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Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 20:12 GMT
Sanctions: Seven years of failure
Jonas Savimbi
Mr Savimbi keeps moving around to avoid being assassinated
The first United Nations sanctions were imposed on the Angolan rebel movement, Unita, in 1993.

A fuel and arms embargo was imposed after Unita rejected the results of 1992 elections which gave victory to the ruling MPLA party of President Eduardo dos Santos.

The rebel group went back to the bush and returned to war.

President Dos Santos of Angola
The government of President dos Santos also bought arms from Eastern Europe
The UN move appeared to be working at first and resulted in the 1994 Lusaka peace deal.

The Lusaka accord was a Zambia-led, UN-sponsored mediation effort which provided for a government of national unity, with Unita leader Jonas Savimbi expected to take up the post of vice-president.

Unita intransigence

But Unita expressed fears for the security of Mr Savimbi in Luanda - the Angolan capital - and the government was never fully formed.

One of the key aspects of the peace accord called for the demobilisation of all combatants, but despite its best efforts, the UN mission to Angola failed to disarm and re-integrate former rebel fighters because of apparent lack of commitment from the Unita leadership.

Angolan one leg
More than half a million Angolans have been killed or maimed
Mr Savimbi and his rebels refused to allow territory under their control to come under the proposed government of national unity.

Instead Unita re-established its bases in the central highlands and mined diamonds.

Diamond war

Unita has been mining diamonds in the vast north-east of the country where widely-scattered alluvial or river-borne diamonds, including some of the world's finest gems, have been found.

It is believed that Unita has made more than $4bn from its illegal diamond sales since 1992.

Angolan child
Many Angolans continue to suffer from the war
A UN report says most of the Unita-mined diamonds end up in Antwerp, Belgium.

The ceasefire, which had been holding - albeit shakily - since the Lusaka agreement, finally broke down in 1998.

And that year, the UN, recognising the role of diamonds in the continuation of the war extended the sanctions to cover Unita's diamond trade and banned travel to Unita areas.

But the sanctions seem to have had very little affect on Unita's continued capability to wage war.

Sanctions violated

As the latest UN report suggests, Unita has been shrewd in using its diamonds to court favours from certain African governments, notably, Burkina Faso and Togo.

Arms were flown in to Unita from Eastern Europe - Ukraine and Bulgaria in particular - almost on a daily basis.

Just last month the British Foreign Office Minister, Peter Hain, identified five key people suspected of breaking the sanctions.

Sanction-busters in South Africa were described as part of a "very strong network" that has helped Unita by providing diesel fuel and air transport facilities to the rebels.

Their operations allowed fuel and arms to reach Unita.

Tightening the noose

The noose does appear to be tightening around Unita, but the group and their leader have defied the odds before.

In February, the world's biggest diamond dealer De Beers of South Africa, promised to guarantee that it would not trade in stones from African rebel movements, including Unita.

The Belgian Government is also pledging to tighten and monitor its laws in order to stop Unita diamonds getting to Antwerp.

Countries that have kept Unita's lifeline open through sanctions-busting operations have now been named and shamed by the UN.

And many Unita strongholds have also been over-ran by government troops.

But it remains to be seen whether the tighter application of current sanctions can actually help end Africa's longest running civil war.

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See also:

16 Jan 00 | Africa
Angola rebels losing power - UN
19 Jan 00 | Africa
Defectors accuse Unita chief
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