had access to provincial capitals and a very few municipal seats.

In addition to problems of locating and counting IDPs, the nature of internal displacement in Angola - sporadic spurts of mass displacement over an extended time period - has given rise to questions such as how long a person should be considered displaced, who is entitled to return assistance, and who is entitled to emergency assistance. For instance, the population of Luanda has grown from around 400,000 in the 1970s, to over three million today. Technically, well over half the population of Luanda could be considered IDPs. However, as a general rule the National Sub-Group on IDPs considers those who have been displaced since the 1980s, and who have put down some roots in the host community, as either a non-vulnerable IDP, or as a resettled person.[24]

An exception to this rule are those IDPs who were forcibly displaced and then kept in their host community against their will. For instance, between 40,000 and 100,000 people are still known to be living in UNITA's former headquarters in Jamba, in the barren south-eastern corner of Angola's Kuando Kubango province. They were abducted by UNITA during the first civil war, force-marched to Jamba, and have subsequently been prevented from leaving. They are therefore still considered to be displaced.[25]

Given this guiding principle, the National Sub-Group has determined that, with a few exceptions, Angola's current internally displaced population should be defined as those still displaced from the post-electoral war, plus those now being displaced by the fresh conflict. Considering that 264,000 IDPs returned home voluntarily between 1994 and 1998[26] this leaves a population of around 1.6 million people classified as internally displaced in Angola today.

2.2   Who are They?

The principal patterns of displacement in Angola, both during the post-electoral war and during the current conflict, have been from rural areas to local municipal seats, then from the municipal seats to provincial capitals, and subsequently from provincial capitals in the interior towards the cities of the coastal plain, particularly Benguela, Lobito and Luanda. The displaced therefore are predominantly small-holders used to surviving through subsistence agriculture, who find themselves in an urban setting as a result of displacement.

In a 1996 survey[27] of displaced people in camps in seven provinces of Angola the National Institute of Statistics (INE - Instituto Nacional de Estatistica) found that 71 per cent of all heads of displaced households were farmers, while 5 per cent were teachers. The same survey found that 50 per cent of heads of households were illiterate, and 44 per cent were women. The average age of the displaced population was found to be 20, even younger than the national average of 24, suggesting that the older members of the displaced communities had not been strong enough to make the journey to the place of refuge. Sixty-five per cent of the displaced population was aged between 0 and 14 years, while only six per cent was over 39 years old. However, males between 15 and 19 years were underrepresented - the survey suggests that this was because they had been taken to fight in the war. There has not yet been time to conduct a similar survey into the newly displaced population, but early indications are that its demographic composition is similar to that described above.

Most IDPs in Angola flee their homes because of attacks, fear of attacks, or because they are caught up in fighting between the two armies. They leave in search of greater security. Some are obliged to abandon their towns or villages by troops from one side or the other, who wish to depopulate areas to further their military objectives, or to punish locals for their perceived support of the enemy.[28]

The early phase of the current conflict, from April to November 1998, was characterized by attacks on civilian targets, particularly villages and road traffic, apparently aimed at destabilizing the country and driving large concentrations of panicked civilians into the towns. Initially these attacks were attributed to non-partisan bandos errantes or marauding groups of armed men. Such attacks first began to occur in early 1998 in the provinces of Benguela, Huambo and Huila. Several civilian vehicles fell prey to ambushes. Often the vehicles were disabled by a freshly laid landmine, and were subsequently attacked and looted by groups of armed men. There were many reports that the attackers were accompanied by women who emerged from the bush after the attacks to help carry away the spoils.

Attacks on villages tended to take place at around 4 a.m. A group of between 20 and 50 armed men would surround the village, and then run into it shooting arbitrarily in an attempt to drive all the people into the bush. On many occasions, offices or homes of government employees were targeted. The assailants looted everything they could carry.

As a result of these attacks many civilians were killed or maimed, and there was a flood of displaced people from rural areas into municipal towns like Cubal, Ganda, Boccoio and Balombo. Many of those displaced had only recently been reinstalled in their villages following a similar displacement during the post-electoral war.[29]

During May and June similar attacks spread to other parts of the country, notably the provinces of Malange, Kwanza Norte and Bengo. Over 70,000 people were newly displaced in these three provinces by August 1998. Increasingly they identified their attackers as UNITA. In many cases traditional village leaders, or sobas, who were seen as having collaborated with the Government, were hunted, tortured and publicly executed by the attackers.[30] There were also persistent reports of children, of both sexes, as young as six, being abducted by the attackers. This is in keeping with UNITA's practice of abducting children at a young age to indoctrinate them. Initially, they serve as porters and camp servants; when they grow up the boys become soldiers while the girls become cooks and "wives" to the soldiers.[31] Fear that their children might be abducted caused many women to flee villages which had not even been attacked.[32]

It remained difficult, however, confidently to attribute responsibility for many attacks. There were clearly a number of attacks both on villages and vehicles which were mounted by government soldiers or police and which were subsequently attributed to UNITA. Government security forces, particularly in the provinces, often go months without being paid and are given tacit permission to feed themselves by force.[33] In June police sent to guard the town of Quiculungo, in Kwanza Norte, circulated a rumour that UNITA was about to attack. Virtually the entire population fled into the bush. The police then returned to the town and looted everything they could carry, including the corrugated iron roofs of the houses.[34] In August the entire town of Caculama, in Malange province, was forcibly depopulated by the FAA, who conscripted several truck-loads of young men, packed the remainder of the inhabitants off to the provincial capital Malange city, and turned Caculama into a military base.[35]

A new flood of displacement began from the first week in December 1998, when the FAA launched a major aerial and ground offensive against UNITA strongholds in Huambo, Bie and Malange provinces. During December alone, 170,000 people were newly displaced by the ensuing fighting. The vast majority initially sought refuge in the provincial capitals of Huambo city, Kuito, and Malange city. However, Malange city has been bombarded by UNITA on an almost daily basis since late December, forcing an estimated 17,000 IDPs to make for the relative security of Luanda. It is clear that many more would escape if they could.

Generally IDPs in Angola tend to move as communities, with sobas, teachers and health workers being displaced with the rest of the village. The preservation of at least some communal structures helps weaker individuals to cope with the displacement. Many of the recently displaced communities have been displaced before and have therefore already set down some roots and developed some coping mechanisms in the host community. However, it is clear that multiple displacement can override the ability, or will, to carry on coping.[36]

One notable subsection of the newly displaced population is composed of former UNITA soldiers and their dependants, demobilized and resettled under the Lusaka peace process. During demobilization the vast majority of these ex-soldiers listed rural areas as their places of origin, and asked to be helped in returning home. Many were therefore transported back to their villages and given seeds, tools and other food and non-food items to help them start new lives as farmers. As such, when the violence resumed, they were particularly vulnerable to attack, to attempts to forcibly remobilize them, and to harassment from government forces who still regard them as UNITA. SeCor (Serviço Comunitario de Referencia - Community Referral Service), the UN body responsible for registering and assisting resettled, demobilized soldiers, has reported that it has lost track of thousands of ex-soldiers since the resumption of hostilities. A SeCor report from November 1998 noted that:

There was large-scale mobilization of ex-militaries [sic] from their home areas and unpredictable movements of the registered and settled ex-soldiers and their families. These movements are mainly due to the harassment, recruitment and military actions that both sides are executing. Some ex-soldiers have rejoined their units. Others, fearing forced drafting, went into hiding far inside the country. A new phenomenon has developed: that ex-militaries in search of security have turned themselves into part of the increasing population displacement. It is recorded that in the provinces an increasing number of demobilized are being found in the middle of the displaced populations.[37]

By the end of 1998, SeCor was assisting an additional 7,500 beneficiaries in the major cities, who had been displaced by the fighting. Most reported that the homes and crops which they had built up with SeCor's help since their demobilization had been destroyed or stolen in the conflict.[38] Many demobilized UNITA troops are desperate to conceal their pasts so as to avoid conscription or persecution. It is therefore reasonable to assume that there are many more than have so far come to light amongst the displaced populations.

