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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
Angolan rebels flood into camps
Unita soldier in demobilisation camp
The camps were set up under an April peace accord

The military authorities in Angola have announced that more than 80,000 soldiers of the former rebel movement, Unita, have assembled in camps where they are to be demobilised under a recent peace agreement.

This vastly exceeds the number of soldiers provided for in the peace plan.

Mother and child
Soldiers' families are also in the camps
Reports are also emerging of soldiers leaving the camps and using their weapons to criminal ends.

When the Angolan Armed Forces and Unita signed a peace accord on 4 April, part of the agreement was that 55,000 Unita soldiers would assemble with their families in designated locations, called quartering areas, around the country.

There they would be disarmed, and 5,000 would be drafted into the Angolan army or police, while the rest would receive help in returning to civilian life.

The Joint Military Commission (JMC) that is overseeing the demobilisation process said this week that 84,000 soldiers have arrived in the camps - 29,000 more than originally envisaged.

Soldiers and civilians

The JMC also said that nearly 257,000 family members had arrived in the quartering areas with the soldiers.

Children with artillery inside camp
Only a fraction of weapons have been handed over

Yet United Nations officials have said in private that by the time the peace accord was signed, Unita in reality had no more than 10,000 armed men.

Observers say the JMC seems to be regarding every adult man who was on the Unita side as a soldier, whether or not he carried a gun.

The number of weapons that have been handed in is only a fraction of the official tally of soldiers.

In the Ndele quartering area, near Kuito in central Angola, which the BBC visited this week, there were more than 2,000 registered soldiers, yet only 500 weapons had been surrendered.

Unita clearly lost a lot of its fire power in the final months of battle, but in the absence of any certainty about the number of weapons held by the rebels, there is no accurate way of measuring the success of the disarmament process.

Criminal activities

A UN official confirmed that incidents have taken place in which former guerrillas have left the quartering areas and used their guns for the purpose of robbery.

Although Unita's leaders have given assurances that their men will remain disciplined, the UN official warned that such incidents could increase unless the rebels get the food and the help with rehabilitation that they were promised in terms of the peace plan.

The government says it has spent $22m on assistance to the former rebels, and promises to disburse a further $23m in the coming months.

Yet some of the quartering areas are still suffering food shortages.

The World Food Programme has delivered supplies to families in some of the camps - but its resources are over-stretched, and it also has to cater for a large number of displaced civilians in Angola.

Jonas Savimbi, killed after 26 years of civil war

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See also:

02 Apr 02 | Africa
31 Mar 02 | Africa
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