Human Rights Developments

Angola remained in an open-ended transition from a single-party state in a state of war to multiparty democracy. The government, dominated by the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and the armed opposition Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) restricted freedom of movement, arbitrarily abducted or detained civilians and intimidated journalists. Both sides violated cease-fire agreements: indiscriminate attacks on civilians were a persistent feature of military operations. Serious violations of the cease-fire by both UNITA and the government increased in 1997. In the early part of the year, the majority of reported cease-fire violations were attacks by soldiers on civilians designed either to control the movement of food aid in contested areas or to stop people from moving into areas controlled by the other side. Other cease-fire violations were committed by the government's military moving up to frontlines. In March flash points were the northern provinces of Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul, Uíge and Zaïre. There were also some clashes in Huíla and Benguela provinces. The Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) had been increasing troop concentrations on the periphery of the UNITA heartland since February and in May increased incursions into disputed territory in Huila and in the Lundas. By September the military situation was characterized by persistent tensions affecting almost the entire country, but particularly the provinces of Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul and Malange. The main fighting was in June. In a fortnight's fighting, the army captured an estimated 10 to 15 percent of UNITA's diamond-producing areas in an operation that expanded government control over a corridor from Dundo to Luena. Most of the fighting was confined to the Lunda provinces but attacks were also made on UNITA positions in Bié, and later in Soyo (Zaïre province) and Huíla. The fighting diminished in mid-June but did not cease until the end of the month. From July the Angolan presidency called for a suspension of military activity inside Angola, meanwhile lobbying hard internationally for U.N. sanctions against UNITA and providing military equipment and 1,000 troops in support of military leader Denis Sassou-Nguesso's successful efforts in overthrowing democratically elected President Pascal Lissouba in Congo (Brazzaville) in October. Lissouba had aligned himself with UNITA. Between June and September there were many new reports of troop mobilization, the movement of military equipment, and forced conscription. The U.N. verified several attacks by UNITA on government positions, including in Lunda Norte province as well as attacks by government forces on villages in Huíla province. The most serious attacks were by UNITA in Lunda Norte at Posto de Fronteira Nordeste on July 2, where UNITA forces razed to the ground a village of approximately 150 inhabitants. At Posto Fronteira Muaquesse on July 24, UNITA forces attacked a northern village burning houses and killing several civilians. UNITA also reenlisted demobilized UNITA troops for deployment at strategic locations controlled by UNITA, such as Dambi near Uíge and Vinte Cinco near Huambo. The quartering and reintegration process was slow and interrupted by the renewed fighting. Although the operation only started in earnest in February 1996, by the time the ceremony was held to swear in the new joint army on July 10, UNITA had quartered 70,660 troops in its fifteen camps for demobilized fighters. Of these, 22,686 reportedly deserted after having been registered at the camps. UNITA provided the army with 10,899 of the troops quartered, including senior officers, far short of the 26,300 UNITA personnel expected to be incorporated into the national armed forces. By August a total of 21,175 UNITA soldiers had been officially demobilized and had left the quartering areas. Under the Lusaka Protocols UNITA was also obliged to quarter 62,500 soldiers for demobilization. A high proportion of those quartered were also found not to have been regular UNITA troops however, and U.N. figures show that 7,600 were under the age of eighteen. In July, after repeated delays, UNITA provided the U.N. with details of the security guard maintained by UNITA chief Jonas Savimbi and UNITA's so-called "mining police," citing the total strength of these forces as 2,963. In September, following U.N. pressure, UNITA submitted a new figure which acknowledged troops of 6,052. However, the minister of defense asserted that UNITA had still some 35,000 armed personnel under its control. The government had confined to barracks 5,450 rapid reaction police in thirteen locations. However, between June and August the government deployed 424 rapid reaction police in Lunda Sul and Lunda Norte provinces without informing the U.N. and declared