Jonas Savimbi's rebel UNITA movement suffered a further serious blow on 24 December when its former headquarters at Jamba fell to the Angolan army, FAA. Jamba is situated in the south-east of Angola, and its fall follows intense fighting along the border with Namibia. Officials state that 200 UNITA soldiers surrendered during the fighting over Jamba, joining the 400 that are reported to have been captured during the fighting for Calai, which was taken by FAA on 10 December.
Jamba was virtually created by apartheid South Africa and the American intelligence agency, the CIA, to serve as UNITA's headquarters from 1976 until 1991. In his book, Angola's Last Best Chance for Peace, Paul Hare describes Jamba as "a spread out, well-organised guerrilla encampment, carefully planned and camouflaged to protect against air attacks".
The other historic headquarters of Jonas Savimbi's movement, at Lumbala N'guimbo in Moxico province, was taken by FAA forces in November 1999. Lumbala N'guimbo was the area where Jonas Savimbi based his guerrilla movement in the early 1970s, prior to Angolan independence.
In comparison, Andulo and Bailundo, retaken by FAA in September 1999, were only set up as UNITA strongholds after the signing of the Lusaka Protocol in 1994.
Fighting has continued through much of Angola, with FAA making steady gains. UNITA, which at one stage was reported to be in control of two thirds of the country, has lost control of all but a few towns.
During the month of December, FAA took control of Alto Chikapa in Lunda Sul province; Caculama, Kiuaba Nzogi and Cambundi Catembo in Malanje province; and Catabola and Camacupa in Bie province. According to official sources, over 300 people were murdered, including 16 Sobas (traditional leaders), by UNITA during the occupation of Camacupa.
Sporadic hit and run attacks by UNITA elements have been reported around the country. One person died and eight others were injured on 6 January when their vehicle hit a mine o the road from Kuito to Chinguar. On 8 January twelve lorries were ambushed in Benguela province between Coporola and Chongoroi. In Malanje province people were reported to have fled their homes in Caculama, Cambundi and Catembo.
UNITA still has control of its base at Cazombo, although this is said to be under constant threat from the Angolan air force. It still has control of some areas in Lunda Norte. Reports suggest that the government-held airstrip at Cafunfo is being extended to allow larger aircraft to land. Sources suggest that a government offensive in the province will begin once heavy weaponry is shipped to the region.
Several other airstrips are under reconstruction at present, including Negage in Uige province, and Cuito in Bie Province.
Sporadic violence hits Namibia
FAA has claimed that it is now in control of the Namibian border, but the conflict has spilt over into Namibia. Political commentators in Namibia have been shocked at the brutality of the war, and both the Angolan army and UNITA have been accused of murder, assault and theft.
On 3 January three children of French tourists were executed and their parents seriously wounded in an ambush in northern Namibia. The incident happened in a game park in the Caprivi Strip. In a separate attack in the same locality, two aid workers from the Danish agency Development Assistance People to People were injured. The Namibian authorities have set up a murder enquiry, and have blamed UNITA elements for the tragedy.
Namibian security forces have clashed with UNITA elements near the area where the tourists were attacked. According to the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) the clash happened near Kongola during which seven UNITA soldiers were killed. In a further incident, four UNITA suspects were arrested near Mashare, and were taken to Rundu for questioning.
According to the Namibian newspaper, at the beginning of the year UNITA rebels attacked civilians near the town of Bagani in the Caprivi Strip. The newspaper stated that eight people were injured and twenty abducted in the incident. The attackers planted anti-personnel mines and landmines on their way back to Angola.
The Namibian news agency has reported that UNITA rebels have continued to operate in the border area, allegedly destroying two FAA tanks. The news agency also states that the situation remains tense in the border area, with UNITA continuing to steal from the local population.
Namibia's crack troops, the Special Field Force, have been posted in the region, and they have been rounding up Angolans. Many Angolans in the area are refugees, fleeing the fighting. There is a screening process going on at a temporary refugee camp in Rundu in an attempt to apprehend UNITA fighters posing as refugees. Over 7,000 Angolans have entered Namibia as refugees in recent months. There have been allegations by the Namibian Society for Human Rights (NSHR) that Namibian forces have handed some people over to the Angolan army.
In December the Angolan army was given the go-ahead by the Namibian government to launch attacks on UNITA from Namibian territory.
Zambian border tense
Tension is said to be high along the Zambian border, with Angolan troops moving to secure the area. FAA is keen to stop UNITA fleeing to Zambia following its defeat in recent battles.
