Press Release / Feb. 25, 2002

Savimbi death offers peace and chance for reflection on natural resources that fund conflict in Angola and across Africa

Following nearly four decades of conflict, the death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi on Friday offers a window for peace in Angola in which to address the role of oil and diamonds in funding the civil war.

Diamonds have played a central role in funding UNITA’s insurgency, raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the rebels after the end of the Cold War. Global Witness director Charmian Gooch said, “Savimbi’s death is a tremendous opportunity for peace and for reflection on the role of resources in perpetuating Angola’s civil war. The international community must learn its lesson from the prolonged conflicts in Angola, Sierra Leone and elsewhere, and effectively implement the Kimberley Process to remove for all time the role of diamonds in funding both conflict and international terrorism”.

In addition, the Angolan Government must now put its oil revenues, accounting for 80%-90% of the state’s income, towards addressing the urgent humanitarian needs of its citizens. Currently, oil revenues and oil-backed loans are kept secret, providing ideal conditions for financial embezzlement and misappropriation of funds. The latest information suggests that almost US$1.4 billion – about one third of State revenue - in oil-backed loans and oil revenues remains unaccounted for in 2001 and that top government officials benefit through the military procurement process. Meanwhile, over one million people who have been displaced by the conflict are left wholly dependent on UN-funded food aid, and one child dies every three minutes of preventable causes – 480 per day.

International oil companies, including ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil and TotalFinaElf exacerbate Angola’s missing money problem because they refuse to publish what they pay to the State, meaning that ordinary Angolan citizens have no information to call their Government to account over the misuse of state funds.

“The web of secrecy surrounding Angola’s oil revenues, which are disbursed as the private property of the ruling elite, must now be dismantled”, said Global Witness director Simon Taylor. “Peace will stand a better chance when vested interests in exploiting the conflict for private gain are removed”.

Global Witness believes that the initiative is now firmly in the hands of the Angolan Government and that natural resource governance in Angola should be made a test case for the G8 Africa Programme and the New Partnership for African Development (NePAD) initiative.

Further, following the Enron debacle, President George W. Bush must seize on his meeting with Angola’s President dos Santos in Washington tomorrow to secure corporate transparency and good governance in Angola’s resource sector.

Please contact Charmian Gooch or Simon Taylor on landline: +44 (0)20 7272 6731, or mobile: +44 (0)7957 142 121.

Editor’s notes:

(1) Global Witness focuses on the links between the exploitation of natural resources and the funding of conflict and corruption. It is non-partisan in all its countries of operation. In Angola, Global Witness has previously highlighted how the traffic of conflict diamonds funds UNITA’s continued insurgency as well as questioning management of oil revenues by the Government.

(2) In December 1998, Global Witness released the report “A Rough Trade” which highlighted the dangerous failure of the international community and the United Nations to implement controls on unofficial Angolan diamonds and role of the international diamond industry in buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of UNITA-origin diamonds. Since then, Global Witness has pushed government and the diamond trade to adopt binding controls on conflict diamonds through the Kimberley Process.

(3) In December 1999, Global Witness published “A Crude Awakening” – an exposé of corruption in Angola and an examination of the complicity of the oil and banking industries in the plundering of state assets. Despite earning around US$3-5 billon from oil last year (an estimated 87% of state revenue), social and economic development in Angola has continued to deteriorate. The latest figures from the UN show that three-quarters of the population are forced to survive in absolute poverty on less than one dollar a day; over 30% of all children die before reaching the age of five and one child now dies of preventable diseases and malnutrition every three minutes (480 every day); overall life expectancy is a mere 44 years; and some 4 million civilians have had to flee their homes since the war resumed in January 1998.

(4) Major oil companies operating in Angola are: Chevron-Texaco, TotalFinaElf and ExxonMobil, BP-Amoco, Norsk Hydro, Statoil, Shell, Agip, Petrobras and Petrogal. BP-Amoco created a precedent on transparency in February 2001 by stating that it will publish what its pays in Angola. So far, no information has been provided to date regarding tax payments to the Angolan Government from the company’s shareholding in Angola’s Block 17, which commenced commercial operations in December 2001.

(5) President dos Santos will meet with President Bush on Tuesday 26th February, along with Presidents Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique and Festus Gontebanye Mogae of Botswana, to discuss issues of importance to Southern Africa. Vice-President Cheney will subsequently meet with dos Santos alone.