its intention to terminate its agreement to confine the rapid reaction police to barracks nationwide. U.N. and observer pressure on the government stopped the government from redeploying its rapid reaction police, but paramilitary training of other police units—such as how to use machine—guns was observed by the U.N. indicating that the government might be attempting to prepare civilian police for tasks not compatible with their normal job description. The new Government of Unity and National Reconciliation (GURN) was inaugurated on April 11 and included the MPLA, UNITA and the Democratic Party of Angola (PDA). The leader of UNITA, Jonas Savimbi was not present at the ceremony, although confidence-building by U.N. negotiators had made the incorporation of senior UNITA figures into the Luanda-based government possible. The government was to have taken office in January, but this deadline was not met. Critical issues were the quality and quantity of housing for UNITA officials and the size of their personal security force. A second deadline was set for the end of February; this deadline failed with the status of Jonas Savimbi as the central issue. The MPLA had offered Savimbi the post of one of two vice-presidents in February 1996, but Savimbi had turned this down. This issue remained a key negotiating point, with UNITA looking for the post to have direct military authority. The U.N. in December 1996 sought to separate the issue of Savimbi's status from the formation of a government of national unity. The U.N. Security Council gained additional time to pressure UNITA when the deadline shifted to March. The U.N. team was anxious to make the GURN effective prior to its scheduled departure in August. UNITA joined the GURN in April, in the face of continuing pressure and the changing situation in Zaire. The handover of territory under UNITA control to the government of Angola was also slow. In May UNITA cited "technical reasons" for a delayed handover of fifteen municipalities in Benguela province. Following U.N. and troika (Russia, Portugal and U.S.) pressure on UNITA, the U.N. announced that the expansion of state administration in the area would recommence on May 26. After pressure from the U.N. following the killing of a Brazilian peacekeeper near the town of Vila Nova by suspected UNITA supporters, UNITA handed over Vila Nova to a high-level government delegation on May 28. A few days later in the Quibala district of Cuanza Sul, UNITA supporters protesting at the handing over of the territory assaulted and injured Isaias Samakuva, head of the UNITA delegation to the Joint Commission and N'zau Puna, a UNITA defector who is now a vice-minister of the interior. By late October 108 localities out of 337 had been handed over by UNITA to government control. The civil war in neighboring Zaire was a significant factor in the power struggle in Angola. UNITA had been supporting President Mobutu Sese Seko, who in turn provided supply lines for arms and a marketing route for diamonds. In February and March the Angolan government sent two battalions of Katangese Angolans (originally from Shaba province in Zaire) to help Laurent Kabila, the leader of the rebel forces in (then) Zaire. In June Kinshasa fell to the rebel forces and Zaire became the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The immediate impact on Angola was that UNITA lost its supply lines through Congo and the ability to hide troops over the border became severely limited. Up to 15,000 Hutu refugees also entered northern Angola from DRC in April and May. Many of these refugees entered UNITA zones and access to them by humanitarian agencies was obstructed. There were reports that UNITA used some of these refugees as porters and also conscripted young men into its military. In June the Angolan army claimed its troops had arrested twenty-four armed Rwandans. UNITA continued to resist compliance with the agreement to hand over all of its weapons, in particular its heavy weapons and sophisticated ground-to-air missiles. The U.N. claimed that 30 to 40 percent of those weapons handed to it were in poor condition or unserviceable and that the ammunition was in poor condition and averaged just eleven rounds per rifle. By late-1997 UNITA had provided to the U.N. some 33,867 personal arms and 5,120 crew-served weapons systems but there were many reports of ongoing caching of weapons across the country and the opening of caches for the distribution of arms when hostilities broke out. Weapon flows continued to the government despite the peace accord. Although arms shipments significantly declined in 1996 and in the first half of 1997, they increased in the second part of the year. In late 1996 the government sent fighter aircraft to Israel for reconditioning and in early 1997 the government purchased new helicopter-gunships from Russia. New shipments of weapons in August and September were delivered