At the time of writing the provinces most affected by the new wave of displacement are as follows: [39]


Malange                                               135,077

Huambo                                               128,202

Huila                                                      74,492

Benguela                                                50,778

Kwanza Sul                                44,190

Bie                                                         36,001

Moxico                                                  48,766

Bengo                                                    32,419

Kwanza Norte                                        46,534

Kuando Kubango                                   36,531

Uige                                           24,189

                        Total                                       657,179



Of the 1.2 million Angolans displaced during the post-electoral war, 300,000 found refuge in camp-like situations. The remainder moved in with relatives or acquaintances already integrated into the host community, until such a time as they could build themselves shelters nearby. The newly displaced population appears to be following a similar pattern of distribution. Monitoring of and assistance to IDPs tends to concentrate predominantly on those who settle in camps. Those who integrate into the host community are less visible, and are considered to have at least some coping mechanisms already in place. Of the one million IDPs remaining from 1994, only 40,000 are today receiving assistance. Of the 730,000 displaced to date by the new war, 462,000 have received food and non-food assistance.[40] No systematic, comprehensive assessment has been conducted into the living conditions of IDPs, old and new, throughout Angola. Information, of varying quality, has to be garnered on a site by site, project by project basis from the myriad of different aid organizations working with the IDPs. The following is therefore a largely impressionistic assessment of conditions under which IDPs survive.

3.1   Life in the Camps

A 1995 UNICEF survey of ten IDP camps in Luanda and Benguela provinces described living conditions as "intolerable".[41] Conditions for most of the newly displaced who now find themselves living in camps are certainly no better. The vast majority arrive with absolutely nothing, having fled their homes in haste, in the middle of the night, and having walked to the place of refuge. Those who do manage to rescue some possessions are often relieved of them en route by police and soldiers who set up illegal checkpoints and rob passers-by to subsidize their salaries.[42]

New arrivals who do not have relatives with whom they can lodge, tend to take refuge in derelict, deserted buildings, or, if none are available, to build themselves shelters out of grass and sticks on the outskirts of towns. Generally MINARS or the local administration is alerted to their presence and carries out a preliminary count of new IDPs. UCAH then comes itself, or delegates to a locally operative NGO, to revise this count. The UCAH/MINARS policy on the new wave of IDPs is to assess entitlement to assistance on a case by case basis, given that neither the international organizations working in Angola, nor the Angolan Government, have the capacity or the resources to assist all the new arrivals.[43] Following the assessment UCAH/MINARS apply to the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other organizations to provide food, medicines, cooking sets, blankets, plastic sheeting, water tanks and other non-food items. National and international NGOs, already established in the affected area, are called upon to help distribute the assistance and run the camps. This system has lead to a very unbalanced situation. Some concentrations of IDPs attract so much publicity and official attention that aid flows to them in vast quantities, and NGOs seem to compete to assist them, while others are ignored almost entirely.[44]

A case in point is the Coalfa camp, established in February 1999 in a derelict factory on the western outskirts of Huambo.[45] The camp now houses around 8,000 IDPs from villages to the north of the city, who to date have received assistance from at least ten aid organizations, including:

·        Save the Children UK and UNICEF - have provided tents and plastic sheeting.

·        SwedRelief - is in charge of organizing the camp.

·        ADPP, Development Workshop and ADRA-Angolana - have helped with sanitation and latrines.

·        Swiss Humanitarian Aid - has provided potable water.

·        Concern - is helping to run and stock the health post.

·        WFP and ICRC - are providing food and non-food items.

Meanwhile several other concentrations of IDPs in Huambo city, who arrived at the same time, and from the same districts, as the residents of Coalfa, are receiving the barest minimum of assistance and are living in truly deplorable conditions. The 2,000 IDPs who have, since December 1998, taken refuge in the abandoned Benguela Railway Hospital on the northern outskirts of the city provide a salient example. No attempt has been made to re-house them or provide them with tents. They are therefore crammed at least 40 to a room, with many living on the crumbling verandas for want of space. The torrential rains which have been falling almost every day since November have turned the surrounding land into a quagmire, and confined the IDPs to the interior of the hospital. The rain has also obliged the IDPs to cook inside, with the result that the entire building is constantly filled with a choking blanket of smoke. WFP is providing a food ration once a month, which has had to be reduced due to the increasing difficulty of transporting food to Huambo, and which, according to the IDPs, suffices for only one week. The ICRC has provided some kitchen sets. The IDPs have no access to health care and have, to date, received no help with sanitation or water.

One of the major difficulties faced in trying to co-ordinate assistance to the IDPs is that UCAH is obliged to rely on those NGOs already operating in the host communities, regardless of their capacity or expertise. Many of the NGOs currently working in Angola moved in during the last four years to set up rehabilitation and development projects in expectation that the peace would last. They are therefore neither experienced nor equipped for working with IDPs in an emergency situation. However, with the resumption of the conflict virtually all of their rehabilitation projects have become inaccessible or unsustainable, and they are therefore forced either to offer emergency assistance, or to shut down their operations.[46]

In principle the provision of health care and education to the displaced populations should be the responsibility of the Angolan Government. In practice, however, the national health and education systems are virtually paralyzed and do very little, even for the non-displaced population. According to UNICEF 83 per cent of births in Angola take place at home without a trained birth attendant, and there is an under-fives mortality rate of 270 per 1,000 live births.[47] Staff of state run hospitals command minimal salaries and often go unpaid for months at a time. Very few medical drugs are provided by the state. Patients in state run hospitals therefore have to pay doctors and nurses to treat them, and have to purchase medical drugs and other medical equipment from privately run pharmacies. For the vast majority the cost of health care is prohibitive, they tend to resort instead to traditional community healers.

The situation of education is similar. Nation-wide 50 per cent of men and 70 per cent of women are illiterate. School enrolment rates among 5 to 18 year olds are 53 per cent for boys, and 47 per cent for girls, with high drop-out and repetition rates at every level. Teachers are unpaid, or underpaid, and schools are not equipped.[48]

For the displaced population the standard of health care and education is similar to that nation-wide, only worse. One factor that can slightly alleviate this situation is that many displaced communities arrive with teachers and health workers. Given adequate support by the aid community, in the form of food and equipment, these individuals often set up impromptu schools or clinics in their places of refuge, regardless of whether they are paid or not.

