Letter: The forgotten tragedy of Angola

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Sir: Keith Hart and others (Letters, 29 June) rightly describe Angola as 'an urgent test of our collective will to build a world fit to live in', but understate our responsibility for this forgotten tragedy.

The Western and Soviet power blocs used Angola as a pawn in the Cold War, but have now lost interest in it, despite 1.7 million refugees and a daily death rate higher than in Bosnia. The UN devoted far too little in soldiers and money to make a settlement stick. It failed to give the UN Special Representative the power to halt the elections until both sides disarmed, which allowed the loser to resume the civil war with huge casualties in the last six months.

The US failed to put immediate pressure on Unita after the elections by recognising the duly elected government. The UN has done nothing to prevent the flouting of an election it supervised and declared 'free and fair'. And now, with the loser having seized 70 per cent of the country, with starvation in the besieged cities of Luena, Cuito, Menongue and Malengue, and with 3 million Angolans facing severe food shortages within three months, this human catastrophe scarcely rates a mention in the world's media.

Angola has been at war continually for 32 years. With neither side able to prevail in the civil war, it is shameful that the West is doing almost nothing to stop one of the most ruinous conflicts in the world. Yet a range of pressures could be brought to bear that, within six months, could force Unita to accept the Abidjan settlement it has so far refused.

All military and economic aid to Unita should be blocked, particularly by exerting pressure on South Africa to stop supplies. The diplomatic isolation of Unita should be made complete by getting Zaire, Morocco and Ivory Coast, as well as South Africa, to withdraw support. Unita's satellite telephone links should be cut and its offices abroad (including in London) closed. Above all, Unita's funds should be cut by blocking the marketing of illegally mined diamonds from north- east Angola - a task in which De Beers, a UK-based multinational, could certainly assist.

Yours sincerely,


Member for Oldham West (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

3 July

The writer is Shadow Minister for Aid and Development.