Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2018, 20:36 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1999 - Angola

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 25 February 2000
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1999 - Angola , 25 February 2000, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
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.


The Republic of Angola's transition from a single-party state to a multiparty democracy and its recovery from 25 years of civil conflict were hindered by a renewal of fighting between government forces and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in the second half of 1998, which continued throughout the year and led to a halt in the implementation of the 1994 Lusaka Peace Protocol between the Government and UNITA. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has ruled the country since its independence from Portugal in 1975. The country's competing independence movements began a civil war immediately after independence, which lasted until the signing of the Bicesse Accords in 1991. Under the Bicesse Accords, one-party rule ended with the passage of a new Constitution that legalized opposition parties and called for U.N.-monitored elections, which were held in 1992. President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of the MPLA won a plurality of the votes cast in an election that U.N. observers considered free and fair. UNITA rejected the results of the vote and resumed the civil war. In 1998 the National Assembly voted to cancel the never-held runoff election between the leading presidential candidates and allow Dos Santos to hold the presidency until a determination is made that proper conditions exist to hold new elections. In 1994 in an effort to end the civil war, the Government and UNITA signed the Lusaka Protocol, which called for the demilitarization of UNITA, the creation of a national army, the seating of a government of national unity and reconciliation, and the extension of state administration to areas formerly under UNITA control. The Government generally complied with its obligations under the protocol, although the conduct of the police and, to a lesser extent, military units in former UNITA areas drew widespread criticism. UNITA failed to comply with several fundamental aspects of the protocol. It maintained a potent military capability and refused to return to state administration the territory it held. In April 1997, UNITA officials joined the newly formed national unity government; however, the Government continues to back a splinter group of UNITA dissidents who are challenging the leadership of UNITA's longtime party president Jonas Savimbi. Fighting resumed between the Government and UNITA at the end of 1998, and by August armed conflict had resumed throughout the country. UNITA had taken substantial territory and increased its military pressure on government-held areas. The judiciary, where it functions, is not independent of the President and the MPLA.

The Ministry of Interior is responsible for internal security, a function that it exercises through the Angolan National Police, the Rapid Intervention Police (PIR), and other organs of state security. The PIR was created in 1992 as an elite paramilitary force. The Armed Forces of Angola (FAA) are responsible for protecting the State against external threats and have intervened in regional conflicts every year since 1996. In 1997 the FAA integrated some 10,000 UNITA soldiers. With the resumption of localized hostilities inside the country the FAA became involved in counterinsurgency operations against UNITA. The FAA also is involved in similar operations, although on a smaller scale, against separatists who favor the independence of Cabinda province. The Government's security forces firmly are under civilian leadership. Security forces committed numerous, serious human rights abuses.

The security factors that inhibited the country's transition to full multiparty democracy had a similar effect on the country's transition from a directed, state-dominated economic system to one based on market principles. The Government's economic policies remained directed towards a military build-up, with the Government resisting calls for greater transparency in public accounting. The economy was in disarray and despite abundant natural resources, output per capita is extremely low. Angola produces about 780,000 barrels of oil per day. Diamond production by the formal sector in government-controlled areas was estimated at 2 million carats. The estimated value of combined formal and informal sector diamond production in government-controlled areas was $320 million. Because the diamond-producing areas controlled by UNITA were reduced, diamond sales in UNITA-controlled areas declined significantly to less than $50 million. There also are lucrative untapped mineral, agricultural, and hydroelectrical resources in the country; however, corruption and mismanagement are pervasive in the public sector and widespread in the private sector. The Government has begun to liberalize its import regimes and reform its regulatory agencies to better allow the importation of the goods and services on which the economy depends. Annual per capita gross domestic product was approximately $450. The country's wealth continued to be concentrated in the hands of a small elite whose members used government positions for massive personal enrichment, and corruption continued to be a common practice at all levels. The average monthly salary of urban wage earners (approximately 20 percent of the labor force) was far below what is required for basic subsistence. Rural wages are even lower, as the majority of the rural economy is dependent on subsistence agriculture and is highly vulnerable to political unrest. Civilians residing in UNITA-held areas live under a primitive and brutal form of economic feudalism, their crops and other goods are subject to arbitrary seizure by armed UNITA elements, and they are vulnerable to forced labor, including military service. They suffer from extreme scarcities of consumer goods, basic medical supplies, and other necessities.

The Government's human rights record continued to be poor, and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses. Citizens have no effective means to change their government. The second round of the 1992 presidential elections were canceled in a government agreement with the breakaway faction of UNITA. New elections were postponed indefinitely until the U.N. determines proper conditions exist to hold them. Members of the security forces committed numerous extrajudicial killings, were responsible for disappearances, and tortured, beat, raped and otherwise abused persons. The Government was unable to pay the salaries of the majority of its security service personnel. The poor discipline and poor working conditions of the police force made it the worst offender; military units generally have better discipline and a more effective chain of command. Other than those personnel assigned to elite units, the Government took no effective action to prevent security personnel from supplementing their incomes through the extortion of the civilian population. Prison conditions were life threatening. The Government routinely used arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention is a problem. The Government was unable or unwilling to punish those in the security services who were responsible for abuses. The judiciary is subject to executive influence, only functions in parts of the country, and does not ensure due process. The Government infringed on citizen's privacy rights and forcibly recruited military-age males. The Government at times restricted freedom of speech and of the press, and intimidated journalists into practicing self-censorship. The Government restricted freedom of assembly, association, and movement. The Government continued to limit independent investigations of human rights abuses, although it allowed international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, to conduct research in the country. Discrimination and violence against women were common; adult and child prostitution is a problem; and children and the disabled continued to suffer as a result of the ongoing conflict and poor economic conditions. The Government continues to dominate the labor movement and restricts worker rights, although there were improvements in the independent labor sector. Forced labor and child labor are problems.

