Angola: Ongoing Challenges Facing Almost 100,000 Displaced
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks - More than three years after the end of Angola's protracted civil conflict, almost 100,000 displaced people are still unable to return to their homes, according to a recent study. The major impediments to those who wanted to return to their areas of origin but remained displaced were bad roads, lack of transportation and mine infestation.
Findings from a joint assessment carried out earlier this year by the United Nations and the government revealed that although some four million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have made their way home since April 2002, more than 91,000 remained in limbo, mainly in Cabinda, Huila, Kuando Kubango, Luanda and Moxico provinces.
The major impediments to those who wanted to return to their areas of origin but remained displaced were bad roads, lack of transportation and mine infestation. In the areas worst affected by the war there was "limited administrative capacity and infrastructure, and basic services are virtually non-existent".
In the northern Cabinda province, however, the "massive presence" of Angolan armed forces was seen as the chief deterrent to those wanting to go home.
Separatists in the oil-rich enclave have been battling the central government since Angola achieved independence in 1975. They have long pushed the authorities to hold a vote on the issue and claim that Cabinda has its own distinct identity, history and culture, in spite of armed official opposition to independence for the territory.
Human rights activists in the region have raised serious concerns over the impact of this level of insecurity on the local population.
Refugees and IDPs also faced a number of other obstacles, including land disputes, sexual violence, restrictions on freedom of movement and exclusion from social services.
The report pointed out that the level of political intolerance and violence between non-displaced communities and formerly displaced persons in some provinces was rising. In March this year, the southeastern province of Kuando Kubango was the scene of heavy clashes between supporters of the ruling MPLA party and the main opposition party, UNITA, which left 29 people injured.
In the absence of clear plan for the integration of those who wished to stay where they were, the humanitarian situation facing IDPs living in camps remained bleak. "Poor health, water, sanitation and education standards in former IDP camps are a constant problem," the researchers noted.
Among the reasons for this they cited the non-recognition by the government of IDP populations and camps as part of the surrounding communities.
The plight of Angola's IDP population has worsened as donor support for humanitarian assistance progressively reduced, the report acknowledged. In Cabinda most of the displaced were receiving no assistance. The World Food Programme was compelled to reduce the cereal rations it provided to vulnerable groups in Angola, mainly refugees and those internally displaced.
Among other measures, the report suggested that improved funding was urgently needed in areas of return, which were often worst affected by the war: there was a high proportion of poor, food-insecure families; limited local administrative capacity; and infrastructure and basic services were largely non-existent.
Von: 05 October 2005, http://allafrica.com