17 March 2005
The largest human rights monitoring group in the United States, Human Rights Watch, is calling on the government of Angola to devote some of its oil revenues to help returning refugees and internally displaced persons.
In a new report, the grooup says Angola is jeopardizing its delicate transition to peace after decades of war.
The report said an estimated four million internally displaced persons and hundreds of thousands of recently returned refugees, about one-third of the nation's population, are struggling to restart their lives. Their communities have been devastated and landmines are pervasive. Christina Posa is the author of the Human Rights Watch report.
"Unfortunately, they are returning to basically nothing both in terms of livelihoods and social services and they have very little protection from the authorities and from their communities if they face some sort of discrimination. The government has made certain commitments to these people and it has yet to live up to these promises," she said.
Human Rights Watch says the Angolan government can ease the situation by using money from oil revenues to provide social services for the population. According to the New York-based group, Angola has not accounted for more than four billion dollars in oil revenues.
The human rights group is cautioning the United Nations and international donors not to reduce the services they provide to Angola. Christina Posa says the assistance from the U.N. high commissioner for refugees and the World Food Program is still essential.
"Basically, what they need right now in many parts of the country, they need to continue receiving food while their crops grow," said Ms. Posa. "To cut off assistance before they have had a few seasons for the crops to become productive, you have to remember that this land has been fallow for quite some time and it takes a lot of time to make that land productive. So they need stop gap assistance right now."
Despite the concerns expressed in the report, Ms. Posa says it is a hopeful period for Angola. Years of brutal war have ended and elections are scheduled for 2006. But she says the government of Angola must work to calm fears, ease resentment and remember that the nation's last elections, in 1992, led to another outbreak of war.