At the end of 2000, an estimated 400,000 Angolans were refugees in neighboring countries, including up to 190,000 in Zambia, 170,000 in Congo-Kinshasa, about 20,000 in Congo-Brazzaville, approximately 20,000 in Namibia, and some 5,000 asylum seekers in Europe.

The number of internally displaced Angolans ranged from 1 million to 3.5 million people, according to widely divergent estimates.

Continued warfare forced some 300,000 Angolans to become newly uprooted in 2000.

Some 6,000 Angolan refugees repatriated during the year.

Angola hosted about 12,000 refugees at year's end, the vast majority from Congo-Kinshasa.

Political Background

A November 1994 peace accord known as the Lusaka Protocol temporarily halted decades of war between the Angolan government, led by the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and rebels of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

The peace agreement set a timetable for establishing a government of national unity, demobilizing UNITA combatants, and restoring state control in rebel-held areas. It also called for UN peacekeepers to help support the fragile peace in a country that remained littered with landmines and divided between two armies.

In 1998, after a four-year, $1.5 billion peace process, the war resumed. UNITA, in violation of the peace agreement, never fully demobilized its soldiers and refused to relinquish its stronghold in the central highlands and other strategic areas. As rebels re-occupied territory previously relinquished to the government, the UN Security Council imposed additional sanctions against UNITA.

Large-scale population displacement occurred in 1998 and 1999 as hostilities resumed. In February 1999, the UN Security Council terminated the UN peacekeeping operation after declaring that there was no peace left to observe in Angola. At the time, UNITA rebels controlled three-quarters of the country. At the end of 1999, the government launched a counter-offensive, regaining control of most of the territory it had lost during the previous six months.

Warfare in 2000

A major government offensive reclaimed rebel strongholds during 2000. It dramatically improved security in some areas, but made security more unpredictable at other locations.

Rebel tactics shifted to guerrilla warfare after government troops crippled UNITA's conventional military capabilities. Conditions in the countryside deteriorated as hit-and-run rebel attacks on local communities and widespread looting replaced identifiable front lines. Six major roads re-opened, and security perimeters around government-held provincial capitals increased throughout the year. State administration slowly expanded to new areas. For the first time since 1994, humanitarian agencies were able to operate in every province by year's end.

A UN report in March detailed numerous international violations of Security Council sanctions against UNITA. The UN moved to improve enforcement of existing sanctions on oil, arms, and diamonds. By mid-year, UNITA's shift in military tactics and apparent retreat caused many observers to conclude that the rebels were weakened.

During the last four months of the year, the government stepped up its military offensive and continued to capture strategic locations, successfully denying UNITA its traditional bases of support. In September, the government drove UNITA from strongholds in southern Moxico Province and won control of a key air base in northern Uige Province that had supplied UNITA since 1994.

In the mineral-rich northeastern provinces of Lunda Norte and Luna Sul, the government controlled 11 of 13 districts by October, denying UNITA access to the diamonds that had funded rebel operations for decades. The Angolan Foreign Ministry announced in October that government troops had "totally expelled UNITA rebels from diamond zones."

Rebel desertions, defections, and rumors of internal purges increased as the government continued to push UNITA from key areas in the south. As many as 2,000 UNITA rebels and their family members had fled into Zambia by year's end.

In November, Angolan president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos offered amnesty to all rebels willing to lay down their weapons. Rebel troops subsequently mounted a show of force in several strategic areas, and security analysts cautioned against underestimating UNITA's strength. At year's end, vast rural areas not under government control remained subject to increased banditry, rebel ambushes, and violence.

Displacement and Assistance

Continued warfare and insecurity in 2000 forced some 300,000 civilians to become newly displaced from their homes and limited large-scale return or local permanent relocation of uprooted families. At least 65,000 new Angolan refugees fled the country.

Accurate assessments of new population displacement were impossible. Conflicting estimates about the total number of uprooted Angolans continued to reflect the difficulty of assessing both the needs and the size of the displaced population after three decades of war. By the end of 2000, estimates of the number of internally displaced persons varied enormously, from 1.1 million to 3.8 million. The country's estimated total population was about 12 million.

The vast majority of internally displaced families integrated into local communities long ago, making them more difficult to identify. The Angolan government "is well known for systematically overstating the number of newly displaced persons in what is seen as an attempt to both exaggerate the gravity of the humanitarian situation, and to acquire more humanitarian aid for the country," a 1999 academic study on internal displacement in southern Africa charged.

