Global Policy Forum

Angola Rebels Arm Despite Sanctions


By William M. Reilly

United Press International
December 21, 2000

A U.N. panel said Thursday that because of a Security Council arms embargo "nothing enters in significant amounts" for rebels in Angola, despite "shady arms dealers and transporters" motivated by "profit and greed rather than ideology." The council's "Monitoring Mechanism on Sanctions against UNITA," the Portuguese acronym for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, issued its final report, a follow up to the "groundbreaking report" of last March by a panel of experts mandated to determine how sanctions were being circumvented.

Sanctions were imposed on UNITA in 1993, 1997 and 1998 to encourage it to honor peace agreements signed in 1991 and 1994. The rebels are believed to have sold up to $4 billion in diamonds for fuel and arms since 1992. The two sides had been warring since independence from Portugal in 1975.

The original report leveled, among other accomplice accusations, that the presidents of Burkina Faso and Togo in exchange for arms and fuel took what were called "blood diamonds" from rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. However, the latest report does not name either one but does refer to involvement of members of their respective governments. The latest, 80-page, report was introduced by Chilean Ambassador Juan Larrain, chairman of the "Mechanism," and Canadian Ambassador Paul Heinbecker, successor to Canadian Ambassador Robert Fowler who, as sanctions committee chairman, dramatically presented the March report, complete with videotaped statements of former rebels.

"One objective has been to try to shed even more light on the interaction between UNITA and shady arms dealers and transporters who have been instrumental in the rearmament of that organization for reasons of profit and greed rather than ideology, said the report. "Another objective has been to look at the sanctions, their implementation and importance, in the context of the current situation."

But, the "current" situation first had to be determined. It said that despite major government successes, "Instability along the Namibian border continues today" to the east. The report also said government forces "also reached the Zambian border" to the south. "The fighting has resulted in large influxes of refugees in Namibia, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (to the north) and in continued serous displacement of people inside Angola," facing the South Atlantic, according to the report.

Because of late last year's government offensive and the spotlight cast in March on "conflict diamonds" dealing, "the government forces have managed to destroy most of UNITA's conventional war capacity and substantially limited also other kinds of UNITA warfare capability." So, the report determined that while before the offensive, "it was possible to talk about UNITA controlled areas, this is today less relevant in a situation when UNITA is operating as insurgents. Talking about government controlled areas and areas not under its control does not seem to give a good description of today's situation, because there still exist areas under government control were UNITA is able to operate." The conclusion drawn is that "whatever reaches UNITA today, it is highly reduced compared to the period up to the end of 1999."

Said the report, "It cannot be excluded that ammunition and small arms still enter. Limited quantities of fuel may still enter from Zambia. All information received indicating that this is still the case does, however, also underline that nothing enters in significant amounts and that we are often talking about supply carried by people across the border." However, the report warns that "as UNITA's traditional allies and arms suppliers and conduits become more hesitant as a result of publicity and the name and shame campaign, we should expect UNITA to seek new and unexpected friends."

In cautioning to look for "more subtle and refined ways of evading the sanctions" it also said, "The lure of diamonds may prove irresistible to some arms brokers and dealers and the need for vigilance and continued monitoring of the sanction regime against UNITA cannot be overemphasized."

The detailed report, naming several alleged arms brokers, air transporters and their contacts and even providing maps of smuggling routes, concluded, "Peace in Angola will also have an important impact in the DRC and in Sierra Leone, where so many efforts are being deployed in order to stop the conflicts that have ravaged those countries.

"We have to take into account that there are many common elements in terms of arms, diamond dealers and air transport carriers involved in these conflicts," the report said. "It would not be a surprise to see emerging the same names, companies and activities related to the organized crime profiting from death destruction and greed. Those elements have no nationality or loyalties of any kind and they can be found today in Angola and tomorrow somewhere else."

More Information on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on Angola
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