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Ways of Death: Accounts of Terror from Angolan Refugees in Namibia

  • Inge Brinkman

In their accounts of the war in Angola, refugees from south-eastern Angola who now live in Rundu (Namibia) draw a distinction between warfare in the past and the events that happened in their region of origin after Angolan independence in 1975. Although they process their experiences through recounting history, these refugees maintain that the incidence of torture, mutilation and massive killing after 1975 has no precedent in the area's history and forms an entirely new development. This article investigates the reasons for this posited modernity of killing, torture and mutilation. The placement of the recent events outside local history is shown to represent an expression of outrage, anger and indignation at the army's treatment of the civilian population during the recent phase of the war. The outrage not only concerns the scale of the killing, torture and mutilation but is also linked with the issue of agency. The informants accuse UNITA army leaders in particular of wanton disregard for the lives and livelihood of their followers. They furthermore maintain that UNITA ordered ordinary soldiers to take part in killings which released powers the soldiers were unable to handle.

Dans leurs témoignages sur la guerre en Angola, les réfugiés du Sud-Est de l’Angola qui vivent aujourd’hui à Rundu (Namibie) mettent en contraste les guerres du passé et les événements survenus dans leur région d’origine après l’indépendance de l’Angola en 1975. Bien qu’ils fassent référence à l’histoire lorsqu’ils relatent leurs expériences, ces réfugiés soutiennent que les actes de torture, de mutilation et de massacre après 1975 sont sans précédent dans l’histoire de la région et constituent un phénomène entièrement nouveau. Cet article examine les raisons de la modernité des meurtres, tortures et mutilations qui est avancée. Le fait de placer les événements récents en dehors de l’histoire semble représenter une expression d’indignation et de colère face à la manière dont l’armée a traité la population civile au cours de la phase récente de la guerre. Cette indignation ne conceme pas seulement l’ampleur des meurtres, tortures et mutilations, elle est aussi liée à Faction menée. Les informateurs accusent les responsables militaires de l’UNITA en particulier de ne faire aucun cas de la vie et des moyens d’existence de leurs partisans. Ils soutiennent par ailleurs que l’UNITA a ordonné à de simples soldats de participer aux massacres, leur donnant ainsi des pouvoirs qu’ils étaient incapables de maîtriser.

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