Most IDPs in Angola, and particularly those in camps, have very little opportunity to help themselves and to improve their own situation, and can therefore become seriously demoralized. Most would ideally like to be given their own plot of land to cultivate. However, for the majority of those who have now sought refuge in the main cities there is very limited access to cultivable land within a safe distance of the cities. In most cities every square inch of secure, fertile land is already being cultivated by the long-term residents. In some cities, like Luena, the capital of Moxico province, this situation has been exacerbated by the government forces who have laid fresh landmines in a defensive ring around the city, thereby excluding areas which were formerly under cultivation and provoking a spate of civilian landmine accidents.[49]

The possibility of finding employment is even more remote than that of finding land. In most Angolan cities the only employers are the local government, which frequently defaults on payment of salaries, and NGOs and UN agencies. There is very little private enterprise in the provinces. An additional problem for many IDPs is that in fleeing their homes they often lose their personal documentation and are therefore unable to prove their identities, educational level or qualifications.

However, given the general levels of poverty and infrastructural degradation prevalent in rural Angola, from where most IDPs come, basic services in those IDP camps which do receive international assistance are often an improvement on conditions in areas of origin.

3.2   Life Outside the Camps

IDPs who find refuge with family or friends have a roof over their heads and access to cooking utensils, but few other advantages over their counterparts in camps. Only 34 per cent of households in Angola have ready access to potable water, and 44 per cent to basic sanitation facilities.[50] As explained above, provision of health care and education is minimal. IDPs lodging with relatives or friends report that when first they arrive they are made welcome. However, this welcome soon deteriorates to toleration, and the new arrivals are often asked to move on within a couple of weeks as it becomes impossible for the host family to support them. Thus, sheltering with relatives makes the first few weeks of displacement easier for the IDPs, but soon drags down the standard of living of the whole community. The IDPs join the masses of the urban poor, and help to make them even poorer. Some IDPs lodging with families receive WFP food aid, but many are absorbed by the host community and drop out of the sights of the humanitarian agencies. Economic possibilities for IDPs lodging with families are as limited as for those in camps.

In cities like Huambo, Kuito, Malange and Luena availability of food has plummeted, and food prices have soared since December, due to the severing of road and in some cases air access to the cities, and to the simultaneous influx of hundreds of thousands of new IDPs. NGOs working in Huambo and Kuito report that 15 per cent of the under-five population in the two cities, both residents and displaced, are now suffering from severe malnutrition.[51] However, only the displaced qualify for food aid. In an attempt to address this situation, and to prevent friction between the resident and the displaced populations, emergency feeding centres for malnourished children and their carers from both sectors of the population have been set up in the affected cities. The two centres established in Huambo were already grossly oversubscribed within one week of opening. The consensus of those working in the distribution of emergency food aid appears to be that the present situation is grave but manageable. Concerns are mounting, however, that when the current rainy season ends, in April, and the harvests have all been consumed, Angola's cities could be faced with calamitous food shortages.

3.3   Life in Luanda

For most IDPs Luanda is a last resort. Those who end up in the capital have usually already tried and failed to survive in their provincial capitals. In moving to Luanda IDPs are effectively declaring that they are giving up on their home provinces. They move away from their ethnic group, and leave their community support structures behind.

Over the last 15 years the colonial city of Luanda has been swamped by what the city's governor, Anibal Rocha, describes as "an avalanche of humanity", as an estimated one third of the entire population of Angola has migrated to the capital.[52] These migrants have built mile after mile of slums, known as musseques, spreading out from the original Portuguese-built city. Houses are constructed from corrugated iron, plastic sheeting, cardboard, old parachutes, mud bricks, and for the lucky few, concrete blocks. There are no sewers, no piped water, no drains. Very rarely is there electricity. Schools and clinics are few.

There have been a couple of cases of entire communities moving en masse to Luanda, and thus maintaining to an extent their traditional community structures. There was a mass migration to Luanda of displaced people from the northern province of Uige during 1992-1993 who have now mainly taken up residence in the peri-urban slum known as Cuca, after the nearby beer factory. This migration included 72 sobas, or traditional village leaders, and one king of the Kikongo people, the ethnic group which populates Uige and Zaire provinces in Angola and extends across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo. These traditional elders have been successful in presenting a united front to the government authorities in Luanda, thereby ensuring that their people have been allocated some land and have been granted IDP status. Even now, seven years after their initial displacement, the Uige sobas meet twice a week to co-ordinate their activities.

A similar pattern of mass communal displacement has recurred since December 1998, as an estimated 17,000 people have flooded into Luanda from Malange.[53] The people of Malange have traditionally been very strong supporters of the MPLA, which is one reason, it is believed, why UNITA is now attacking the city so fiercely. Upon arriving in Luanda the Malange IDPs have been more visible, and more vocal, than most IDPs. They have demanded help and recognition from the Government, and in so doing have significantly raised the public profile of the IDP problem in Luanda. Most of them have settled in the municipality of Kilamba Kiaxi, in a district known as the Bairro Malangino.

The majority of the IDPs who make their way to Luanda, however, arrive in small family units. They are attracted by the relative security which the capital offers - the war has only ever come to Luanda for three days, in 1992 - and by the relatively active urban economy. On arriving in the city the displaced make for areas which they know to be populated by other people from their area of origin, those who have already been displaced during previous bouts of the conflict. The new arrivals initially seek refuge with acquaintances, or often in church premises, until such a time as they can find a plot of land on which to build a house of their own. The land on the outskirts of Luanda has now become prime property for development, with the result that the Government and private land-owners are increasingly reluctant to allow IDPs to settle on it.

Consequently, the newly displaced are being crammed into the ever more overcrowded musseques. A situation has now arisen where the long-term displaced are renting out their filthy rubbish strewn "back yards" by the square metre to the newly displaced. The new "tenants" are building tiny lean-to shacks out of any material which comes to hand, which then house as many people as can cram into the dusty square of floor. Living conditions are indescribably awful.

There are no official figures for the number of displaced people in Luanda. The problem is so enormous that it appears nobody wants to quantify it. UCAH's monthly province by province count of new and old displaced persons gives no figures for Luanda, but does mention in a footnote an "estimated 400,000 - 500,000 (old IDPs) in Luanda, Benguela and southern Kuando Kubango".[54] According to MINARS' figures, which are currently being revised, there are 220,000 old IDPs living with families, and a further 27,727 living in camps. In fact these camps are barely distinguishable from the rest of the musseques where they are situated, they are simply concentrations of IDPs which have been officially recognized by MINARS. In reality virtually all of peri-urban Luanda could be described as an IDP camp. Both MINARS and UCAH confirm that new IDPs are arriving all the time, but neither has any idea how many. The World Food Programme is distributing maize, beans, oil and salt to a total of 7,000 old and 2,000 new IDPs in Luanda, all of whom are in camps. Those who lodge with relatives receive no assistance.[55]

There are very few NGOs working in Luanda. The two most prominent are Development Workshop, which is constructing water points, and GOAL, which works with street children - many of whom are internally displaced. There appear to be two issues deterring more aid agencies from working in Luanda. The first is political - it is widely felt that the Angolan Government has long blamed its failure to provide social services and assistance to the population of the interior on the war and the security situation. This excuse does not apply to Luanda, which has barely been touched by the war. Therefore there appears to be a tacit agreement not to set up development projects in the capital in an attempt to shame the Angolan Government into establishing such projects itself. The provincial government has published an entire development plan for Luanda. However, it has been unable to launch any projects because funds allocated to it in the national budget are never released by the central government.[56]

The second issue is one of scale. The aid community recognizes that Luanda is a social tinderbox, and that selective aid programmes which decree some sectors of the population vulnerable and others not could be the match needed to set the city on fire. The problem with any aid intervention in Luanda is knowing where to start. Virtually the whole population is vulnerable. To single out newly arrived IDPs to receive aid while failing to assist the communities into which they are integrating would heighten already extant social tensions in overcrowded musseques to dangerous levels. As one Red Cross official put it: "You couldn't possibly start distributing food in Luanda - you'd start a riot."[57] This belief may soon be put to the test.