UNITA also was responsible for numerous, serious abuses. UNITA forces were responsible for killings, disappearances, torture, rape, and other abuse. UNITA military units reportedly pillaged rural areas; depopulated large parts of the country, killed traditional leaders, and eliminated all opposition, real or potential. UNITA tightly restricted freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, and movement. UNITA refused all attempts to conduct investigations in areas under its control. UNITA continued forced military recruitment, including of underage males, and used forced labor for a large part of its local-level logistical support. The sexual abuse of women conscripted to work as porters was reportedly common in UNITA areas.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Incidents of extrajudicial killings occurred during the year as the war continued and, although figures and details were unavailable, observers believe that the number of such killings increased during the year. Security forces were responsible for numerous extrajudicial killings. Police frequently participate in shakedowns, muggings, carjackings, and killings. Major human rights abuses occurred as government forces carried out counterinsurgency operations. In February government forces reportedly killed several civilians after retaking the town of Mbanza Congo from UNITA. In December there was an unconfirmed report that the FAA killed 47 civilians during operations in the Luanda Sul province. Government aircraft bombed military targets in UNITA-held towns, which reportedly resulted in civilian casualties.

Government soldiers sent to support the Government of the Republic of Congo committed acts of execution, rape, and looting while in the Republic of the Congo.

Prison conditions are life threatening due to inadequate food, medicine, and sanitation and many prisoners died in official custody (see Section 1.c.).

There were no investigations into, nor was any action takenagainst those responsible for, the extrajudicial killings of more than 40 persons during 1998, including the UNITA provincial secretary in Xa-Cessau, the UNITA communal secretary of Quibaxe, and the local UNITA secretary of Cangundu.

In January a U.N. chartered aircraft was shot down in an area of active military operations and all nine persons on board were killed. The Government and UNITA both deny responsibility for the shooting. An investigation was pending at year's end.

In January unknown gunmen killed Father Albino Saluaco, a Catholic parish priest, and two catechists in a town in the province of Huambo that was under UNITA military occupation (see Section 2.c.). In September UNITA National Assembly Deputy Joao Ngolongombe Jacob was killed by unknown persons.

A number of killings remain unsolved. The killings of senior UNITA officials in Luanda following the resumption of hostilities in 1992 never have been investigated. The Government has refused to return the bodies of UNITA vice president Jeremias Chitunda and secretary general Salupeto Pena to their families. The 1996 murders of independent journalist Ricardo de Mello and state-television reporter Antonio Casimiro, and the 1994 murder of the vice governor of Malange province also remain unsolved. The results of the investigation of the 1993 death of opposition politician Carlos Simea never were released.

Numerous localities changed hands during the year, a process that often involved the extrajudicial killing of government or UNITA administrators and persons accused of collaboration. Internally displaced persons and refugees risked their lives to flee to government-held areas or neighboring countries. Undocumented Congolese workers in diamond fields were targeted by government or UNITA forces seeking to take control of alluvial diamond mining operations. An unknown number of civilians died in the course of engagements between the security services and insurgents, particularly in the Central Highlands and in the northwest. Landmines laid by both sides during the conflict resulted in approximately 650 deaths. Strong anecdotal information suggests that both sides summarily execute prisoners of war (POW's).

UNITA troops committed numerous extrajudicial killings during attacks on villages. Interviews with refugees indicated that UNITA committed abuses, including public extrajudicial killings, as a deliberate policy. In February UNITA forces reportedly entered a village near Luena and killed the village's soba (traditional leader) and his family. In April UNITA soldiers reportedly killed 25 villagers who were attempting to return to their homes in Muconda in the Luanda Sul province. In July UNITA attacked the town of Catete, killing 9 persons and abducting 22 persons. There were unconfirmed reports that following military actions taken in the fall in Camacupa, Bie Province, mass graves were found containing the bodies of dozens of UNITA victims.

UNITA killed numerous civilians during attacks on civilian traffic on roads throughout the country; such attacks were designed to halt transportation, disrupt commerce, isolate populations, and maintain a climate of insecurity. For example, in April on a stretch of road between Gabela and Sumbe, UNITA soldiers reportedly attacked a clearly marked aid vehicle, killing five humanitarian workers. In June UNITA soldiers reportedly attacked another aid vehicle, killing two persons.

The shelling of cities by UNITA forces often killed civilians, particularly in Malange, Huambo, and Kuito. According to the Bishop of Malange, more than 1,000 persons were killed, and 700 injured, as a result of shelling; however, this report could not be confirmed.

UNITA allegedly was responsible for some civilian deaths in Namibia.

UNITA engaged in forced conscription and frequently killed persons who attempted to desert (see Section 1.g.).

UNITA never has accounted for the deaths of numerous senior party officials, including Wilson dos Santos and Tito Chingunji. A number of former high-ranking UNITA officials who have defected revealed the extent of extrajudicial killings in UNITA-held areas. Two former UNITA secretary-generals, a former head of UNITA intelligence, and others have reported that Savimbi personally ordered extrajudicial killings of opponents and, in some cases, personally carried out the executions. UNITA also never has allowed the U.N. to investigate any claims of human rights abuses in areas of the country under its control unless those abuses were thought to be the work of government forces.

b. Disappearance

The Government and UNITA continued to accuse each other of abductions and of causing the disappearances of civilians, including government officials, party activists, and traditional leaders. The number of allegations and the prevailing conditions of insecurity made it impossible for the U.N. and other organizations to investigate all of these allegations.

Persons taken into police custody often are reported to disappear without a trace, particularly in rural areas. Suspects accused of illegal weapons ownership or collaboration with UNITA disappeared, as did UNITA party officials in some areas where the Government regained control.

