The war in Angola:
a silent human tragedy
José Eduardo dos Santos declared war on UNITA, last December 5th, 1998, at the opening session of the IV Congress of Mpla ruling party which was held in the Angolan capital, Luanda.
In a unilateral move, and without consulting the Government's partner in the peace process, dos Santos effectively put to death the Angolan peace process, killing the Lusaka Protocol with the benediction of his party. The IV MPLA Party Congress further entombed it by endorsing José Eduardo dos Santos's strategy of war.
Unfortunately, the United Nations was connivance to this through its silence at the time of the declaration of this dirty third consecutive war by dos Santos against UNITA.
Worse still, the UN was not able to point an accusing finger at the government in order to denounce it as the sole culprit for the fresh outbreak of war in the country. Therefore, it bears most of the blame for the failure of the application of the Protocol of Lusaka and for the resumption of war in Angola, since they were at the time the mediators of the Angolan peace process.
The United Nations underestimated UNITA's watchfulness. On many occasions UNITA raised with the UN and the Troika of the Observer countries, at its headquarters in Bailundo and Andulo, all issues related with the fact that the Government was preparing for war.
UNITA proved to the UN officials that the government was buying new weapons, which were arriving regularly at night through the country's main ports. At the same time, the training of new recruits in great numbers for incorporation into the Government Armed Forces was also taking place.
Added to this, the wave of hostile propaganda, generated in Luanda, right under the nose of the UN, through the state run national television and radio, was a clear sign that the government was pushing the country back to the logic of war. Despite all these verifiable information available to the UN, its muteness was a sign of its complicity with the government.
By that time, UNITA had become aware that the UN was being partial, for its objectives were attained: the quartering, disarming and demobilizing of UNITA forces, done in such inhuman conditions, no matter at what price. UNITA soldiers, more than seventy (70) thousand men quartered, were treated as animals and criminals, as people to be hanged the next morning. These 15 quartering areas, scattered all over the country, resembled more the Nazi concentration camps. They were camps of shame. They were shameful symbols of indignity and lack of respect for human rights. These concentration camps become the seeds of revolt.
Faced with the partiality of the UN, UNITA began to develop its preventive strategy, since the climate of mistrust, which already existed between the two belligerents, was inflamed by the negative posture of the United Nations Security Council.
Despite all the efforts by UNITA to comply with its obligations, the UN and the government turned a blind eye on these good will gestures. Making things worse, the Security Council reinforced its policy of sanctions against UNITA.
Even though, UNITA sent its members to the Government of National Unity and Reconciliation (GURN), and to the Parliament, its Generals to the Angolan Army, and gave back all it territory back to the state estimated at more than 300 localities. So far, the government did not disarm its seven hundred thousand militiamen, neither repatriated the South African mercenaries.
Finally, both the government and the United Nations, and the observer countries were demanding that we offer our heads. They already were on the same logic of exclusion, intolerance and war against UNITA.
The third war of José Eduardo dos Santos
With this fresh outbreak of war, which was unwelcome to the majority of Angolans, which was further hastened by the forced departure of the UN personnel from Angola by José Eduardo dos Santos, a new political reality emerged in the country.
Today, the country is back in the throes of a full-scale war, a total war with all its negative consequences on human lives and property. The death toll is very high. Nine months later, the blitz war of dos Santos, promised in December last year, has become a nightmare to him and his close associates and allies, mainly Portugal, Russia, Namibia and Zimbabwe. They don't know when the war will end, where to turn to or where to put their heads together in order to get fresh ideas.
The losses, in terms of human lives and property, created by this unnecessary war, are as follows:
- Millions of internally displaced people, used as human shields in urban areas by the government, are at the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. If they are not allowed to return to their villages to farm, they will die from hunger. The rainy season begun on September 14, 1999. It is time to prepare the land for the next agriculture season.
- Insufficiency of international assistance aimed at feeding millions of displaced people. International aid is not reaching the people in real need. Food and other donations are being deviated and sold on the local markets in urban centers by government soldiers and police.
