United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Angola, -, 1 January 1998, https://www.refworld.org/reference/annualreport/uscri/1998/en/15624 [accessed 26 February 2024]
More than 220,000 Angolans were refugees in neighboring countries at the end of 1997, including 100,000 or more in Zambia, 100,000 in Congo/Zaire, 20,000 in Congo-Brazzaville, 2,000 in South Africa, and 1,000 in Namibia. More than 50,000 Angolans repatriated from neighboring countries in 1997, according to UNHCR. An estimated 1.2 million Angolans were internally displaced at year's end. Angola hosted more than 9,000 refugees from Congo/Zaire. About 2,000 Rwandans, some of whom may have been refugees, were in Angola in refugee-like circumstances. Pre-1997 Events The signing of the Lusaka Protocol in November 1994 officially ended the nearly 20-year civil war between the Angolan government and rebels of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The conflict killed hundreds of thousands, uprooted several million, and left tens of thousands victim to landmines. The peace accord left the country divided between two armies, however. That division, the widespread distribution of landmines, vast destruction of the transportation infrastructure, and banditry prevented most civilians from moving freely. In 1995, a nearly 7,000-strong UN military force, known as UNAVEM III, entered Angola to monitor implementation of the Lusaka Protocol, including the disarmament and demobilization of UNITA troops. During 1996, thousands of UNITA troops assembled at UN sites throughout the country. However, many were only part-time soldiers or civilians whom UNITA forced to pose as soldiers, according to observers. Only about half of the UNITA "troops" who arrived at assembly areas carried weapons, and tens of thousands subsequently deserted. Many observers contended that UNITA still possessed significant military capacityincluding an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 troopsin Angola's northeastern Lunda Provinces and in neighboring Zaire (later renamed Democratic Republic of Congo). Political Developments in 1997 During 1997, the peace process continued to suffer from delays, most often attributed to UNITA. The UN imposed new sanctions on UNITA in October, reflecting UN impatience. Early in the year, pro-government militia reportedly burned villages in formerly UNITA-held areas of Benguela, Huila, and Huambo Provinces, in west-central Angola, creating new populations of internally displaced persons. Such attacks created an enlarged "no-man's land," which lacked effective civil administration from either the government or UNITA. "Lawlessness, exacerbated by severe economic conditions, prevails in most of the country," said the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) in February. In April, the long-delayed government of national unity finally was formed. The unity government included representatives of MPLA, the party that had dominated Angola's civil war-era government, UNITA, and other parties. UNITA maintained at least nominal control over most of the countryside, however, and was slow to cede administrative authority to the government. The fall of the Mobutu regime in neighboring Congo/Zaire in May led to fighting inside Angola that many observers characterized as the most serious since the signing of the Lusaka Protocol. The ouster of Mobutu, a long-time UNITA supporter, weakened UNITA's supply lines and threatened its rear bases in Congo/Zaire. The Angolan government, invoking the right to secure Angola's borders, attacked UNITA positions in diamond-rich Lunda Norte Province, in the northeast. UNITA angrily denounced the attack, and the UN criticized the Angolan government for denying UNAVEM access to the region to verify troop movements, as the Lusaka Protocol required. Tensions spread to other provinces, including Lunda Sul and Moxico, in the east, and Malange, in north-central Angola, heightening concerns about a collapse of the peace process. Expatriate aid workers, fearing conflict, temporarily evacuated several sites in Moxico. Despite the decidedly downward turn in the peace process, the UN Security Council terminated the UNAVEM peacekeeping mission, replacing it as of July 1 with a smaller, less expensive observer mission known as MONUA. About 4,000 UN troops then in Angola were transferred to MONUA control. UN troop reductions continued, with the MONUA mission slated to end in early 1998. The Security Council also threatened further sanctions against UNITA if it refused to hand over territory to the government, report accurately on the number of armed troops it maintained, and transform its radio station to a nonpartisan entity. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declared in August, "Last-minute, half-hearted concessions by UNITAare no longer acceptable." That the unity government functioned throughout the year, even during military confrontations between the government and UNITA forces, signaled a split between UNITA moderates within the unity government based in Luanda, the capital, and UNITA hard-liners outside Luanda, according to some observers. The UN continued to report violations of the peace accord by both sides, but especially by UNITA. In July alone, MONUA reported that it was prevented from inspecting the cargo on more than 120 flights to UNITA controlled airstrips in central and eastern Angola. MONUA also confirmed the existence of armed UNITA soldiers, verified forced recruitment of new UNITA troops and "remobilization" of demobilized UNITA troops, and reported other irregularities in the demobilization process. Especially disturbing for Angola's uprooted civilians were reports that UNITA, in particular, was re-mining roads that NGOs and other agencies had demined. In some cases, re-mining activities were "a clear attempt to harm international staff working in humanitarian assistance," according to OFDA. Unidentified gunmen killed six people involved in demining activities in an attack in Benguela Province in October. UNITA's refusal to meet UN demands prompted new UN sanctions against UNITA in October, including a ban on most flights into or out of UNITA-held territory, the closure of UNITA offices abroad, and restrictions on international travel for UNITA personnel not within the unity government. In December, UN Secretary General Annan reported no significant progress in the peace process since mid-October. "Both parties, but in particular UNITA, are responsible for this unsatisfactory state of affairs," he said. Displacement and Assistance Estimates of the number of persons uprooted in Angola were inexact. The UN continued to report that some 1.2 million Angolans were internally displaced, a figure that remained essentially unchanged since mid-1996. The lack of change reflected not only the difficulty of counting the