in Luanda port, unloaded from Polish and Danish registered ships. The government also put in an order with Russia for some twenty Su-24s fighter-bomber aircraft and there were reports of a U.S. $230 million arms deal with France. A U.S. firm also attempted to sell six reconditioned C-130 Hercules aircraft for around $72 million. From an official budget of $2.6 billion, the government claimed it would spend over $302 million on arms. The true figure for planned expenditure was unknown. The hiding of significant arms payments from the budget, including paying off older loans, defied the transparency required by the International Monetary Fund to secure an agreement leading to much needed debt rescheduling under the Paris Club. UNITA continued for much of 1997 its U.N. sanction-busting operations, bringing in new weapons and supplies over land and on secret flights from Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville to airstrips in the diamond-rich Lunda provinces. UNITA appeared to have obtained much of its weaponry from private sources, rather than foreign governments, although there was some evidence that DRC provided arms in early 1997 prior to the fall of the Mobutu government. UNITA also exported weapons and provided support for Mobutu until May, when it focused all its efforts on using DRC to bring in supplies before the fall of Kinshasa to Kabila's forces. From August UNITA's supplies came mainly on private aircraft from Pointe Noire and Maya Maya international airport in Congo-Brazzaville although some flights originated from South Africa, Zambia and possibly Mozambique. Three senior officials at Zambia's Ndola Airport were suspended in September following investigations that found they permitted unauthorized landings for the aviation division of Metex international, a South African company. It appears that Metex conducted commercial activities, including the airlifting of fuel from Ndola airport to UNITA in Angola, in violation of a 1993 U.N. embargo on UNITA. Pilots told Human Rights Watch that runways and airstrips in UNITA areas were recently lengthened and improved, such as at Andulo (Bié) and Luzamba (Lunda Norte). Bulgarian weapons featured prominently in these transfers. The U.N. reported that between July 1 and 30 it had recorded over 120 flights landing at UNITA-controlled airstrips scattered throughout the central and eastern parts of the country. The U.N. was not permitted to inspect what was being delivered. Both parties, but particularly UNITA, imposed restrictions on U.N. verification activities. The government also failed at times to provide information on movements of troops and military equipment and on occasions U.N. military observers were stopped from conducting inspections. Armed UNITA personnel detained a U.N. investigation team and their helicopter for over twenty-four hours at Calibuitchi on July 11 and 12 and a U.N. team's attempt to verify allegations that UNITA was storing weapons in eight containers at Chingongo on July 12 was also stopped. A World Food Program helicopter was also arbitrarily seized by armed UNITA soldiers in June in Moxico province. Some 40,000 people remained trapped against their will by UNITA in its former headquarters, Jamba, in the south, where conditions were very bad. Although UNITA claimed it had invited the international community to evacuate them, in effect UNITA refused to allow civilians to move out of UNITA zones. There was increasing evidence during the year that UNITA was also using Jamba for military training and that illegal flights carrying weapons and other supplies were landing there. The Namibian authorities exacerbated the situation by keeping its border near Jamba closed, fearful that an open border would permit a mass exodus of Jamba residents onto Namibian soil. Planting of new mines in UNITA-controlled areas was also reported. One such incident was along the Saurimo-Cacolo road on July 4, resulting in three people killed and the injury of many others when a civilian vehicle struck an anti-tank mine. Demining experts that visited the scene concluded the mine was newly placed. Other incidents were confirmed by the U.N. in Malange, Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul. The government was also responsible for laying new mines in Cabinda. The availability of weapons contributed to a significant rise in armed crime and banditry. Banditry in Benguela and Lunda Sul provinces was particularly bad. The government was expected under the Lusaka Protocols to disarm the civilians it armed in 1992, when up to a million AK-47s were issued in Luanda alone. The numbers handed over to police by mid-year were disappointing: 102 crew-served weapons, 2,642 firearms of various types and 21,100 rounds of ammunition. In August the government announced its suspension of disarmament of the civilian population pending the completion of the normalization of state