Thursday, August 21, 2003

Angola: trouble with resettlement

The government of Angola has suspended the distribution of resettlement kits to ex-UNITA soldiers in contravention of the deal signed by UNITA (rebels) and the government in 2002. The government says that the ex-UNITA rebels don't have the necessary "demobilisation cards" which would entitle them to the kits. However, it does appear that the government failed to issue them the neccessary documentation.

Millions of people are internally displaced in Angola as a result of decades of brutal civil war. When the cease-fire was signed last year, the government agreed to help resettle the former rebels ... in addition to the civilians.

From the article linked above:
Ex-UNITA soldiers were to receive benefits such as demobilisation and identity cards, five months of salary, an additional US $100 for travel expenses, resettlement kits with non-food items, and access to vocational training.
The following is clipped from a Human Rights Watch report they recently published on the situation in Angola.
Hundreds of Angolan refugees have spontaneously returned to their homes since the ceasefire of April 2002, but millions of internally displaced people, refugees and ex-combatants remain in exile, in transit or in temporary resettlement sites within Angola.

Rather than paying special attention to children, women, and vulnerable groups, the Angolan government has granted preference to ex-combatants for resettlement. The government has also failed to provide people with identity documents that would help them get access to humanitarian assistance, which is in any case inadequate.

... Human Rights Watch found that local authorities have forced internally displaced Angolans to return to their home areas by violence or threat of violence. One such incident occurred in transit center Cambabe II, in Bengo Province. Local administration and police forces entered the camp in September and October 2002, and burned the internally displaced Angolans┬┤ homes and 10 acres of crops. With their homes and crops destroyed, the displaced people had nowhere to go except their home areas, which were not ready to receive them. Most fled immediately, without stopping to gather the animals or possessions that had survived the fire.
UNITA = National Union for the Total Independence of Angola

If you have time, I highly recommed you read this article about Jonas Savimbi, the man who led UNITA. The piece illustrates how Angola was a pawn in the Cold War and how the US and Russia fueled the decades of civil war there. But it's interesting to note that the fighting didn't end until Savimbi died in 2002 ... over a decade after the Cold War ended.