An increasing number of NGOs which have been forced to shut down their projects in the interior due to the war are now investigating the possibility of setting up short term, emergency interventions for IDPs in Luanda. This approach is being discouraged by UCAH.[58]

Perhaps the only organization working successfully on a large scale at the community level in Luanda is the church. Numerous different Catholic orders have set up clinics, schools and vocational training centres in some of the poorest parts of the city. By living and working on the premises church personnel win the trust and respect of the local community. Church interventions are almost always long-term, and as such are more sensitive to the prevalent social tensions than short-term emergency interventions like food distributions.

Generally, though, the population of Luanda, both longer term residents and new arrivals, is left to fend almost entirely for itself. As only 48 per cent of the country's work force are employed in the formal sector, the vast majority survive by working or trading in the informal sector.[59] Opportunities for gainful employment are greater in Luanda than in the interior. Children sell newspapers and wash the cars of the wealthy. Women wash clothes and work as domestic servants. And both men and women set up as small time retailers. Very little capital is needed to join the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of street vendors who line road-sides, swarm around cars stopped at traffic junctions and pack market places. Each has only a few items to sell - a pair of shoes, a kilogramme of fruit, five packets of batteries. These goods are purchased from wealthy wholesalers and then sold on by the street vendors at a small mark-up. This informal economy has only arisen in the last 15 to 20 years, but today most of Luanda survives from it.[60]

An estimated 70 per cent of an average Luanda family's expenditure goes on buying food. An increasing percentage goes to buy water, which is delivered to peri-urban Luanda by privately owned water-tankers. Very few families have money left over to pay for health care or education. Most are extremely vulnerable to sickness, violence and robbery. Life in the city is far more expensive than in the rest of Angola. Luanda has been declared the second most expensive capital in the world after Tokyo.[61] The National Institute of Statistics reports that 60 per cent of the city's population lives below the poverty line, with 10 per cent living in extreme poverty.[62] With every new influx of IDPs this situation deteriorates further.

Because most IDPs arrive in Luanda in small family units traditional social support networks which exist in rural Angolan communities have disintegrated in the capital. With the exception of the Uige sobas mentioned above, the soba system ceases to function in the city. The Portuguese colonial administration encouraged the weakening of traditional authorities, and post-independence both the church and the MPLA have continued in the same vein. Rural solidarity values disappear, but are rarely replaced by urban community associations.

Luanda citizens, asked why they do not set up communal councils to lobby local government, reply that there is no point because local government at the community level has no money and no authority and cannot therefore respond to citizens' demands.[63] Home area associations, uniting displaced people originating from the same province or municipality, such as those that exist in Khartoum or Addis Ababa, do not exist in Luanda.

Asked if they would return to the provinces if the war ended definitively, most IDPs in Luanda say no. An estimated 36 per cent of the city's population was born outside Luanda; however, most of this group is already aged over 30, which is relatively old in a country where average life expectancy is 42. Their children were born in Luanda and do not consider themselves displaced. 61 per cent of the city's population is aged under 20, 49 per cent is under 15.[64] For these young Luandans the provinces are a foreign country. They have no knowledge of agriculture, no inkling of rural community values. The villages where their parents grew up hold no appeal for them whatsoever.


The preceding chapters have given some insights into the attitudes of both UNITA and the Angolan Government towards the civilian population in general, and IDPs in particular. This chapter will serve to sum up those attitudes, and to give some indication as to the limited role that Angolan civil society can play in guiding the behaviour of the two parties.

4.1   The Government

In general the Angolan Government's attitude towards its people is one of neglect. The Government does very little for those people under its control, and most of the time it asks very little of them. They are left alone to sink or swim without the benefit of any social safety net. Most Angolans have tended to prefer this form of neglect to UNITA's form of draconian social control, which is why an estimated 80 per cent of the country's total population now resides in the tiny proportion of national territory under government control. Government structures such as MINARS, and the Ministries of Health and Education exist, but are so chronically under-funded as to be almost entirely ineffectual.

Government forces have been known to provoke civilian displacement. Both the army and the police have staged violent attacks on villages aimed at driving off the population and providing an opportunity for looting. They have also circulated false information about future attacks to panic local inhabitants into fleeing. There have been cases of government forces forcibly evicting entire communities to further military strategies, including cases of the National Police setting fire to entire villages, as happened in Luaquisse, Saifula and Tchiongo in Bie province, in June 1998.[65] Unpaid elements of the government security forces routinely set up illegal checkpoints where they extort levies from passers-by. Given the current military situation these passers-by are frequently displaced people fleeing areas of insecurity. It is probable that on at least one occasion FAA troops attacked a UN aid convoy transporting food to IDPs in Uige province.

The attack took place in broad daylight on 16 September 1998 five km from a FAA post and 18 km from Lucala, in Kwanza Norte. The convoy of 16 trucks, travelling under armed MONUA escort, was attacked by around 50 armed men in FAA uniforms, killing one UN contractee and injuring several others. Several trucks were struck by mortars and set on fire. At no point did the FAA respond to MONUA's requests for assistance. The style of the attack suggested a professional military operation.[66]

When displaced people reach areas of sanctuary under government control, the authorities are often reluctant to allocate land for them to occupy and cultivate. Local authorities throughout Angola are unwilling to create conditions which would encourage IDPs to remain in their areas of refuge. This often means that they are unwilling to create conditions which would allow IDPs to become self-sufficient.

There have been allegations that provincial authorities use IDP populations as human shields against UNITA attack. Long after it became unsafe to do so, the provincial government of Malange forced IDPs to settle in small communities like Lombe and Cambondo, 30 km from Malange city, rather than in the city itself.[67] The Malange authorities were finally obliged to allow IDPs from Lombe and Cambondo into the city after UNITA attackers drove them out of their places of refuge. When 25,000 new IDPs arrived in Caxito, the provincial capital of Bengo, in June 1998, the local authorities told them to build a camp in an area which is known to flood every year with the onset of the rains in November. When asked by UCAH to allocate a more appropriate site the local authorities suggested a number of locations on the eastern side of the city, in areas considered vulnerable to UNITA attack. The IDPs refused to move to any of these areas declaring them unsafe.[68] Finally, just as the rains were beginning, and under considerable pressure from UCAH, the provincial authorities conceded that the IDPs could move to an old IDP camp whose occupants had recently returned home.

