"Angola needs our help"

Speech by British Minister of State Peter Hain
to the Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) Annual Conference London, November 20, 1999

As one of the founding members of ACTSA when it emerged from the Anti-Apartheid Movement I am delighted to be here. When your Chairman Bob Hughes and Director Ben Jackson came to see me in the FCO two weeks ago, it was yet another of those extraordinary changes we have all experienced since the liberation of South Africa.

Having been born in Africa, grown up in it and participated in the anti-apartheid struggle, I identify closely with its people. And now my job as British Minister for Africa gives me a great opportunity to make a difference. That I am determined to do.

And we certainly need to make a difference. The West must acknowledge its historic responsibility for the enormous problems Africa now faces following over 400 years of economic exploitation and the slave trade.

Look only at the Congo for the dreadful legacy of arbitrary and cruel colonial government. Africa was abandoned without properly established democracies or administrations, nonsensical borders, intense tribal rivalries, distorted and crippled economies - and latterly burdened by debt. Its no surprise that African countries slid into poverty, famine, corruption, dictatorship and conflict.

Nor is it acceptable that the Western powers turned their collective backs on Africa after the Cold War when they no longer needed the client states to fight their proxy wars.

In the last decade Africa has suffered from international policy neglect. Africans often accuse us of ignoring the horrors of Sierra Leone, the Congo, Rwanda while turning all our resources and energies onto Kosovo or East Timor or Iraq. They have a point.

But supporting Africa is not simply a moral imperative. It is in the interest of countries like Britain, France, the USA. If we resolved Africa's deep problems, we would save Clare Short's aid money, cut down the money Robin Cook needs to give to the UN, open up the markets for our businessmen and investors. We would prevent environmental and health catastrophes and remove havens for terrorism, all of which threaten the West. So many African countries would meanwhile be better, pleasanter and safer places in which to live.

So our new Africa policy is to support the 'African Renaissance' which Thabo Mbeki has advocated. To back those African countries committed to democracy, human rights, and economic modernisation. To support those governments determined to enrich their own people rather than their own pockets and those of their followers and relatives.

And to help proclaim to the outside world that there are African successes which can act as role models for the whole of the continent. South Africa's transformation, an example for the world. Nigeria, abandoning its awful military junta for a new democratic era. Mozambique, a country impressively liberated from the ravages of a brutal civil war. Tanzania, quietly forging ahead and modernising its economy. Uganda, light years away from the bestiality of Amin and Obote. Or Botswana, a success story rarely acknowledged.

Let's build upon these successes and many others. The West has a duty to give special support to such African countries because they will be motors of the African renaissance and examples for the rest of Africa to follow.

In this Britain wants to work with SADC for the regeneration of Southern Africa. Together with the other emerging regional alliances "the East African Economic Community, and ECOWAS" SADC can be a powerful force for prosperity.

But SADC will not fulfil its promise whilst Angola is strangled by civil war. I am haunted by my visit there in September 1995. Limbless, starving people begging everywhere. Gaunt ghost cities like Huambo. Its streets lined with stark concrete edifices: every house, office or shop de-gutted. Thirty-five years of endless war fuelled by arms and ammunition from Europe. Hopelessness and despair etched in the faces of the people, nearly two million of them displaced.

Yet Angola is strategically one of the most important countries in Africa. With an enormously fertile environment, it could be the breadbasket of Southern Africa. Rich also in minerals "oil, gas, diamonds in abundance" its people could be amongst the most prosperous in the continent. Luanda could join Pretoria, Lagos, Nairobi and Cairo as a hub for a New Africa, a magnet for international investment and business.

Failure to realise this economic potential is a real loss for African welfare. To ignore the plight of the Angolan people would be criminal. To continue to drift along with sanctions against UNITA which do not bite exposes the rest of the world to charges of hypocrisy.

The time for serious action is long overdue. One of my first decisions as Britain's new Africa Minister was to prioritise Angola. We have put extra resources and diplomatic energy into isolating and defeating UNITA. I have travelled to New York to agree joint action with President Clinton's Africa Secretary Susan Rice. I have travelled to Paris to ask the French to join us in more vigorous action. We have pressed the Belgians and the Portuguese too.

