The Angolan army is continuing to pursue the remaining military elements of Jonas Savimbi's UNITA. The army is focussing its efforts in the east and south of the country where UNITA has amassed its troops following its expulsion from its headquarters in Andulo and Bailundo.
Sources indicate that there are heavy engagements around the historic UNITA headquarters of Jamba, close to the Namibian border in the southeast of the country. According to a report in the South African Mail & Guardian published on 10 December, two columns of UNITA troops are reported to have retreated to the area following UNITA's defeats in the central highlands. Following the seizure of the town of Cuangar from UNITA on 18 November, the army went on to take the nearby town of Calai on 10 December. It has been stated that the town had previously been used by UNITA as a warehouse for illicit goods such as ivory, diamonds and timber.
According to a report by the South African Press Association (SAPA), UNITA had held the town for the last 25 years. This emphasises the extent to which UNITA is being routed from its traditional strongholds, built up under the protective umbrella of apartheid South Africa.
Namibian Defence Minister Erkki Nghimtina confirmed to Reuters on 6 December that his government had asked the Angolan army to hold back its offensive in the border region during the elections in Namibia, but following the victory of SWAPO and President Sam Nujoma the offensive was relaunched.
The Namibian government has revealed that UNITA wrote to it on 20 November warning of attacks on Namibia if it gave support to the Angolan army. This threat began to be carried out on 12 December when UNITA fired mortars at a small village in Namibia, wounding eight.
The Namibian government had warned UNITA that it would retaliate if it fired on Namibian soil. It has been reported that the airport at the Namibian town of Rundu is now being used by the Angolan army to fly in oil and other supplies.
UNITA is also being fought in its other long-term strongholds in the east of the country, along the border with Zambia. This is the region of the country where UNITA first began military operations against the MPLA in the 1970s -prior to independence - under the protection of the Portuguese colonial authorities.
According to a SAPA press report on 16 December, ten thousand people have fled to Zambia since October to escape the violence engulfing the region. A BBC report on 9 December stated that, "the refugees are giving chilling descriptions of life in territory held by the Angolan rebel group, UNITA. Some talk of hunger, forced labour and summary killing". The report continued that "others talk of fit young men being press-ganged into service for the rebels, and of women being abducted and used as sex-slaves. Those fleeing have walked for days, dodging UNITA forces and enduring hunger, to reach the safety of Zambia".
UNITA backbone shattered
The conventional military capacity built up by UNITA since it pledged to disarm in 1994 has been severely damaged, leaving questions about whether it can continue to operate as a single military force. However, senior Angolan military officers recognise that the capacity for UNITA to continue as a dangerous guerrilla force remains.
The Chief of Staff of the Angolan army, General Joao De Matos, speaking in Catumbela on 18 December, said that UNITA no longer has the capacity to take control of the country by force. He claimed that UNITA had lost more than 80% of its fighting capacity, with the army seizing from the rebels 15,000 tonnes of weapons, munitions and other equipment, 27 tanks, 7 artillery emplacements, 30 missiles, and hundreds of vehicles.
Further UNITA military defection
Another senior military figure from UNITA has given himself up to the Angolan government, following the defection of General Jacinto Bandua in early November (see APM no.3 Vol.VI).
Major Anacleto Eduardo Chingufo "Quito" spoke at a press conference on 30 November, where he said that he had been imprisoned for eight months on Jonas Savimbi's orders, but had escaped after being condemned to death by Savimbi.
Britain launches major diamond initiative
On 17 December the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, called on a meeting in Berlin of foreign ministers from the G8 group of countries to take steps to curtail the worldwide trade in illegal diamonds.
The G8 meeting agreed to investigate conflict prevention with a focus, inter alia, on the role of the illicit trade in diamonds. It was reported in the London Guardian that Robin Cook secured agreement for an international project aimed at tabling proposals by the middle of next year.
The Foreign Office has already hired the non-governmental organisation Global Witness to undertake research into the possibility of an identification and global certification scheme which could note the unique identity of every diamond.
