|2 May 2002
Challenges to the peace process
Angola's ceasefire has presented the
country with the opportunity to
consolidate peace and rebuild after
close to thirty years of civil war. But
analysts warn that the process
envisaged by the government is highly
ambitious, and would require significant
donor assistance for its implementation.
The ceasefire has lifted a curtain that
had hidden the full impact of the war on
the civilian population in the
countryside. Malnutrition among people
emerging from the conflict zones "is
among the worst seen in Africa in the
past decade", Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said in a statement last week.
An estimated 500,000 people are only now becoming accessible to aid
agencies following the 4 April ceasefire accord. They had been cut off from
medical and food aid for several years. Among the displaced arriving in the
city of Kuito from Chitembo in southern Bie province, MSF recorded acute
malnutrition rates of 26 percent and 9 percent for severe malnutrition -
numbers that are "well above the emergency level".
"Alarming" rates of malnutrition are also being reported by MSF teams in the
southern province of Huambo. In Bunjei, 116 km away from Caala, medical
staff found the level of severe malnutrition to be 30 percent, while in
Chilembo, a rapid nutritional survey conducted among 1,219 children under 10
years of age revealed 42 percent global malnutrition and 10 percent severe
"These shocking figures are the emerging tip of a crisis that has ravaged
many Angolan regions after the resumption of the war. The recent peace
agreements alone cannot improve the situation. They have allowed us to get
emergency teams into the area but there must now be an immediate,
international response with food and medical supplies," said Koen Henckaerts,
Director of Operations for MSF.
However, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), multi-agency rapid
assessment missions conducted in 13 out of a planned 38 newly accessible
locations have so far found the situation to be less grave than had been
previously feared. Jintarlo Stopponi told IRIN that with the exception of Bunjei
and Chipilo, in northern Huila, "the situation is not as bad as we expected".
The assessment missions are yet to reach Chilembo and Chitembo.
The 4 April ceasefire was effectively a conditional surrender by UNITA after
mounting military pressure culminated in the death of rebel leader Jonas
Savimbi in February. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the
head of FAA, General Armando da Cruz Neto, and the Chief of Staff of UNITA's
armed wing, General Geraldo Abreu Muengo "Kamorteiro" agreed to end the
fighting and complete the outstanding issues of the 1994 power sharing
The MOU created a Joint Military Commission to oversee the quartering and
demilitarisation of UNITA's forces, generously assessed at 50,000 troops. The
families of the former combatants, estimated at 300,000, would also be
assisted at centres located close to the quartering areas. The MOU
anticipated that the quartering and "demilitarisation" of UNITA would take 47
days from 4 April.
The process has been hamstrung by the inaccessibility of some of the 33
cantonment sites and concerns over the government's ability to take care of
the humanitarian needs of the former combatants and their families. By 25
April, the government reported that only 9,000 UNITA troops had reached
their quartering areas, with several thousand more in the bush awaiting
On Monday, April 29, UNITA's "management commission" - created as an interim body
until a party congress is held - reminded parliament's ad-hoc commission for
peace and national reconciliation that UNITA forces must be properly catered
for under the terms of the MOU.
Analysts have warned that government inability to provide for the troops and
their families could undermine the demobilisation process and encourage
banditry. The Catholic
station Radio Ecclesia reported that lack of supplies in
cantonement areas in Kwanza-Norte province had led to UNITA troops
stealing from surrounding villages.
The government has asked the United Nations to help provide assistance for
the quartering and family areas. A taskforce under the UN Humanitarian
Coordinator is currently drafting a contingency plan for emergency
humanitarian aid for a limited period.
"The components of the plan are still being defined, but may include food
assistance, emergency kits, health and nutritional screening, vaccinations,
shelter, water, screening of vulnerable groups and civic training. UN Agencies
are also identifying the pre-conditions required for humanitarian interventions
in quartering and family areas, including information on the quartering process,
an operational framework and the creation of coordination mechanisms," a
report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
Although representatives from the troika nations of the United States, Russia
and Portugal have observer status on the Joint Military Commission,
demobilisation will effectively be run by the government. "It's a highly
asymmetrical situation. In practice the government will be leading the
quartering and demobilisation process," Jaoa Porto, a senior researcher at the
Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS) told IRIN.
There have been two failed peace agreements overseen by UN peacekeepers
in which UNITA failed to demobilise. This time around the Angolan government
appears determined to control the process.
However, analysts warn that an un-addressed problem is the amount of
weapons in civilian hands, distributed mainly by the government in 1992 when
civil war reignited. "We are starting to see positive developments [regarding
peace] but at the same time we are witnessing a worrying rise in crime," said
Demobilisation is expected to finish at the end of June. After that, 5,000
former UNITA soldiers are to be absorbed by the FAA, with the rest provided
with vocational training geared to their reinsertion within society at the
beginning of 2003. The government has set up a National Reconstruction
Service to provide employment. The government has asked for UN support to
help host an "urgent" donor conference to support the social reintegration
However, according to Porto, the "international community is in a wait and
see mode. They burnt themselves quite seriously in the past [over the failed
1991 Bicesse peace agreement and Lusaka in 1994]".
At the conclusion of the demobilisation and reintegration process, Angola
moves towards a power sharing political settlement under the terms of the
Lusaka accord to culminate in general elections. "This ceasefire agreement is
just the beginning, it's just the military aspect of the conflict. It won't solve
the structural problems [that led to war]," said Porto.(IRIN)