displaced, but also the stalemate that existed throughout much of the country. Small numbers of displaced Angolans did return home or resettle in other areas of the country during the year, while tens of thousands of persons were newly displaced by fighting and armed attacks, especially in the Lunda Provinces, in the northeast, and in Benguela, Huila, and Huambo Provinces, in west-central Angola. An estimated 17,000 persons fled early in the year to Cubal, in Benguela Province, because of pro-government militia attacks, swelling the population receiving food assistance in the Cubal area to about 120,000. Violence in Benguela Province later in the year reportedly uprooted some 9,000 people. About 10,000 people were newly displaced by fighting between government forces and UNITA in the Lunda Provinces of the northeast in May and June. In areas where UNITA checkpoints had been dismantled and where the Angolan government assumed administrative control, freedom of movement increased, according to WFP, prompting some people to migrate. People detained for several years in UNITA-controlled territory in Malange Province, in north-central Angola, began returning to their homes after being released. Other reports, however, indicated that armed men forced some civilians to leave their homes in UNITA-held areas of Malange Province; some migrated to the city of Malange, seeking food assistance. Elsewhere, persistent armed attacks interfered with humanitarian efforts. WFP reported in December that armed attacks had "obstructed the movements of humanitarian staff, hindered the return of internally displaced persons, blocked demining efforts, and impeded road/bridge rehabilitation projects." Large resettlement projects remained suspended at year's end, pending improved security. Repatriation to Angola In 1995, UNHCR appealed for $44 million to fund a proposed 30-month repatriation and reintegration program for Angolan refugees. The slow pace of implementing Angola's peace accord, however, delayed much of the program. In 1997, UNHCR again appealed for funding to implement its planned repatriation program. Given relative insecurity in Angola, however, donor countries hesitated to contribute funds to an operation that seemed unlikely to be implemented soon. Perhaps putting the cart before the horse, a senior UNHCR official stated in June, "Our inability to bring about repatriation may set back the timetable for peace." Despite the postponement of the formal repatriation program, UNHCR's office in Angola reported that more than 53,000 Angolans repatriated spontaneously during 1997, bringing to more than 120,000 the number of Angolans reported to have repatriated spontaneously from June 1995 through 1997. UNHCR's offices in asylum countries, however, could not verify the return of such large numbers of refugees. Only 146 Angolans repatriated under UNHCR auspices in 1997. Registered returnees received a return package that included seeds, tools, household items, and short-term food assistance. Some observers charged, however, that some registered returnees had not been refugees at all, but were instead local people whom UNITA had ordered to register for return assistance. UNHCR also funded community-based health and education projects in returnee areas. Refugees from Congo/Zaire More than 9,000 Congolese/Zairian refugees were registered with UNHCR in Angola at year's end. Many originated in southern Congo/Zaire's Shaba (formerly Katanga) Region, and fled in the aftermath of unsuccessful attempts at Katangan independence in the 1960s and 1970s. During 1997, only eight Congolese/Zairian refugees repatriated from Angola under UNHCR auspices. The overthrow of the Mobutu regime in May, however, reportedly prompted some Congolese/Zairians to repatriate spontaneously. Rwandans About 2,000 Rwandans and smaller numbers of Burundians entered Angola during the year. Their refugee status was controversial, however, as some likely participated in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, making them ineligible for international refugee protection. They remained in Angola in refugee-like circumstances at year's end. The Angolan government reported that Rwandans and Burundians began arriving in Angola from neighboring Congo/Zaire in late April, fleeing conflict there. Angola barred UNAVEM and UNHCR personnel from the border area, however. The government also reportedly refused to permit a cross-border assistance operation to Congo/Zaire. Angolan government officials suspected that some Rwandans were members of the former Rwandan army or a Rwandan militia, both of which were complicit in Rwanda's 1994 genocide. The politics of the region also painted such persons as UNITA allies. Armed men in Congo/Zaire escorted some Rwandans to the Angolan border, according to the Angolan government. Government troops forcibly returned to Congo/Zaire an estimated 3,000 people, primarily Rwandans, from the Dundo area of Lunda Norte Province. Some apparently later re entered Angola through UNITA-held territory. USCR issued a statement on May 1 calling on the Angolan government to screen arriving Rwandans to determine their refugee status. "Proper screening of Rwandans attempting to enter Angola would serve the dual purpose of protecting bona fide refugees and separating them from dangerous elements," USCR said. USCR also raised the issue in a letter to Angola's ambassador to the United States. "Angola has a duty to ensure that persons asserting they are refugees are given the opportunity to pursue their refugee claims," wrote USCR. The Angolan ambassador replied that the Angolan government was "in complete agreementthat these rights be observed." The ambassador stopped short of saying that Angola would permit Rwandans to enter in the future, however. Eventually, some 2,000 Rwandans and about 100 Burundians made their way to Luau, a UNITA-controlled town in eastern Moxico Province. Luau later reverted to government control. UNHCR conducted what it called a "random" screening of the Rwandans and Burundians in September, recommending a "comprehensive" screening to determine who among the group might be ineligible for international refugee protection because of their actions in Rwanda. Such a screening had not begun by year's end. UNHCR continued to consider members of the group as prima facie refugees, however, pending a comprehensive screening. The Angolan government reportedly gave verbal assurances that the group could remain in Angola, at least temporarily. About one-third of the Burundians in the group requested to repatriate or to join family members in Tanzania, according to UNHCR. No such movements had occurred by year's end, however.
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U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Angola
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