|Picture Credit: Wikimedia
Following Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) took power, but its rule was contested by two other anticolonial movements, including the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). UNITA fought a 27-year civil war that caused great suffering and killed an estimated 1.5 million people. UNITA had support from the United States, China and apartheid South Africa. As external support waned, illegal sale of diamonds, mined in UNITA-controlled areas, helped to fund the group's military campaign.
This page looks at sanctions imposed by the Security Council from 1993 to 2002 against UNITA and its leadership. The Angola case was a very important chapter in the Council's use of sanctions. Ambassador Robert Fowler of Canada assumed the chair of the Council's Angola sanctions committee in January 1999 and took a very active role in enforcement. Under Fowler's leadership, the Council named panels of experts to uncover sanctions-breakers. Given the UN's limited enforcement powers, Fowler and the Council began a process of "naming and shaming" to end the illegal trade.
The death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi on February 22, 2002 and the collapse of UNITA as an effective fighting force, demonstrated the effectiveness of the sanctions regime. UNITA agreed to lay down its arms and the government recognized it as a legitimate political movement. In April 2002, a Council resolution authorized a UN mission in Angola to promote political reconciliation. Finally, in December 2002, the Council lifted the sanctions.
The end of the war has ended the terrible killing and massive displacement. It has enabled further development of Angola's enormous natural resource wealth. After Nigeria, Angola is the second largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa and it is the world's fourth largest producer of diamonds. But the wealth generated by these resources has not reached the population, which suffers from widespread poverty and lack of public services. Angola has continuing problems of corruption, inequality, and unrest and scheduled elections have been postponed.
UN Documents | Articles
Aiming to consolidate peace in Angola, Kofi Annan proposes the creation of a new mission, divided into two components: one dealing with political, military and human rights work, and the other devoted to humanitarian concerns, economic recovery and development.
The Security Council reaffirms its intention to closely monitor the sanctions against UNITA in to improve their effectiveness. The Council also supports the Angolan Government's intention to hold free and fair elections.
After having visited the region, the Monitoring Mechanism for Angola reports that despite the positive effect of sanctions Unita is still very active.
For those who are skeptical toward the sanctions against Angola: On behalf of the so-called Troika (Portugal, Russia and the US), Ambassador Monteiro welcomed the improvements of the Angolan government which intend to hold elections in 2002.
Following Gaddafi’s death after 42 years in power, Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos now rivals Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang for the undesirable title of longest-serving president in Africa. Angola is divided by vast inequality, and a small youth movement is mobilizing, organizing protests with signs that read “Down with the dictator” and “32 years is too long.” This form of action is significant in Angola where the government controls all media and uses a patronage system to silence criticism. (IPS Terraviva)
In 2009, nearly $6 billion from oil revenues was illegally funneled out of the Angolan economy. Despite the end of civil tensions, the ruling elite still control the majority of the country’s assets and most Angolans don’t see profits from natural resources. (Reuters Africa)
Wealth from Angola's oil fields has not alleviated poverty or helped those in need, a recent report from Human Rights Watch states. Over the past six years, the Angolan economy has grown by four-hundred percent, but billions of those dollars have illegally bypassed the central bank and disappeared without explanation. Angola is the largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, but ranks 143rd out of 182 countries in the UN Development Index. Questions remain unanswered about the complicity of the oil companies. (Human Rights Watch)
Dozens of leading French politicians, business figures and artists have been found guilty of fueling one of Africa's deadliest wars through the illegal sale of weapons to the Angolan government. During the Angolan civil war in the 90s, two businessmen sold Russian arms and landmines to President dos Santos with the complicity of bribed French establishment figures. In the course of the "Angolagate" trial, the two French presidents serving at the time of the events - Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac - were accused of having turned a blind eye to the trade, which strengthened France's ties with oil-rich Angola. (Times Online)
French businessmen and politicians are on trial in France for an illegal multimillion-dollar sale of weapons to Angola from 1993 to 1998. This Mail & Guardian article argues that France is afraid that the "Angolagate" trial will undermine relations with Angola and diminish France's influence over the country's oil. Angola will hold oil-licensing rounds next year in which the French owned company Total will be a major competitor.
Countries are often selective in criticizing non-democratic regimes, especially when these countries are oil rich or partners in the 'war on terrorism'. Rich countries often criticize Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe, who governs the oil poor country with an iron fist. However, governments from industrial countries do not condemn the human rights abuses of Angola's autocratic leader Eduardo dos Santos, apparently because of the country's oil wealth. (Guardian)
This Irish Times article claims that Angola is an oil rich country that earned an estimated US$41 billion from oil exports last year. In spite of Angola's oil revenue, almost 70 percent of its citizens live on less than US$2 a day. The article also provides a timeline showing events that occurred between Angola's independence in 1975 and the elections on September 5, 2008.
The United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution on the South Atlantic Peace and Co-operation Zone. The resolution aims to strengthen the relationship among South Atlantic countries, helping them establish partnerships for sustainable development. The resolution also asks for financial support from UN programs and specialized organizations to achieve the Zone goals. The decision also affirms that peace and security should be connected with the development cooperation goals. (Angola Press Agency)
As long as revenue from the Angola's massive oil-boom fails to reach the population, the gap between rich and poor will continue to widen, and resulting tensions among the poor threaten to boil over, reports NewsfromAfrica. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979, has invited the opposition and civil society representatives to talks to establish "a consensus agenda" in order to fix development priorities for the next two decades. China, the main market for Angola's oil exports will be central to the country's development. Angola, which remains one of the poorest countries in the world, has seen its next elections delayed until 2008.
International Herald Tribune reports that despite being oil-rich, Angola's potential wealth is not getting through to its population, most of whom live on less than US$2 a day. Angola is caught up in an energy geo-political rivalry among Western, Russian and Chinese oil companies, with its oil exports increasing ten-fold since the mid 1970's. Despite this, Angola's development rate remains as one of the slowest in the world and suffers from terrible corruption. Post civil war elections have been repeatedly postponed and are now scheduled for 2009.
Three years after the end of Angola's civil war, hundreds of thousands of refugees have returned to their homes, but lack basic services and receive little or no help from the government. Despite an increase in revenue due to a rise in oil prices, the Angolan government claims it lacks the resources to support its population. With widespread poverty and a gradual withdrawal of UN humanitarian assistance in the field, "Angolans find themselves caught in the emergency-to-development gap." (Human Rights Watch)
Although Angola's civil war ended in 2002 and the Security Council subsequently lifted sanctions on the country, its diamond industry still fosters violence and human rights abuses against Angolans and foreigners. A new report compiled by civil rights campaigner Rafael Marques and lawyer Rui Falcao de Campos finds "only a privileged few benefit from the region's diamond wealth." This elite secures its wealth through "murders, beatings and arbitrary detentions," leading the report's authors to call for a boycott of Angolan gems. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)
During the Angolan civil war, the former rebel group Unita sold illegal diamonds on Angola's loosely controlled gem market to fund its war against the government. The Angolan government is now seeking to establish a security body to monitor the poorly regulated diamond-mining sector. (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks)
"Can the peace hold in Africa? It depends on whether African states and their supporters continue to be innovative in their search for political solutions," writes UN Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno. Showcasing Angola, the DRC and Sudan, Guehenno makes the point that when permanent members of the Security Council get involved in a particular crisis, the Council can come up with new approaches to support homegrown peace processes. (International Herald Tribune)