administration. It insisted that the civilian population in both government and UNITA-controlled areas be disarmed simultaneously. The circulation of people and goods continued to be restricted by the maintenance of illegal checkpoints and the escalation of acts of banditry in various areas of the country. By September, with deteriorating confidence in the peace process, old checkpoints had been reactivated and new ones were set up in both government and UNITA areas. As a result of delays in implementing the peace process, some 300,000 refugees in neighboring countries were not repatriated, although several thousand returned to Angola independently. An estimated million or more displaced people inside Angola were also unable or unwilling to return to their homes because of insecurity. In Luanda politically and economically motivated violence by state security forces and common criminal violence were often indistinguishable. A large number of violent crimes, including robbery, vehicle hijackings, assault, kidnaping, rape and murder were committed by members of the military and police both in and out of uniform. The government's Rapid Intervention Police "Ninjas" were also reported in 1997 to have summarily executed people caught in the act of committing crimes. There have also been gun battles between police and military or with bandit groups in the suburbs resulting in significant numbers of civilian casualties. There are also a growing number of small armed separatist groups operating in northern Angola. Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave (FLEC) separatist groups have for several decades operated in the oil-rich Cabinda enclave. The government restarted negotiations in 1995 with the armed factions but in 1997 these negotiations broke down and there was an increase of military activity including incidents of new landmine warfare and indiscriminate shelling of villages. Dom Paulino Madeca, the Catholic bishop of Cabinda, in March accused government troops of massacring civilians in the Mayombe forest. Kidnaping for ransom also occurred in Cabinda. In February a Malaysian national died after being kidnaped by the FLEC-Armed Forces of Cabinda (FAC) faction. The state press remained tightly controlled and the few independent media outlets chose carefully what they published. Several journalists were killed in suspicious circumstances. António Casimiro, Cabinda correspondent of Televisâo Popular de Angola was murdered at his home on October 30, 1996. Dom Paulino Madeca, the bishop of Cabinda, said the killers were police officers led by a civilian; the authorities blamed Cabindan separatists. Two inquiries were opened into the killing, but their findings have not been published. During the swearing in of the GURN in April, President José Eduardo dos Santos called for "greater transparency and freedom" in the media. In practice this has not happened. The government continued to refuse to allow the U.N. to open a short-wave radio station, despite many Security Council resolutions requesting it to do so. The governor of Huíla province, Kundy Paihama also prevented the sale of the private newspapers Agora, Folha 8, and Comercio Actualidade because they published stories critical of the government. The independent local radio station in Lubango, Rádio 2000, was also prevented by the authorities in April from retransmitting Voice of America programs. The transformation of UNITA's radio VORGAN into a nonpartisan private station (called Rádio Despertar) made little progress despite being a requirement of the Lusaka Protocols and a notification in writing by UNITA to the government in September that would fulfill its obligations. Despite repeated promises by UNITA officials, the radio station continued to broadcast propaganda hostile to the government and inflammatory public announcements against the peace accords. Some of the broadcasts targeted U.N. and other international staff working in Angola for their alleged partisanship in favor of the government. In 1993 the Council of Ministers decided to transfer control of the judicial system and prisons system from the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry. However, this transfer has not yet happened. The court system is comprised of a Supreme Court with municipal courts under it. The president appoints Supreme Court judges for set terms, with no requirement that they be confirmed by the National Assembly. By July 1997 twelve of the sixteen seats of the Supreme Court remained vacant. The constitution also guarantees freedom of association and assembly, but in practice the government controls both tightly. Union leader Miguel Filho of SINPROF, the teacher's union, was in early 1997 held at gunpoint by armed men and robbed of all papers and possessions in what union officials claimed was an official move to suppress a series of strikes and demonstrations he was organizing.

