22nd October 2001

ANGOLA: Diamonds finance Unita's war

UNITA continues to fund its war in Angola through illegal diamonds sales worth an estimated $100 million last year, according to the latest report from the UN Monitoring Mechanism on Sanctions against UNITA, which was delivered to the President of the UN Security Council on 12 October.

The report (www.un.org/Docs/sc/committees/Angola/966e.pdf) warns that diamonds worth between $1 million and $1.2 million a day are being smuggled out of Angola in contravention of UN sanctions - and that much of this amount sustains the war of the rebel movement UNITA. It points out that, although UNITA has lost much of its mining capacity, the rebels probably sell between 25 and 30 percent of the illegal diamonds leaving Angola - not including sales from its stockpile.

In July 1998 the United Nations imposed an embargo on all Angolan diamonds which do not pass through official state channels - as guaranteed by a certificate of origin. This embargo was put in place in an attempt to stop UNITA gaining funds to pay for its war. The majority of smuggled Angolan diamonds are now not associated with UNITA, but are the result of either tax evasion or a huge strategic operation by competitors of the official diamond-buying organisation ASCorp.

Despite UNITA earning around $100 million last year, the rebels are reported to be finding it difficult to receive arms and ammunition. The report states that "the loss of control over airstrips has made flights much more dangerous for any carrier. The Mechanism's active monitoring of the arms embargo has also had a deterrent effect".

In a hard-hitting section of the report, the Mechanism warns: "UNITA has increased its terrorist attacks on innocent civilians. It has attacked schools, buses and trains. It has shot at people fleeing to escape from the flames of a burning explosion. It has shot at World Food Programme planes carrying not weapons but desperately needed food and humanitarian supplies".

The report examines the current military composition of UNITA, and underlines that Jonas Savimbi dominates the organisation. According to the report, many of the first and second generation of the UNITA leadership have either been assassinated by UNITA itself or have denounced the use of force and have moved to Luanda to form their own political parties or to be part of the non-armed UNITA movement.

The report states that there is ample evidence that the UNITA leadership is currently concentrated in Moxico province. It continues, "Jonas Savimbi is said to move with 14 or 15 highly trained military guards and a male nurse. The Vice-President, Antonio Dembo; the Secretary-General, Lucas Paulo Lukamba Gato; the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Alcides Sakala; the Chief of Staff, General Geraldo Abreu "Kamorteiro"; and General Esteves "Kamy" Pena are also among the people who fled the UNITA strongholds late in 1999 and are now located in Moxico Province".

It points out that due to a government offensive which in late 1999 drove UNITA out of its strongholds, "there is no longer any civilian/administrative UNITA organisation of importance in the country".

The report points out that UNITA's most important representatives remain in Belgium, Burkina Faso, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Togo and the United States.

The Mechanism found that diamond smuggling from Angola has continued on a large scale, and that UNITA continues to play a large part in this, along with a shadow parallel buying organisation.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Angolan Selling Corporation (ASCorp) informed the Mechanism that between $1 million and $1.2 million of embargoed diamonds leave Angola each day, equivalent to $350 million to $420 million a year. This amount of smuggling represents about five percent of the total value of global rough diamond supply last year.

The Mechanism highlights the progress in the Kimberley Process, which aims to put together a woldwide certificate of origin system. It also shows the efforts of the Angolan government along with the government of Belgium and diamond industry bodies to crack down on "conflict diamonds".

The Monitoring Mechanism has been working with Kroll Associates to track UNITA's financial assets. The investigation has found assets, in the form of bank accounts, companies and real estate, held in the names of senior UNITA officials in Cote d'Ivoire, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and the United States. It has established that offshore financial centres continue to play a major role as havens for UNITA funds and in facilitating financial transactions. The Mechanism has also established that since the announcement of sanctions, UNITA's network has experienced a decrease in liquidity. The report states that travel restrictions have proved particularly important in this regard.

The investigation focussed on tracing the financial assets of senior UNITA officials, networks of smugglers of UNITA diamonds, and other suppliers to UNITA. Governments in states where assets have been traced have been contacted for their comments (ACTSA).

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