Angola: Activists urge UN to act on allegations of abuse

JOHANNESBURG, 10 January (IRIN) - Allegations of human rights abuses in the northern enclave of Cabinda and the living conditions of some 80,000 demobilised soldiers should top the agenda during UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello's visit to Angola next week, rights activists said on Friday.
"There is documented evidence that civilians in Cabinda are being attacked on a daily basis by the army. After the war ended with UNITA [rebels] it seems like the government has a new enemy. These peoples' rights are being violated everyday," Open Society country representative Rafael Marques told IRIN.

De Mello's visit from 15 to 18 January is expected to bolster cooperation between the United Nations, government and NGOs to improve local capacity to safeguard human rights in the country.

UN officials in Angola said since the 2001 April ceasefire the human rights situation in Angola had improved significantly. However, agencies were aware of the challenges that lay ahead as a result of 27 years of armed conflict.

"The primary reason for the high commissioner's visit to Angola is to firstly familiarise himself with the ongoing peace process and the human rights situation following the end of the war," chief of the human rights division of the UN-Angola Mission (UNMA), Anders Pederson, told IRIN.

"Also, it is an opportunity to discuss how his office could work together with UNMA, government partners and NGOs towards consolidating our commitment to safeguarding human rights in the post conflict phase. This is a particularly historic time in Angola and the most opportune time to address issues of human rights," Pederson said.

But NGOs alleged that rights abuses in some parts of the country have in fact increased following the end of the war. In December, human rights activists released a report detailing allegations of human rights abuses in Cabinda, where the government recently renewed its military campaign against separatist rebels in the oil-rich territory.

Marques also underscored concerns about the living conditions in the original 42 reception centres that at the end of demobilisation held 80,000 ex-UNITA combatants and 350,000 family members.

"Without addressing the ongoing incidence of rape and torture and killings in Cabinda and the treatment of UNITA soldiers in those appalling camps the government cannot talk about protecting human rights in Angola," Marques said.

In his latest report on the peace process in Angola, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said concerns persist that "demobilised ex-combatants, without means of support, may resort to banditry and theft".

Annan cautioned that the government's poorly financed resettlement effort had been "a source of tension".


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