The Right to Monitor

Local human rights monitoring was not encouraged by the government. Some churches engaged in civic education and conflict resolution work were involved in discreet human rights education, despite government hostility, equating human rights activity as involvement in "politics." A number of church groups appealed to the government and to UNITA to speed up the implementation of the Lusaka accords and called on church leaders to be nonpartisan. The Angolan nongovernmental organization (NGO) Action for Rural Development and the Environment (ADRA) linked up with the Association of European Parliamentarians for Action on [Southern] Africa (AWEPA) to organize workshops on civic education and increase knowledge of the provisions of the Lusaka Protocols. With the support of Amnesty International, the Angolan Human Rights Association, also distributed information about human rights. Development Workshop, an independent Angolan NGO, also worked with fisherman and market women in Luanda to improve their knowledge of basic political rights. On November 28, 1996 the Angolan Campaign to Ban Landmines (CABM) was launched. It was increasingly active in campaigning against landmines and collected 60,000 signatures in a petition calling for a total ban. The CABM also organized exhibitions in Kuito, Malange and Lubango and was active in lobbying National Assembly members. The Angolan government supported the Ottawa process for a total ban of antipersonnel landmines.

The Role of the International Community

United Nations

In a climate of international frustration over peacekeeping, there was strong pressure, particularly from the U.S., not to allow the operation of the 7,000 strong United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III) to drag on indefinitely. Largely for this reason, UNAVEM III's mandate was renewed for only short periods in 1997. It had been originally planned that UNAVEM III would complete its mission in February 1997. However, due to slippage in the Lusaka Protocols' timetable, the plan changed to a phased withdrawal. Four of the six infantry battalions, together with additional support units and some military headquarters personnel were repatriated by June. The remainder were to have left by August but this was postponed because of the deteriorating security situation. The end of June saw the expiry of the mandate of UNAVEM III. It was replaced by the United Nations Observer Mission to Angola (MONUA). MONUA was comprised of 1,500 "rapid reaction troops" deployed in six companies to assist 345 Civilian Police (CIVPOL) and just eighty-five military observers. The Security Council ruled in October that the drawdown of MONUA's military units was to be completed by the end of November and that MONUA's mandate was extended to January 30, 1998. In August the Security Council threatened a further package of sanctions against UNITA unless it fulfilled outstanding obligations under the Lusaka Protocols by the end of September. The sanctions included freezing UNITA bank accounts, blocking foreign travel of its officials and closing of its offices abroad. But on September 29, the Security Council agreed unanimously to postpone for a month implementation of the sanctions until October 30. Because UNITA failed to make further progress on its Lusaka Protocols obligations during October, the Security Council adopted unanimously Resolution 1135 on October 29, which imposed the new sanctions package on UNITA from 00.01 EST on October 30. The Human Rights Unit of UNAVEM held a small number of regional seminars on human rights education in government and UNITA-controlled zones. It did not, however, conduct much investigative work into ongoing human rights abuses, and published just one report in mid-December. The unit failed to win the confidence of local groups. Six cases of human rights violations were submitted in July by MONUA to the ad hoc group on human rights at the Joint Commission. Between June and August police observers investigated twenty cases of alleged human rights abuses and MONUA staff visited prisons in the Luanda area. The staff of the Human Rights Unit declined in July with the departure of six human rights monitors funded by the European Union (E.U.).

European Union

On January 13, the European Commission granted a humanitarian aid package of ECU 14 million to Angola which would be administered by the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). The humanitarian aid projects would actually be conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations agencies, and various NGOs. ECHO's two priorities in Angola were medical aid and feeding programs. On February 3, the European Union stated that it was very pleased with the progress toward the Lusaka Protocols in Angola, particularly with the induction of UNITA officers into the Angolan Army. However, the E.U. was concerned with the delays in establishing a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation. The E.U. also praised the governments of Portugal, the United States of America, and the Russian Federation for their efforts in the peace process in Angola. On August 13, the European Union criticized UNITA's failure to comply with the demilitarization demands highlighted in Security Council Resolution 1118, and requested UNITA compliance with the terms of the Lusaka Protocols as well as information on the status and whereabouts of its military forces.

United States

The U.S. remained one of the most influential forces in the Angolan peace process and dominated the export market and investment sector. In 1996 the U.S. bought more than half of Angola's exports (mostly oil), worth some U.S.$5 billion. The U.S. also led investments, with private capital expected to exceed $4.3 billion in 1997. Chevron alone will account for up to roughly $3 billion of investments up to the millennium. In 1997 the U.S. provided $150 million in emergency funding for post-war reconstruction, in addition to being one of the main contributors to the U.N. force there. In August two Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman Jesse Helms of North Carolina and John Ashcroft of Missouri, strongly objected to the proposed sale of six U.S. manufactured C-130 aircraft to Angola. A U.S. firm, Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), assisted in the training of the new unified army. A central focus of U.S. policy in Angola remained the implementation of the Lusaka Protocols and the avoidance of a return to conflict. Early in the year a series of demarches were presented to the Angolan government over its involvement in the DRC crisis and again in October over intersection in Congo-Brazzaville. UNITA also received a number of demarches about its foot-dragging and noncompliance with the conditions of the Lusaka Protocols. U.S. embassy officials in Angola maintained irregular contact with nongovernmental organizations working on human rights issues, which was reflected in the Angola section of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in 1996. The report presented an accurate description of human rights conditions in the country. Human Rights Watch was unaware, however, of any public statements from the embassy condemning human rights violations when they occurred during 1997.
This report covers events of 1997

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