The Humanitarian Times

November 9, 1999

 

- WAVE OF CYCLONES BATTERED EAST COAST OF INDIA, KILLING OVER 10,000 & leaving perhaps a million homeless. Tidal waves hit India's Orissa state shores Oct 29 & 30, filling wells with salt water. The Intl Red Cross, Oxfam, CARE, Concern, CRS, UNICEF & World Food Prog are assisting the govt of India in relief.

- HEAVY RAINS COLLAPSE 700,000 HOMES IN VIETNAM, 550+ KILLED this past week. 7 feet of rain fell in a just hours. Rice paddies are swamped leading the govt to project large food security gaps.

- EAST, CENTRAL & SOUTHERN AFRICA HAVE HIGHEST WASTING MALNUTRITION reports the new "State of Food Insecurity in the World" report by the UN Food & Agric Org. With regard to long-term malnutrition, causing stunting "around 200 million children in the developing world are severely stunted; in South Asia, half the children under 5 are underweight compared with 33% in Africa & 21% in E & SE Asia. Children suffer particularly in poor countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Niger, Tanzania & Yemen."

- 16 FORMER CHILEAN GENERALS & OTHER OFFICERS WERE ARRESTED last week for overseeing Chile's secret police campaign of kidnappings & murders in 1987.

- UN WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL ORDERS RELEASE OF 1994 GENOCIDE PERPETRATOR Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, due to a legal technicality (detained pending trial too long). Infuriated at his impending release, the Govt of Rwanda said it would sever cooperation with the Tribunal which conducts its operations in nearby Arusha, Tanzania.

- CHECHEN REFUGEES HAVE BEEN BOTTLED UP AT BORDER as Russian troops have made it difficult for tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to escape fighting into Ingushetia, where aid authorities believe refugees will be threatened by cold (hypothermia). So far, intl relief is small compared to what is being provided. On Oct 29 a Russian air strike killed Red Cross workers in an aid convoy.

- COLOMBIA YOUTH ENGAGED IN PEACE & TOLERANCE EDUCATION IN NEW PROGRAM: UNICEF is training & mobilizing 100,000 adolescents to advocate in 1,000 towns for an end to war. 5m Colombians joined street protests for peace during the last 2 weeks, part of the "No Mas" (no more) campaign.

- 2 AVALANCHE/LANDSLIDES IN NW PERU VILLAGES KILLED 35 SUNDAY/MONDAY

- TAMPERE SUMMIT REVIEWED REFUGEE/ASYLUM POLICIES IN EUROPE in mid-Oct. Ministers will try to create common procedures for granting refugee status & temporary protected status. A joint fund to share the costs of EU's refugee burden among states was rejected. A common law on human smuggling was approved. So far this year, there have been roughly 350,000 asylum applications in the 22 European countries, up a third over the pace of 1998. Illegal immigrant influx into the EU has climbed every year and now exceeds 500,000; leaky points have shifted to the borders between Scandinavia and the Baltic states and Russia and to Italy & Spain. Germany's Der Spiegel reports that German states plan to deport Kosovo Albanians early next year if won't leave voluntarily.

- WORLD FOOD PROGRAM TO FEED 350,000 SERBS IN YUGOSLAVIA THIS WINTER Yugoslavia is particularly vulnerable due to sanctions and energy embargo, & 350,000 Bosnian & Croatian refugees. The US agreed last week to support European plan to provide fuel oil for energy needs.

- NO REFERENDUM FOR INDEPENDENCE IN ACEH PROVINCE, declared Indonesia's new Pres. A Wahid this past week.

- RETURNING E TIMORESE ARE BEING INTIMIDATED OR ATTACKED by anti-independence militia. INTERFET leader Maj Gen. Peter Cosgrove acknowledged that one-tenth of the population can not be accounted for (including refugee locations).

- "WOMEN IN PALESTINE" CONF. TO LOOK AT HUMAN RIGHTS, MENTAL HEALTH of refugees, Nov 21-23 in Gaza; contact Gaza Community Mental Health Program: pratgcmhp.net.

- M.I.T. REFUGEE WKSHOP SEES NEED FOR NEW SYSTEMS TO MEASURE SECURITY in refugee camps & to test hypotheses about political conditions, camp size, location & security hazards, held last week in Mass.

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RECENT LITERATURE ON ANGOLA

 

Angola (population 10m) is not only the most active & lethal conflict in the world right now but has been a textbook complex emergency case for 15 years, with several hundred thousand excess deaths attributed to the conflict both in the '80s (up to 400,000) & in the '90s, 3-4 million displaced, as well as tens of thousands of amputees victims of civilian-targeted landmines (10 million laid mostly by UNITA faction).

Angola returned to all-out war in Dec 1998, the fourth period of open warfare in recent years. In the past month, a new wave of Angolan refugees began spilling into Zambia. Today, many NGOs, including CARE, MSF, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, the ICRC, & UNICEF follow the World Food Program's lead role in getting aid to areas of starvation in Angola.