Civilians abducted by UNITA generally either were forced to become soldiers or support personnel, or were considered government collaborators. There were unconfirmed reports in April from internally displaced persons that UNITA abducted persons in Nequile, Chitmebo, and Gimba Filili villages in Bie Province. In July UNITA abducted 22 persons during an attack on the town of Catete (see Section 1.a.). In December, UNITA abducted 20 persons from Namibia, who subsequently were rescued by Namibian forces. The frequent discovery of dead bodies in the aftermath of attacks suggested that suspected collaborators were executed summarily. Those who escaped UNITA custody and were able to return to government-held areas reported that they were subjected to torture, beatings, and sexual abuse (see Section 1.c.).

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution and the Penal Code explicitly prohibit all forms of mistreatment of suspects, detainees, or prisoners; however, security forces tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused persons. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the U.N., and human rights organizations report that there is widespread government abuse of suspects.

Security service personnel regularly employed torture and other forms of cruel and degrading treatment, including rape. Police used torture and induced confessions frequently during investigations, and rarely, if ever, are punished for such abuses. Those suspected of ties to UNITA regularly are incarcerated under inhuman conditions and are subjected to primitive and brutal forms of interrogation. There have been no cases in which an army or police official has been disciplined for use of excessive force against a UNITA suspect. Police often beat and released suspects in lieu of trials (see Section 1.d.) Police frequently participate in shakedowns, muggings, carjackings, and killings. Police extorted money from travelers at checkpoints, and routinely harassed refugees (see Section 2.d.).

There have been numerous reports of FAA soldiers crossing the border into Namibia and abusing and harassing Namibian civilians. There was at least one report of rape by an FAA soldier, and numerous reports of molestation of women and theft from small shops. In early December, the FAA commander in the south announced the arrest of three soldiers for abusing civilians in Namibia.

There were several incidents in which security forces mistreated journalists. In April a Voice of America (VOA) correspondent was assaulted by a soldier after she reported on the lack of whites or persons of mixed race at a military recruitment center. In May police reportedly beat a journalist during a routine traffic stop when they learned of his profession. In July two television crews were arrested after filming a gunfight between police and suspected robbers. During the arrest, members of one of the crews were threatened, kicked, and hit with the butts of machine guns. There were no investigations into any of these incidents, nor were any actions taken against those responsible.

Two of five UNITA deputies detained by the Government did not receive adequate medical attention when ill, and all of the deputies reported that they were denied food and water for periods of up to 36 hours (see Section 1.d).

Landmines laid by both sides during the conflict resulted in an increasing number of casualties, including maiming (see Section 1.g.)

The U.N. and human rights organizations report that abuse of suspects is universal in areas under UNITA control. Interviews with persons who fled UNITA-held areas revealed that UNITA uses cruel and inhuman practices, including public torture and mutilation, to punish dissent and deter further acts of disloyalty. There have been repeated credible allegations that UNITA President Jonas Savimbi has ordered suspects tortured and executed in his presence.

Prison conditions constituted a serious threat to the health and lives of prisoners. The Government and the National Assembly Committee on Human Rights have acknowledged that conditions are inhuman. Cells are overcrowded and lack basic sanitary facilities. The prison system holds approximately five times the number of prisoners it was built to hold. Many prisons, lacking financial support from the Government, were unable to supply prisoners with adequate food and health care. There were credible reports that many prisoners died of malnutrition and disease.

Prison officials routinely beat detainees. Prisoners depend on families, friends, or international relief organizations for basic support. Prison officials, who are chronically unpaid, support themselves by stealing from their prisoners and extorting money from family members. Juveniles, often incarcerated for petty theft, are housed with adults and suffer abuse by guards and inmates.

The Government permitted local and international human rights monitors to visit prisons, but not individual prisoners, during the year.

According to widespread reports, UNITA prison conditions are extremely harsh. UNITA reportedly maintained a prison in its Andulo headquarters that included large numbers of persons accused of treason. There was at least one report that UNITA prison officials beat detainees.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention are serious ongoing problems. Under the law, a person caught in the act of committing a crime may be arrested and detained immediately. Otherwise, the law requires that a judge or a provincial magistrate issue an arrest warrant. Arrest warrants also may be signed by prosecutors attached to police commands, and confirmed within 5 days by a magistrate. The Constitution provides for the right to prompt judicial determination of the legality of the detention. Under the law, the prosecution and defense have 90 days before a trial to prepare their case, although both sides generally have the right to request an extension of this deadline under extenuating circumstances. The Constitution also provides prisoners with the right to receive visits by family members. However, none of these rights exist in practice; there is a scarcity of personnel and resources, and a lack of official determination to ensure these rights. Although the Ministry of Justice is nominally in charge of the prison system, the Ministry of Interior continued to systematically, arbitrarily, and secretly arrest, and detain persons for all categories of crimes and for indefinite periods, often with no apparent intent to bring the detainees to trial.

In January authorities arrested five UNITA deputies and members of Parliament on suspicion of treason and subversion (see Section 3). While in prison, the deputies generally were held incommunicado and two deputies who were ill were denied adequate medical treatment (see Section 1.c.). One deputy was released in May and the other four remained in custody until the Supreme Court ordered their release in October due to lack of evidence.

In January authorities detained for 4 days a local employee of the U.N. Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA) on suspicion of being a UNITA spy. In June in response to UNITA shelling, government security forces engaged in large-scale arrests of suspected UNITA infiltrators and collaborators in Huambo and Malange. It is believed that more than 1,000 persons were detained, although most were released by year's end.