- Politicization of humanitarian assistance. People in UNITA areas, in real need of medicine and other items, with the exception of food, are not part of the UN assistance program. A clear policy of double standards.
- Innocent civilians are frequently killed and wounded by indiscriminate aerial bombardments carried out with napalm, phosphorus, cluster and fuel air explosive bombs. Cassava fields and banana trees and vegetables belonging to the locals has become the preferential targets of chemical bombs aimed at destroying them.
- Entire villages, composed mostly of grass thatched houses, have been burnt and destroyed with napalm and phosphorus bombs, along with a great extension of forestry. The Angolan highland, the most populated area in the country, has been transformed into a hell, and lives are on the brink of hunger and famine. There is a genocide-taking place, under the silent stare of the international community.
- Destruction of physical infrastructure in UNITA areas, with jet bombers, as seen in Kosovo, including bridges - a total of 40 so far, including the Salazar bridge, over the Cuanza river, have so far been destroyed.
- Imprisonment, assassination and torture of reporters and newspaper correspondents from the independent media have become the order of the day in the country. The recent imprisonment in Luanda of William Toné, Director of an independent weekly newspaper, called Folha 8, is a sign of this policy of intransigence against the freedom of the press.
- Successive and unsuccessful military offensives aimed at taking by force the towns of Bailundo and Andulo. The last one was launched on September 14, 1999, on the Malanje, Bié, Huambo and Uíge fronts. Whenever a new offensive is launched, it creates a new movement of internally displaced people, violent death and suffering.
- Contrary to UNITA´s appeals for peace through dialogue, JES continues to pursue his policies of genocide and total war.
The Responsibility of the United Nations
On the Angolan Drama
After the death of Maitre Alliounne Blondin Beye, the Special Representative of the United Nations General Secretary in Angola, which occurred in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in a plane crash, in June 1998, the Secretary General of the United Nations has failed to put back the peace process on the trail. The Protocol disintegrated rapidly.
Soon after his death, Mr. Diallo, his replacement, was appointed on schedule. Soon upon his arrival in Luanda, from NY, he planned to meet Dr. Savimbi in Andulo, in August 1998, in order to discuss the end of the application of the Lusaka Protocol. Dos Santos got upset at his request and refused to give him permission to travel to Andulo to meet Dr. Savimbi, alleging lack of security. The Luanda authorities permanently denied him accesses to the UNITA leadership and territory. The UN was not able to impose itself due to dos Santos´s pressure, and, afterwards, Issa Diallo, was forced to leave the country, expelled, alongside with MONUA, on October 1998.
That was a clear sign of the weakness of the United Nations in Angola, which was not willing to put pressure on the government in order to put back on trail the peace process.
Well before the death of Blondin Beye, the following events, reflecting the absence of political will on the side of the government of Angola took place:
1. The conception of the political implosion strategy by JES, in February 1998, which led, on September 2, 1998, to the creation of the so-called " unita renovada ", was underway.
2. The holding, in Andulo, on June 19, 1998, of a meeting, proposed by Dr. Savimbi, with the clear crystal purpose of avoiding the derailment of the Lusaka protocol, between the leadership of UNITA and the delegation of the Government led by Muteka in the company of his deputy, Higino Carneiro.
The aim of this meeting was to discuss all the political arbitraryties and wrongdoing by the government, which had been taking place during the Extension of State Administration, through selective killings, summary executions, disappearances, kidnapping and rape of UNITA cadres. The assassinations, imprisonment and torture and intimidation of UNITA members, not to mention the hostile propaganda and destruction of UNITA property became the order of the day.
During this period, more than 1000 UNITA members were killed and abducted, at provincial, municipal and communal levels. 99% of these members were killed in the 300 localities given back to the government administration by UNITA in the framework of the peace process. In any case, the death toll was too high to be ignored by the United Nations and the international community. The UN and the Troika of Observers countries: Portugal, Russia and USA as well as the government ignored our appeals for restraint.
