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Friday, 19 July, 2002, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
'Hundreds die' in Unita camps
Unita soldiers in demobilisation camp
The 26-year civil war ended in April
At least 500 people are reported to have died of hunger and disease since April in demobilisation camps set up for former rebels and their families.

Paulo Lukamba Gato, Unita's interim leader, said that the authorities in Luanda had made efforts to help the thousands of former combatants and their relatives, but said more was needed.


Nobody should die in the name of peace

Paulo Lukamba Gato
General Gato was speaking as the government is due to end a drive to integrate ex-Unita soldiers into the armed forces.

The people in the demobilisation camps have also attracted the concern of the United Nations, which has called for more funds to assist them and the 2.5 million civilians in urgent need of aid since the war ended three months ago.

Emergency

Unita says that the 85,000 ex-soldiers had been promised good conditions in the camps opened across Angola to accommodate them and their families.

"The number of deaths is getting greater and greater. Overall, it's more than 500 since the camps started," Paulo Gato said at a news conference in Luanda.

"They had guaranteed to us that there would be decent support in those camps," he said.

Mother and child
Soldiers are in the camps with their families

"The government has made an effort whose value we acknowledge, but the effort is far from meeting the basic needs of our soldiers and their families," General Gato said.

"Nobody should die in the name of peace. This is now the responsibility of the international community," he concluded, according to the French news agency, AFP.

As part of the demobilisation process, Angolan army officers have been selecting 5,000 members of the Unita rebel movement to be incorporated into the Angolan Armed Forces, in accordance with the April peace agreement.

But for most of the Unita soldiers and their families - over 300,000 people in total - living in 35 camps around the country, there is no immediate prospect of leaving.

Peace threat

General Gato is concerned by this "status quo" and hinted that the former rebels may turn to armed banditry, if not a return to war, if their conditions were not improved.

"It is very dangerous for the peace process," he told the French news agency, AFP.

"The government must be very, very careful to manage the situation as rationally as possible," he said, "or else we may end up with the absence of war, rather than the peace we want, social and political peace."

He said he was worried about what would become of the 80,000 ex-Unita soldiers not selected for integration into the army.

Children with artillery inside demobilisation camp
Only a fraction of Unita's weapons have been handed over

"What prospects do they have? What future? That is what is keeping me awake at night," he said.

General Gato's concerns have been echoed by the UN.

A humanitarian official, Kenzo Oshima, said on Wednesday that the former Unita combatants and their families were not receiving enough emergency assistance.

Mr Oshima told the UN Security Council that the relief operation in Angola, the largest in the world, was jeopardised as only 35% of promised funding had come through.

"The enormous needs of large parts of the population - food, water, shelter, health and others - require an urgent and massive response," Mr Oshima said.

Jonas Savimbi, killed after 26 years of civil war

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15 Jul 02 | Africa
09 Jul 02 | Africa
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