to the Clandestine
- a Voz Resistencia do Galo Negro
of Africa's Longest-running War
Grace C., February 27, 1998
Updated April 4, 1998
|On the eve of April 2, Radio VORGAN broadcast
its last transmission: an extended program to mark the occasion and offer
hope that the recent political developments in Angola will bring an end
to the two decade old civil war. VORGAN (a Voz Resistencia do Galo
Negro) was originally scheduled to sign off on Feb 28 as part of the UN-brokered
Lusaka Protocol peace agreement, however, negotiations degenerated into
continued violence and the date was pushed back to Mar 30. On April
1, the UNITA representative to the Joint Commission which is overseeing
the Lusaka Protocol being put into practive, Isaias Samakuva, announced
to reporters in Luanda that the station would sign off later that night.
His announcement was later confirmed by an anonymous source within BBCM
as well as UNITA members in Washington who were contacted by CRI on Friday.
Now that VORGAN is gone, the question remains as to where the 4 "containers"
CRI discovered were being used for broadcasts will go. Unless the
government in Luanda demands posession of the facilities to ensure compliance,
the equipment could conceivably end up in former UNITA camps in Zambia
VORGAN, one of the
most easily heard "gray" covert clandestine radio stations in the world,
was slated to leave the air on February 28, 1998, however, its sponsors
vow to keep it running for as long as they can. Information has long
been lacking about how it runs, but after a series of interviews with representatives
of the opposition group, many questions can now be answered. Here
is what I found out placed in context of Angola's bloody history.
||UNITA's Radio VORGAN
uses 4 mobile "containers" like this one to broadcast with 10 kW.
These are likely to have been provided by the CIA or U.S. military, which
supported UNITA during the Reagan and Bush presidencies. (Photo: Army Broadcasting
When the regime in Portugal collapsed in 1974,
anarchy spread to all of the colonies that had been under the country's
umbrella. Angola was the worst hit as political parties formed along
tribal lines, and the Soviets with Cuban forces attempted successfully
to bring it into the communist sphere.
Union for the Total Independence of Angola) was formed in 1966 by Dr. Jonas
Savimbi to counter the stronger pro-Communist MPLA (Popular Movement for
the Liberation of Angola.) The Guardian reported in 1992,
in fact, that UNITA was founded with the encouragement of the CIA after
intelligence officers had recruited Savimbi from the Portuguese Secret
Service (The Guardian). Nevertheless, UNITA took up arms against
other opposition groups, the Angolan government, and the Cuban mercenaries,
with most of its support from the Ovimbundo and Chokwe tribes of southern
In 1974, a major civil war broke out when Portugal
dropped its colonies. The MPLA found its support in radical African
states, leftist Portuguese, and Mozambique's Communist government.
UNITA had the United States and South Africa. On October 14, 1975,
"Operation Zulu" was launched on the South African-Angolan border with
UNITA and South African troops against the MPLA, which had just defeated
another guerilla group. Using this intervention as justification,
the Soviet Union sent Cuban mercenaries to help the leftist MPLA and a
stalemate resulted a few weeks later (Soley, p.97). The MPLA
controlled more territory than UNITA after major hostilities ended and,
with Soviet support, effectively governed Angola.
On January 4, 1979, a a Voz
Resistencia do Galo Negro - Voice of the Resistance
of the Black Cockerel (VORGAN) signed
on the air with the crowing of a rooster. Its programs slaughtered
the morale of the communists and reported battlefield reports on the progress
of UNITA. At the time, most people agreed that VORGAN
was broadcasting from South Africa since South Africa was a major contributor
to the group's coffers and often fought alongside UNITA guerillas four
years before. Another station also believed to be from South Africa
appeared, called Radio Cuba de Africa, targeting
the Cuban soldiers stationed in the country.
