Global Policy Forum

Excerpts from Report on Angola

Angola Peace Monitor Issue No. 2, Vol. VI
October 26, 1999



UNITA Concedes Loss of Andulo and Bailundo

An Angolan army counter-offensive has pushed the rebel UNITA movement of Jonas Savimbi from its strongholds in the central highlands of Angola, immediately bringing some relief to the hundreds of thousands of people who had fled to government controlled cities for safety. The threat of mass starvation in the cities of Malange, Kuito and Huambo has receded as supplies have begun to get through, although there is still a desperate need for humanitarian aid to continue.

The government formally announced on 20 October that the army, FAA, had taken control of the two most important UNITA bases, at Bailundo and Andulo. UNITA, which had previously denied that the government had taken over Bailundo and had claimed that the FAA offensive was a failure, have now admitted that the towns have fallen. As late as 13 October UNITA was claiming that the offensive was unsuccessful. The UNITA representative in Belgium, Azevedo Kanganje, was quoted in the London-based journal Southscan as saying that "FAA deployed a lot of forces, including 500 tanks, supported by aircraft but did not reach this target which they promised to conquer in one week. With the rains pouring down, we can say that Operacao Restauro has failed, like the previous offensives".

However, an Angolan radio journalist, Jaime Azulay, of the Luanda Antena Comercial radio station, reported from Bailundo that the town had been wrecked, but that it was "not a matter of mass destruction as reported elsewhere".

On 21 October Angolan television showed pictures of the FAA chief of staff, General Joao de Matos, in Andulo. Film apparently showed that much of Andulo was undamaged, including Jonas Savimbi's "White Palace".

Sources indicate that despite UNITA bringing some of its most experienced troops back to Andulo from the siege of Malange for a final defence of the town, the government advance was so powerful that the town was evacuated. Senior military sources have indicated that UNITA evacuated Andulo without any heavy fighting in the immediate area. The sources state that a large amount of war materiel was abandoned by the rebels, including heavy artillery guns and vehicles. Among the possessions abandoned was Jonas Savimbi's Mercedes limousine. One reliable security analyst has informed the Angola Peace Monitor that many UNITA troops have been captured, with the rest being dispersed in a disorderly evacuation.

However, other reports state that UNITA has moved in large numbers with their weaponry to Moxico province in the east of the country. The government has managed to dislodge UNITA in the central highlands, but fighting is continuing throughout the country. The coming months will show whether UNITA has managed to evacuate from the area intact, or whether its military capacity has been severely blunted.

Many other smaller, but key, UNITA-held towns have been recaptured by FAA, including Kalandula, Kangamba, Kalussinga, Londuimbale, Luacano, Luao, Lumbala-Nguimbo, Tempwe, Mussende and Nharea. The radio station LAC has also stated that FAA captured another strategically important town, Mungo, early in October.

One of the key factors in the turning of military fortunes was the importation of new weaponry. The recovery in oil prices, from a low of $9 to over $20 a barrel, along with important signature bonuses from oil companies temporarily lessened the government's financial crisis, enabling it to buy sophisticated weapons. Human Rights Watch has recently detailed Angola's purchase of new artillery equipment, aircraft, helicopters and tanks.

Sources quoted by the UN news agency IRIN, suggest that UNITA will be forced to abandon its conventional military capacity, involving the use of tanks and long-range artillery, and revert to guerrilla tactics to continue the suffering of the Angolan people.

A senior UNITA figure, Alcides Sakala, interviewed by Reuters, warned that the Angolan capital of Luanda would be a top military target for UNITA.

However, official sources suggest that the government is continuing with its offensive, particularly in the north and east of the country. One senior source stated that FAA has control over much of Moxico province, which borders Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Recently it took control of several towns in the area, and there are reports that FAA has surrounded the strategic UNITA base at Cazombo.

Whilst the government gains in the centre of the country has lifted its confidence, the question remains of what UNITA's strategy will be following the government counter-offensive, and whether the rebels have kept their capacity to control large areas of the country.

Transport Links Reopening Cautiously

Road and air links with the besieged cities of Malange, Huambo and Kuito are re-opening as UNITA has been forced away from the areas. According to reports from aid agencies, people are still cautious about using the roads due to the threat of attack and of landmines. It is also not yet clear what was the scale of civilian casualties and physical damage directly by the latest fighting.

However, the opening of roads, and increased security around the airports has eased the threat of mass starvation that at one point was hovering, over Malange in particular, according to aid agencies.

UN to Open Office in Luanda

The United Nations Security Council voted on 15 October (SCR 1268/1999) to establish a United Nations Office in Angola (UNOA) for an initial six month period.

The office is expected to consist of around thirty professional staff, as well as administrative support. The office will "liaise with the political, military, police and other civilian authorities, with a view to exploring effective measures for restoring peace, assisting the Angolan people in the area of capacity-building, humanitarian assistance, the promotion of human rights, and coordinating other activities".

Meanwhile, the Expert Panels of the UN Sanctions Committee have continued to collect evidence of UNITA's evasion of international embargoes. During October they visited Angola and South Africa.

Following a four-day trip to Angola, panel expert Olivier Vallee gave evidence to the South African parliament's committee on foreign affairs on 22 October, where he stated that, "we are sure that there are a lot of banks, including in South Africa, that are involved in money laundering".

Diamond Giant Stops Angolan Purchases

The world's dominant diamond purchaser De Beers, announced on 5 October that it would no longer buy any Angolan diamonds, wherever they are sold, even if they are accompanied by an Angolan certificate of origin. The decision follows international efforts to end revenues from diamonds reaching UNITA coffers. The only Angolan diamonds it will accept in future are those diamonds De Beers was contractually obliged to purchase from SDM, a joint venture operation by the Angolan government and Ashton mining.

The announcement has been warmly welcomed internationally, including the Angolan government and the British government. British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said the decision was "excellent news" and hoped that others would follow. The campaign organisation Global Witness welcomed the move, but stated that "this is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. We would like to know what concrete measures they intend to put in place."



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