Angola: Past, Present, and Future | Wilson Center

Angola: Past, Present, and Future

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Panelists discussed the history of colonial Angola and the struggle for independence, beginning in 1961 until independence was achieved in 1975, only to be followed by a brutal Cold War era civil conflict. The Lusaka Protocol of 1994 signaled an end to that civil war, only to have it resume as UNITA elements "went back to the bush" until the death of their leader, Jonas Savimbi, in February 2002. The April 4, 2002 Memoranda of Understanding between the Angolan Government and UNITA signaled the final end of the civil war.

These three decades of war have destroyed the economic, political, and social infrastructure of the country and produced devastatingly high human casualties: As many as two million dead; 4.1 million internally displaced persons; 100,000 amputees; 800,000 orphan; and 700,000 refugees. However, in turn, each panelist agreed that the destructive and violent past of Angola had now transformed into an era of hope for sustained peace and development. The State Department representative, Mr. DeLisi, noted that both the Angolan Government and UNITA were "building a peace that will endure." Deputy Foreign Minister Chikoty added that his government is committed to "defend[ing] the values of democracy and defend[ing] the values of human rights."

Still, all panelists accepted that formidable challenges exist in achieving a stable and productive Angola. On the recovery side, Minister Chikoty stated that while peace is the current climate in Angola, the government is "overwhelmed" by the task of rebuilding the country. Discussion revolved around the needs of economic recovery and poverty reduction, development of the private sector, and the return and resettlement of refugee and displaced persons. In terms of sustaining peace, panelists pointed out the need for national reconciliation between UNITA and the government and the demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, who number some 80,000 with another 300,000 family members encamped with them in reception areas. The United Nations representative, Mr. Zaccarias, and Mr. DeLisi underlined the challenge of ex-combatants, noting that premature release could leave them without homes or land for resettlement and that food stocks were currently located near the reception areas. Their dispersion around the country immediately, with the rainy season coming on, would make it impossible for food relief to be provided.

As to economic development, it was agreed that Angola was rich in natural and human resources. Oil production is the predominant income generator and Angola currently provides the United States with 7% of its oil imports. This sector is bound to grow and both the Angolan Government and U.S. oil companies are committed to making that happen. However, during the dialogue between panelists and audience members, other sectors such as agriculture, tourism, port and rail services were identified as having great growth potential. Mr. Goodwin commented that "there is no private sector in Angola" and that is a major challenge to sustaining growth. He stated that financing is of vital importance and the government needs to consider ways of encouraging both small-scale entrepreneurs and foreign investors through tax havens and other safe guards.

On international cooperation with Angola, both the UN and State Department representatives pledged the continuing commitment of the UN and the United States to Angola. The UN Commission established by the Security Council is scheduled to close down in November, and much work such as the reconciliation between UNITA and the government remains to be completed, but Mr. Zaccarias stated that "we [UN] need to allow the country to utilize its institutions...the UN is not there to substitute a as a government institution, but to help." A sub-group, he said, focused on demobilization problems, would continue beyond the closure of the Commission. Mr. DeLisi stated that the direction in which the resettlement will proceed will be the decision of the Angolan government, but the United States will be there to provide aid. On economic recovery, he said the U.S. considers itself a full "partner" with Angola and stands ready to respond to its needs. Mr. Schneidman reinforced this, after outlining a checkered history of U.S.-Angolan relations from the 1960s to the present, by saying the US remains committed to providing Angola with development and reconstruction assistance, to include as a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act and through actions on AIDS prevention and treatment.

Specifically on the question of corruption within government, Minister Chikoty stated that while all governments face this challenge, Angola has confronted the problem in an unprecedented manner. In response to the challenge, the Angola government is developing a legal system that can respond, including a Court of Account that will supervise the government's budget. Minister Chikoty stated, however, that the final solution to the problem of corruption must include creating a global mechanism to reduce poverty.