Letter: Angola needs UN to take firm hand

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Sir: I have just returned from Angola - and the situation there is extremely serious. More than 1.5 million Angolans are at risk as a result of continuing civil war.

Angola's history is tragic. The brief period of hope that followed the 1992 elections was brought to an end by fighting so fierce that humanitarian organisations such as Care were forced to stop providing emergency and development aid.

Farmers have been unable fully to plant and cultivate their lands. Unemployment in the desperate slums surrounding the larger cities is rampant. These neighbourhoods cannot accommodate the needs of the tens of thousands of destitute people who have flocked to them in search of a safe haven. We do not yet know the full extent of the crisis because humanitarian organisations are cut off from the 80 per cent of the country held by Unita.

Negotiations are in progress with the government of Angola and Unita to allow access. In the past, however, access has often been given in principle only to be denied when the details come to be negotiated. In all such cases, it is the people of a country, whether it is Angola or Somalia, who suffer most, but in this case it is not only Angolans who are at risk.

The UN set a process in train: it was agreed between the parties; elections were held; the loser promptly took up arms, which should have been put into UN care in the pre-election period, and went back to war.

That electoral loser now dominates approximately 80 per cent of the countryside. The UN's own credit is very much at stake. Its reputation will be seriously tarnished if the Angolan peace process cannot be put back on track.

When we look at the combined problems of Angola, Somalia and Bosnia, which the UN now faces and seems powerless to prevent, we cannot be surprised if some are starting to ask if the UN is any more effective than the League of Nations was before the last world war.

Establishing the circumstances in which humanitarian agencies such as Care can deliver aid to all the needy people of Angola is a necessary step in the establishment of UN credibility.

Yours sincerely,


President, CARE International

London, WC2

The writer was Prime Minister of Australia from 1975 to 1983.

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