Angola: NRC country programmes

The Norwegian Refugee Council has the following goals for its work in Angola:

  • Facilitate the return/repatriation/resettlement of refugees and IDPs in northern (Provinces of Uige and Zaire) and Southern (Provinces of Huila and Cuando Cubango) Angola

  • Strengthen the protection and living conditions of internally displaced and returnees who for different reasons can not return to their areas of origin in the short run, focusing on durable solutions also for this group.

  • Provide emergency education of children and adolescents who, for reasons of war and displacement, do not attend school, and to facilitate their reintegration into the formal school system.

This is what we are doing:

  • Advocate the rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees, focusing on the right to voluntary return.

  • Assistance to Internally displaced persons and returnees from neighbouring countries in the process of return /resettlement in northern and southern Angola, in the form of distribution of food, non food items and seeds and tools, as well as shelter

  • Rehabilitation of schools and health posts

  • Operation of transit centres with distribution of food and non-food items as well as provision of shelter, for returnees and internally displaced persons who will not return in the short run. In order to avoid food-dependency, seeds and tools will also be distributed. NRC also provides training on preventive health (including HIV/Aids), nutrition and environmental issues.

  • Education of teachers in the Teachers Emergency Programmes (TEP) methodology, in order to educate them to teach children who - due to war and displacement - have not been able to attend school.

  • Construction and rehabilitation of TEP-schools.

Recent developments in projects

The humanitarian situation in Angola is extremely precarious. Despite of the peace treaty from April 2002, it will take a long time before the situation is normalized. The security situation has improved significantly since April 2002. This has allowed humanitarian agencies to enter areas that were previously inaccessible to international actors, and has also lead to an expansion of NRC's activities to new areas. Among other things, NRC has supported, and still supports, the demobilisation process of the UNITA-guerrilla-soldiers by distributing food and non-food items to UNITA families in two provinces.

For 2003 NRC's main focus will be humanitarian aid and protection to internally displaced people and refugees who are in the process of returning to their areas of origin, in the provinces of Uige, Zaire, Huila and Cuando Cubango.

Through the Education project, TEP (Teachers Emergency Package), children who have fallen out of the education system as a consequence of war, receive one year of instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as Human Rights and HIV/Aids, before being integrated into the national school system. The needs are enormous in areas with large numbers of internally displaced persons. With the opening of new areas, the TEP-project has also increased its reach during the last months. The project is being run in association with UNICEF, Angolan authorities and other international NGOs and is financed by NORAD and Statoil.

Recent developments - the conflict and the refugee situation

The signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Angolan government and the rebel movement "The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola" (UNITA), on the 4th of April 2002, marked the end of nearly 30 years of post-colonial internal war in Angola. The memorandum of understanding was signed following the death of UNITAs leader Jonas Savimbi in February 2002, and is based on the Lusaka-protocol that was signed in 1994. More than 500 000 people have died, and 4.1 million persons were displaced due to the war. By December 2002, more or less 1 million of these had returned to their places of origin.

President Dos Santos has promised that elections will be held in 2004 (for the first time since 1992), but the exact date for the elections has not yet been set. The UN Mission to Angola (UNMA) was set up in August, and oversaw the implementation of the outstanding issues from the Lusaka protocol.

Until April 2002, the vast majority of humanitarian aid had to be delivered by air, as convoys were often attacked and looted. The security situation has improved considerably since April 2002, and return or resettlement is now a viable solution for Angola's four million internally displaced and 340 000 refugees in neighbouring countries. However, there still are daunting obstacles to prevent them from doing so, not least a desperate lack of food, shelter and infrastructure, as well as the ever-present menace of landmines.


The Lusaka Protocol was supposed to mark the end of the war in Angola. However, the peace process broke down when the war blew up again in 1998-99. The government army launched a major attack on the rebel National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA), leading to a new wave of flight in Angola. During the course of one year, the number of internally displaced persons rose by more than half a million, and more and more people fled over the border to neighbouring Zambia. The United Nations withdrew their peacekeeping forces in February 1999, as there was no longer any peace to keep.

The reasons for the war in Angola are complex and can be traced back to the struggle for independence from the Portuguese colonial powers, which started in the 1950s, and the Cold War in the 1970s and 1980s. When Angola got its independence in 1975, several different movements fought to gain power in the country. The main resistance movements were the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which was supported by the Soviet Union, and UNITA, which was supported by the USA and the apartheid regime in South Africa. In 1992, the first free, democratic election was held in Angola and was won by the MPLA. However, UNITA did not accept the election results and started a new war.

It is difficult to find any ideological background for the war in either of the parties. The struggle for control over the country's rich natural resources seems more important than anything else. The government earned vast amounts of money selling oil concessions to foreign companies, most of which was used to fund the war against UNITA. UNITA has earned enormous sums of money from the diamond trade.

Angola's economy has been devastated by unrest and civil war. Ten million landmines are still spread around the country, and it will take years to clear them all. This problem has huge economic consequences, as large agricultural areas cannot be used because they have been turned into minefields. 90 000 Angolans have suffered permanent injury from landmines. Women and children looking for wood or minding animals are the most at risk. Now that a peace treaty has been signed, it is important that the international community steps in to safeguard the fragile peace and start rebuilding the country.