Angolan Population Sacrificed by War and Abandoned in Peace

Two reports show how civilians were abused as a strategy of war

New York/Luanda October 10, 2002 – "Why were we born to suffer like this and at our brother's hands? Truly death would have been better." After 27 years of war, this is how 40-year old J. from Mavinga describes his life in Angola since 1998. This is just one testimony out of a hundred released today by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) within two reports, giving a glimpse of the events occurring in large parts of the country that had been inaccessible since 1998.

These testimonies compiled immediately after the war ended, although not exhaustive, illustrate how from 1998-2002, warring troops from both Unita and the government of Angola deliberately perpetrated acts of extreme violence against civilians: forced displacements, rape, forced conscription, summary executions, and physical assaults. As a matter of policy, both warring parties unhesitatingly used these forms of violence and terror to dominate civilian populations, depriving them of food and basic resources needed to survive. Abused for years as instruments of war, these civilians were simply abandoned after the war.

The two MSF reports show that, since 1998, civilians were used by both sides in the war. The suffering experienced by these people is the direct consequence of a war waged without even the slightest consideration for the principles of international humanitarian law.

A truce following the April 4, 2002 cease-fire did not bring about an end to the nightmare. Aid has not been sufficient for the tens of thousands of civilians who were forcibly displaced during the last phase of the war, or for former Unita soldiers and their families who have assembled in special quartering areas.

Problems of access to many areas of Angola, in addition to the lethargic response from the international aid community following the ceasefire, have exacerbated a human catastrophe that was already shocking from decades of war. In the coming weeks, MSF will release a report analyzing the failure of the international humanitarian response.

Rony Brauman, Research Director of the Médecins Sans Frontières Foundation in Paris, will be presenting the reports in Luanda today.