Police detained approximately 20 journalists for questioning in connection with charges of slander, defamation, and crimes against the security of the state; however, rather than charging journalists, police often inform journalists that they remain under investigation (see Section 2.a.). In January two journalists from Radio Morena were arrested for rebroadcasting a Portuguese radio interview with a UNITA official. On August 9 and 10 police detained for questioning the director, the news producer, an editor, and staff of Radio Ecclesia after the station rebroadcast a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interview with Jonas Savimbi (see Section 2.a.). In August police detained a VOA journalist for 2 hours for questioning and accused him of defamation after he filed a report that local government officials had been diverting humanitarian aid. In September the director of Folha 8 and a journalist were detained and questioned in connection with an article on the Radio Ecclesia detentions. In October the National Department of Criminal Investigation (DNIC) detained Rafael Marques, an independent journalist and human rights activist known for his vocal criticism of the government, and charged him with defaming the President and slandering the Attorney General. Marques was held for approximately 5 weeks before being released in late November pending an indefinitely postponed trial.

In September the police detained several dozen foreign businessmen (see Section 2.d.).

Under criminal law a person may not be held for over 135 days without trial. The National Security Law provides for a maximum of 180 days preventative detention. In practice, over 90 percent of inmates in Luanda still are awaiting trial, and it is believed that the national average is over 50 percent. Inmates who have been awaiting trial for 2 or 3 years are common. In many cases, police beat and then release detainees rather than make any effort to prepare a formal court case.

The Government holds an unknown number of suspected UNITA officials and supporters in areas where government control was regained. The Government invariably accused these persons of illegal weapons possession or collaboration with UNITA, although formal charges rarely were filed.

UNITA continues to detain persons against their will. The number of such persons is unknown, though a number of confirmed cases exist, including two Russian aircrews taken hostage in May and June when their planes were shot down, and four Portuguese and one Spaniard from M'banza, Congo.

In March, alleged FLEC activists kidnapped two Portuguese and one French oil worker who were released later for ransom.

The Lusaka Protocol provides for the release, under ICRC auspices, of persons detained for war-related reasons. With the resurgence in Government-UNITA fighting around the country, both sides have taken POW's. Neither the Government nor UNITA has allowed the ICRC or any other institution access to POW's. Strong anecdotal information suggests that both sides summarily execute POW's (see Section 1.a.).

The Government did not use forced exile as a form of punishment.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary, where it functions, is not independent of the President and the MPLA. In practice the court system lacks the means, experience, training, and political backing to assert its independence from the President and the ruling party. The President has strong appointive powers, including the power to appoint Supreme Court justices without confirmation by the National Assembly. The judicial system largely was destroyed during the civil war and did not function in large areas of the country.

The court system consists of the Supreme Court at the appellate level plus municipal and provincial courts of original jurisdiction under the nominal authority of the Supreme Court. Only 9 of the 12 seats on the Supreme Court were filled by year's end. The Supreme Court serves as the appellate division for questions of law and fact but does not have the authority to interpret the Constitution. The Constitution reserves that role for a Constitutional Court, which is mandated by the 1991 Constitution, but had yet to be established at year's end. Trials for political and security crimes are supposed to be handled exclusively by the Supreme Court.

Five UNITA parliamentarians, arrested in January on suspicion of treason and subversion, were held incommunicado. One was released in May and the other four were released in October by the Supreme Court for lack of evidence.

The Constitution provides defendants with the presumption of innocence, the right to a defense, and the right to appeal. Legal reform in 1991 established the right to public trials and a system of bail, and recognized the accused's right to counsel; however, the Government does not respect these rights in practice. Judges usually are lay persons, not licensed lawyers. The judge and two lay persons elected by the full court act as the jury.

UNITA has established a nominal military and civilian court system in territories under its control and claims that its Civil Code is equivalent to the Portuguese Civil Code currently used by the Government. UNITA President Jonas Savimbi appoints judges personally, and UNITA trials are not open to the public. Juries consist of male elders chosen from the community. The accused reportedly has the right to a lawyer. However, areas of the country under UNITA control remain under strict martial law.

There were no reports of government-held political prisoners.

There are probable cases of UNITA-held political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government maintained a sophisticated security apparatus dedicated to the surveillance, monitoring, and wiretapping of certain groups, including opposition party leaders, journalists, members of the National Assembly and foreign diplomats. Legal requirements for search warrants routinely are disregarded.

To enforce mandatory military laws, the military and police conducted forced conscription drives in many of the areas under the control of the Government, including Luanda, in which some minors may have been recruited. Persons who could prove that they had jobs usually were released, and those with financial means could buy their way out of the military. The Government denied that forced recruiting was taking place. Church groups, civil society institutions, and foreign embassies protested the manner of conscription.

UNITA continued to conscript civilians forcibly for military duty (see Section 1.g.).

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

The escalation in military operations by both the Government and UNITA resulted in a significant increase in the number and severity of human rights violations. The Government and humanitarian organizations reported that there are several hundred thousand new internally displaced persons, with estimates of the total internally displaced population varying between 1.5 and 3 million. Military attacks have resulted in indiscriminate and summary killings, torture, abductions, destruction of property, and theft. The provinces most affected were Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul, Malange, Bie, Uige, and Huambo. Congolese diamond miners were victims in numerous attacks on alluvial mining operations in Lunda Norte province.

The Government's frequent failure to pay, feed, and equip military and police personnel resulted in extortion and theft. Government personnel frequently confiscated food, including donated relief supplies, livestock, and personal property, including nongovernmental organization (NGO) vehicles, often after forcibly depopulating areas and robbing the displaced persons. However, the reports of such activity decreased in the latter half of the year due to increased troop support and improved field liaisons between humanitarian agencies and the military.

The Government and UNITA continued to use landmines to strengthen defensive positions, and in the case of UNITA, prevent residents within its own areas from fleeing to government-held areas (see Section 2.d.). Landmine explosions increased during the year to approximately 52 incidents per month and resulted in numerous casualties (see Section 1.a.). Approximately 1 in every 356 persons is a amputee as a result of landmine explosions. Observers believe that the increase in incidents is due not to new landmines, but to the movement of internally displaced persons into areas in which they are less familiar. There were reports that some internally displaced persons, desperate for nourishment, used the sticks that marked mined fields to light their cooking fires.