IDPs in camps can prove easy targets for police and soldiers seeking to subsidize their salaries. Food distribution to IDPs in Matala, in Huila Province, had to be suspended in December 1998 due to disruption and theft of food by the local police.[69] This was not an isolated incident. Male IDPs have also proven easy targets for government press gangs, both while en route to places of refuge, and once installed in camps. Many female IDPs report that their husbands were seized by press gangs as soon as they reached government controlled cities. It has been confirmed that the FAA forcibly recruited male IDPs from Luali Camp in Saurimo, Lunda Sul, in December 1998.[70]

The FAA have been laying new landmines around principal cities and strategic targets, which have provoked numerous injuries and amputations amongst groups of displaced people fleeing to the cities in search of refuge.

Following the extension of state administration into formerly UNITA controlled towns and villages MONUA verified numerous cases of police and soldiers harassing, imprisoning, torturing and even killing UNITA party members and activists. For example 44 UNITA officials were held in police cells in Saurimo without being charged from May until September 1998. Three UNITA health workers, who had fled fighting in northern Kwanza Norte, were found shot dead near Ndalatando airport in August 1998, having allegedly been abducted by men in FAA uniforms. Demobilized UNITA soldiers have been severely beaten in Ndalatando, Lobito, Negage, Dala, Saurimo, Huambo, Cuango, Lombe, Caxito and Mumbue.[71] UNITA has alleged that as a result of this abuse and intimidation thousands of UNITA supporters have fled to the movement's strongholds in the central highlands. It has been impossible to verify the existence of these displaced populations.

4.2   UNITA

UNITA exerts strict control over anybody living in its territory. It puts in place a pervasive network of informers who denounce anyone who goes against the party line. Public torture and executions are common methods of social intimidation and control. Civilians are viewed as reserves of slave labour and may at any time be ordered to leave their homes to act as servants and porters for the army. Until 1998 UNITA kept hundreds of thousands of civilians prisoner in the diamond rich Cuango Valley, in Lunda Norte. They were used as forced labour to dig the diamonds out of the earth by hand.[72] For those who join and fight for the party however, food, clothing and housing are provided.

Fear of being subjected to UNITA's form of discipline causes many civilians to flee their villages, even if they are not under direct threat of attack. Genuine UNITA attacks have caused many tens of thousands of villagers to abandon their homes. Frequently UNITA attackers target government property, execute anyone accused of collaborating with the Government, abduct young children of both sexes who are used to carry off anything that can be stolen, and destroy anything that cannot be carried. For example early in the morning of 6 July 1998 three groups of armed men identified as UNITA attacked the village of Vissati in Cuando Cubango province. One group targeted the house of the government administrator, who was shot dead. Another attacked the police station, causing 13 police officers to flee to a nearby town. The third group entered the house of the regedor - the chief soba - beat him up and shot him dead. At the sound of the shots the residents fled into the bush. The attackers stole police weapons and uniforms as well as 32 head of cattle and looted several houses. They burnt an MPLA and an Angolan flag and abducted a ten year old child who has not been seen since.[73]

Civilians who fall under UNITA control are forbidden from leaving on pain of death. UNITA restricts civilians' freedom of movement with a system of patrols, checkpoints and land mines. From December 1998 UNITA launched a new landmine campaign, laying anti-personnel and anti-tank mines on roads and around villages, effectively entrapping and impoverishing whole communities.[74]

As no humanitarian organizations currently have access to UNITA territory it is impossible to ascertain the general humanitarian situation, or specifically the number, location and condition of IDPs. Even during the peace process, when numerous organizations worked in UNITA territory and MONUA observers were based there, freedom of movement of UN and NGO personnel was severely restricted by armed UNITA personnel, in direct contravention of the Lusaka Accords.[75]

4.3   Civil Society

Angolan civil society has been weakened enormously by conflict, internal displacement, poverty, illiteracy, and the policies of both the MPLA and UNITA.

In UNITA territory there is no such thing as civil society. The only organizations and associations which exist are of the party and for the party. Those who speak out are killed.

Until 1991 the MPLA ran the territory under its control in much the same way as UNITA - as a totalitarian, one party state. Other political parties, independent trades unions, national NGOs and independent media were banned. The secret police, trained by the KGB, had a terrifying reputation. The only national aid organizations permitted to operate were the development wings of the churches, such as Caritas Angola. Only after the Bicesse Accords, in 1991, did the MPLA legalize the formation of political parties, independent trades unions, NGOs, and a free press.[76] However, the civil liberties of those who attempt to challenge the policies of the MPLA remain severely circumscribed.

From 1991 onwards local NGOs proliferated. Today a total of 98 are officially registered. However, with a very few exceptions, like ADRA-Angolana, they are severely short of funds and consequently exist in little more than name. They are not a strong lobby group.

At present there is not a single Angolan organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights. The few groups who have tried to set up such an organization have been subjected to threats and intimidation by the Government and have been obliged to cease their activities.

To date the only Angolan television station is the government controlled Televisão Popular de Angola. The only radio station and newspaper which reach all of Angola's 18 provinces are the state-controlled Radio Nacional de Angola, and the Jornal de Angola. Angola's state-controlled media is a highly sophisticated and manipulative propaganda tool. A few independent radio stations have been set up in Luanda, Benguela and Lubango, and a few weekly or bi-weekly news-sheets are published in Luanda. However, journalists are obliged to practice self-censorship if they wish to remain in business. Some who have been too outspoken in their criticism of the Government have died in suspicious circumstances. Most notable was the death in 1995 of Ricardo de Mello, director of the Imparcial Fax newsletter, who was assassinated with a single shot through the heart by an unidentified gunman outside his home in Luanda.[77]

The churches remain perhaps the only organizations which can mobilize people from a community to a national level, and which can, occasionally, speak out against the authorities. As one report by the Christian Children's Fund found: "Churches seem to be the only institutions in Angola that organize people above the level of local communities and ethnic groups, and that offer large numbers of volunteers willing to work on social and humanitarian issues."[78]

However, because of their influence and social activism, church personnel, of all denominations, are increasingly being targeted in military attacks. On several recent occasions UNITA has brutally murdered prominent priests and nuns during attacks on towns and villages. One particularly horrific example was the murder, in January 1999, of Padre Albino Chaluwaku, in Catchiungu, near Huambo. UNITA soldiers dragged Padre Albino out of a nun's house where he had been hiding, and sat him on a bench, flanked by two young catechists. First all three were sprayed with machine gun fire through the lower face, then Padre Albino's head was hacked open with machetes, his teeth were pulled out and his mouth mutilated, his arms were hacked off, and his legs were mutilated, and then all three were shot again, through the upper torso. Padre Albino was accused of having spoken out against UNITA atrocities.[79]


5.1   Narette Cassõa

Narette Filipe Cassõa is a 30 year old mother of three. She has an engaging manner and is clearly highly intelligent and motivated. She comes from the town of Calandula, in northern Malange Province, the site of the famous Calandula falls, the second highest waterfalls in Africa. She, and her children, are now living in Rocha Pinto, one of Luanda's sprawling slums. She is sheltering in the small, dusty courtyard of a tiny local church, which is now home to 60 men, 210 women, and 157 children, all internally displaced. These IDPs spend the days scavenging for food, and at night spread out grass mats on the ground and sleep squashed together, shoulder to shoulder. They are receiving no aid, and cannot afford medical treatment or schooling. Some, like Narette, have already been living in these conditions for several months.