From the silence of the international community, reinforced by the United Nations sanctions against UNITA, the government had a mandate, a kind of green light from the Security Council, to kill UNITA militants and destroy its infrastructure, thus, destroying the expectations created by the Extension of state administration, which, in UNITA's view, was the essence of a true national reconciliation. The criminal behavior of the government during this process undermined UNITA's already shaky UNITA´s confidence in the UN.
3. Eduardo dos Santos´s announcement in Durban, South Africa, of the birth of " unita renovada " at the Non Aligned Summit, as a new partner in the Angolan peace process, was another sign of radicalism leading to war. Its creation on September 2, 1999 was internally heralded by an unprecedented propaganda campaign by the government aimed at flaming up national opinion with hate-filled statements against UNITA and Dr. Savimbi in particularly;
Judging from all these events, war was inevitable in the country. Preventive actions were to be speeded up, if one wanted to live the next day. UNITA´s main concern was to defend its right to live, for she was a lone voice in the wilderness.
The role of sanctions: its negative impact on the peace process
Most of the Portuguese, especially those in power in Lisbon, have always believed that African Angolans can only move with a whiplash on the back. This probably sums up the Security Council philosophy behind the concept of sanctions imposed on UNITA, under Portuguese instigation six years ago.
Security Council officials, including the Portuguese, when queried, often retorted that: " sanctions were not punitive but a way of encouraging UNITA to move forward with its obligations". This is a neo-colonial approach and logic, which is bound to fail.
UNITA's point of view is that sanctions were excessive, racially oriented and unjust. Therefore, with the death of the Lusaka Protocol, killed by dos Santos, there is no reason for their continued implementation for the following reasons:
1. They only encourage the radical attitude of José Eduardo dos Santos. A new political framework has to be defined according to the situation on the ground.
2. Sanctions are a green light for José Eduardo dos Santos to continue waging war in the country and maintain his policies of repression, exclusion and intolerance.
3. The continued maintenance of sanctions is a clear an endorsement of Eduardo dos Santos's policy of war by the Security Council. They are the official seal of approval of a systematic process of genocide being carried out by the dos Santos army, through indiscriminate aerial bombardments against defenseless villages with its jet fighters dropping systematically napalm, fuel air explosives, cluster and phosphorus bombs.
1. UNITA is against the policy of sanctions. By maintaining them now, the Security Council only encourages the division of the country, by admitting a " de facto " existence, within the same country, of a state within a state: one under Mpla and the other one under UNITA, which currently controls more than 70% of the national territory. Therefore, by imposing sanctions on UNITA, the Security Council recognizes " de facto " that UNITA has territory, population and armed forces, in the light of the predominant situation, since, all along modern history, sanctions have only been applied to states, and not to political parties.
2. The time has come for the SC to reexamine its policy of sanctions against UNITA. Only in this way can it effectively contribute towards the search for lasting peace in the country as the millenium draws to a close. Failure to do so may clearly be interpreted as conniving with a regime that has failed for the past 24 years to bring together all Angolans from all walks of life.
As Dr. Savimbi rightly put it recently: " Angolans must have enough courage to discuss their differences, particularly those considered taboos, such as race, culture, distribution of wealth, etc. ", otherwise any new formulas drawn from abroad will fail again to bring about lasting peace and stability in the country.
3. It should be emphasized that, with the death of the Lusaka Protocol, the problem does not lie on disarming, quartering or demobilizing UNITA troops, but rather on finding formulas which can successfully resolve the emotional and human tragedy of Angolans in a brotherly way.
4. It should be remembered that nowhere in the world were sanctions seen as a factor of encouragement, as the Security Council would falsely like to justify. On the contrary, they are punitive mechanical formulas that, in the case of Angola, can go on for years well into the next millenium, without resolving the profound differences among Angolan citizens, as is the case today, six years after they first came into effect. On the whole, they are merely a waste of time and money. They only exacerbate the secular differences of the Angolans.
5. The question is will sanctions be able to contribute to finding solutions aimed at resolving the human and emotional tragedy dividing Angolans? The answer is no. Let good will and common sense prevail and may God bless those who are willing from the bottom of their hearts to help Angolans to achieve a lasting peace in the country. To these, UNITA extends its hand.
