Amnesty: Lusaka Protocol


5. In the spirit of National Reconciliation, all Angolans should forgive and forget the offenses resulting from the Angolan conflict and face the future with tolerance and confidence. Furthermore, the competent institutions will grant an amnesty, in accordance with Article 88 (h) of the Constitutional Law, for illegal acts committed by anyone prior to the signing of the Lusaka Protocol, in the context of the current conflict.

III. Modalities

5. On the day on which the Lusaka Protocol is initiated, the Government and the leadership of UNITA shall each issue a statement on the importance and meaning of pardon and amnesty, as referred to in para. 5 of the general principles relating to National Reconciliation above.

11. The period for the promulgation of the Law of Amnesty shall be specified in the timetable of the Lusaka Protocol.

Implementation History


Minimum Implementation

It was evident from the comments of mediators, such as Alioune Blondin Beye, the U.N. special envoy to Angola who mediated a year of peace talks in Lusaka, that amnesty had been a precondition for the agreement. “Beye said the Angolan parliament last week approved a general amnesty for the war, meaning rebel fighters and officials would be free from prosecution. That likely influenced the rebels to proceed with peace talks.”1 Alioune Beye was referring to “Law No. 18/1994-Amnesty Law” passed on 10 November 1994. The amnesty law contained 8 Articles: 

Article 1 

Amnesty granted for all crimes committed against the internal security of the State and all others related with these, committed by national citizens within the scope of the military conflict after the elections from the 1st October 1992 until the date of signature of the Lusaka Protocol. 

Article 2 

Amnesty granted for all military crimes committed during the period referred to in the previous article, except crimes of fraud with violence which resulted in death, as foreseen in No. 3 of article 18 and No. 3 of article 19 of Law No. 4/94 of the 28th of January. 

Article 3 

Amnesty also granted for all common crimes punishable with sentences of up to 8 years, as well as crimes punishable with correctional sentences and contraventions committed by soldiers and non-soldiers during the period referred to in article 1 of the present law. 

Article 4 

1. Sentences applied according to the punishment of crimes not covered in the present law benefit of a pardon of: 

          1/4 for common crimes and for soldiers, when the crime committed did not result in the death of the victim; 

         1/8 for the rest of military crimes, when they result in the death of the victim. 

2. Contents of the previous number include pending lawsuits, as well as those to be initiated for infringements committed during the period referred to in article 1 of the present law. 

Article 5 

Pardon granted on condition resulting from the beneficiary not committing any fraudulent crime punishable by a heavy prison sentence during the 5 years following the date of publication of this law which terminates the serving of the sentence or during its fulfillment. 

Article 6 

The Law of Amnesty does not cover civil responsibility emerging from crimes committed, in terms of paragraph 1 of article 125, of the Penal Code. 

Article 7 

All which contradict the contents of the present law are revoked. 

Article 8 

The law enters into effect on the date of the signature of the Lusaka Protocol.


It was evident that the law contained ambiguities. Articles 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 all add exceptions to the general amnesty contained in Article 1. Furthermore, the amnesty period clearly ended with the signing of the Accord, while UNITA and the Government of Angola continued to engage each other after the Accord. It was uncertain, for instance, whether UNITA troops still deployed in Huambo months or years after the Accord was signed would remain covered.2 

In December of 1994 General Lukamba Paulo Gato, UNITA’s Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs, told reporters that the Lusaka Peace Talks were in danger over ambiguities on amnesty and the military actions of the Government against UNITA following the Accord. General Gato mentioned specifically that he considered the amnesty provision in the Lusaka Accord to be ambiguous as to whether it granted legal amnesty for every UNITA combatant. According to Gato, “…the Lusaka Protocol did not provide for any amnesty whatever. Instead, what it provided for was national reconciliation or, in other words, mutual forgiveness.” 3

  • 1. “Warring Factions in Angola Sign Truce,” The Associated Press, November 15, 1994.
  • 2. "Amnesty Law [Angola]," Law No. 18/1994 of November 10, 1994, November 15, 1994.
  • 3. “Angola: UNITA Warns It Will Have to Defend Itself if Government Continues Logic of War," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, December 16, 1994.

Minimum Implementation

In February 1995, UNITA held its 8th ordinary congress in Bailundo, Huambo Province with 1,230 delegates from every province in Angola. The UNITA congress adopted 21 resolutions dealing with the peace process and future plans. It was evident by resolution eleven that UNITA did not consider the Lusaka Accord as stipulating full amnesty. Resolution number eleven stated the following: “[F]or the concretization of peace and national reconciliation, the eighth congress demands that a general and total amnesty embracing all the period of the Angolan conflict, be declared.”4

  • 4. “Eighth UNITA Congress's 21-Point Resolution," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, February 14, 1995.

