Focus on Angola


Emanuel Matondo

On this year's 15th of May, the International Conscientious Objectors Day, I would like to recall all the pacifists, antimilitarist activists and human rights defenders the impunity in which the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other acts of cruelty are still living today in Angola.

It was at the beginning of 1961, forty years ago, that the war burst out in Angola after more than five centuries of brutal Portuguese colonisation during which violent resistance as well as non-violent forms of opposing the colonial power were parts of daily life. The former fascist regime in Lisbon wasted all the resources of its own country and plundered the wealth of its colonies to keep by violent means the country that they considered as an overseas province of Portugal: Angola. Whereas three armed 'liberation' movements according to the military logic of the Portuguese colonialists fought against the colonial repression with weapons, certain groups in the Angolan society resisted by objecting military service or other forms of servitude and by acts of civil disobedience. Unfortunately until today these nonviolent forces were not taken into account in all the political analyses carried out about the role of the resistance that lead to the independence of Angola on 11 November 1975.

After independence, the same armed movements, which said that they were fighting for the liberation of the Angolan people from slavery, colonisation and brutal exploitation, be devoted automatically into a race for power without mercy, even at a time when the last Portuguese soldier had not yet left the country. The population paid a high price. Fourteen years of armed struggle against the Portuguese, who received support from NATO and other Western countries from the so called 'civilized world', were replaced by a civil war without precedent in the history of Angola. Two warlords, Jonas Savimbi of the UNITA rebel forces and Jose Eduardo dos Santos of the MPLA government, were converting their country into a house of deaths alive. The colonial slavery was replaced by the misery of the ongoing war and the population is still today taken as hostages by the different armed groups and mercenaries of a militaristic demagogy. For these groups the maintenance of power without sharing it, is the highest value in life, even higher than all the existing humanistic values.

I would like to mention here that the two armed Angolan groups where supported in their deathly enterprise by the two superpowers of the Cold War, with each their own militaristic ideology. By accepting the secret pact to be the representatives in Angola of the military-industrial complexes in the US and the former Soviet Union, the Angolan belligerents succeeded in misleading the international community with the idea that the majority of the Angolans where in favour of the militaristic option that they had chosen.

Three times, in 1974, 1992 and 1994, they accepted a peace agreement without implementing the peaceful solutions. Instead of disarming they continued and still continue to rearm their forces just to eliminate the 'enemy' by force. The real common enemy of all these groups is the great majority of the Angolan civil population in particular those who were forced to flee from their villages of origin into refugee camps.

Although the majority of the Angolan people expressed on many occasions their total refusal to solve this political conflict by military means, the option chosen by UNITA, MPLA and FLEC (in the Cabinda enclave) was and still is a military one. But also external powers and various countries behave like godfathers of crime in Angola, provoking war crimes and large suffering of innocent people by providing weapons, modern military hardware, military advisers, and even humanitarian aid stated to serve the civil population but rather to supply the various armed groups. With more than 15 million landmines spread over the whole territory of Angola the country is nearly uninhabitable or at least extremely dangerous to live in.

Many foreign countries are involved in either direct support of weapons to the Angolan belligerents, or by their secret diplomacy towards the Angolan government. Many of them make profit of the war by supplying weapons or by importing Angolan natural raw materials like diamonds and oil, the two main sources for keeping the war going.

Without forgetting the principal financial institutions (banks) and multinational companies who are backing and funding the warring parties in Angola. The list of companies directly or indirectly involved in the Angolan war is very long and not even exhaustive.

Since the beginning of the new open hostilities in December 1998, after a period of a temporary lull of arms, many men and women, and especially young people resist publicly against the war. The desire to find a nonviolent way out of the violence was expressed in the 'Manifesto for Peace', the pastoral letter of the Catholic bishops, as so many other initiatives and petitions signed by thousands of people in and outside Angola. However, those pacifist voices are confronted by a repression by the state without precedent, and with a lack of financial means to develop new ways towards peace.

The independent press, that plays a very important role in the nonviolent struggle, has quite often expressed its sympathy for deserters, conscientious objectors, pacifists and human rights activists, but is also found without resources and is discriminated by the major donors of development aid.

By doing so the international community is acting against the firm will of the majority of the Angolan population who is objecting the militaristic approach by refusing military service, expressing their conviction in favour of peace by means of writing ('Manifesto', July 1999) or by demonstrating in the streets. Those who do so have to face severe repression and are even killed. More that ever these brave people deserve the moral and financial support of all who love peace and justice, to find ways out of the violent circle of war in which Angola is kept as a prisoner by those in power.

For this reason I would like to launch a strong appeal to support the forces for peace in Angola at the next 15th of May actions. Not only by financial means, but also by focusing on Angola and the situation of the peace activists there. Knowing that the sponsors of the ongoing war in Angola (weapons, and civil support for the belligerent parties) are among the countries in the West where the most active peace groups are situated. Therefore the Angolan pacifists and human rights defenders are demanding their friends all over the world to put strong pressure on your governments and to inform the public opinion in your country on what is really going on in Angola and the involvement of the international community in that tragedy. All foreign support for the belligerent parties must come to an end so that a lasting peace may get a chance to develop. Especially the faith of the Angolan conscientious objectors and deserters in and outside the country should be a point of concern, as many are threatened with expulsion when they are seeking protection as political refugees in other countries. These people refuse to commit war crimes at the side of the warring parties in Angola.

With antimilitarist greetings for solidarity,
Emanuel Matondo D.
(Angolan conscientious objector, peace and human rights activist)

IAADH - (Angolan Antimilitarist Initiative for Human Rights)
Yorckstrasse 59, D-10965 Berlin Germany

[translated from French by Jan Van Criekinge]
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