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Angola Situation Report
 

Background/Executive Summary

   Peace accords signed in May 1991 between Dr. Jonas Savimbi's UNITA rebels and the Angolan government put an end to the fighting and paved the way for national elections. However, when Savimbi lost the his bid for the presidency he claimed election fraud and fighting again flared in the fall of 1992.  Up to that point, both the U.S. and South Africa had strongly supported Savimbi against the Cuban-backed government.  Neither supports UNITA now, nor does the U.S. officially recognize the government of Angola, despite the fact that the government has dropped socialism from its platform.

   In January 1993, UNITA launched an all-out offensive against the city of Soyo, located in the oil-producing northern part of Angola.  After capturing Soyo, it turned its attention on the city of Huambo, located in the central highlands and once UNITA's main stronghold.  It recaptured Huambo after fierce fighting in early-March, but in so doing lost Soyo to the government in mid-March.

   The government's offensive against Soyo in the oil-rich northern region brought threats from Savimbi to target and destroy foreign oil producing facilities in the region, but a UNITA spokesman later retracted the threat after receiving pressure from western governments, particularly the U.S. and France.

   As of this writing, Soyo is back in the hands of the government, and Huambo is in rebel hands.

   Both sides have vowed a long and protracted struggle, which could cause more casualties than the previous 16-year civil war.

Soyo and the Northern Front

   Angolan government troops stormed ashore in early-March 1993 to recapture Soyo, the main supply base for Angola's vital offshore oil industry, following its seizure by UNITA rebels in mid-January 1993.

   Commandos landed by helicopter at dawn on 5 March to establish a beach-head near two crude oil storage tanks belonging to Texaco and Petrofina, five miles from Soyo.  The oil storage tanks, now surrounded by tanks and anti- aircraft guns, were captured intact.  The nearby Pangala pumping station that sucks up Soyo's 27,000 bpd onshore production was slightly damaged by a stray government shell.

   Government seaborne forces sent to reinforce the commandos arrived six hours late and were met with stiff resistance by a 500-man UNITA battalion that initially pushed them back into the sea.  However, the government kept up its attack and the last of the 1,000 - 1,500 UNITA troops were driven out by the following day.  An estimated 45 UNITA rebels were killed in the assault; no prisoners were taken by either side because, in the words of one government general:  "We are not interested in taking prisoners in this war.  There is no room for them."

   Soyo was thoroughly looted of furniture, office equipment and vehicles before UNITA left; the computers of local oil companies ended up in a market in Kinshasa, Zaire. However, despite UNITA threats to "neutralize" vital oil installations if government troops tried to recapture them, the Kwanda port and offshore supply base, which supply oil rigs pumping 40% of Angola's 550,000 bpd crude output, were virtually untouched; they had continued to function normally during the entire two-month UNITA occupation.  Inventories of heavy equipment for the rigs also remained mostly intact, but a diesel storage tank at Texaco's Kwanda base and Soyo's electricity generator were destroyed by UNITA forces retreating across the river to Zaire.

   UNITA had told foreign oil companies operating in the Soyo region to warn the government not to attack UNITA or it would be held responsible for whatever damage to oil facilities that might result.  UNITA said it would respond "violently and extensively" to any government attacks.  The implication that oil facilities would be destroyed in the crossfire was clear.  Savimbi gambled that these threats would be enough to keep the government away from Soyo while he launched his next offensive against Huambo.  He lost this gamble, but decided not to carry out his threats due to outside pressure from the U.S. and elsewhere, and perhaps the desire to keep the foreign oil companies in Angola.

   Government coffers have been hard hit by the loss of Soyo, which produced about one-third of Angola's daily output when it was overrun.  The government badly needs the oil to earn foreign currency to bankroll its war with UNITA.

   The nearest UNITA forces are now about 20 miles from Soyo, and all of the area's oil installations are under government control.

   Oil Company Reactions

   The U.S. reaction to Savimbi's threats against the oil interests was harsh.  Savimbi's statements to "neutralize" vital oil interests in northern Angola were quickly condemned, and he was specifically warned against attacking any of the refineries in the area.  This forced a retraction of Savimbi's threats by a UNITA spokesman who denounced the government for "misinterpretation" of Savimbi's remarks, and clearly stated that foreign oil interests were not part of UNITA's "targeted economic objectives."

   Texaco said it was continuing to produce some crude oil in Angola despite civil strife that had caused it to shut-in production in January.  Texaco resumed production at the Lombo East Platform on the southern end of the Soyo block in early February, but its platform at the northern end of the block (Block 2), which is closer to the shore and therefore more vulnerable to attack, remains closed.  Block 2 normally produces a total of around 56,000 bpd.  Texaco's terminal in Angola also remains shut; crude from the Lombo East Platform is being piped directly to tankers moored offshore.

   Texaco has its own security personnel in country.  All non-essential personnel have been evacuated.

   Angola's state oil company, Sonangol, has a 25% interest in output from the Lombo East Platform.  A unit of Total SA has a 27.5% stake and a unit of Brazil's Petrobras SA has a 27.5% interest.  Angola exports about 250,000 bpd to the U.S. (almost half of its total production), which is about three percent of U.S. imports.

 The Battle for Huambo

   The largest and most recent battle has been for Huambo, Angola's second largest city.  UNITA has claimed victory, but an estimated 15,000 people have died in the fighting and most of the city's 400,000 residents have fled.  The city has been totally razed and refugees have described the battlefield as a "graveyard."  Relief agencies have been negotiating with UNITA and the government for access to the city, where there is a severe shortage of food, water and medical supplies.

   The fight for Huambo is viewed as a key battle because it has long been a rebel stronghold, and it has brought the fighting to urban areas.  Rebels already control about 75% of the countryside.  Government forces were routed in the city and large numbers of tanks, artillery pieces and prisoners were captured.  The fate of the prisoners is uncertain.  According to one relief worker, the worst part of the fighting is, UNITA captures a city and kills everyone they think supported the government, then the government army recaptures it and kills everyone they think helped UNITA.

   The fighting has spread to the key garrison town of Cubal in Benguela Province of the central highlands, and Caxito and Uige in Bengo Province, as well as Malanje, Kuite and Menonque.

   The government estimates that 1.7 million of Angola's 10 million people have been forced to leave their homes due to the fighting, and another 500,000 are suffering from drought in the south.

   The international community, including the UN and the observers to the peace accords, have reiterated their willingness to help the parties resolve the crisis.  But these efforts also require the cooperation of UNITA and the government, and thus far both have been intransigent.  They must move quickly to stop the tragic bloodshed that has needlessly claimed thousands of lives over the past few months.

State Department Advisories

   U.S. citizens are warned against all travel to Angola due to continuing unsettled conditions in the country. Although travel in the capital city of Luanda is relatively safe by day, travel throughout Angola is unsafe due to the possibility of attacks by armed soldiers or civilians. Armed troops, roadside bandits and many unexploded landmines along roads and footpaths are a danger.  Violent crime exists throughout the country.

   The U.S. does not recognize or maintain diplomatic relations with Angola.  There is, however, a U.S. liaison office located in Luanda, and visiting U.S. citizens can register with the Italian Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security in Angola.  only emergency services can be provided to American citizens, and medical facilities are virtually nonexistent.

1995 - 2009 CTC International Group, Inc.

 

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