Minimum Implementation

UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi gave a UNITA radio address on 12 February 1996 in which he called on the President of Angola to legalize UNITA as a party and declare general amnesty. Savimbi suggested that these two actions would lead to future progress on military issues. Savimbi declared: “First, the ban on UNITA should be lifted because [words indistinct] UNITA deputies. So this ban should be lifted. Second, the President of the Republic should declare a general and total amnesty because I am not sure whether the men we have confined will be tried in future. These two actions will open the political door that speeds up the military phase. We made the gesture. People have to understand, to present 16,500 men and 16,500 weapons without any reciprocity, it is as if UNITA was surrendering.”5 

On February 14 1996, the Government of Angola used state media to respond to Savimbi’s comments on amnesty. MPLA Information Secretary Joao Lourenco stated on his radio address that Savimbi was spreading false concerns on issues already settled: “If that amnesty were not in place, Dr. Savimbi himself would not have been able to meet President Jose Eduardo dos Santos on several occasions, as he has done. Without the amnesty, his representatives would not be in Luanda holding talks with the government in the Joint Commission - which has been happening for a fairly long time now. Thus, this amnesty call is a fake problem UNITA is trying to raise because amnesty was granted.”6 

In a another government response, General Higino Carneiro added greater ambiguity to the amnesty issue by suggesting that Savimbi’s refusal to confine the required number of UNITA troops agreed to in the Lusaka Accord had been the problem. This suggested a catch-22 scenario. According to Savimbi, if UNITA troops were being fired upon by Government troops, they didn’t yet have amnesty. Thus, Savimbi said that he must remain mobilized as long as the Government continued to pursue UNITA militarily. Meanwhile, General Higino suggested that the violence continued because UNITA had not demobilized according to the plan. General Carneiro remarked that: “I believe that recent statements by the UNITA leader may result in different interpretations if we are not able to explain the stages of the Lusaka Protocol, including the confinement of soldiers. For instance, we cannot understand the fact that UNITA cannot confine more soldiers than it pledged to unless the government makes a gesture of goodwill. By doing so, UNITA is distancing itself from the Lusaka Protocol. Both sides signed an agreement of their own free will pledging to respect and implement the accords. This is our point of view.”7 

The Washington Post printed an Op-Ed piece on 28 February 1996 by a UNITA representative regarding the issue of amnesty. There was a mention of the government having “discussions of amnesty” that UNITA found unsatisfactory. The UNITA spokesperson stated that the Angolan Government massacred 20,000 civilian UNITA supporters in 1992. The author stated: “Both UNITA and the government should learn from the South African example that a comprehensive amnesty covering both sides is needed immediately.”8 

In March, Bruce McColm, Angola expert and President of the Institute for Democratic Strategies, testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on courses of action for Angola and the current impasse. Stemming from his visit to Angola two weeks earlier (February 18 to February 25, 1996), McColm made 16 recommendations toward achieving peace in Angola. In particular, McColm stated the following recommendations: (#5) “The United States should encourage the FAA to withdraw from its present forward positions in Uige, Huambo, and Bie Provinces so as to create greater security for the garrisoned troops of UNITA and a climate of greater trust among the population” and (#8) “The Angolan Government should take immediate measures to revise the Amnesty Law so as to include incidents from 1992 through the present, covering all sides in the conflict.”9 

Marcos Samondo, UNITA's representative at the United Nations, was calling for the United Nations to make an evaluation of the situation in Angola. Samondo argued that “the starting point would be for the President of the Republic of Angola, in his capacity as Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA), to declare a general and total amnesty.”10 

In May 1996, Jardo Muekalia, the UNITA representative in Washington, told reporters that the problem with the amnesty law was that it does not cover the entire war, before 1992. Muekalia made the following statement: "This is easy and can be accomplished with the stroke of a pen. Failure to expeditiously pass a comprehensive amnesty law gives rise to suspicions in UNITA that the Government wants to try UNITA military officials for war crimes as it has threatened so many times in the past.”11 

Savimbi told reporters in June 1996 that the President must issue “a solemn proclamation of the amnesty, pardoning those who had taken up arms again over the past five years following a peace accord which failed to hold.”12 

Jorge Valentim, UNITA’s chief representative at the peace negotiations in Lusaka, told diplomats in July that an amendment to the amnesty law was absolutely and immediately necessary for the peace process to move forward. “No one” Valentim argued, “could expect a UNITA general to come out of the bush and enter one of the UN's demobilization camps if, as a consequence, he would be prosecuted by the government.”13

  • 5. “UNITA Leader Says President Should Reciprocate UNITA's 'Goodwill',” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, February 13, 1996.
  • 6. “Ruling Party Says UNITA Leader's Amnesty Call Is 'Unjustifiable',” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, February 14, 1996.
  • 7. “Government Official Rejects UNITA Leader's Proposals on Amnesty,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, February 14, 1996.
  • 8. “Angola: The Mercenaries Remain,” The Washington Post, February 28, 1996.
  • 9. “Statement of R. Bruce McColm President, Institute for Democratic Strategies for the Subcommittee on African Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Regarding the Angolan Peace Process,” Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony, March 12, 1996.
  • 10. “UNITA Criticizes Government Departure from Joint Commission,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, April 25, 1996.
  • 11. “Angola: UNITA Calls UN Report ‘Misleading’,” Africa News, May 1996.
  • 12. Angola President Sacks Cabinet to Rescue Ailing Economy,”Africa News, June 1996.
  • 13. “Angola Between Decay and Hope, War and Peace,” Swiss Review of World Affairs, July 1, 1996.

Minimum Implementation

In stark contrast to the number of press reports and stories on the amnesty issue from 1994 through 1996, the amnesty issue disappeared toward the end of 1996. The President did not declare comprehensive amnesty and the amnesty law was not revised. In 1997 and 1998, as UNITA and the Government escalated the fight, the amnesty issue was dropped. There were no further developments.


Minimum Implementation

There were no further developments.