My name is Narette Cassõa. I come from Calandula, in Malange Province, which is a beautiful place. I left my home about one year ago, because UNITA kept attacking our town. UNITA used to attack at night, they killed lots of people and there was hunger and misery. The people couldn't go to their fields any more because UNITA laid new landmines. Before, we used to know where the mines were, but now we don't and the people are afraid. Now they can only cultivate small patches of land next to their houses. I do not know how they are surviving there now. This is the first time I have been displaced. During the last war I stayed there, with UNITA. Life was horrible, we couldn't move, they used to follow us everywhere.

If someone had relatives in the city who sent money or food, that family was killed because they knew people on the government side. So this time I ran away. We had to run in the middle of the night, because if you leave in the daytime they spot you, catch you and kill you. I ran away with one of my sisters and my three children. My parents, grandparents and other brothers and sisters stayed behind and I have had no news of them. We walked from Calandula to Malange city. We brought nothing with us, we only just managed to escape with our lives. In Malange we stayed at my aunt's house, but it was impossible, there were so many people there, all of her children and grandchildren. Then UNITA attacked the bairro [residential quarter] where I was staying. We all ran away and my aunt was killed. I came to Luanda on a truck with some other women who were running away. I heard of this church and came looking for it when I arrived. Life here is really hard. Getting water is a problem, we buy it in the street but we can't afford enough for cooking and washing the clothes. We can't afford the hospitals or the schools. In Calandula I used to work and study, I was in the 8th class. Here I'm doing nothing, just trying to survive. I'm looking after my three children alone, their father left us. They are 6, 5 and 3 years old. There is nothing for them to do all day. We are sleeping out in the yard. I would go home to Calandula if I could, but the war is very bad there now.[80]

5.2   João Baptista Samba

João Baptista Samba is a 34 year old carpenter from the village of Nunda, in southern Huambo province. He fled his village on 18 December 1998 when UNITA forces attacked. With his three small children he joined up with thousands of other IDPs heading for Huambo city. When they first arrived they took shelter in a school building. Later they were moved to Coalfa IDP camp. Now they live in part of a derelict factory, which has been re-roofed with plastic sheeting. They share a medium sized room with 28 other families. They are receiving food aid and medical assistance.

We left Nunda on 18 December because UNITA came and attacked the village. They killed three men, one boy and my wife. We were running from our house to the bush when they shot her through the back of the head. The bullet came out of the left side of her forehead and she fell down dead. She had the baby tied on her back, but the baby was unhurt. We ran to [the nearby village of] Sambo. When the people there saw us they panicked and they all ran away too. We walked to Huambo. I didn't manage to bring anything except the children. I have two children, aged 6 and 8, with me here. Both of them have developed coughs. I have left the baby with my mother-in-law, who lives in Huambo, but she didn't have room for the rest of us. In Nunda I used to grow vegetables - potatoes, maize, beans and tomatoes - and I was a carpenter. I used to go into the bush to cut down trees, bring them back home and make things with the wood, which I would sell. My house had four rooms and a garden. This is the first time I have been displaced. I am scared of UNITA - they kill, they don't like living peacefully with other people.

Here, in the morning I cook a little food for the children, then I go out to look for work in the city. But there isn't much work here. Also we are scared to go out of the camp because the FAA are stopping all the men and taking them away to the army. They take them straight to the airport and put them on planes. They haven't come into the camp yet. What would happen to the children if they took me away? I already served nine years in the army, from 1983 to 1992. In Nunda the children used to go to school but here they do not. We are waiting for the Government to make our area safe so we can go back home.[81]

5.3   Domingues Cassola

Domingues Cassola is a twenty nine year old mother of three who grew up in a village in Bie province. She first became displaced in 1993. She now lives with 200 other IDPs on a dusty, infertile patch of earth on the fringes of Luanda. MINARS allowed the IDPs to settle on the land at the request of one of the local Protestant churches. Domingues and her family live in part of a makeshift tent, built from sticks, plastic sheeting and woven grass mats. After six years of displacement their only possessions are a few chickens, some plastic basins, some spoons, a stool, and the clothes that they wear.

I come from Bie but I moved, with my husband, to Huambo city in the early 1990s. My husband worked in the central hospital in Huambo, and I worked in the house of some white nuns, cooking and cleaning. Our situation was very good. When the war started in 1992 we were trapped in the city during the bombardment, which went on for weeks and weeks. In 1993 we managed to escape the city, along with thousands of other people. We walked, with two children, all the way to Benguela. It took us 16 days. We were attacked three times on the way but we all reached Benguela alive. In Benguela we lived in a camp. Sometimes we received some food, otherwise I tried to earn money by washing clothes. We were hungry a lot. We stayed in Benguela for three months and then the Government offered anyone who wanted to come to Luanda a free place on an aeroplane, so we came here. When we arrived we went to live in a camp in the centre of the city. We lived there, in a tent, for five years, but it was a filthy place. We got sick and went to the hospital but we didn't have the money to pay the doctors. Then we heard that some people were coming to live out in this place so we came here. My husband is still sick, so he is not working. He lost all of his papers when we left Huambo so noone will hire him anyway. I don't have a steady job. Sometimes I do people's washing, and sometimes nuns come by and give us food or clothes. I'd like to start growing some vegetables but I don't have enough money to start trading, to earn enough money to buy seeds and tools. We have three children now, aged 10, 8 and 3. They do not go to school because we do not have money to pay the teachers. I like Luanda because I have to like it, it's the only place I can live. But I would love to go back to Huambo. I am scared of UNITA. We lost touch with all of our relatives when we fled Huambo. We have no idea where or how they are. We don't know what this new war is for, we're just waiting for peace, trying to survive.[82]


6.1   Possibilities for Return and Resettlement

A 1995 UNICEF survey of IDPs in camps says respondents listed their principal conditions for returning home as follows:

·        That the war end definitively.

·        That their homes be rebuilt.

·        That they be provided with seeds and tools.

·        That their fields be demined.

·        That they be assured at least six months worth of food to see them through to the first harvest.

·        That free movement of persons and goods be ensured.[83]

It was not until January 1998 that the National Sub-Group on IDPs finally produced a "National Programme for the Return and Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons", aimed at those Angolans still displaced from the post-electoral war. The programme never even began to be implemented, as its publication coincided with the beginning of the new flood of displacement. However, it states that IDPs should only resettle in areas under government control; that their decision to return should be voluntary and based on accurate information as to the situation in their home areas; that basic infrastructure, including access to food, water, health care and education, should exist or be under construction in areas of resettlement; and that returnees should be guaranteed food security until at least the first harvest.[84]

Clearly none of these criteria are now attainable. The military situation in Angola is deteriorating. Upon launching the current offensive against UNITA in early December 1998 government officials announced confidently that the war would be won and over within three months. Five months into the campaign even FAA chief of staff General João de Matos has had to admit publicly that his forces have been surprised by the strength of UNITA's counter-attack, and have sustained grave losses. General de Matos has predicted that this war will continue for a very long time.[85] For the time being UNITA appears to have the upper hand in the fighting, and seems likely to extend the area under its control. The Government vows that it will never again negotiate with Savimbi. Thus the current wave of displacement is likely to continue.

