TITLE=ANGOLA / COFFEE AND DIAMONDS (L-O)
INTRO: The war in Angola continues to take a heavy
toll on the country's economy as fierce fighting rages
between government forces and rebels of the UNITA
movement. Correspondent Alex Belida reports from our
Southern Africa Bureau.
TEXT: The Johannesburg newspaper "Business Day"
publishes a weekly column in which foreign firms post
requests for specific merchandise from South-African
suppliers. This week, the column features an unusual
request from a firm in the Angolan capital, Luanda.
It is looking for coffee.
What is unusual about the request is that back in the
mid-1970's, Angola was the world's fourth-largest
coffee producer, harvesting more than 200-thousand-
tons a year. Along with oil and diamonds, coffee was
one of Angola's leading export earners.
But continuing armed conflict, combined with neglect
of the country's coffee plantations, drought, and
transportation difficulties have left Angola unable to
meet its own domestic consumption needs. Production
in 1993 fell to just five-thousand tons.
The government had been optimistic the country's 1994
peace agreement would reverse the fortunes of coffee
producers. But that agreement has collapsed and heavy
fighting is once again reported in Angola.
Tens-of-thousands of Angolans have been displaced by
the latest phase of the long-running civil war between
government forces and troops of the UNITA rebel
movement. Hundreds of people are reported starving to
death daily -- despite efforts by international
humanitarian aid groups to distribute emergency food
In a recent statement, UNITA blasted the government
for spending hundreds-of-millions of dollars on the
purchase of military equipment for use in its current
offensive against the rebels. However, recent
refugees from rebel-held territory have claimed hunger
and disease are also widespread in areas under UNITA
UNITA is widely believed to have financed its side of
the war from the sale of diamonds mined in its
territory and exported in violation of U-N sanctions.
The international diamond firm, De Beers, denies it
has ever bought diamonds from the rebels.
But in a statement this week, it announced it is
placing an embargo on the purchase of all diamonds
from Angola, except for those it has previously
contracted to buy from a government-backed joint
In addition, De Beers, the world's leading diamond
sales company, says it is urging its clients to adopt
a similar embargo against Angolan diamonds -- a move
which analysts say is likely to hurt both the
government and the rebels. (SIGNED)
06-Oct-1999 11:02 AM EDT (06-Oct-1999 1502 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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