The proposed scheme aims to curtail the sale of stolen diamonds from regions where they have contributed to sustaining violent conflicts, such as in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It would have far reaching effects on the diamond marketing industry, which it is estimated currently receives over a third of its diamonds through irregular channels.
UN expert panels travel
Members of the expert panels set up by the UN Security Council to investigate the breaking of sanctions by the rebel UNITA movement have travelled extensively over the last month as they battle to build up evidence of how UNITA still flouts sanctions and what must be done to stop it.
The chairman of the expert panels, Anders Mollander, and panel member and rapporteur Stanlake Samkange, visited London on 14 December, and met with a range of government departments about sanctions implementation, including the Department of Trade and Industry and the Treasury.
The British government has offered $200,000 to help with the work of the expert panels, who are due to present their report on sanctions-busting to the UN Security Council by the end of February 2000, with the report being made public by the end of March.
The expert panels have reportedly received valuable information from the British government, in contrast to the lack of assistance from some other key governments.
Anders Mollander also headed a visit to Zambia on 16 December, looking at how sanctions are being implemented in Angola's neighbouring country. Mollander met with Foreign Minister Keli Walubita, Police Inspector-General Francis Ndhlovu, Mines Minister Syamukayumbu Syamujaye, and officials from the national oil company and revenue authority.
On 12 December the Zambian authorities released nine Ukrainians who had been arrested when their Antonov transport plane was impounded at Lusaka Airport on suspicion that it had delivered contraband to UNITA. Reports suggest that the aircraft is still being held by the Zambian authorities.
According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report - Angola Explicada - launched in Luanda on 16 December, the crew had claimed to Zambian authorities that they had flown from Gambia. However, what had drawn the aircraft to the attention of the Zambian authorities was the thick caking of mud on the aircraft's tyres, suggesting that it had flown from a dirt airstrip. The HRW report makes links between the aircraft and senior officials in Uganda.
The HRW report also publishes a list obtained from the UN which gives the names of 20 aircraft which landed in UNITA-held territory in 1998. Incidentally, the fact that these aircraft were seen by UN personnel, but were not inspected, is an indictment of the lack of proactive action taken by the UN whilst UNITA was rearming right under its nose.
Among the list of 20 were two aircraft belonging to the state oil company, Sonangol, and one belonging to the Angolan government. No explanation has been offered to HRW on what these aircraft were doing in UNITA-held territory.
Security Council to look at sanctions in January
Before the expert panels' report is published the UN Security Council is preparing to hold a special session on the crisis in Angola. It is not clear how the Security Council will be able to tighten sanctions against UNITA before the expert panels have reported on their findings in February.
The intention to hold a special session was announced by the US ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, on 6 December at a speech in South Africa at the end of his 10-nation African tour, including a two-day stop in Angola. The US diplomat announced that when the US takes over the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of January 2000 it will make Africa the priority, naming January the "Month of Africa".
Holbrooke announced that at the special Security Council meeting "we will immediately begin to seek ways to tighten the sanctions regime (against UNITA). But I want to say that this does not mean a blank cheque for oppression by either party in this struggle. Those responsible for this endless war, now in its thirty-fifth year, deserve the contempt and the opprobrium of the world."
However, the expert panels reportedly remain unhappy with the lack of openness of the US administration over critical intelligence which they believe it has yet to release concerning UNITA activities.
US official visits Angola
The visit of Ambassador Holbrooke was followed by a visit by the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas Pickering, on 15 December. At the end of his day-long visit to Luanda, Pickering stated that "the circumstances for peace are closer".
During his visit he met with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Defence Minister Kundi Paihama, and gave an address at the Catholic University in Luanda.
New report on oil and loans
London-based non-governmental organisation, Global Witness, has released a report stating that major international oil companies and private financial institutions have been funding Angola's war-effort against Jonas Savimbi's UNITA.
The 23-page report "A Crude Awakening", was published on 5 December in London, and simultaneously published in the Portuguese newspaper O Publico. Simon Taylor of Global Witness said that, "As Angola is set for a massive $18 billion in oil company investment over the next four years, the starving and war-torn population will see little if no benefit from these vast investments in terms of the most basic human needs".
