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Friday, 10 December, 1999, 10:49 GMT
Angolan refugees flee into Zambia

Angolan refugees Refugees are fleeing a government offensive against Unita


By Ishbel Matheson on the Zambian border

Record numbers of Angolans are fleeing into Zambia, following an upsurge in fighting in Angola's eastern province.

The refugees are giving chilling descriptions of life in territory held by the Angolan rebel group, Unita. Some talk of hunger, forced labour and summary killing.

More than 4,000 refugees have arrived in Zambia, in the month and a half to the beginning of December.

Fear of reprisals

It is the biggest influx for six years, and follows a government offensive against Unita in the eastern Mochico province, which borders Zambia. Many left fearing reprisals from Unita.



Others talk of fit young men being press-ganged into service for the rebels, and of women being abducted and used as sex-slaves.

Those fleeing have walked for days, dodging Unita forces and enduring hunger, to reach the safety of Zambia.

So far the Zambian Government and aid organisations have absorbed the influx, but UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is concerned they may soon struggle to cope.

Payment demands

Those who make it into Zambia consider themselves lucky.

Many more are reported to be trying to leave but are being prevented from doing so by Unita.

The rebels are said to be demanding payment from refugees, before allowing them to escape over the border.

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See also:
01 Feb 99 |  Angola
Profile: Jonas Savimbi, Unita's local boy
15 Nov 99 |  Africa
Mass grave found in Angola
16 Nov 99 |  Africa
'End of war in sight' - Angolan general
03 Nov 99 |  Africa
Cautious 'yes' for UN Angola mission
24 Aug 99 |  Africa
Security Council blasted over Angola
20 Oct 99 |  Africa
Angolan Government confirms Bailundo victory
03 Nov 99 |  Africa
'Son' hits out at Savimbi

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