Unlike other hotspots (Somalia, Sudan) Angola has never made intl headlines, but stands as a cautionary tale about the ineffectiveness of intl efforts to disarm/demobilize combatants, to coordinate power- sharing peace efforts, to protect civilians from hunger & landmines as weapons of war, & poorly enforced arms trade sanctions. In the 1980s, Angola was a battleground between anti-communist forces (including incursions by white South African troops) & populist forces (supported by Cuban troops). In the 1990s the same factions in Angola remain at loggerheads, but now it's a battle of big oil (controlled by the govt, coordinated by Chevron) and rebels who have built their operations on aid from South Africa (under Apartheid), the US (covert) & from sales of diamonds, ivory, teak and other hardwoods. Last week legislation was introduced in the US Congress to create a diamond registry aimed at closing down diamond trade that fuels conflicts in Angola & Sierra Leone.

- HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FINDS EXTENSIVE ABUSES ON BOTH SIDES OF CONFLICT: a new (1999) report by Alex Vines, Angola Unravels: The Rise and Fall of the Lusaka Peace Process (NY: Human Rights Watch [HRW]) finds that both the govt & rebel forces undermined the peace accord through systematic human rights abuses & failure to stand down from war footing after peace accords in 1991 & again in 1995. HRW faults the intl community for delaying funding of key UN peacekeeping deployment to Angola which had the effect of "turning a blind eye & impunity toward breaches of the accords." HRW concludes that "Human rights violations were a key factor in undermining the Lusaka peace accords. With better human rights monitoring -and reporting - of rights abuses, the ease with which both UNITA and the govt could abuse Angolan's rights could have been reduced and attempts made to make those responsible accountable." HRW finds that the Angolan govt has been responsible for widespread torture, disappearance, summary executions, arbitrary recruitment into the military, forced displacement of civilians, & use of indiscriminate weapons. At the same time, UNITA committed "indiscriminate shelling of besieged cities; summary execution; torture; mutilation of the dead and living; abduction of civilians including women & children, and sometimes treating them like slaves" etc. In 1998 UNITA laid siege to a number of cities and towns, most notably Malanje & Cuito killing hundreds of civilians. HRW gives powerful recommendations which merit attention: some directed at the combatants (cease aerial bombardment of urban areas; permit creation of humanitarian aid corridors); some to neighbor states in Africa to shut down fuel shipments to UNITA; others to the Intl community to monitor diamond trade out of Angola. This HRW report is highly recommended reading.

- FIRST HAND ACCOUNTS OF ANGOLA'S STUMBLES INTO & OUT OF PEACE occupy two recent recollections. Paul Hare's 1999 "Angola's Last Best Chance for Peace" (WashDC: USIP Press) summarizes Hare's experiences as chief US negotiator of peace talks. In his view, even the limited peace provided by the Lusaka Protocol would "never have come to fruition with- out high-level international intervention by the UN" who benefited from "a supporting cast consisting of Portugal, Russia & the US." Hare explains how the Angola govt supported Zaire's insurgency movement in 1996 to offset Zaire's ongoing support to UNITA. When Kabila's rebels succeeded in Zaire (overthrowing Mobutu) this earthquake changed the dynamics in Angola, inciting the govt to launch new offensives against UNITA-held areas. In a very different style, Karl Maier's 1996 "Angola: Promises & Lies" (London: Serif ) covers a longer timeframe, with more insights into daily life in Angola, including the siege of Huambo in 1993.

Maier's disorganized, stream-of-consciousness account observes soldier movements, civilian desperation, airlifts, & the slow starvation of Malange, which insurgent UNITA had ringed with landmines so no one could farm. Especially poignant is Maier's recalling of the time when rebel- leader Savimbi dashed the 1991 Bicesse peace accords only less than a week after the fall 1992 elections (which he lost) , with Angolans left in wonder at the utter inability of western powers to weigh in to hold him accountable.

- NATURAL COMPARISON OF ANGOLA & MOZAMBIQUE EXPLORED in two books, "Apartheid's Contras: An Inquiry Into the Roots of War in Angola & Mozambique" by William Minter (1998 Johannesburg: Witwatersrand Univ Press) and James Ciment's 1997 "Angola & Mozambique, Postcolonial Wars in Southern Africa" (NY: Facts on File). Both books cover events up to the 1994 Lusaka peace protocol. Minter details the logistics of conflict in the 1980s: "Both countries are huge territories with low population densities & vast expanses of bush un- integrated into a modern transportation grid... the classic conditions for guerilla warfare." Ciment gives more attention to the long historical backdrop of the conflicts & to the political choices confronted; he points out the critical flaw in the Angola peace efforts: UNITA's Savimbi has repeatedly chosen not to move to Luanda to be part of a reconciliation govt because the risk was too great -- doing so "would lead to the collapse of his rebel movement." As a result it has been impossible for reconciliation, trust, or demobilization to gain momentum to lead to the requisite trust. Minter concludes "The wars of the 1980s attained their deadly height as a result of external forces which raised destruction to levels far beyond the capacity of the societies to resist."

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The Humanitarian Times