Charming, multilingual and suave, Jonas Savimbi
became a strong ally of the Reagan and Bush administrations in the U.S.
and the leadership of apartheid South Africa. With his ivory-handled
pistol he blended well with the opposition groups that were courting the
U.S. during the Eighties. UNITA conquered Angola's diamond-rich regions
in the north-east, which it used to purchase weapons and arms, all the
while continuing its struggle against the communists. With covert
aid from the United States and Europe, "Angola, like Nicaragua and Afghanistan,
was the African showcase of Ronald Reaganís Cold War policy of supporting
freedom fighters in their fight against Soviet-backed regimes" (Washington
60,000 Cuban troops were recalled from Angola
in 1990 following the end of the Soviet Union, and the MPLA government
scrambled to shore up its resources. As the war raged on, the United
Nations (UN) intervened and negotiated a cease-fire in Lusaka (called the
Radio VORGAN continued
its broadcasts, and the MPLA government did everything in its power to
destroy the clandestine's effectiveness. Besides ambush attempts,
the government jammed VORGAN's signals and
even ran a black clandestine that deceived pro-UNITA listeners into listening
to its anti-UNITA programming.
As part of the cease-fire, UNITA and the MPLA
finally faced each other in a national election in 1992. Savimbi
promised "to reduce Angola to another Somalia" if he lost before the ballots
had been counted, and when he did indeed lose, he kept his promise (The
Guardian). Support for the MPLA crossed ethnic and linguistic
lines, thereby ensuring President Eduardo dos Santos' victory. Savimbi,
on the other hand, returned to UNITA-held territory surrounding Huambo
and UNITA headquarters in Bailundo to continue the struggle after he repudiated
the elections, which UN observers had called "free and fair" (US State
The UN imposed sanctions on UNITA for its refusal
to follow the Lusaka Protocol and accept the election results. Foreign
nations could no longer supply the group with armaments or petroleum.
Eager to impress UN officials, the newly arrived Clinton administration
quickly slashed the covert funds which had been directed to UNITA for nearly
As UNITA continued its struggle, the UN leveled
more sanctions on the guerillas on October 30, 1997, including an international
ban on travel for its officials, the closing of its offices abroad,
and the banning of flights into UNITA-held areas unless sanctioned by the
Angolan Government. As if the UN called the shots for U.S. foreign
policy, Clinton rushed Secretary of State Madelaine Albright to Luanda
so that she could observe U.S. oil company Chevron's operations base, meet
with Eduardo dos Santos to forge bilateral ties with his leftist government,
and to announce to the world that "Savimbi and the UNITA leaders who remain
outside of Luanda can expect only marginalisation if they do not move swiftly
to comply fully with the Lusaka Protocol, and to work in good faith to
build post-Lusaka arrangements" (Angola Peace Monitor). Two
days later, President Clinton signed an Executive Order outlawing UNITA
from having offices in the United States. The Clinton administration
was also hastily involved in selling several C-130 cargo military planes
to Luanda, shifting its military support from UNITA to the MPLA socialist
regime (ISP Aug 12, 1997.) The sale, however, was repealed
after criticism from U.S. Congress threatened to highlight the Clinton
administration's double standards. UNITA's newspaper Kwacha Press
states in an editorial "In Washington, it was understood, only years later,
that good business deals could be made with... dos Santos" (Kwacha Press.)
Ironically, the U.S. Department of State's annual
Human Rights Report on Angola released a month later cited the Angolan
government for human rights abuses. "Members of the security forces
committed extrajudicial killings, arbitrarily and secretly arrested and
detained persons, and often tortured and beat detainees. The Government
did not take effective action to punish abusers." On the other hand,
it also attacked UNITA by stating "The human rights situation in territories
controlled by UNITA was poor, with numerous extrajudicial killings, disappearances,
incidents of torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, denial of fair
public trial, forced conscription, and attacks on civilian populations.
UNITA tightly restricted freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association,
and movement. UNITA did not cooperate with independent investigations of
human rights abuses by United Nations human rights monitors, the only such
monitors in the country" (State Department.)
In fact, according to an adviser to Congressman
Mark Souder, "the Arlington-based security firm Military Professional Resources
Inc. joined the number of foreign companies prospecting for lucrative contracts
in Angolaís newest industry, the mercenary business" against UNITA (Washington
Times.) Yet international condemnation falls on the shoulders
Under international pressure, the UN-brokered
Lusaka Protocol cease-fire is finally being implemented, and all of UNITA's
remaining "8000 troops" are to be decommissioned. This isn't such
an easy feat, however, and the fact that they have been soldiers for 20
years or more must be considered. Otherwise, without skills the soldiers
will become bandits and thieves, much like what the rebels became in Guatemala
after that nation's war ended in 1996. UNITA officials complain that
the UN provides soldiers who lay their weapons down with US$200 and then
point to the door. Do UN officials believe that they are building
confidence in Angolans?