In an attempt to better streamline assistance to the new IDPs UCAH and the Norwegian Refugee Council, in collaboration with MINARS, are to hold a Conference on IDPs in Angola, 5-7 May 1999, at which NGOs will be invited to share their experiences of working with IDPs in Angola, lessons learnt and best practices already implemented.

6.2   The Longer Term Impact of Internal Displacement on Angolan Society

Virtually no studies have been conducted into the psychological and cultural impact on Angolan society of such a prolonged war, characterized by appalling atrocities, and resulting in the displacement of at least one third of the country's population. National institutions do not have the means to conduct such an investigation, and international institutions have tended to be more concerned with responding to the more immediate challenge of keeping Angolan civilians alive.

This report cannot begin to offer such a study. However, the following are some indications as to just how profound the impact on Angolan society has been.

In 1960 only 11 per cent of Angola's population lived in urban centres. Today that figure is nearer 60 per cent. This trend of urbanization has been due to negative rather than positive factors: turbulence, insecurity, and the collapse of the once healthy rural economy. Consequently periods of relative stability, like that experienced from 1995 to 1997, actually see a net movement of people into the towns, rather than out of them.[86] Rural citizens who have been displaced and returned home, only to be displaced again, lose the will to start from scratch once more, and instead settle permanently in their place of refuge. Their children are born into the urban setting, and grow up without knowledge of rural community values. They hone their survival skills on the back-stabbing informal economy of the cities. Parents of this new breed of Angolan complain that their children are turning into banditos.

Children make up half of Angola's population. They have never known anything but war and instability, and they have been terribly affected by the conflict. Four thousand children died every month during the post electoral war. Fifteen thousand children were separated from their families. Tens of thousands were forced to fight.

Over half of the internally displaced are children. They lose their homes, their possessions, their friends, their routines and their role models just at the time when they are constructing their personal, family and community identities. Their personal and social development is greatly impaired. They do not know who they are or where they belong, their confidence in themselves and others is undermined. A great many are also brutalized by witnessing the violence of war.

Only one organization - the Christian Children's Fund - has attempted to assess and address the psychological impact of the war on Angola's children. CCF's findings are chilling. In a 1995 survey[87] of a random sample of 200 children from 10 different provinces 91 per cent displayed between three and seven symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, sleep disturbance, suppressed memories and psychosomatic illnesses.

Of those interviewed 20 per cent had been separated from their families because of the war, 55 per cent had been internally displaced, 10 per cent had fought in the war, 66 per cent had made long journeys by foot and 82 per cent had lost everything; 42 per cent had witnessed a landmine explosion, 88 per cent had survived artillery bombing, 85 per cent saw dead bodies, 54 per cent witnessed torture, 71 per cent had to leave school and 85 per cent suffered starvation.

CCF notes that:

Psychological stress on this scale is a significant source of suffering and a severe impediment to post-conflict reconstruction, national reconciliation and violence prevention. Much psychological research has established that children who have been exposed to violence or who have been victimized directly are themselves at risk of future involvement in violence. Healing children's emotional wounds of war must be a high priority if a civil society is to be reconstructed in Angola. The war-related stresses of children must be addressed if Angola is to break ongoing cycles of violence and poverty and to achieve peace and social reconstruction.[88]

CCF has tried to raise awareness both at the government and the community level of PTSD. It has run several workshops to train parents and those who work with children in how to recognize signs of PTSD, and how to help children to talk about their experiences and work through their trauma. However, these projects have been seriously impeded by the resumption of the war. CCF has found that several different ethnic groups in Angola have traditional rituals and treatments for healing psychological disorders precipitated by witnessing or participating in violence. Such treatments work through auto-suggestion and are highly successful. However, these traditional practices are being undermined by the progressive erosion of community structures caused by instability and displacement. CCF notes that: "Many people do not view the plight of traumatized children as a high priority problem. Both government and local communities are often more concerned with immediate biological and economic problems of food, water, shelter, medicines, jobs and money."[89]

With the resumption of the war this grows more true every day.


Angola. Ministerio de Assistencia e Reinserção Social [MINARS]. Programma nacional para o regresso e reinstalação dos deslocados. Luanda, 5 January 1998.

                   . Instituto Nacional de Estatistica. Inquerito socio-demografico a população deslocada. Luanda, September 1996.

Bridgland, Fred. The War for Africa. Gibraltar: Ashanti Publishing, 1990.

Christian Children's Fund/Angola. Estudo do grau de exposição e de impacto da guerra sobre as crianças em Angola. Luanda, 1995.

Cohen, Roberta and Francis Deng. Masses in Flight: The Global Crisis of Internal Displacement. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 1998.

Comercio Actualidade [Luanda]. "João de Matos admite serias dificuldades no teatro de guerra". 31 March 1999.

The Economist [London]. "Angola: Without the Excuse of  War". 10 April 1998.

Global IDP Survey. Internally Displaced People: A Global Survey. London: Earthscan Publications, 1998.

Green, Edward and Michael Wessells. Mid-Term Evaluation of the Province-based War Trauma Team Project, Meeting the Psychological Needs of Children in Angola. Richmond Va: Christian Children's Fund, April 1997.

International Organization for Migration. Migration Indicators in SADC Countries (1992-1997). Pretoria: IOM, February 1998.

Maier, Karl. Angola: Peace at Last?. WRITENET for UNHCR/CDR, 1997 (UNHCR/CDR REFWORLD Databases).

                   . Angola: Promises and Lies. London: Serif, 1996.

Matloff, Judith. Fragments of a Forgotten War. London: Penguin Books, 1997.

Norwegian Refugee Council. Internally Displaced Persons in Angola. Sandvika: Agenda Utredning & Utvikling, 1996.

Reuter [Luanda]. [Untitled dispatches]. 1 June 1998; 20 May 1998; 8 January 1998.

Robson, Paul. "Communities and Community Institutions in Luanda, Angola". Unpublished document written for  Development Workshop, Luanda, 1999.

Tvedten, Inge. Angola: Struggle for Peace and Reconstruction. Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1997.

United Nations. Children's Fund. Country Note: Angola. E/ICEF/1998/P/L.8. 7 November 1997.

United Nations. Development Programme. Human Development Report: Angola 1998. Windhoek: John Meinert Printing, 1999.

United Nations. Development Programme. SeCor [Serviço Comunitario de Referencia - Community Referral Service]. Annual Report, 1998. Luanda, January 1999.

                   . The Contingency Plan. Luanda, 4 November 1998.

United Nations. MONUA. Report on the Human Rights Situation in Angola June-August 1998. Luanda, October 1998.

United Nations. Security Council. Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA). S/1999/49. 17 January 1999.

                   . Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA). S/1998/838. 7 September 1998.

United Nations. UCAH [Unidade de Coordenação para Assistençia Humanitaria]. IDP Fact Sheet, 6 April 1999. Luanda, 1999

                   . "Draft Report: IDPs Summary 1998". Unpublished document, Luanda, April 1999.

                   . Location and Status of Assistance to New IDPs. Luanda, February 1999.

                   . "Up-Date on IDPs in Angola, January 97- May 98". Unpublished document, Luanda, 1998

United States, Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998: Angola. Washington, Government Printing Office, 26 February 1999.

Vines, Alex. Peace Postponed: Angola since the Lusaka Protocol. London: CIIR, 1998.