And I have sought the agreement of the Ugandans, Zambians, South Africans - together with other African governments - to a smarter sanctions policy with real teeth.

At the UN we are working closely with Robert Fowler's Sanctions Committee and its expert panels. He and his colleagues deserve not just policy resolutions but practical help.

Our target is not so much the supporters of UNITA and certainly not the ordinary people in the areas they control. Our target is UNITA's leader Jonas Savimbi. He is in his own context as bad as Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic. The blood of hundreds of thousands of Angolans drip from his hands.

And let us in the West own up to our own responsibilities for this bloodshed and the primitive fascism which has been UNITA's hallmark. Most of Europe including Britain turned a blind eye "or gave a nod and a wink " from the early 1970s when Washington and Pretoria armed Savimbi, financed him and sold him arms and land mines in a shameful and shameless policy which allowed Angola and its people be all but destroyed simply because of the MPLA Government's communist ideology. Angola is probably the worst African victim of the era of proxy Cold Wars.

Savimbi was the West's creature. I met him in 1995 when I was flown deep into the bush to Bailundo on a parliamentary delegation. He promised us that he was committed to the UN brokered peace agreement then being implemented. When I challenged him he insisted he would keep his word.

But he lied to me just as he has lied on so many occasions before and afterwards. He is as slippery as a snake. His word is worthless. So I want to deliver a clear message to UNITA: 'get rid of Savimbi as your leader " and quickly. If you do that, UNITA can be as much part of the solution as it has been part of the problem.'

There is no chance of Savimbi's forces succeeding in their aim of taking over the country: he cannot win. The recent Angolan Government military onslaught against UNITA has been more successful than many might have supposed.

But nobody suggests that the Government can eliminate UNITA. We need a fresh approach. If UNITA cannot be destroyed than it must at least be seriously weakened and forced to negotiate. With a different leadership,UNITA can be part of a negotiated settlement to bring peace and prosperity to Angola.

Meanwhile other SADC countries and the OAU have an important part to play. I have been investigating Savimbi's supply routes and we need a clear commitment to block them. This can be done and it should be done.

His fuel and the munitions and weapons he needs to sustain his murderous activities, come in through various means. Often on transport planes with Ukrainian connections. Sometimes with the pilots well known to agencies monitoring African conflicts. Always via neighbouring African countries, frequently with the assistance of corrupt officials whose governments stretch credulity when they claim ignorance. I intend to look into this - preferably with the active support of the Government(s) concerned.

This can be stopped. It must be stopped. But a new will is needed in the EU, the UN and African Governments in the region.

I intend to continue looking into these dark corners and we shall pass on what we learn to Robert Fowler at the UN. The governments, companies and individuals involved are in breach of UN sanctions and therefore of international law: they should face the consequences.

Governments and international agencies must collaborate effectively to achieve this. Savimbi spends hundreds of millions of dollars on his fuel and arms supplies. And along the way plenty of people "including public officials" take their cut whilst their Governments (African ones included) piously vote for sanctions resolutions and denounce UNITA. Some unscrupulous Angolan public officials and army officers are also complicit: they trade diamonds and sell the very munitions and arms to UNITA which are then fired back on the Angolan army.

Most of Savimbi's money comes from sales of alluvial diamonds. I welcome De Beers announcement that they would not be buying further from Angola for fear of contributing to Savimbi's war chest. Because of corruption and cross-trading, it can be impossible to separate UNITA's 'bloody' diamonds from 'legitimate' ones.

Other diamond companies should follow De Beers' lead or face consumer boycotts. Diamond trading centres like Antwerp and Tel Aviv need to be consulted and fully engaged.

A recent American conference in Washington helped focus attention on the problem. So has Global Witness. I have commissioned a study on the viability of a global certification scheme to help us crack down on the illicit diamond trade. I do not know whether this is a starter. But most countries like Botswana and Namibia rely almost completely on their diamond exports to survive.

