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Angola: Long-lost son found

11-01-2002 News Release 02/01

S. last saw her son at New Year's 1984. That was the day that Roberto* moved out of the family home in Luanda to go work with his brother-in-law, a mechanic living in north-eastern Angola. It was a move he doubtless came to regret when both he and his brother-in-law were captured by anti-government UNITA forces, who thought that young men with such light skin must be Cuban soldiers fighting on the government side.

Back in Luanda, S. knew only that they had disappeared. She made a tracing request at the ICRC delegation there. In the years that followed, Roberto managed to telephone his mother several times and, once, to send her a message through the ICRC. At least she knew that he was still alive. But the last contact was in 1992 – after that, nothing. " These children were born in war " , she used to say with a sigh of resignation. " And now they are forced to make war " .

S. had already had a son killed in the war, in 1981, only three months after he was recruited into the Angolan army. Other children live in Europe and have often suggested that she come to live with them, but she has always refused, preferring to wait at home for Roberto. On 27 December 2001, her prayers were answered and she cried with joy when she was contacted by the ICRC with a Red Cross message written by Roberto a month before. It had been sent to the ICRC through the Zambia Red Cross Society. He was alive after all, and not only that he was married and living with wife and daughter in a refugee camp in Zambia.

" I well remember S. " , said Filomena Aguiar, who runs the ICRC's tracing service in Luanda. " She used to come to the delegation regularly to s ee whether there was news of her son. But as the years passed her hair turned white and she looked old beyond her years. She eventually stopped coming. " The new year has brought new hope.

 * not his real name