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Angola’s savage civil war has lasted for a quarter of a century, has claimed 1 million lives (almost 10 percent of the population) and forced many more from their homes. International arbitration has yielded truces and peace agreements, but each has collapsed and the fighting resumed. The United Nations this week released an explosive report that explained how this has happened. The answer is simple: Nations ignore the embargoes imposed on UNITA rebels by the U.N. Security Council in 1993. Greed fuels the Angolan civil war.

According to the report, the rebels have been able to evade sanctions by buying weapons, usually from Bulgaria, having them shipped to other African nations, and then paying for them with diamonds from the territory they control. The chief offenders identified in the report are the governments of Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Togo and Zaire, although a number of other countries are named as well. Two sitting presidents, Mr. Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo and Mr. Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, are accused of permitting sanctions-busting activities in their countries. Belgium was also criticized for lax controls over its diamond market.

All the governments deny the accusations, arguing that the sources are biased. They also complain that Angolan government officials have been spared criticism of their illegal activities. Belgium says it has been unfairly singled out. All of the countries named will be given a chance to respond in hearings at the Security Council held this week.

Sanctions-busting is lucrative business. UNITA’s diamond trade is estimated to have earned $4 billion since 1992. The U.N. report recommends that sanctions be imposed on the sanction-busters. That is one option, but the report itself suggests that there will always be people willing to flout the law to line their own pockets. They will be stopped only when they are denounced in public and deprived of their ill-gotten gains.

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