Angola

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:38 pm on 11th December 2002.

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Photo of Lord Hughes of Woodside Lord Hughes of Woodside Labour 8:38 pm, 11th December 2002

My Lords, I join the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, on this timely debate on Angola. The House should be aware that I am the president of Action for Southern Africa and honorary president of the Mozambique-Angola Committee. I immediately enter the disclaimer that the views that I express are my own and do not in any sense reflect on the two organisations that I have named.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, eloquently set out the scale of the humanitarian crisis and how that affects individuals. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford pointed out the need to work with as many organisations as possible in order to make progress.

In order to understand the problems of the peace, we must remind ourselves briefly of the problems of war-torn Angola. Angola has had no peace since the early 1960s, when the liberation movements began their war against Portugal. Except for a brief period in 1974–75, the government of Angola and UNITA—the organisation of Jonas Savimbi—were in virtually continuous war for 27 years. It ended only early this year with the death of Jonas Savimbi in combat. Throughout the period, every effort to achieve peace was thwarted by UNITA's intransigence and the way that it constantly reneged on agreements that it had signed to produce a peace. Angola suffered badly from the conflicts of the Cold War. Although the Cold War has ended, there are still some Cold War attitudes about.

The actions of the Angolan Government are treated with suspicion and mistrust. For example, I think that we all agree that democratic government is necessary to cement stability and to try to bind the country together. However, in recent days we have heard suggestions—tentative ones, I admit—that the Angolan Government are pushing ahead too fast towards the democratic process, because UNITA will not be ready and not have any policies on which to fight the election.

It is going too far to say that that is a possible cause of tension. It is imperative that we say now that early elections are not designed to harm UNITA. UNITA must not be given any excuse to disengage from the peace process. It must not feel that democratic solutions are an attempt to do it down.

Perhaps I may interject an irreverent—even irrelevant—note by saying that we might apply in this country the novel idea that elections should be postponed until the opposition are ready to face them. That might release tensions in certain quarters—perhaps, not to be provocative, I should not mention who they are.

I return to the serious situation in Angola. The humanitarian crisis is huge and accelerating. Returning refugees are adding to the burden. Agreements have been reached for a voluntary and orderly return of about 450,000 refugees living in southern Africa. It is estimated that there are 210,000 in Zambia; 24,000 in Namibia; 193,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; 16,000 in the Republic of the Congo; and 10,000 in South Africa. However, it is estimated that about 70,000 refugees have already returned in advance of any preparations for their arrival. Obviously, that throws great strain on the system and much more aid needs to be given.

The United Nations points out that the consolidated inter-agency appeal for 2002 received only 60 per cent of the total requested. As of 3rd December, only 180.4 million dollars was donated, compared to the stated need for 296.4 million dollars. It was also claimed that the UN has received nothing of its requirement of 10.25 million dollars for de-mining. I know that the Government have said that they have donated money to that project; but the UN still claims that it has not received it.

Is that a communications difficulty? Is the time-lag between the declaration that money was to be given and receipt of the money the cause of the problem? Can my noble friend tell us how much has been donated to the de-mining programme? There are similar complaints and discrepancies surrounding other moneys donated to the UN. Can my noble friend say what financial assistance has been made to Angola, through all sources, for 2002 and, specifically, how much has been donated to the consolidated inter-agency appeal?

I immediately accept—I always have done—that the Angolan Government made mistakes during the 27 years of war. It is of course proper that they should be transparent and accountable for the spending of their oil revenues; some moves are being made to make that information available. But some balance needs to be introduced.

For example, will we ever know how much money the Central Intelligence Agency and American business pumped in to support UNITA? Will we ever know how much UNITA received in illegal diamond sales? Will we ever know what happened to UNITA's income. I accept that most of it, like the government oil revenues, may well have been spent on arms purchases.

However, the United Nations monitoring mechanism on sanctions on UNITA reports sales of UNITA-related diamonds worth 10 million dollars as recently as this July in Tanzania. Meantime, the Angolan Government fund UNITA.

I agree that we should look to the future. The war in Angola became known as the forgotten war. Angola has been described by Dame Margaret Anstee as "the Cold War's orphan". We must ensure that the people of Angola are not forgotten in their time of need. Despite the failings of political organisations, which may still rear their head, we must demonstrate that we understand the needs of the people of Angola and that those needs are paramount. Again, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, on securing the debate.