The Lutheran World Federation announced on 11 January that 7,707 people had crossed into Zambia near Sinjembela, mainly coming from Jamba, and that it was expecting a further influx of refugees as the Angolan army continues with its offensive. Zambia states that some 15,000 people have fled to Zambia this year alone, and the UNHCR puts the figure at 20,500 since last October.
Reuters quotes a diplomat as stating that "our understanding is that Angola has asked Zambia for permission to follow UNITA people into Zambia as they have done with Namibia. Zambia, conscious of developments in Namibia, has declined".
Zambia's Home Affairs Minister, Peter Machungwa, has stated that Zambia has moved some of its troops to the border region to ensure internal stability, but has denied that it is to stop the Angolan army carrying out hot pursuit of UNITA elements.
The raised tension in the border area comes at a time when allegations of semi-official Zambian complicity in trading with UNITA have resurfaced. According to a report on 14 January in the South African-based Daily Mail and Guardian, the death of a lawyer, Edward Shamwana "may have been an assassination aimed at covering up Zambian support for UNITA". According to this unconfirmed report, Shamwana was defending the airline Aero Zambia which is accused of trafficking arms to UNITA, and the allegation is that he was to have implicated government officials in his defence case.
Ambassador Fowler visits Angola
The Chair of the UN Security Council's Angola Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Robert Fowler, arrived in Angola on 8 January for a week-long visit looking at UNITA sanctions-busting. He was accompanied by members of the Expert Panels who are preparing a report on sanctions busting. This report is expected to be submitted to the UN Security Council in March or April.
During his visit he met with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Defence Minister Kundi Paihama, Foreign Minister Joao Miranda, and Vice-Minister of Geology and Mines Carlos Sumbula. He also met with FAA Chief of Staff General Joao de Matos. The Ambassador traveled to Andulo where he was shown war materiel captured by FAA in its successful counter-offensive in September 1999.
Ambassador Fowler was upbeat about progress: "There is no doubt that sanctions against UNITA are much better understood today than a year ago". According to a report by the UN news agency, IRIN, one diplomatic source close to the visit described the official talks as "terrific". "The Angolan government understands that we are trying to bring peace to this country and they have gone to considerable lengths to ensure the success of this visit". The effectiveness of military and trade sanctions imposed against UNITA is "not unrelated to their current inability to procure supplies," the diplomatic source said. However, he stressed that Angola's conflict cannot be resolved by military means alone and the objective of the embargo is to "get UNITA back to the negotiating table. There has to be a viable political settlement."
Talking to the national radio station, Ambassador Fowler said that: " There is a greater appreciation of the fact that the reputation of individuals and countries, which break sanctions, is going to suffer more now than has ever been the case in the past."
Sources indicate that the diamond certification scheme being put in place by the Angolan government has been welcomed by those seeking to curtail diamond smuggling - although concerns remain that UNITA-originating diamonds still end up passing through official channels.
The Canadian ambassador also met with Jonas Savimbi's son, Ara jo Sakaita, who has publically denounced his father.
Following his return to New York, he is to brief an open session of the UN Security Council on 18 January.
UNOA agreement reached
An agreement on the status of the UN Office in Angola, UNOA, has been drafted and is to be submitted to the Angolan national assembly. The draft agreement was approved at Angola's Council of Ministers standing committee on 12 January.
The UN Security Council agreed on 15 October to open an 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 fact that the status of the mission is likely to be agreed by the Angolan parliament suggests that the Angolan government has accepted UNOA's wider remit following lengthy discussions between the UN and the government.
Oil memorandum may meet IMF requirements
The Angolan government has taken steps to increase transparency in relation to income from oil revenue. This is likely to help meet the requirements of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, which has demanded greater openness and accountability prior to any formal agreement with the multi-national body.
The Angolan government is keen to restart an IMF "staff monitored programme" which could pave the way for a full "structural adjustment programme". Agreement with the IMF would enable the country to borrow money on the international money markets on more favourable terms. Currently, much of Angola's external debt is in the form of high interest, short-term loans, often secured by future oil revenue.
On 12 January the Standing Committee of the Council of Ministers received a memorandum prepared by the Finance and Minerals ministries, the Reserve Bank, and the state-owned oil company, Sonangol.
Meeting one of the demands for transparency, the Standing Committee has recommended that the Reserve Bank report regularly to the Finance Ministry on the external reserve funds available, and reaffirmed the government's commitment to greater transparency.
