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Friday, 5 May, 2000, 01:49 GMT 02:49 UK
Angola: War without end
children on a tank
Children grow with a war kept going by corruption
By David Shukman in Angola

Twenty-five years ago civil war erupted in Angola and now ranks as one of the longest conflicts this century.

Nearly 2m people have been forced to leave their homes and unknown numbers killed and wounded.

Much of Angola's wealth goes on weapons ... Huge sums simply vanish, into private hands

Damiao Franklin, Bishop of Luanda

Now the war seems unstoppable. The fear is that the war has spawned so much corruption that there is no incentive to bring the fighting to an end.

The government claims it now has the upper hand and displays mounds of rebel weapons as evidence.

But the war has gone on for so long that when the government says that it is winning, most people know that things could easily swing the other way.

It is a conflict without an obvious end.

Money motive

The suspicion is that there are some on both sides who are actually keeping the war going for money.
Diamonds
Diamonds: Fuelling the conflict

Angola has immense natural riches. The rebels control the diamonds.

Each glint can pay for a weapon. UN sanctions are meant to stop the trade but they do not.

The government controls huge reserves of oil worth at least $10m a day.

America buys more oil from Angola than from Kuwait. Some people are doing very well out of it.

Across Angola the churches hold a day of peace. They pray as they always do for an end to the killing.

The Bishop of Luanda, Damiao Franklin, says they also pray for an end to the corruption that for so long has fuelled the war.

"Much of Angola's wealth goes on weapons," he says.

The war does not hurt the top people, but it does hurt us, the lowest. While their children go to school, look at our poor miserable kids.

Dadinha, 15-year old victim of war

"Some goes on extravagance like this new presidential palace which is hardly ever used."

"Huge sums simply vanish, into private hands."

Angola's defence minister, Kundi Paihama, admitted that senior figures are stealing and that no one stops them.

"Imagine you are an investigator who accuses some big-shot minister of pinching the money, you'll just be banged up in prison," he says.

"What happens - it's true - is that lots of Angola's money is just flowing outside to bank accounts in Europe and Switzerland."

"It's a dreadful situation."

Victims of war

None of Angola's wealth reaches the refugees from the war, the people who really need it.

We found desperate conditions on the edge of the capital.
Troops
The war drags on with little prospect of peace

Dadinha has been a refugee for 15 years. She is a victim, she says, of fighting that makes others rich.

"The war does not hurt the top people, but it does hurt us, the lowest," she says.

"While their children go to school, look at our poor miserable kids."

In Angola, you can see the oil wealth - and the poverty - the government is failing to tackle.

Tony Bloomberg, Head of Unicef in Angola, accuses the Angolan Government of wasting its money.

"Once this country profited from peace," he says.

"Now a few here profit from war, and there are many who suffer the consequences."

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See also:

03 May 00 | Africa
Angola food trucks ambushed
26 Apr 00 | Africa
UN: Angola is on the brink
21 Apr 00 | Africa
Unita dissidents reject the war
29 Jan 99 | Angola
Landmines: War's deadly legacy
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