We must do nothing to harm them. But they may be able to find ways of helping us to regulate the trade so that it does maximum good for minimum harm. We and the Americans will soon be talking to them to see what ideas they have.

But I want to learn more about the options for action, although it is possible that Savimbi has already made enough money to keep going for years.

So we are targeting Savimbi's bank accounts. The Bank of England has already frozen several we have identified. The international banking community must co-operate with the UN. We must track down Savimbi's assets whether these are secretly deposited in nearby West Africa or elsewhere.

The individuals, companies and governments involved need to be named and shamed. I give notice that we will 'out' them if we can.

Earlier I mentioned Ukraine. I would like to make it clear that I am not suggesting that there is official Ukrainian endorsement of or collusion in the supply of arms to UNITA. But the reports and rumours of Ukrainian weapons being supplied to Angola and other parts of Africa are simply too numerous and plausible to ignore. I am pleased to say that the Ukrainian Ambassador, when we talked in my office in September, readily agreed to help us to get to the bottom of any specific instances of arms being shipped illegally from his country. Ukraine soon becomes a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council; even more reason why the UK, Ukraine, and all who yearn for peace in Africa need to work together. I will be pursuing this with the Ukrainian Government.

We know quite a lot already about where the fuel and weapons come from. Who makes them, who sells them, how they get to Savimbi. I am looking carefully at how we can target some individuals to stop them at least making money out of prolonging this war. I am also examining closely the legal options open to us.

I have no illusions about being able to do this on my own. Nor can the UN team headed by Robert Fowler, however energetic and enthusiastic he is. We need help. Help from Governments in the region, help from those Governments whose borders harbour the factories which make the weapons, the businessmen who sell them and the banks who handle the loot.

I also want to work with the Angolan Government. The MPLA had an honourable history as a liberation movement which, when first in power,implemented admirable health and educational policies. From the beginning it faced almost impossible odds. When the Portuguese colonialists pulled out, they looted the country and filled lifts in Luanda with concrete. Immediately the new Government faced bloody subversion financed and orchestrated by the USA. With European complicity the CIA and South Africa put huge resources into backing UNITA. The South Africans invaded and occupied southern Angola.

For a quarter of a century the MPLA Government has struggled against UNITA's murderous insurgency as Angola has been devastated. In the process the idealistic, people-driven ambition of the Government has evaporated and its public life sadly corrupted. Angola is now oil rich but I see little sign that wealth is being passed down to the poor or invested in new infrastructure or health or education.

Anticipated oil revenues are around $1bn next year, $3.5 billion annually in 2005 and $4.5 billion by 2010. These vast amounts must be invested in the people of Angola, in their infrastructure, their education and their public services. The IMF, World Bank and other multilaterals are trying to work with the GOA to achieve this aim. They must be encouraged to move forward. Bilateral donors, NGOs and civil society have a role to play.

There should be full transparency. The oil companies who work in Angola, like BP-Amoco, Elf, Total and Exxon and the diamond traders like De Beers, should be open with the international community and the international financial institutions so that it is clear these revenues are not syphoned off but are invested in the country. I want the oil companies and the Governments of Britain, the USA and France to co-operate together, not seek a competitive advantage: full transparency is in our joint interests because it will help create a more peaceful, stable Angola and a more peaceful, stable Africa too.

I want a rising chorus of Governments, Western and African, of oil companies, of diamond traders "and of NGOs" all calling for an end to the war, demanding the strict enforcement of sanctions against UNITA and early negotiations for a real peace. Perhaps Jonas Savimbi could be offered safe passage to another country.

The countries of the Southern African Development Community have a major role to play. A sharp nettle for them to grasp. But they are the key regional organisation. Surely they should be the ones helping to find an African solution to this African problem.

Our European partners need to be more vigorous too. We have already discussed Angola with the French, the Italians, the Portuguese and the Belgians. But I do not want discussions only: we need action.

With UNITA weakened by FAA's military success "and increasing surveillance of supply channels " if we lose this opportunity to move decisively now, the international community will deserve to be indicted for hypocrisy and inhumanity.

Let us work together to end the plague of destruction, pain and death forced on Angola and its long suffering people.