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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Angola rebels ready for demobilisation
UNITA soldiers
Former rebels will be integrated into the Angolan army
The military leader of Angola's former rebels says that most Unita soldiers have gathered for demobilisation - one of the key elements of the ceasefire accord signed last month, which put an end to nearly 30 years of civil war.

I saw people unable to raise an arm to shoo away flies

Fr Franz Thoolen
General Geraldo Abreu Kamorteiro, Unita's commander-in-chief, told the BBC that 85% of the 55,000 Unita troops had arrived with their families at camps throughout the country to be resettled.

The Angolan authorities have asked the United Nations for assistance with the resettlement, and requested an international donor conference.

A severe food shortage in Angola has caused a humanitarian crisis, both in the demobilisation camps and in former conflict zones.

Aid needed

As part of the ceasefire agreement, the government has promised to stock the 33 camps with food and medical supplies.

Ships are arriving with food from abroad, and the supplies will be taken to the camps, but the government believes more aid will be needed from the international community.

Children at a transit centre
Millions have been displaced by the fighting

The current shortage is causing deaths from malnutrition at the camps, where the ex-Unita soldiers are staying with their 300,000 family members.

The remaining Unita soldiers and their relatives should arrive in coming weeks, General Kamorteiro said.

A Vatican envoy on a fact-finding mission in Bie province, about 500 kilometres (310 miles) south-east of the capital, Luanda, said the situation in the camps was "catastrophic".

"I saw people who were starving, skeletal, unable to raise an arm to shoo away flies," Father Franz Thoolen, told the Associated Press news agency.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has sent a letter to the secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to tell him that the Angolan Government needs material and logistical assistance from the UN to run the demobilisation camps.

In his message, he also asks for UN help to organise an international donor conference to finance the immediate needs stemming from the peace process, and, in the long run, national reconstruction.

See also:

02 Apr 02 | Africa
Angola rebels granted amnesty
31 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola moves closer to peace
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