UNITA forces routinely violated citizens' rights and caused thousands of civilian casualties in pursuit of military objectives. UNITA's strategy included ambushes against civilian traffic to halt transportation, driving persons living in the countryside into town in order to overwhelm government services and take over their land, and laying siege to those towns by extensive mining and artillery shelling. The major provincial cities of Kuito, Huambo, and Malange in particular, were affected. In mid-March UNITA shelled Malange, killing 18 persons and wounding 15 others.

UNITA carried out forced recruiting, including of minors, throughout all of the country's disputed territory. Recruits were taken to isolated military camps and subjected to psychological stress and extreme hardships; those who attempted to desert were executed. Women, many as young as 13 years of age, were recruited forcibly to serve as porters and camp followers, and reports of sexual assault were widespread and credible.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press and specifically provides that the media cannot be subject to ideological, political, or artistic censorship; however, the Government does not respect this right in practice. Moreover, unlike 1998, when the Government's record in this area improved, it deteriorated during the year. The Government continued to intimidate and threaten journalists into practicing self-censorship. There were reports that the Government pays journalists to publish progovernment stories. Government authorities, including the Minister of Interior, and the presidential spokesman, consistently warned the press that they were subject to press and national security laws and would be subject to fines and imprisonment for reporting information that "threatens the security of the state." The Government detained or placed under investigation journalists who reported on sensitive issues, including military operations, government corruption, and UNITA, especially Jonas Savimbi. Journalists acknowledge that they exercise self-censorship.

In January the Government issued a memo that effectively ordered a news ban on coverage of the civil war. The ban largely was ignored by the independent media, prompting the Government to accuse it of supporting UNITA. In June and again in September, the Minister of Social Communication threatened the independent press with closure if it did not support the Government's war efforts against UNITA.

Between June and August, the Government prosecuted several cases in the courts against journalists for violating the press law. The editor of the private newspaper Agora received a suspended sentence and was fined approximately $5 (30 kwanzas) for 90 days for slandering two Ministers. Two other reporters received similar sentences. The Government restricted a small number of journalists from writing and traveling while their cases remained pending.

In April a soldier assaulted a VOA correspondent after she reported on the lack of whites or persons of mixed race at a military recruitment center (see Section 1.c). In May police reportedly beat a journalist during a routine traffic stop when they learned of his profession. In July two television crews were arrested after filming a gunfight between police and suspected robbers, and during the arrest, police abused members of one of the crews (see Section 1.c.).

Police detained approximately 20 journalists for questioning in connection with charges of slander, defamation, and crimes against the security of the State. In January two journalists from Radio Morena were arrested for rebroadcasting a Portuguese radio interview with a UNITA official (see Section 1.d.). On August 9, Radio Ecclesia rebroadcast a BBC interview with Jonas Savimbi; shortly after the broadcast police raided the studio and detained for questioning the director, the news producer, and an editor. They were released the following morning. On August 10, the police again detained for questioning the journalists detained the previous evening in addition to five other staff members. All were released later that day. In August police detained a VOA journalist, Isaias Soares, for 2 hours for questioning and accused him of defamation after he filed a report that local government officials were diverting humanitarian aid. In September William Tonet, the editor of Folha 8, and another journalist, were detained and questioned in connection with an article on the Radio Ecclesia detentions. Shortly thereafter the Government warned Tonet that he still was under investigation and could not to leave the country. In October the National Department of Criminal Investigation (DNIC) detained Rafael Marques, an independent journalist and human rights activist known for his vocal criticism of the government. Marques was charged with defamation and slander, and held for approximately five weeks before being released pending a trial (see Section 1.d.).

The majority of the media is state-run and carries very little criticism of the Government. Semi-independent newspapers and private radio stations grew increasingly bold in their criticism of government policies and actions. There are five private weekly publications with circulations in the low thousands. There are also five commercial radio stations including the Catholic Radio Ecclesia, and Radio Lac Luanda, which openly criticize aspects of government policies and highlight poor socioeconomic conditions.

A committee composed of the Minister of Social Communication, the spokesman of the presidency, and the directors of state-run media organizations controls media policy and censorship. The MPLA's secretary general also influences the content and tone of state-run media reporting. The Government used its control of the media to engage in a hostile propaganda campaign against UNITA, including unconfirmed allegations of UNITA massacres, as a means of influencing local and international public opinion.

The Government generally did not restrict the activities of foreign media, including the BBC and the VOA; however, it continued to refuse to allow direct retransmission, and in January, after a Portugeuse daily newspaper ran a story criticizing the Government, authorities withdrew press credentials from one of the newspaper's reporters and ordered her to leave the country. The Government also denied entry into the country to another reporter from the newspaper. Foreign journalists require authorization from the Ministry of Interior in order to obtain access to government officials or to travel within the country. Travel to UNITA-controlled areas routinely was denied. The Government placed no abnormal visa restrictions on foreign journalists and generally allowed them to report freely on all aspects of society in government-controlled areas. The Government allowed the U.N. to contribute to broadcast content but denied it the ability to open its own radio station.

In UNITA-controlled areas no media organizations can function except under the absolute control of party officials. UNITA media includes Radio Vorgan, which broadcasts sporadically from the highlands, and a UNITA website. No media personnel were allowed free access to UNITA areas by either the Government or UNITA after the resumption of the conflict.