VORGAN has been monitored
closely by the UN and Angolan specialists for its content. In fact,
the very state of the Lusaka Protocol depends upon the radio broadcasts.
One UN official stated in August 1997 that "UNITA can help assure the world
body of its good intentions by moderating its warlike radio broadcasts
on its propaganda station..." (ISP Aug 12, 1997.) Indeed,
VORGAN was even criticized by the UN earlier that year for broadcasting
"incorrect" and inflammatory information (Electronic Mail & Guardian,
April 2, 1997.) The National Democratic
Institute, a NGO, participated in a biweekly radio broadcast called
"Voices of Reconciliation" in what is hailed as "the first time journalists
from state-run media and UNITA are working jointly" (NDI.)
This project has laid the framework down for VORGAN's
transformation into a non-partisan FM radio station.
Isaias Samakuva, UNITA's representative to a commission
established by the UN to coordinate the final elements of the Lusaka Protocol,
told the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington,
DC, in September 1997 that "Radio Vorgan has
long played a key role in UNITAís ability to communicate with the people
in its territory. It has been the only balance to a press that is entirely
controlled by the State. The proposal on the table calls for UNITA to transition
from short wave outreach to FM stations. This is a technical concern that
will take some time to accomplish. However, UNITA has immediately addressed
the concerns regarding the material broadcast over Radio
Vorgan. In this regard, UNITA is ensuring that any information broadcast
over Radio Vorgan contributes positively to
the peace process in Angola. As the timetable of the Lusaka Protocol permits,
UNITA hopes to carry out studies, in conjunction with government authorities,
on the feasibility of installing a network of FM stations capable of covering
the entire country" (Samakuva.)
A few months later, President of the Center for
Democracy in Angola, Inc., Jardo Muekalia, told CSIS VORGAN's days were
limited. "UNITA has also taken concrete steps to phase out Radio
Vorgan, it country-wide shortwave station, and initiate Radio Despertar,
as a non-party FM media outlet. An advanced Radio Despertar technical team
has been in Luanda since October 28 working on the issue with the Government.
A place on the FM band has been reserved for UNITA. However, there
are still issues to be resolved. Felix Miranda, the head of the Radio Despertar
team, told Maître Alioune Blondin Beye, that the imposition of sanctions
could prevent the purchase of the equipment needed to set up the new station.
Radio Despertar must have a number of transmitters to cover the entire
country. Another big problem is that the Government has not, to date, authorized
the new station to begin broadcasting" (Muekalia.)
VORGAN was to close
in February 28, and within time become a non-partisan FM radio station
called Radio Despertar to provide the clandestine station's personnel with
jobs. When the change does come, UNITA hopes that Radio Despertar
will carry their message, but that is unlikely since they admit that 4
to 6 transmitters will be needed to cover Angola's mountainous territory.
"The Government has a monopoly on television and will soon have the only
radio station, Radio Nacional de Angola, to reach the entire country when
Radio VORGAN, the UNITA shortwave station is replaced by the limited range
of FM Radio Despertar, a non-partisan media outlet" A press release states
(UNITA Feb 6, 1998.) Furthermore, the Angolan regime continues
its strict control of media in the nation and has engaged in harassment,
terrorism and even assassination against independent journalists.
According to UNITA sources in Washington, whose statements are backed by
news reports, UNITA aims to keep Radio VORGAN
running past April 1998 in order to continue the group's pressure on the
government. VOA news items filed around the time of the February
28 deadline show that both the regime in Luanda and the UN Observer team
are condemning UNITA for not demobilizing its forces quickly enough.
Peace will not be easy for Angola, especially
since both UNITA and the MPLA are being rushed through the UN's peace plan.
The warring sides may lay down arms in the short term, but speeding up
the process will not ensure reconciliation after over 20 years of fighting.
A parliament was installed in April 1997 with the participation of UNITA,
however, UNITA representatives continue to be outlawed in Angola and isolated
globally. Time will tell if peace can be restored to Angola.
