May 30, 2002

European aid / Foreign troops to be repatriated

The European Commission (EC) is to provide Angola with US $117 million to support the country's peace process following the signing in April of a ceasefire between the government and UNITA rebels. The money is to fund a wide range of actions including emergency relief, food aid and food security, support for displaced people and returnees, and de-mining operations, an EC statement said on Wednesday, May 29. Now that the fighting has ended, enormous needs have been identified among the displaced populations in previously inaccessible areas. Significant humanitarian support will be required for the foreseeable future together with rehabilitation and longer term development assistance, to assist the most vulnerable sections of the population and consolidate the peace process. In Angola, the Commission is working closely with UN agencies, the authorities and other donors, the statement said. The US $117 million is made up of money that can be mobilised immediately and in the next few months. The Commission is also working on a medium term strategy where extra money totalling US $137 million has been earmarked to support the link between relief, rehabilitation and development in the areas of food security, health, education and good governance.

Meanwhile, the state news agency has reported that at least 560 foreign soldiers, mostly Congolese and Rwandan, who had fought alongside UNITA rebels are in Angola's quartering areas awaiting repatriation. General Francisco Furtado, spokesperson of the Joint Military Commission (JMC) overseeing the demobilisation of UNITA forces, told the news agency ANGOP that the foreign troops were receiving the same treatment as UNITA soldiers and would be repatriated in accordance with international law. Catherine Gendre, deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the agency had volunteered its services to the government, but had not yet been approached by the JMC. The Rwandan embassy in South Africa told IRIN that although it had no details of the Rwandan nationals in the quartering areas, they "can only be Interahamwe [Hutu extremist rebels] guys operating with Savimbi [the former UNITA leader]". Gendre said that the ICRC had no information on the foreign soldiers, but once invited by the JMC, the agency would interview them in the quartering areas to determine whether they wanted to be repatriated, "and submit the results to the government". She told IRIN that because Rwanda and Angola were involved on opposite sides in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Rwandan soldiers were protected by international humanitarian law and could not be forced to return home. According to data released by the JMC at the end of March, the Congolese and Rwandan soldiers were quartered in demobilisation sites in Angola's northern provinces of Uige, Zaire, Malanje, Lunda Norte. A small number were also reportedly in UNITA's former southern stronghold of Cuando Cubango. (IRIN)

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