Decree of the Russian President forbids all relations with the opposition group UNITA
At the end of October President Yeltsin signed decree No 1271, by which he blocked the funds and financial resources of the opposition Angolan group UNITA (the national union for complete liberation of Angola) in the country in accordance with UN resolutions No. 1173 and 1176 until the issue of a special order. Any trade operations and provision of services to this organization is also forbidden. UNITA was formed when Angola was a Portuguese colony. After foundation of Angola as a state in 1972 Jonas Savimbi, the UNITA leader, headed the struggle against the governmental troops. The war went on for more than 20 years.
During the war the governmental forces were supported by the Soviet Union from the very start. UNITA was supported by the USA, South Africa and emigrant political organizations of Portugal. The Soviet assistance to Angola was very powerful, as a rule it was supplied by armament, combat equipment, specialists and so on. The damaged tanks T-34, T-54, T-55, armored personnel carriers 60PB, MiG-18, MiG-23 aircraft are so on are still scattered all over the country. Some 20 million mines are planted in the ground, on which several dozen people explode daily. Anyway, there is not only Soviet armament in Angola. Much of it was manufactured by the former socialist countries, some of which still assist UNITA.
Since January of 1989 until the present time several control missions of UN were operating. As a result the Cuban forces were removed from the south of the country and repatriated, and the peaceful resolving of the conflict was started. In 1994 the UNITA and the government of Jose Eduardu dush Santush signed the so-called peaceful protocol of Lusaka with the UN mediation. Its main provisions include complete disarming off the UNITA forces and transfer of all areas, occupied by them, to the control of the Angolan official authorities. However for more than 4 years Savimbi resists to observation of the document, which he himself signed.
The UNITA became especially active in summer of 1998. A real war is currently waged in the areas, occupied by this opposition organization. According with the report of Johannesburg institute of research in the security sphere, the “unknown war” is waged in the northern Angolan provinces Malange and Uige, where there are large diamond fields.
According to the report, the international community “does not notice” this war because nobody has the access to these areas: either representatives of the international humanitarian organizations, or even the governmental officials. When in May the UNITA finally broke its obligations regarding the peaceful agreements, which were concluded in Lusaka in 1994, the militants of the organizations do not allow anyone come to these areas, which border their headquarters in Bie province.
Meanwhile we need to point out that activation of combat operations in this country coincided with activation of the political and military-political contacts of this country with Russia. In June Angolan President dush Santush visited Moscow. Several economic agreements were signed. In August the Russian governmental delegation, headed by Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, visited Luanda. Russian Defense Ministry reported that as a result of the three-day visit of the Russian delegation to Angola the agreement was signed on organization of joint ventures in Angola for repair, servicing and modernization of different kinds of weapons of the Soviet and Russian manufacture. The essence of the agreement is the following: all our relations and contacts with Angola will bee based on the mutually beneficial basis.
It is known that the debts of Angola to the former USSR, and hence, to Russia, amount to $10 billion, according to available information. Meanwhile, now Russia does not give anything on credit, and it plans to supply the armament in accordance with the agreement on its participation in the joint oil refining and diamond producing ventures.
We need to point out that the major part of the diamond production in Angola is controlled by the opposition UNITA. Transfer of the diamond fields to the governmental forces became the main stepping stone in the way of the Angolan crisis resolving. In the past UNITA financed its forces through the illegal diamonds sale, which it produced on the territory, controlled by it. According to some estimations, it earned the former rebels some $300-600 million annually.
The new international sanctions, targeted against UNITA, can prevent its use of the produced diamonds. At the end of July the European Union implemented new economic sanctions, including the ban on the import of Angolan diamonds, which do not have the respective certificate of the government. The European Union also froze all financial assets, which the UNITA possesses outside of Angola, as well as the accounts of its top ranking officials. In October the decree of President Yeltsin also implemented the respective sanctions on the part of Russia. We remind that the decisions of the European Union and Russia followed such sanctions, which were implemented by the UN against UNITA, because it did not observe conditions of the peaceful treaty, concluded four years ago. The banking accounts of UNITA are frozen, but the Angolan authorities are sure that the opposition still manages to sell diamonds through the mediators network. They are sold primarily through Zambia to Antwerp or Brussels, the main international centers of the diamond trade. According to the informed sources, the Angolan government stood behind the attempt of a coup in Zambia in October of 1997, because the Angolan government believed that Zambian President Frederick Chilube supported UNITA.
Meanwhile the possibility of restarting of a large-scale war in Angola remains very high. In May Angola disclosed the supply of military trucks by the South African firm Interstate Airways to UNITA, bypassing the UN Security Council embargo. According to reports from Angola, in summer the ranks of UNITA guerillas were strengthened by some 300 foreign mercenaries, including the South Africans, which had been tested in battles. Majority of them are former employees of Executive Outcomes company, which had provided the “security services” for Angola, Sierra-Leone, to the Middle Eastern countries and Papua-New Guinea in the past.
It is currently reported about the real fighting between the governmental forces and UNITA militants. In September the opposition group shot down a Russian AN-26 aircraft in the north of the country. In October the opposition stormed Makelu-du-Zombu town. They destroyed the mission and seized the nuns, which treated the ill people in the mission’s hospital. According to the UN information, after restarting of combat operations by UNITA in May-June the opposition started using the tactics of terror against the civilians. As a result the number of refugees inside of the country grew 200% during this time and reached 257,000.
On September 15 the UN Security Council demanded the UNITA to immediately leave territory, which it occupied since the moment of restarting of fighting against the governmental forces. This demand is contained in the unanimously approved resolution, offered by Portugal, Russia and USA, the members of the so-called “three” for observation of fulfillment of the peaceful agreements in Angola. Anyway, the fighting still goes on. General secretary of UNITA Paulu Lukamba Gatu, the second top ranking official of UNITA after Savimbi, recently reported that the governmental forces launched offensives in the north and north east of the country and in Malange province, using the aviation and heavy armament, but the UNITA formations, according to him, successfully parry all attacks of the enemy.
Simultaneously he warned the members of the Community of the South European countries against the possible armed interference into the domestic affairs of Angola, having repeated the variant of the troops intervention in Lesoto or Democratic Republic of Congo. According to Gatu, this would have been a gross mistake. He reminded that “in 1970’s-1980’s the USSR and Cuba, more powerful than the members of the community, organized an intervention in Angola, but even they failed to defeat the UNITA”. Thus, interference of the community members into the Angolan affairs would have been an unsuccessful joke.
Thus, we can not count on the quick solving of the Angolan problem. Restarting of the large-scale combat operations in Angola will inevitably result in closing of the peacekeeping mission in this country. So far we can not say that Russia will receive profit from the economic cooperation with Angola in the near future. Meanwhile the international peacekeeping activity of the UN, in which Russia plays an active role, as well as its military assistance to Angola, will be evidently able to tame UNITA and contribute to strengthening of the legal authorities of the country.