Angola

Presentation of the report of the UN Angola Sanctions Committee's Expert Panels: UK Statement

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Statement in the Security Council by Peter Hain MP, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, 15 March 2000

Mr President, I congratulate you on bringing us together in open session on this vital subject.

I am also extremely grateful to Ambassador Fowler for his updating briefing.

For too long Angola has been ravaged by conflict. Used as a proxy by the superpowers during the Cold War. Largely ignored when their priorities shifted. The Angolan people continue to suffer enormously. Their suffering is only briefly punctuated by false dawns of hope provided by ultimately unsuccessful peace accords.

Angola is the worst place in the world to be a child. Life expectancy is 42 years. Over 3 million internally displaced people. Millions of landmines laid by both sides killing and maiming every day. A dire humanitarian situation. A country so devastated it makes you want to cry. And yet a country so rich in resources that with peace and good governance, it could feed the whole of Southern Africa and be a power for prosperity and success in a continent blighted by poverty and failure.

We cannot allow the misery to continue. The time has come for the international community to face up to its obligations. It is no good putting our hands up in the UN for sanctions against UNITA and then taking no action while citizens in our countries make money out of misery. That is simply hypocrisy. We must all rigorously implement and enforce sanctions. The time has come to stamp on the sanctions busters. That is why the report of the Expert Panel is so vital.

The Report

We have worked closely with Ambassador Fowler and have fully supported his work both financially and operationally. I would like to congratulate him on the drive and commitment he has brought to the Angola Sanctions Committee. His determination, and the work of his Expert Panels, has highlighted the porous and haphazard enforcement of sanctions against UNITA.

The Report is very important for the UN. It exposes the hypocrisy of those countries, and sometimes leaders, who condemn UNITA while some of their citizens and companies supply Jonas Savimbi with the arms, the munitions, the fuel and the assistance without which 25 years of murderous activities would have ended long ago.

The Report names and shames some of those illegally supplying UNITA. Some African government ministers and public officials who should be ashamed of the way they are inflicting catastrophe on their fellow Africans. Many arms dealers from Eastern Europe. Air companies and fuel suppliers who make money out of a war that has been privatised and is therefore less amenable to conventional diplomatic pressure. All of these are merchants of death. It is time for all the Governments of the world to act against them. The United Nations must provide a lead.

The full force of law must be brought to bear on those responsible. Britain has frozen several of Savimbi's bank accounts. I have named a number of alleged sanctions busters. I have passed their names to the UN Angola Sanctions Committee. I will continue to pass on all such information. If we discover any British citizens or British-based companies are implicated, we will act against them. We have to cut off Savimbi's means to wage war.

And the private sector has a major role to play. Private companies should take a lead. De Beers has done so. I congratulate them on their initiative to stop trading in blood diamonds from Angola. Other diamond traders should back their commitment to a written guarantee on all invoices that their diamonds are not fuelling wars.

The Belgian Government and industry are now coming up with proposals on conflict diamonds. And not before time. I hope other trading centres will follow suit. I am sure the Israeli government will want to do the same about Tel Aviv.

It is encouraging that Southern African diamond producing nations, the International Diamond Manufacturers Association and the Diamond High Council in Antwerp are looking at the problem of conflict diamonds. I urge others to do so as well.

The Expert Panels have shone their torch into some dark corners. We now need to turn on the light and expose the full extent of the vile trade in UNITA diamonds, arms fuel and other supplies. And we must remember that these same forces are driving equally devastating conflicts elsewhere in Africa: the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.

Savimbi/UNITA

Let us not forget why we are doing this. The Angolan Government has had significant successes against Savimbi's war machine. That is welcome. But military action alone will not end the conflict. The Government cannot destroy UNITA's military capability, just as UNITA has no possibility of winning the war.

Only a political solution will bring lasting peace. There will have to be a negotiated peace settlement. But Savimbi's word cannot be trusted. He has always reneged on the peace agreements he has signed. Without him the war could end soon and UNITA supporters could express their aspirations through legitimate political channels.

UNITA represents an important constituency in Angola. I again urge UNITA to replace Savimbi as leader. With him out of the way and a different leadership UNITA can be as much part of the solution as it has been part of the problem.

Angolan Government

The whole of Angola has been corrupted by the War. Once noble objectives held by the MPLA for decent public services, a drive against poverty and equality of opportunity were first diverted because of the necessity to fight UNITA. Then they were forgotten as rich elites lined their own pockets at the expense of their long-suffering people. Angola desperately needs to use its wealth to spend more on building up its skills base, social projects, public services and infrastructure.

To win full backing from the international community, the Angolan Government needs to ensure full transparency and accountability, particularly in the oil account. This is essential if Angola's immense economic potential is to be realised. It needs also to ensure that respect for human rights and freedom of speech flourishes. It needs to involve all sections of civil society in that task.

The military defeats suffered by Savimbi coupled with renewed interest and attention on sanctions busters led by this Report provides an opportunity unprecedented in 25 years to end this War. We have an absolute duty to grasp it. We have it in our power to do so by making sanctions bite. All that has been lacking so far is the political will.

Savimbi's supplies are ferried in by air or sometimes by road. They only reach him because they are permitted to do so. It would not be difficult to stop this. The intelligence capacity is there. Sanctions busting planes and lorries are easy to detect. Their points of origin can be identified. Let every country co-operate to do this.

Conclusion

We need to ensure that the purveyors of misery are detected by enforcing sanctions. I thank Ambassador Fowler for enhancing our capacity to do so. We welcome the Expert Panel's exposure of UNITA's secretive and illegal network of middlemen and government sponsors.

But we need to do more than naming and shaming to break UNITA's ability to re-arm: as the Report makes clear, public censure must now be followed by decisive action in the Sanctions Committee, in the Security Council, in the States concerned and by their neighbours.

Britain looks forward to a series of mandatory UN resolutions to implement the Report's key recommendations. The Security Council meeting next month must take decisive action. There must be no delay and no equivocation. The credibility of the Security Council is at stake. The Security Council commissioned this Report. We have a duty to act on it.

Tough decisions will be needed. Governments in some of the countries named - including Belgium and South Africa - have started to take action against their nationals who are breaching sanctions. I welcome this. Unfortunately, others are already excusing themselves or denying their complicity. But now there is nowhere to hide.

It is up to us all, every one of us here today, to follow through. The Panel's report highlights the plight of the Angolan people. We must not let them down.