Global Policy Forum

Report on Angola Sanctions


By Barbara Crossette

New York Times
March 16, 2000

United Nations, March 15, 2000 - An explosive report on how sanctions against a rebel army in Angola are being broken, and by whom, provoked a heated debate today in the Security Council. A dozen or more African and European nations challenged the investigators' methods and evidence.

French-speaking Africans charged bias in the investigation, which was ordered by Canada's United Nations representative and led by a Swedish diplomat. France was also critical, saying the report was imprecise in making accusations and vague on dates and other facts.

The report, by 10 international experts working for the council's committee on sanctions in Angola, implicated two current African presidents as well as the government of Bulgaria and the world's largest diamond exchange, in Antwerp, Belgium, in the methods that rebels have used to smuggle Angolan diamonds out for sale, enabling them to buy weapons to sustain decades of civil war.

The report also tracked illegal fuel shipments to the rebels, known as the UNITA movement, led by Jonas Savimbi. The rebels have suffered battlefield setbacks recently at the hands of the Angolan Army, and these losses of territory, coupled with warnings that the Security Council was planning to publicize allegations of sanctions violations, have already cut into the illegal diamond trade, members of the investigating panel said today.

The war in Angola, a nation of 12 million people, has left a million dead, and three million are now displaced from their homes. About 200 people, many of them children, die every day, relief organizations say. UNICEF calls Angola the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a child.

The investigating panel was the first to be created by the Security Council, which normally relies on carefully worded reports from the United Nations Secretariat and information collected by individual nations' intelligence services.

Robert Fowler, the Canadian representative, who is chairman of the committee on sanctions in Angola and will be the Security Council president in April, organized the panel. He intends to press the Security Council to put sanctions on countries or leaders involved in the illegal arms and diamond trade, as recommended by the panel. The investigation was led by Anders Mollander, a Swedish Foreign Ministry official who was formerly ambassador to Angola.

With Bulgaria in mind, the panel also asked the European Union and NATO to evaluate how candidates for membership abide by sanctions rules. The Bulgarians are accused of shipping arms to Mr. Savimbi through third countries and of training Unita soldiers in the guise of troops from Zaire, now Congo. There were 39 recommendations in all, some of them technical suggestions for how to trace illegal exports and imports or monitor traffic in the region where Mr. Savimbi is based. Others were more political, including a call for a ban on international conferences in nations accused of violating sanctions.

"The panel has done exactly what we asked them to do," Mr. Fowler said at a news conference today after presenting his report to the council. "They have named names. They have identified sanctions busting both in terms of the busters and the methods of busting." Mr. Fowler's experiment with the sanctions in Angola is being watched closely in the Security Council and by all member nations of the United Nations because no diplomat has tried to turn his committee into an active enforcer of an embargo.

Several delegations applauded the experiment, but others were wary of what they saw as a trend in the United Nations toward interfering in countries' internal affairs. Peter Hain, the minister of state in charge of African affairs in the British Foreign Office, told the Security Council today, "It is no good putting our hands up in the UN for sanctions, and then taking no action while citizens in our countries make money out of misery." He welcomed the report as a demonstration, at least to Mr. Savimbi, that "now there is nowhere to hide."

Mr. Fowler said his report to the council "offered a blueprint for change," and said: "Sanctions had been grievously flouted for nearly seven years. Every member of this organization knows these sanctions have been violated." The report, completed within six months with visits to 30 countries, was a gamble, because in the time assigned them, the arms experts - from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, China, Russia, France, Switzerland, Sweden and the United States - could not gather as much hard evidence as many nations were demanding to see.

More than a dozen nations questioned the heavy reliance on interviews with defectors from Unita who had since joined the Angolan Army. Stanlake M. Samkange, a Zimbabwean lawyer and arms expert who wrote the report, countered at a news conference that these defectors provided corroboration for evidence already gathered elsewhere.

Togo's representative, Roland Y. Kpotsra, dismissed the report as "rumor, hearsay, and scraps that are considered verified because they are confirmed by UNITA defectors." The report accuses Togo's president, Gnassingbe Eyadema, of helping Mr. Savimbi obtain arms and fuel.

Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso was the second president named in the report as an active partner in Mr. Savimbi's illegal trading operations. Today, the representative of Burkina Faso, Michel Kafando, told the Security Council that this was a "report built on illusions rather than on certainties." The government denied the allegations when they were first reported last weekend.

Today, Rwanda's envoy, Joseph W. Mutaboba, denied that officials there had allowed UNITA to use the country as a base for making diamond deals, as the report alleged. He said these were "wild allegations." Several envoys speaking for their nations said they had not received the 59-page report until Tuesday and could not reply in detail.

The work of the investigating panel produced some pre-emptive action. Belgium issued new rules governing diamond sales on March 4, but the report had been largely written by then. Last year, De Beers, the world's largest diamond trader, said it would no longer buy Angolan diamonds except from a mine in which it has a direct interest. Angola said it was also tightening the legal trade in gems.

South Africa, where the government was not implicated but some citizens were, today outlined steps it has taken to cut ties to UNITA. In the Security Council, the South African representative, Dumisani S. Kumalo, said the country would take "firm action" against any citizens still violating sanctions.

All countries named in the report were given the right to reply in the Security Council today. All denied the allegations against them or tried to explain how investigators had misunderstood them or not listened. But in almost every case, representatives pledged to cooperate in closing loopholes if any did exist.

Mr. Fowler's panel measures pledges of cooperation as a success, since the aim of the panel, its members said today, was to end the war in Angola by severing its chief protagonist from his illegal supplies of weapons and fuel. The report also had some criticism for the Angolan government, particularly in what it saw as complicity in smuggling fuel to rebel territory.

Security Council sanctions were first imposed on UNITA, which had been supported by the United States and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire during the cold war, in 1993. This followed Unita's refusal to accept its defeat in 1992 elections, which were won by a leftist party. The sanctions barred the sale of arms and fuel to Unita. In 1997 the council broadened the sanctions. In 1998, with mounting evidence that Mr. Savimbi was still arming by selling diamonds, the Security Council further expanded sanctions to prohibit anyone from buying diamonds from UNITA or UNITA-controlled territory.


More Articles on the Conflict in Angola


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.