Only two provinces experienced fresh population displacement of more than 50,000 civilians during 2000, compared to eight provinces that suffered displacement of that magnitude the preceding year. In Bie Province, fighting in the central highlands forced some 65,000 people to flee their homes. In Huila Province, in the southwest, approximately 50,000 people were newly uprooted. Smaller-scale displacement occurred in all provinces throughout the year.

As in the past, UNITA rebels tried to prevent populations from fleeing, and trapped civilians in the middle of the conflict. Local populations in UNITA areas "fear that the Angolan army is coming and is likely to take revenge, not realizing [they were forced to stay] there under duress," an aid worker explained.

Internally displaced persons tended to move as entire communities. In rural areas, most families have fled their homes multiple times. The majority of displaced families stayed with friends and family, severely straining local resources.

Humanitarian conditions improved slightly during 2000 because of improved access. Malnutrition significantly declined in some areas as access to farm land and to markets improved. The World Food Program (WFP) provided food aid to 1.3 million displaced and war-affected civilians during the year. Road deliveries of humanitarian aid resumed as major corridors re-opened. However, 70 percent of all relief supplies continued to arrive via expensive airlift operations.

Seven UN agencies, 95 international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and some 280 local NGOs provided humanitarian relief to displaced and host communities during 2000. The UN estimated that about 25 percent of the population received some form of assistance.

Improved humanitarian aid and better coordination became a higher priority after an inter-agency assessment mission early in the year found that "despite massive injections of food assistance and targeted nutrition interventions during the past 18 months, morbidity and mortality rates continued to be exceptionally high, indicating that an integrated programming approach linking food, agriculture, water, sanitation, health, education ... should be adopted as a matter of priority."

The expansion of security perimeters around some government-held areas created opportunities to permanently relocate displaced persons and reduce their dependence on food aid. By October, some 180,000 displaced persons relocated to areas with available farm land, more than half in the central province of Huambo. Displaced populations living in overcrowded conditions in the provinces of Huambo, Uige, Zaire, and Kuando Kubango transferred to improved sites and gained access to agricultural land. In November, the UN appealed for $200 million to continue assistance to displaced and war-affected persons.

Lasting improvements proved elusive, however. Insecurity continued to impede humanitarian assistance in many areas. At year's end, UNITA guerrilla activity intensified in Benguela, Bie, Huambo, Uige, Malange, Lunda, and Moxico provinces. Some areas previously identified for possible permanent relocation came under attack and new flows of displaced persons were reported in December.

Throughout the year, thousands of uprooted families continued to migrate to Angola's capital, Luanda, where about 40 percent of the country's population lived before the war resumed in late 1998. Large but unknown numbers of internally displaced persons lived in the capital's rapidly expanding urban slums, where they resorted to cardboard, plastic sheeting, and corrugated iron for shelter.

Most aid agencies chose not to expand their operations to the capital in the belief that the government could and should meet the needs of its population there. However, Luanda continued to suffer from virtually nonexistent social services and infrastructure, particularly sanitation facilities. Clean water was in short supply, and health care was inadequate.

Repatriation to Angola

Approximately 6,000 Angolan refugees repatriated during 2000.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) facilitated the repatriation of about 500 Angolans from Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa. UNHCR provided transport and reintegration assistance such as seeds and tools to the returnees, and expanded assistance to include the war-affected local population in the area.

Several thousand other Angolan refugees were believed to have spontaneously returned home on their own from Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa during the year.

Refugees from Congo-Kinshasa

About 12,000 long-time Congolese refugees from the Katanga Province of Congo-Kinshasa remained in Angola at year's end. Most had fled to Angola more than a decade ago. Many originally settled in various provinces of Angola before the war forced them to flee to the relative safety of Luanda. Some 6,000 lived in mud huts and tents in a camp in Viana, on the periphery of the capital. Sanitation conditions in the camp were substandard.

In May, UNHCR registered more than 1,800 Congolese refugees for possible repatriation to Congo-Kinshasa. Government officials in Congo-Kinshasa failed to approve official repatriation. However, the government of Congo-Kinshasa repatriated 1,000 of its nationals under a bilateral agreement with the government of Angola, according to UNHCR. Half were refugees; half were former combatants.


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