UNITA foreign Affairs Secretary
Political and ethnic cleansing in central Angola
September 30, 1999.
Ever since the MPLA President, Mr. José Eduardo dos Santos, declared his '' last war for peace '' the people of Angola have been suffering heavily the consequences of this unnecessary war. Thousands of people have been displaced from their villages, most of the abducted by government forces to the urban centers in order to be used as human shields.
Although many alternatives have been put forward as ways of trying to resolve the Angolan conflict, dialogue is obviously the best way of reaching a peaceful settlement. Thus, UNITA's President, Dr. Jonas Savimbi, speaking to the international press in late August, declared his readiness to resume dialogue as long as Mr. Eduardo dos Santos was also willing to do so. Unfortunately, José Eduardo dos Santos's response to this good will gesture was warlike. On August 18, 1999, during the SADC summit held in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, Eduardo dos Santos declared that '' there is nothing to negotiate ''.
Shortly after his remarks, a large scale military offensive aimed at annihilating UNITA and its leadership got underway on September 14, 1999. The MPLA President ordered the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) to attack Bailundo, a UNITA stronghold, where thousands of Angolans drawn from the whole country have sought refuge over the years in order to escape from persecutions by the MPLA government during the course of the implementation of the Lusaka Protocol. Thousands of innocent UNITA members and sympathisers lost their lives at the hands of Government police and soldiers during the extension of state administration.
Despite Government attempts to keep them holed up in the country's major urban centers against their will, thousands of villagers have found their way back to their home villages where they have their agricultural fields and scanty personal property. Escape from these cities, which have been transformed into authentic «concentration camps» is not so easy. An estimated 2.000 civilians, including women and children, were recently gunned down in cold blood by Government troops while trying to escape from the central Angolan city of Huambo in order to seek sanctuary in UNITA administered territory. What is even more astounding is the conniving silence by the international community over this serious violation of human rights by the MPLA authorities.
With the large scale military offensive against Bailundo underway, the MPLA has resorted to indiscriminate air bombing raids, using prohibited napalm and phospurous bombs on the civilian population. Many innocent children, women and elderly people have perished in these bombing raids while physical infrastructure is also being systematically destroyed. The result has been a dramatic increase in the number of displaced civilians. Still, the world remains silent in the light of this outrageous crime against humanity being perpetuated by the MPLA Government against innocent Angolans.
The White House in the United States, the so called custodian of democracy and human rights, recently reiterated its decision to maintain sanctions against UNITA despite the fact that the government of Angola is carrying out an ethnic and political genocide.
In his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, 1999, the United States President, Mr. Bill Clinton, said: '' I hope what we should do today is to strengthen the capacity of the international community to prevent, and whenever possible, stop with mass killings and displacements.'' He also said: '' We banned chemical weapons from the earth, though we must implement the commitment fully and gain universal coverage. '' Then how come the United States is silently watching a mass genocide of unprecedented proportions with chemical bombs taking place in Angola?
The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan stated recently with regard to the Timor conflict that: ''ethnic cleansers and mass murderers can find no refuge in the United Nations, no source of comfort or justification in its Charter''. The big question is how come the UN is silently watching one of its members, the government of Angola, getting underway a deliberate plan of genocide by expelling and murdering tens of thousands of Angolans from their land while on the other hand spending millions of dollars in order to ensure that sanctions, which only encourage the exclusion policy of Mr. Eduardo dos Santos are kept on course ?
The 5th Principle of the Organisation of African Unity Charter condemns without reservation what it calls political murder by member states. Then why the silence by the OAU with regard to the mass murder which is being carried out by the Angolan Government against the African people of Angola?
The international community should not only look at Angola from its wealth dimension. It is important to bear in mind that the MPLA Government appears to be the international community's preferred client as far as the looting of the country's wealth is concerned. As long as the Government continues to stick to its war policy in order to cling to power, UNITA will have no other option other than to defend itself from this permanent injustice against the African People of Angola.
By : Aquiles Ngonguela
Bailundo - Angola