Academic life has been circumscribed severely by the civil war. Generally, there is academic freedom; however, in the Government dismissed a university rector for political reasons during the year. Reportedly the rector came into conflict with the Ministry of Education for supporting higher wages for professors and increased academic standards. The rector's dismissal led to a strike by the university's professors (see Section 6.a.) Academics do not practice self-censorship.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the right of assembly; however, the Government restricts this right in practice. The law requires a minimum of 3 days' prior notice before public or private assemblies are held, and makes participants liable for "offenses against the honor and consideration due to persons and to organs of sovereignty." Applications for progovernment assemblies are granted routinely without delay; however, applications for protest assemblies rarely are granted.

The Constitution provides for the right of association; however, the Government restricts this right in practice. Legislation allows the Government to deny registration to private associations on security grounds, and the Government arbitrarily limits organized activities deemed adverse to its interests.

There is no freedom of assembly or association in areas of the country under UNITA control.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the separation of church and state, and the Government respects this right in practice. Members of the clergy in government-held areas regularly use their pulpits to highlight the human costs of war and to call on the Government and UNITA to make peace. Radio Ecclesia, run by the Catholic Church, is one of the few sources of independent news. The station began practicing self-censorship in August after the Government harassed it for rebroadcasting a Jonas Savimbi interview with the BBC (see Section 2.a.).

While in general UNITA permits freedom of religion, interviews with persons who left UNITA-controlled areas reveal that the clergy does not enjoy the right to criticize UNITA policies.

In January unknown gunmen killed Father Albino Saluaco, a Catholic parish priest, and two catechists in a town in the province of Huambo that was under UNITA military occupation. Father Saluaco had served as deputy director of a project to reintegrate child soldiers into their families.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement and residence, and freedom of exit from and entry into the country; however, the Government does not respect these rights in practice. A network of government checkpoints throughout the country interfered with the right to travel. Such checkpoints serve as a source of income for many of the country's security service personnel. Extortion at checkpoints is routine in the center of Luanda and pervasive on major commercial routes. The Government routinely cuts off access to areas of the country that are deemed insecure or beyond the administrative authority of the State. Transportation links between government- and UNITA-held territory were broken as a result of conflict. The Government did not place restrictions on emigration and repatriation. In September the police detained and harassed several dozen foreign businessmen in an effort to control currency speculation; several of the businessmen ultimately were deported.

As a result of the conflict approximately 75,000 citizens fled into neighboring countries during the year, including to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, and Zambia.

Human rights and relief workers who interviewed Angolan refugees and displaced persons reported that UNITA limits the free movement of the civilian population both by preventing persons from fleeing some areas under their control, and by displacing them to areas of government control. The patterns that emerged from the discussions suggested that UNITA uses military patrols, checkpoints, and landmines to keep persons from leaving their home areas. Refugees who fled the country and who were not part of the Ovimbundu majority within UNITA said that arbitrary public punishment, including death by firing squad or by immolation, were used to deter others from leaving. There is also some evidence to suggest a pattern of UNITA displacing persons and forcing them to flee to government-controlled cities in order to increase pressure on the Government to deal with increased humanitarian burdens.

Mines laid by UNITA forces on roads are a major impediment to the freedom of internal circulation. According to U.N. and NGO reports, UNITA uses antipersonnel and antivehicle mines to prevent government forces from entering areas under its control and to restrict movement of civilians, either by keeping them within areas it controls, or by keeping them from leaving government towns. UNITA also used landmines to make areas unsuitable for cultivation and to deny hostile populations access to water supplies and other necessities. Government use of landmines generally was confined to defensive positions and around towns under threat of UNITA attack. Estimates of the total number of landmines deployed throughout the country range into the millions. Fear of injury and death from landmines effectively imprisoned and impoverished entire communities. There were an unknown number of fatalities due to landmine explosions during the year, and there are over 80,000 survivors of landmine explosions.

The law provides for the granting of refugee and asylee status in accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The Government provides first asylum to refugees. An eligibility committee to evaluate asylum claims meets regularly to evaluate asylum requests. There are approximately 11,000 refugees in the country, mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The majority of Rwandan refugees in Luau, Moxico province, an area that reverted to government control in September 1997, had left the country for camps in Zambia by the end of 1998.

There were no reports of the forced expulsion of persons with valid claims to refugee status.

Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Constitution provides all adult citizens with the right to vote by secret ballot in direct multiparty elections to choose the President of the Republic and deputies in the 220-seat National Assembly; however, in practice, citizens have no effective means to change their government. The Lusaka Protocol established the mechanism for returning the country to an electoral calendar, but in June the National Assembly voted to postpone new elections indefinitely due to the renewal of conflict. Opposition parties complain of harassment and intimidation by government security forces.

The President is elected by absolute majority. If no candidate wins such a majority, there is a runoff between the two candidates with the most votes. Of the 220 Deputies in the National Assembly, 130 are elected on a national ballot, and 90 are elected to represent the provinces. The Electoral Law also calls for the election of three additional deputies to represent citizens living abroad; however, those positions were not filled in the 1992 elections.

Ruling power is concentrated in the President and other members of the Council of Ministers, through which the President exercises executive power. The Council can enact decree-laws, decrees, and resolutions, thereby controlling most functions normally associated with the legislative branch. The National Assembly has served as an important debating forum; however, in matters of budget and legislation, it is largely a rubber stamp for executive decisions. Although the Constitution establishes the position of Prime Minister, the President dismissed the Prime Minister during the MPLA Party Congress at the end of 1998, and assumed the position himself by decree. The seating of 70 UNITA Deputies in April 1997 fostered substantive debates for the first time on issues ranging from the peace process to the Government's budgeting priorities and accountability. These debates have decreased since, due to the formation of UNITA-Renovada, a government-backed UNITA splinter group, and the Government's sensitivity to criticism following resumption of the conflict.

The National Assembly established a commission to revise the Constitution beginning in the fall. Deliberations are expected to continue through 2000 with participation from all parties represented in the National Assembly.