In the short term, unfortunately, peace remains a challenge with the Clinton
administration's double-standard partisan politics and egregious foreign
VORGAN used to verify
reception reports through the Free Angola Information Service, a UNITA
lobbying office, in downtown Washington, DC. In December 1997, Dan
Henderson and I discovered that the group had changed to another office
and was being called the Center for Democracy in Angola, Inc. Soon
afterwards, Dan found information that this lobbying office was slated
to close by an Executive Order signed by President Clinton. The office
did indeed close in early February.
It also became apparent that the gentleman who
signs all verification cards for VORGAN, Mr.
"Jaime de Azevedo Vila Santa," doesn't exist. In fact, when we would
visit the office or call their telephone number this individual was never
"in" and could never be "reached" for comment.
Reception reports can conceivably be mailed to
the chief UNITA representative in the United States, but how he will react
to reception reports is unknown at this time:
Mr. Jardo Muekalia
P.O. Box 65463
Washington, DC 20035
Human Rights Report." U.S. Department of State. Washington,
DC: January 30, 1998.
"Angola's bloody road to peace." The Guardian.
December 5, 1992.
Monopoly." UNITA Press Release. February 6, 1998.
time for the United States to stand up for UNITA." Washington Times.
November 16, 1997.
and UNITA share power in Angola, but the population suffers from the arbitrariness
of the police." Kwacha Press, February 18, 1998.
Council Warns UNITA of New Sanctions." ISP August 12, 1997.
Strengthen Ties with Angola." Angola Peace Monitor, Vol. 4 #4,
December 19, 1997.
Reconciliation." National Democratic Institute.
World Wants a Paper peace in Angola." Electronic Mail & Guardian.
April 2, 1997.
Kofi. "Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Observer
Mission in Angola." September 24, 1997.
Jardo. "Remarks on the Angolan Peace Process." Presented to
CSIS on December 17, 1997.
Isaias. "Angola: Where We are Now and Where We're Going - a UNITA
Perspective." Presented to CSIS on September 19, 1997.
Soley, Lawrence C. and John S. Nichols.
Clandestine Radio Broadcasting. Praeger. New York: 1987.
REPORT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL
ON THE UNITED
NATIONS OBSERVER MISSION IN
September 24, 1997
Statement by UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan
On 1 September 1997, after protracted delays,
UNITA notified the Government of Angola in writing that it would agree
to use frequency modulation (FM) for the private radio station, which would
be named "Radio Despertar," to replace Radio Vorgan.
UNITA received the Governmentís official response on 12 September, and
indicated that it was undertaking the necessary technical studies in order
to establish the new FM facility in major urban centres throughout the
country. My Special Representative is urging the parties to expedite the
setting up of this new non-partisan station.
In the meantime, MONUA has reported that Radio
Vorgan has significantly decreased the broadcast of hostile propaganda.
Some of its lead comments now seem to be more supportive of the demobilization
process and national reconciliation. However, UNITA has recently resorted
to a new practice of disseminating hostile propaganda from its offices
abroad, especially those based in Bonn, Lisbon and Paris.
State Department 1997 Human
Rights Report on Angola
Quote on VORGAN
UNITA runs the Voice of
the Resistance of the Black Cockerel (VORGAN),
which often broadcasts hostile propaganda against the Government, contrary
to the provisions of the Lusaka Protocol. For example, a UNITA broadcast
in July accused the MPLA of declaring war against the people of Angola
and urged the people to resist. However, the use of hostile propaganda
declined towards year's end. Under the protocol, UNITA is obliged to transform
Radio VORGAN into a nonpartisan private commercial
station. UNITA's newspaper, Terra Angolana, follows a strictly pro-UNITA
line and could not be found in government-controlled areas. UNITA prohibits
the press from freely entering UNITA-controlled territory.
Quoted from the Angola
The Angolan Government has licensed Radio Despertar,
and made a FM frequency available for it. This is to replace Radio
Vorgan, which broadcasts on short-wave. Meanwhile, Kofi Annan reported
(S/1997/807) that Radio Vorgan had "significantly
reduced the broadcast of hostile propaganda and, in many instances, its
editorial comments have been supportive of the peace process efforts".