Global perspective Human stories

UN human rights chief expresses solidarity with people of Angola

UN human rights chief expresses solidarity with people of Angola

With the end of fighting and the signing of a ceasefire accord between the Government and armed opposition groups, Angola has already overcome the most severe impediments to the protection and promotion of human rights in the country, the United Nations chief human rights official said shortly after arriving in Luanda.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, in Angola for three days of meetings with senior government officials, told reporters yesterday that now it is necessary for the people of the country to "consolidate this great progress" and to, above all, work together to overcome the "immense and terrible" legacy of decades of war.

"That is why we are here," Mr. Vieira de Mello said, "to express our solidarity with the Government and people of Angola and to discuss with civil society what else we can do to improve humanitarian conditions in all regions of the country and in all categories of the population." During his stay, he is scheduled to meet with President José Eduardo dos Santos to discuss the current peace process and also draw attention to the importance of human rights in achieving national reconciliation.

Admitting that broad, speedy reconciliation was a "monumental task," the High Commissioner highlighted two priorities for the Angolan Government and the international community - providing solutions for millions that had been displaced and facilitating demobilization for ex-combatants and former troops of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). "I came to see what our High Commission and our other partners can modestly contribute to the progress already made," he added.

Recalling his tenure as the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Mr. Vieira de Mello said it was no coincidence that he chose to visit Angola. Following Timor Leste's declaration of independence last year, it seemed important, he said, to show support for Angola, another nation "entering a new phase in its history" on his first official visit as the UN's top human rights official.

Mr. Vieira de Mello said that during his three-day stint in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) earlier in the week, he urged the leadership in Kisangani and Kinshasa to study the progress made in Angola as they moved to consolidate peace in their own country - namely that ending conflict leads to obvious improvements in human rights. "War is the cause of all the human rights violations in the DRC," he said, "and [implementing] the Pretoria Agreement is the main condition for significantly improving the civilian, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Congolese people."