The panel was devoted to an assessment of Angola’s first year of peace, and to examination of the prospects for Angola’s ongoing reconstruction and development.
The discussion was chaired by Ambassador Paul Hare, who served as President Clinton’s Special Envoy to the Angola Peace Process from 1993-1998, and included: Walter H. Kansteiner, III, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa; Professor Ibrahim Gambari, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN Special Advisor on Africa; Witney W. Schneidman, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs for Southern Africa; and John Prendergast, Co-Director of the African Program at the International Crisis Group.
All four speakers expressed relatively positive outlooks on Angola, with Hare and Kansteiner observing that post-war Angola has done better politically than most observers had expected, and that the most immediately severe challenges are in the economic realm. Prendergast focused on other potential fault lines in Angola’s future, including the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process and continuing conflict in oil-rich Cabinda province.
Gambari noted that one year after the end of the war, there have been no violations of the ceasefire, UNITA has disarmed and transformed into a political party, and dialogue between UNITA and the government continues. However, huge challenges remained with regard to the social re-integration of former combatants and their families. He expressed the view that the United Nations, which has been critically involved throughout the Angolan peace process, will need to remain engaged – and he stated his concern that the United States and other donors were taking a minimalist posture toward the UN role.
Schneidman drew a cautiously optimistic economic picture, citing as positive signs an ongoing oil diagnostic the government is executing, committed World Bank projects totaling $50 million, recent reform of the investment code and regulatory environment, budget restructuring, and the “serious” new economic team in Luanda.
Prendergast highlighted the importance of reintegrating ex-UNITA combatants into society, and identified several issues threatening the demobilization and reintegration process: disenchantment with reintegration among ex-combatants, limited government capacity, competing priorities, the psychological state of ex-combatants, the willingness of communities to accept ex-combatants, and the willingness of UNITA to close camps that are still home to many of these ex-combatants.
Various means of accelerating Angolan economic development were discussed, among them: debt restructuring through the London and Paris clubs, increased transparency in government expenditures, and capital market formation. Gambari noted that the Angolan government is eager to see a donors conference convened, but understands that it must be properly prepared if it is to yield concrete results. Kansteiner discussed a specific initiative that the United States is pursuing: the establishment of a new banking institution designed to assist prospective Angolan entrepreneurs.
Queried about the significance for the Angolan-American bilateral relationship of Angola’s UN Security Council seat, Kansteiner said that even if Angola did not occupy that seat during the Iraq crisis, the US would still be paying close attention to Angola. Gambari emphasized that the international community is willing and eager to aid Angola, but that it is now Angola’s turn to take the lead in all areas of development.