[1] For two comparative estimates see International Organization for Migration, Migration Indicators in SADC Countries (1992-1997) (Pretoria: IOM, February 1998), p. 26; and Global IDP Survey, Internally Displaced People: A Global Survey (London: Earthscan Publications, 1998),  p. xiv

[2] Ibid.

[3] Alex Vines, Peace Postponed: Angola since the Lusaka Protocol (London: CIIR, 1998), p. 2

[4] For a South African perspective see F. Bridgland, The War for Africa (Gibraltar: Ashanti Publishing, 1990)

[5] K. Maier, Angola: Peace at Last? (WRITENET for UNHCR/CDR, 1997) (UNHCR/CDR REFWORLD Databases), pp. 5-6

[6] See Vines, pp. 2-3

[7] For a personal account of this period see Judith Matloff, Fragments of a Forgotten War (London: Penguin Books, 1997), pp. 74-136

[8] For an eye-witness account see K. Maier, Angola: Promises and Lies (London: Serif, 1996)

[9] Vines, p. 3

[10] Maier, Peace at Last?, p. 11

[11] Vines, p. 4

[12] Inge Tvedten, Angola: Struggle for Peace and Reconstruction (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1997), p. 43

[13] Reuter [Luanda], 1 June 1998

[14] Reuter [Luanda], 8 January 1998

[15] Reuter [Luanda], 20 May 1998

[16] United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), S/1999/49, 17 January 1999, Section 5

[17] Norwegian Refugee Council, Internally Displaced Persons in Angola (Sandvika: Agenda Utredning & Utvikling, 1996), p. 12

[18] United Nations, UCAH, "Up-date on IDPs in Angola, January 1992 -  May 1998". Unpublished document, Luanda, 1998

[19] Norwegian Refugee Council, p. 32

[20] Confirmed to the present author by several UN and NGO personnel who prefer to remain anonymous

[21] United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), S/1999/49, Section 3

[22] WFP, Luanda. Personal interview with official, 2 March 1999

[23] ICRC, Luanda. Personal interview, 25 March 1999

[24] Internal UCAH document seen by the present author in Luanda, April 1999

[25] Ibid.

[26] United Nations, UCAH, "Draft Report: IDPs Summary 1998". Unpublished document, Luanda, April 1999

[27] Angola, Instituto Nacional de Estatistica, Inquerito socio-demografico a população deslocada (Luanda, September 1996)  

[28] See United Nations, MONUA, Report on the Human Rights Situation in Angola June-August 1998 (Luanda, October 1998), pp. 2-5; and United States, Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998: Angola (Washington: Government Printing Office, 26 February 1999), pp. 5-12

[29] United Nations, UCAH, Location and Status of Assistance to New IDPs (Luanda, February 1999), p. 1

[30] United States, Department of State, p. 5

[31] Idem, p.11

[32] Personal interviews with displaced mothers in Caxito, Bengo Province, July 1998; Lombe, Malange Province, August 1998; Huambo, March 1999

[33] United States, Department of State, pp. 7 and 10

[34] United Nations, MONUA, p. 6

[35] Idem, p. 5

[36] United Nations, UCAH, "Draft Report", p. 1

[37] United Nations, Development Programme, SeCor [Serviço Communitario de Referencia - Community Referral Service], The Contingency Plan (Luanda, 4 November 1998), p. 1

[38] United Nations, Development Programme,SeCor [Serviço Comunitario de Referencia - Community Referral Service], Annual Report, 1998 (Luanda, January 1999)

[39] United Nations, UCAH, IDP Fact Sheet (Luanda: 6 April 1999)

[40] Ibid.

[41] Norwegian Refugee Council, p.13

[42] United States, Department of State, p. 13

[43] United Nations, UCAH, "Draft Report",  p. 2

[44] Roberta Cohen and Francis Deng, Masses in Flight: The Global Crisis of Internal Displacement (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 1998), p. 192

[45] Visited by the present author, March 1999

[46] Personal communication with a number of NGO personnel working with IDPs in Angola

[47] United Nations, Children's Fund, Country Note: Angola, E/ICEF/1998/P/L.8. 7 November 1997

[48] United Nations, Development Programme, Human Development Report: Angola 1998 (Windhoek: John Meinert Printing, 1999), p. 9

[49] United Nations, MONUA, p. 8

[50] United Nations, Development Programme, Human Development Report, p. 9

[51] Peter McNicholl, Project Manager for Nutrition, Concern Angola, Huambo. Personal interview, 16 March 1999

[52] Anibal Rocha, Governor of the City of Luanda. Personal interview, May 1998

[53] Personal interview with nuns belonging to The Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Spirit, displaced with the people of Malange and now working with them in Luanda, March 1999

[54] United Nations, UCAH,  IDP Fact Sheet

[55] WFP, Luanda. Telephone interview with representative, 6 April 1999

[56] Anibal Rocha. Personal interview

[57] ICRC, Luanda. Personal interviews with representative, March 1999

[58] UCAH, Luanda. Personal interview with  representative, 6 April 1999

[59] United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, p. 9

[60] Paul Robson, "Communities and Community Institutions in Luanda, Angola", unpublished document written for  Development Workshop, Luanda, February 1999, p. 8

[61] The Economist [London], "Angola, Without the Excuse of  War", 10 April 1998

[62]  Robson, p. 8

[63] Idem, pp. 9-10

[64] Idem, p. 4

[65] United Nations, MONUA, p. 5

[66] Ibid, p. 7

[67] UCAH, Malange. Personal interview with  representative, July 1998

[68] Personal interviews with NGO personnel working in the camp, and with camp residents, October 1998

[69] United Nations, UCAH, "Draft Report", p. 10

[70] Confidential UN reports seen by the present author

[71] See United States, Department of State, pp. 3, 4 and 10; and United Nations, MONUA, pp. 11-16

[72] Global IDP Survey, pp. 90-92

[73] United Nations, MONUA, p. 3

[74] United States,  Department of State, p. 13

[75] United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola, Section 4, S/1998/838, 7 September 1998

[76] Vines, p. 21

[77] Idem, pp.27-28

[78] Edward Green and Michael Wessels, Mid-Term Evaluation of the Province-Based War Trauma Team Project, Meeting the Psychological Needs of Children in Angola (Richmond Va: Christian Children's Fund, April 1997), p. 23

[79] From personal interviews with eyewitnesses in Huambo, March 1999

[80] Narette Cassõa, Calandula. Personal interview, Luanda, 12 March 1999

[81] João Baptista Samba, Nunda. Personal interview conducted in Huambo, 15 March 1999

[82] Domingues Cassola, Huambo. Personal interview conducted in Luanda, 12 March 1999

[83] Norwegian Refugee Council, pp. 17-18

[84]Angola, Ministerio de Assistencia e Reinserção Social [MINARS], Programma nacional para o regresso e reinstalação dos deslocados (Luanda, 5 January 1998)

[85] Comercio Actualidade [Luanda], "João de Matos admite serias dificuldades no teatro da guerra", 31 March 1999

[86] Robson, p. 3

[87] Christian Children's Fund/Angola, Estudo do grau de exposição e de impacto da guerra sobre as crianças em Angola (Luanda, June 1995)

[88] Green and Wessells, p. 9

[89] Idem, p. 16

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