The IMF is expected to send a delegation to Angola shortly, and among the issues to be discussed is the implementation of future transparency in the oil account. Sources suggest that the IMF will not press for transparency to be retrospective.
New oil well discovered
Sonangol announced at the end of 1999 that, along with Elf Exploration Angola, a new well has been discovered at "Camelia-1" in Block 17. During test production the new well produced 9,000 barrels per day of a density 23-api.
Bleak humanitarian outlook
The UN agency UNICEF has given a sharp insight into the suffering of the Angolan people in its humanitarian appeal for Angolan women and children for the year 2000.
The appeal calculates that 3.7 million people have been affected directly by the war, with 1.7 million of these being displaced. In 1999 alone, 1 million people were forced from their homes - three quarters of whom are women and children.
The report states that the country has a dangerously high maternal mortality rate; and that the country ranks third worst in the world for under five mortality. Using the Child Risk Measure, Angolan children are said to be the most at risk in the world. One in four children die before the age of five from preventable diseases, and more than half of these deaths are from malaria. Poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water fuel the spread of infectious diseases.
Despite recent health campaigns, only 36 percent of children under five are vaccinated against polio and 65 percent vaccinated against measles.
Angola has one of the highest concentrations of landmines in the world -there are estimated to be 7 million landmines planted. UNICEF calculates that 90,000 people have been killed or maimed by landmines.
The UN agency points out that 23 UN relief workers and 8 humanitarian workers were killed in 1999.
The UNICEF campaign for the year 2000 aims to:
- reduce child malnutrition rates, particularly in besieged areas in the provinces of Malange, Huambo, Cuito, Luena, Cuando Cubango and peri-urban areas of Luanda
- increase immunization coverage, especially for polio and measles
- reduce deaths associated with malaria, water-borne diseases and vaccine-preventable diseases
- promote mine awareness in the severely mine-contaminated areas of Huambo, Bie, Moxico, Malange, Benguela, Uige, Huila and Cunene
- increase awareness in sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- improve access to primary education for 360,000 children in the provinces of Huambo, Bie, Huila, Benguela, Uige, Malange, Moxico and Luanda
- improve services for children in need of special protection measures -displaced, unaccompanied or otherwise vulnerable children, particularly in the provinces of Luanda, Huambo, Bie, Malange and Moxico
APIC calls for multi-track effort to support peace
The Washington-based Africa Policy Information Center, APIC, has released a policy statement on New Chance for Peace in Angola, which is part of a trend towards focussing on peace in Angola.
The report warns that "peace is likely to be elusive again unless the international community learns from earlier mistakes and re-engages strongly with a multi-track effort to support peace".
The report states that "when UNITA lost the internationally supervised elections in 1992, Savimbi decided to return to war. This was possible because the 1991 peace plan provision calling for an integrated national army had not been implemented, and because the international community failed to respond. The same scenario repeated itself after a 1994 agreement, despite an expanded UN presence costing $1.5 billion".
APIC states that "UNITA's continued war was made possible by income from diamonds, in violation of international sanctions that were not enforced. The climate for peace - and for reconstruction - was also undermined by the lack of accountability of the Angolan government and by the failure of either the international community or the government to engage with Angolan civil society".
The NGO points out that the first serious international efforts to enforce the sanctions against UNITA have helped weaken Savimbi's military capacity, and that FAA has taken key UNITA strongholds. This may help loosen Savimbi's tight control over the organisation and allow the Lusaka peace process to resume.
The report welcomes recent peace initiatives from civil society, which it says promotes a peace process that engages the people and not just the warring parties. It also states that "in addition, there is new pressure on the government to account for its use of oil revenue - the prerequisite for turning the country's riches away from war to reconstruction".
APIC states that Jonas Savimbi must be sidelined and that without this "launching a new round of negotiations would be an illusion, simply providing cover for refueling the war. So sanctions and other pressures must continue and be intensified".
The policy statement also rejects the idea of a full military victory over UNITA as illusory, and states that implementation of the 1994 Lusaka agreement is essential.
On the civil society initiatives the report states that " the voices involved in these initiatives are diverse, and their statements may at times underestimate the need for continued pressure against Savimbi's UNITA. But the tendency of the Angolan government to view these expressions as hidden support for UNITA and to respond with repression is sure to backfire".
APIC warns that "unless military advances against Savimbi are matched by new internal openness, the prospects for engaging either the international community or Angolan civil society in necessary support for the next stage in peace-building will be very limited".