The 1992 elections were the first multiparty democratic elections in the country's history and were conducted with U.N. supervision and financial support. MPLA President Jose Eduardo dos Santos won a plurality of votes cast in the presidential election (49 percent) and UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi finished second (40 percent). Although local and international observers declared the election to be generally free and fair and called on UNITA to accept the results, UNITA claimed that the elections were fraudulent, rejected the results, and returned the country to civil war. The runoff election between Dos Santos and Savimbi never was held. The Lusaka Protocol stated that it would take place following a U.N. determination that requisite conditions exist. The National Assembly voted in June to cancel the runoff election pending a determination that conditions are appropriate for a new election.

In April 1997, UNITA and 10 smaller opposition parties joined the ruling MPLA in a government of national unity and reconciliation. In 1998 UNITA officials assumed 4 ministerial and 7 vice-ministerial positions, and 70 UNITA deputies took their seats. The remaining positions were filled by members of a dissident UNITA group, UNITA-Renovada, which is recognized and assisted by the Government. The National Assembly promulgated a special status for Savimbi, declaring him the leader of the largest opposition party and providing him with 5 official residences and a bodyguard contingent of 400 personnel. The National Assembly revoked Savimbi's status in 1998, for abrogating his duties under the Lusaka Protocol. During the year, the Government declared Savimbi a war criminal and issued a warrant for his arrest.

In January authorities arrested five UNITA deputies and Members of Parliament on suspicion of treason and subversion (see Section 1.d.). Under the law and the rules of the National Assembly, Members of Parliament are immune from arrest unless caught in act of committing a capital offense; however, two of the deputies were asleep when the police came to their homes to arrest them. In February the National Assembly lifted the deputies' immunity. While in prison, the deputies generally were held incommunicado and two deputies who were ill were denied adequate medical treatment (see Section 1.c.). One deputy was released in May and the other four remained in custody until the Supreme Court ordered their release in October due to lack of evidence. In November the deputies resumed their seats in Parliament.

There are no legal barriers to the participation of women in the political process, and while women occupy a number of important government positions, they were underrepresented in government and politics. Women hold 10 of 83 cabinet positions and 35 of 220 seats in the National Assembly.

Section 4. Governmental Attitudes Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Government does not formally prohibit independent investigations of its human rights record, but it fails to cooperate and often uses security conditions as pretext to deny access to affected areas.

There are over 120 registered NGO's operating in the country, of which approximately 45 are domestic NGO's.

Several international organizations have a permanent presence in the country including the ICRC, and the human rights division of MONUA. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International visited the country during the year.

The Constitution provides for the creation of an office of the Provider of Justice, or ombudsman, designated by the National Assembly for a 4-year term, to defend citizens' rights and liberties; however, this office had not yet been filled at year's end.

The MONUA human rights division, established in 1997 to conduct human rights training for U.N. forces and investigate individual cases of human rights abuses, had a countrywide presence prior to the outbreak of hostilities in late 1998. The MONUA human rights division closed its team sites around the country in February and March, and as a result, the ability of local and international observers to conduct human rights investigations was limited.

Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Under the Constitution all citizens are equal before the law and enjoy the same rights and responsibilities regardless of color, race, ethnicity, sex, place of birth, religion, ideology, degree of education, or economic or social condition. The Government does not have the ability to enforce these provisions effectively.


Violence against women was widespread. Credible evidence indicated that a significant proportion of homicides was perpetrated against women, usually by their spouses. In 1997 a Ministry of Women was created to deal specifically with violence against women. During the year, the Ministry worked closely with NGO's and international organizations on a project to reduce violence against women and improve the status of women.

The Constitution and Family Code provide for equal rights without regard to gender; however societal discrimination against women remained a problem, particularly in rural areas. In addition, a portion of the Civil Code dates back to colonial times and includes discriminatory provisions against women in the areas of inheritance, property sales, and participation in commercial activities. A series of national conferences on women's rights, partially funded by foreign donors, continued to produce calls for the Government to amend the Civil Code to end women's legal inequality, create a social welfare program, and strengthen enforcement mechanisms for existing legislation.

The maternal mortality rate in 1996 was estimated at 1,500 deaths per 100,000 live births. There are no effective mechanisms to enforce child support laws, and women carry the major portion of responsibilities in raising children. Due to poor economic conditions, an increasing number of women engaged in prostitution.

Despite constitutional protections, women suffer from discrimination. The law provides for equal pay for equal work, but in practice, women rarely are compensated equally. Some women hold senior positions in the military (primarily in the medical field) and civil service, but women mostly are relegated to low-level positions in state-run industries and in the small private sector. In much of the country, women constituted a growing percentage of the disabled, since they were most likely to become victims of landmines while foraging for food and firewood in agricultural areas. Under the law, adult women may open bank accounts, accept employment, and own property without interference from their spouses. Upon the death of a male head of household, the widow automatically is entitled to 50 percent of the estate with the remainder divided equally among legitimate children.


Some 50 percent of the population is believed to be under the age of 15; however, the Government gave little attention to children's rights and welfare. The Ministry of Education barely functions due to lack of resources. Private religious, community, or corporate groups have been unable to fill this vacuum. Teachers are chronically unpaid and the net enrollment rate of school-age children is 40 percent, with an 18 percent gap favoring boys over girls. Almost 1 million children are estimated to be out of school, with no prospect of integrating them into the education system. Most of the educational infrastructure is damaged either partially or totally and lacks basic equipment and teaching materials. Only 42 percent of the population are literate, and the illiteracy rate for women is almost twice that of men.

UNITA and the Government allowed 8,000 child soldiers to be demobilized in 1996-1997. The Government has not brought any significant number of children back into the armed forces, although some children might have been caught up in forced recruitment campaigns (see Section 1.f.). There are credible reports that UNITA forcibly has recruited children into its armed forces.

