Angolan Civilians Trapped As Warring Sides Fight to the Finish
Sep. 02, 1993
LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ As hundreds of Angolans die every day from war-induced injuries and hunger, the government and UNITA rebels have launched military offensives that could be the deadliest in the country's history.
U.N. officials have estimated as many as 1,000 deaths a day in the southern African nation, most of them from hunger but some as the result of fighting.
The civil war has turned cities into battlegrounds and graveyards, while unattended famine, cholera and AIDs are becoming as deadly as artillery.
A May 1991 peace accord ended a 16-year civil war, but fighting flared up in October, a month after UNITA lost elections that the U.N. deemed free and fair. Some 350,000 Angolans were killed before the peace accord was signed.
Both President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi have made it clear that they both seek a final military victory for control over Angola and its estimated 10.5 million inhabitants. Both sides are busy fighting for strategic artillery positions before the rainy season begins next month.
The United Nations has said that after Sept. 15 it will apply sanctions against either side resisting peace efforts. But U.N. special envoy Alouine Blondine Beye's efforts to get the sides to negotiate have been fruitless.
In the meantime, Beye said, three million Angolans are living in sub-human conditions, and most face starvation if the combatants don't allow full-scale relief operations to resume.
Amnesty International has called the human rights situation now ''far worse'' than it was before dos Santos and Savimbi signed the peace accord.
The peace ''has given way now to an uncontrolled battleground of hate, vengeance, and criminal opportunism,'' said Angolan bishop Oscar Braga.
The government army has re-armed, upgraded and repaired its fleet of Soviet-supplied MiG fighter jets and has beefed up its military with an estimated 40,000 draftees.
The National Union for Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, with about 50,000 troops occupying more than half the country, is digging in at Huambo, Angola's second-largest city, 330 miles southeast of the capital Luanda.
This time the battles are being fought in Angola's major cities. UNITA rebels have moved in from the bush to strike directly at city food and power supplies.
Rebel troops have laid siege to the cities of Kuito, Luena and Menongue.
State-run Angolan National Radio said at least 30 people were dying of hunger daily in Menongue. Radio broadcasts from Kuito, 80 miles northeast of Huambo, have told of hundreds of corpses lying in the streets and hand-to-hand battles between rebel troops and armed civilians.
The rebel strategy is to slowly bleed the government of its best troops, who must both defend the provincial capitals and deal with desperate civilians.
Many fear the government will try to use the same tactic against Huambo, a city of some 400,000.