up in arms

The convictions of Pierre Falcone, Arcadi Gaydamak, ex-president’s son Jean-Christophe Mitterrand and Charles Pasqua in a French court for arms trafficking to Angola have exposed the impunity with which arms traffickers supplied weapons to Angola during its 27-year civil war.

Something that made me smile this weekend was this piece printed in Guardian Cif, a fine example of the excellent and tireless work of my friend, Rafael Marques de Morais. Here you have a journalist from Angola, who taught himself English, writing in English for a British paper, including the kind of details – e.g. Marcolino Moco’s humiliating period as PM – that would rarely be provided by a foreign journalist. For me, it provides yet more proof that what will change Angola for the better are the acts of the people of Angola, not the work or interference or sympathy or meddling of outsiders. Bravo Rafael, I salute you (once again).

There is only one small hair-splitting quibble I have with the piece: the question of the UN arms embargo on Angola. It is widely stated that the embargo was placed on both the government and the rebels. In fact, studying the small print, the UN arms embargo allowed for weapons to be sold to the government under certain contradictory conditions. Whilst the 1991 Bicesse Accords prohibited both sides from acquiring new weapons, the UN arms embargo was only imposed on UNITA. Later, the Lusaka Accords of 1994 did not prohibit the importing of weapons but prohibited the resupplying of military forces with any so-called lethal or similar military equipment. Yes, makes complete sense doesn’t it! Specifically, the UN Security Council resolution 864 stated that the government could import arms on condition that they entered through named points in the country that must be listed by the government and notified to the UN! The UN called on the government to plough its resources into humanitarian as opposed to military requirements: but it did not try and force it to do so (and could not have done anyway). So, in effect, the government was regularly accused of breaking the spirit of the various accords, but not actually breaking the embargo. Moreover, even the very members of the Troika (the USA, Russia and Portugal) were themselves busy selling weaponry to the government or supplying military expertise, and yet the Troika was there to oversee the, er, peace process! Such is the hypocrisy of war and peace etc etc etc.

Meanwhile, I keep laughing about the analysis of Prince Charles’ preference for Camilla over Diana told to me by a very funny man I met last night: “As we say in Dominica,” he said, “a new broom sweeps clean but an old broom gets in to the corners.”

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