The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 1998 estimated that there were approximately 5,000 street children in Luanda; some were orphans or abandoned while others ran away from their families or from government facilities that were unable to support them. Living conditions in government youth hostels are so poor that the majority of homeless children preferred to sleep on city streets. Street children shine shoes, wash cars, and carry water, but many resort to petty crime, begging, and prostitution in order to survive (see Section 6.d.). One international NGO that works with street children estimated that there were 500 to 1,000 underage prostitutes in Luanda.

The government-sponsored National Institute for Children is a well-intentioned organization, but it lacks the capacity to assist adequately efforts by international NGO's to assist dispossessed youth. There are no active private children's rights advocacy groups.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health. There has been very little evidence of FGM. There were rare occurrences in remote areas of Moxico province, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia in past years; however, information from local and international health workers, including midwives, indicated that indigenous groups do not practice FGM.

People with Disabilities

The number of physically disabled persons includes an estimated 80,000 disabled landmine survivors. While there is no institutional discrimination against the disabled, the Government is doing little to improve their physical, financial, or social conditions. There is no legislation mandating accessibility for the disabled in public or private facilities, and, in view of the degradation of the country's infrastructure and high unemployment rate, it is difficult for the disabled to find employment or participate in the education system.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The population includes 1 to 2 percent of Khoisan and other linguistically distinct hunter-gatherer tribes scattered through the provinces of Namibe, Cunene, and Cuando Cubango. There is no evidence that they suffer from official discrimination or harassment, but they do not participate actively in the political or economic life of the country and have no ability to influence government decisions concerning their interests.

Section 6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right to form and join trade unions, engage in union activities, and strike; however, the Government does not respect these rights consistently in practice. The Government dominated the National Union of Angolan Workers (UNTA), which is the labor movement affiliated with the ruling MPLA party; however, the General Center of Independent and Free Labor Unions of Angola (CGSILA) is independent, and has approximately 51,000 members. The law requires that labor unions be recognized by the Government. Restrictions on civil liberties potentially prevent any labor activities not approved by the Government; however, the major impediment to labor's ability to advocate on behalf of workers is the 80 percent formal sector unemployment rate.

The Constitution provides for the right to strike. Legislation passed in 1991 provides the legal framework for, and strictly regulates, that right. The law prohibits lockouts and worker occupation of places of employment, and provides protection for nonstriking workers. It prohibits strikes by military and police personnel, prison workers, and firefighters. The law does not prohibit employer retribution against strikers effectively.

There were several public sector strikes over salaries and conditions, which deteriorated due to the high inflation rate. Public employees received major pay increases as a result of these strikes. The most notable strike took place in August when university professors protested the Government's dismissal of the university rector for political reasons (see Section 2.a.).

Unions have the right to affiliate internationally.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution provides for the right to organize and for collective bargaining; however, the Government generally does not respect these rights in practice. The Government dominates the economy through state-run enterprises. The Ministry of Public Administration, Employment, and Social Security sets wages and benefits on an annual basis. Legislation prohibits discrimination against union members and calls for worker complaints to be adjudicated in regular civil courts. Under the law, employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are required to reinstate workers who have been fired for union activities. In practice, neither the Labor Code nor the judicial system are capable of defending these rights.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law permits the Government to force workers back to work for breaches of worker discipline and participation in strikes, and has been cited by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as an example of forced labor in violation of ILO conventions. The law prohibits forced or bonded child labor, and there are no reports that such labor occurs in government-held areas; however, the Government does not have the capacity to enforce this legislation in nongovernment-held areas.

UNITA forces regularly abduct children for military service and other forms of forced labor. UNITA depends on forced labor for much of its logistical support. Refugees and internally displaced persons reported that rural women frequently are forced to work as porters for UNITA military units and kept in life threatening conditions of servitude. There also were credible reports of sexual assault.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The legal minimum age for employment is 14 years. Children between the ages of 14 and 18 may not work at night, in dangerous conditions, or in occupations requiring great physical effort; however, these provisions generally are not enforced. The Inspector General of the Ministry of Public Administration, Employment, and Social Security is responsible for enforcing labor laws. The Ministry maintains employment centers where prospective employees register, and the center screens out applicants under the age of 14; however, many younger children work on family farms, as domestic servants, and in the informal sector. Family-based child labor in subsistence agriculture is common. Poverty and social upheavals have brought large numbers of orphaned and abandoned children, as well as runaways, into unregulated urban employment in the informal sector. The law prohibits forced or bonded child labor; however, the Government is unable to enforce these provisions (see Section 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage set by the Ministry of Public Administration, Employment, and Social Security was approximately $30 (180 kwanzas) per month prior to the rapid devaluation of the kwanza in the mid-1990's. During the year, the minimum wage was set at approximately $2.50 (15 kwanzas) per month; however, the Government does not enforce this standard. The majority of urban workers earn less than $20 (120 kwanzas) per month. Most workers hold second jobs, engage in subsistence agriculture, rely on aid from relatives, or engage in corruption to supplement their incomes. Neither the minimum wage nor the average monthly salary, which is estimated at $15 (90 kwanzas) to $200 (1200 kwanzas) per month, are sufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. As a result, most wage earners depend on the informal sector, subsistence agriculture, corruption, or support from abroad to augment their incomes.

A 1994 government decree established a 37-hour workweek; however, the Ministry of Public Administration was unable to enforce this standard, just as it was unable to enforce existing occupational safety and health standards. Workers cannot remove themselves from dangerous work situation without jeopardizing their continued employment.

f. Trafficking in Persons

The Constitution prohibits trafficking; however there continued to be allegations that UNITA abducted persons, including children, for forced labor, and abducted women for use as sex slaves.

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