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National and global efforts needed to consolidate Angola's progress, Annan says

National and global efforts needed to consolidate Angola's progress, Annan says

With Angola now enjoying "real prospects for lasting peace" following nearly three decades of war, the Government and the international community must take steps to consolidate progress and foster reconstruction, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a new report to the Security Council.

While hailing recent political developments - including the cessation of hostilities and the signing of an accord between the Government and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) - the report points to major security and humanitarian challenges still facing the country.

Concerns persist that "demobilized ex-combatants, without means of support, may resort to banditry and theft," the Secretary-General cautions, adding that the Government's unorganized and ill-financed resettlement effort has been "a source of tension." He also warns that the effort to help some 80,000 ex-combatants and their 300,000 dependants, as well as about 4 million internally displaced people, constitutes an "unprecedented challenge" for Angola.

Humanitarian activities have been expanding dramatically in the country - with the UN now helping 1.8 million Angolans, a larger number than at any time during the 27-year war - but the overall situation remains "extremely difficult," Mr. Annan writes. Earlier this year, Angola recorded a drop in the percentage of people suffering from life-threatening shortfalls of food and medicine, but since the influx of more than 700,000 internally displaced people, malnutrition levels have since increased.

The Secretary-General underscores the importance of disarming the civilian population, supporting the electoral process - with national elections now scheduled for 2004 - curbing corruption, and providing guarantees of basic freedom and human rights.

In this period of transition, "it is imperative that the United Nations and the international community continue to support the Angolan people in further consolidating peace," he stresses, calling on Angola to "establish transparent and accountable governmental institutions across the board" and to provide "full support for the promotion and protection of human rights, especially for children."

Last week, citing progress in the peace process, the Security Council voted unanimously to lift the sanctions it had imposed on UNITA over the last nine years of the war. The cancelled measures, which date back to 1993 and were tightened in subsequent years, included the freezing of UNITA funds, a ban on Angolan diamonds originating from UNITA-held territory, and a prohibition on the sale of weapons, materiél, or petroleum to the rebel group.