The report estimates that direct Angolan state income from the oil sector was in the range of $1.8 to $3 billion per year for the period 1990-1991, rising to an estimated $2.9 to $3.2 billion per year during the years 2003 to 2010.
It points out that the oil sector accounts for as much as 90 per cent of government revenue, and plays a pivotal role in funding the war economy. The report highlights the economic phenomena known as the "Dutch Disease" which "refers to the stagnatory effects of oil resources on the development of other sectors of the economy; in particular, the failure to invest in traditional export sectors".
The report accuses international businesses of complicity for allowing a lack of transparency in the Angolan government's financial dealings. The report claims that "a significant portion of Angola's derived wealth is being subverted for personal gain and to support the aspirations of elite individuals, at the centre of power around the Presidency".
The report names a number of senior individuals, prompting the threat of legal action by the Angolan government, which says the report does not substantiate the claims with evidence.
The report urges oil companies to "establish a formal coalition, which should support the IMF attempts to forge transparency and accountability for Angolan Government revenue and expenditure"; though Global Witness' seeming enthusiasm for a strong IMF role puts it at odds with those who criticise the Fund's part in exacerbating poverty in many countries.
The report's argument that large amounts of oil resources have been used to pay for the war - and indeed that some people have made profits from this -would be denied by few. But it does little to substantiate its claim that there are "vested interests of elite individuals, which are driving the war, and which severely limit the incentive to look for peace".
This return to the theme of equivalence between the government of Angola and UNITA comes at a time when even the oldest allies of Jonas Savimbi have been forced to recognise by the history of events that, in the words of the UN Security Council, "the primary cause of the current crisis in Angola is the failure of the leadership of UNITA to comply with its obligations under the Lusaka Protocol".
South Africa promises humanitarian aid
With the humanitarian crisis continuing to demand urgent attention from international donors (see APM no.3 vol. VI), donations are continuing to be made to the World Food Programme and other aid agencies.
The South African government announced on 2 December that it was launching a nationwide appeal for humanitarian aid to Angola. The government is appealing to the public and the business community for donations.
The Japanese government has donated $3.8 million to the World Food Programme for buying food for displaced people. According to the WFP representative in Angola, Fransesco Strippoli, "We deeply appreciate this help that arrives at a critical time, to help purchase ... cornmeal, beans and salt, and for their fast transportation to critical areas"
It has also been reported that the oil giant BP-Amaco has made a major donation to the International Committee of the Red Cross for work in Angola.
UN to press ahead with UNOA
The UN Security Council has called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to press ahead with arrangements to open the UN Office in Angola, UNOA.
The Security Council voted on 15 October with Resolution 1268 to open the office, with a remit to "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".
The Angolan government has not moved on its previously stated position that the office is to concentrate on humanitarian assistance and strengthening the government's human rights capacity.
Train service due to restart
The train service between Luanda and the town of Dondo, Kwanza Norte province, is due to reopen in January, after a nine-month interruption due to war.
Once the line is open there will be a weekly trip carrying fuel to locations along the line. Insecurity along the main rail and road network due to UNITA attacks has left much of the country reliant on oil brought in by air.
The reopening of roads and the rail network is an important part in beginning to normalise the economic life of the country, which has been destroyed by war.
Other rail routes are being rehabilitated, including the Luanda - Itombe route, and the Luanda - Lucala route.
Civil society delegation visits Europe and Canada
"Angolan Reflections on Peace Building" a conference jointly organised by the Netherlands Institute for Southern African (NIZA) and the Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO) was held in The Hague on 9 December. The conference brought together representatives from across Angolan civil society, including Fernando Pacheco, Director of the NGO, ADRA, Ana Garcia of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Daniel Ntoni Nzinga co-ordinator of the coalition, GARP.
On their way to another conference in Canada, the delegation, which also included representatives from the Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic Churches, visited London where they met Foreign Office officials as well as ACTSA, Christian Aid and the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR).