Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
Print this page
Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action
from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived
document may not work.
Angola: APIC Statement
Angola: APIC Statement
Date distributed (ymd): 000108
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+
This posting contains a new APIC policy statement on Angola
calling for an intensified and multi-track international
effort to support peace in Angola. APIC has been engaged with
Angolan issues since its founding as the Washington Office on
Africa Educational Fund in 1978. Since the Africa Policy
Electronic Distribution List began five years ago, we have
consistently highlighted Angola, through reposting of the
Angola Peace Monitor and other key documents on a regular
This new statement is being issued because of our conviction
that, as British Minister of State noted in his November
speech to the Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) Annual
Conference in London, there is a need for "a rising chorus of
Governments, Western and African, of oil companies, of diamond
traders -- and of NGOs -- all calling for an end to the war,
demanding the strict enforcement of sanctions against UNITA
and early negotiations for a real peace." Angola will be one
of the key test cases this year for the Clinton
administration's willingness to take serious action to support
peace in Africa.
Another related posting sent out today contains a press
release from Global Witness and excerpts from the Angola Peace
APIC Policy Statement
New Chance for Peace in Angola
After two failed peace processes in the 1990s, Angola has been
at open war again for more than a year. Although the
humanitarian disaster there is among the worst in the world,
the conflict receives little international attention.
The United States bears a large share of the historical
responsibility for the war and for turning a blind eye while
peace accords collapsed. Developments within the last few
months provide significant new opportunities for peace, giving
Washington a chance to make amends. But peace is likely to be
elusive again unless the international community learns from
earlier mistakes and re-engages strongly with a multi-track
effort to support peace.
During the Cold War the U.S. joined with apartheid South
Africa in aiding Jonas Savimbi's UNITA movement. When UNITA
lost the internationally supervised elections in 1992, Savimbi
decided to return to war. This was possible because the 1991
peace plan provision calling for an integrated national army
had not been implemented, and because the international
community failed to respond. The same scenario repeated itself
after a 1994 agreement, despite an expanded UN presence
costing $1.5 billion.
UNITA's continued war was made possible by income from
diamonds, in violation of international sanctions that were
not enforced. The climate for peace -- and for reconstruction
-- was also undermined by the lack of accountability of the
Angolan government and by the failure of either the
international community or the government to engage with
Angolan civil society.
There are new prospects for addressing all these issues this
year. The first serious international efforts to enforce the
sanctions against UNITA have helped weaken Savimbi's military
capacity. In their most recent offensive, Angolan government
forces have taken key UNITA strongholds. If UNITA's capacity
to make war remains sufficiently weak, this may help loosen
Savimbi's tight control over the organization and allow the
Lusaka peace process to resume.
Another hopeful sign is that Angolan civil society has taken
new initiatives to call for a peace process that engages the
people and not just the warring parties. In addition, there
is new pressure on the government to account for its use of
oil revenue -- the prerequisite for turning the country's
riches away from war to reconstruction.
Achieving peace in Angola this year will take persistent
effort on several tracks that are not easy to balance, and
results are unlikely to come quickly. Neglecting one track in
favor of the others will increase the chances of another
The first indispensable element is energetic enforcement of
sanctions against UNITA, so that UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi
will not have the capacity to block implementation of peace
accords as he did in 1991-1992 and 1994-1998. For UNITA to
reengage in the peace process productively, Savimbi must be
sidelined. Absent that condition, launching a new round of
negotiations would be an illusion, simply providing cover for
refueling the war. So sanctions and other pressures must
continue and be intensified.
Yet the idea of peace through a full military victory over
UNITA is also illusory. A renewed process to ensure
implementation of the 1994 Lusaka agreement will be an
essential component of the medium-term peace scenario. Its
credibility and success will depend on engaging not only the
government and diverse elements within UNITA, but also newly
outspoken Angolan civil society.
This second prerequisite was also absent during earlier peace
processes, as civil society was ignored both by the
antagonists and the international community. New independent
initiatives calling for peace express the profound war
weariness of Angolan society. They have the potential to
foster a "culture of peace" that is indispensable for any
settlement to become more than a paper reality. The voices
involved in these initiatives are diverse, and their
statements may at times underestimate the need for continued
pressure against Savimbi's UNITA. But the tendency of the
Angolan government to view these expressions as hidden support
for UNITA and to respond with repression is sure to backfire.
The international community has come to accept that it was
primarily Savimbi's intransigence and deception that
repeatedly dragged Angola back to war. One of the few ways in
which Savimbi's sagging credibility might revive would be for
the Angolan government to reinforce the perception that it is
as little responsive to the popular demand for peace as is
Savimbi. Unless military advances against Savimbi are matched
by new internal openness, the prospects for engaging either
the international community or Angolan civil society in
necessary support for the next stage in peace-building will be
very limited. Revived war will simply await the next downturn
in the price of oil -- which provides the government's
revenue -- or the regrouping of the smuggling networks through
which UNITA exchanges diamonds for arms.
Dismissing critical journalists and other diverse voices
emerging within Angolan society as surrogates for UNITA simply
will not work. This does not mean that the international
community should accept at face value every charge against the
goverment coming from these sources. But it is also true that
there will be no climate for peace unless the government
accepts that the demand for openness is justified and that the
response called for is dialogue rather than well-worn
The same applies to the issues raised by the new report by the
British non-governmental organization Global Witness, which
calls for transparency on the use of oil revenues by the
Angolan government. Last year, the Global Witness report on
the international diamond trade and UNITA's arms purchases
helped galvanize international attention to the need to
enforce sanctions against UNITA. The new report calls
attention to the fact that there are no publicly available
records of the government's oil account, which provides up to
90% of government revenue. It charges that revenues not only
go disproportionately to fuel the war rather than to grossly
neglected civilian needs, but also to bolster the life style
of a highly privileged elite.
While Global Witness charges against particular individuals
are suggestive rather than conclusive, few familiar with
Angola would challenge the general contention that little of
Angola's oil wealth -- estimated to produce as much as $18
billion in new investment over the next four years -- goes to
investment in government services seen by Angola's people. In
Angola, as in Nigeria -- the other most prominent African case
-- oil wealth has had a corrupting influence. Transparency is
an essential component of restoring public confidence and
redirecting resources. To insist that the Angolan government
and the oil companies respond to this demand is not to support
UNITA, but simply to assert a fundamental condition for a
But if changes are required for the Angolan government to
establish its credibility, the international community must
also demonstrate in practice that such demands are not a
pretext for weakening the pressure against Savimbi. Pressure
for reform in Luanda will only be credible if it is matched by
intensified implementation of sanctions against UNITA.
Pursuing multiple tracks for peace will no doubt prove
difficult. But, compared to the alternatives of cynical
withdrawal or a repeat of the policy of wishful thinking which
pervaded previous efforts, such a course stands a real chance
of turning the tide towards peace in Angola. This would be a
major contribution to expanding the zone of peace on the
African continent. And it could give new energy to efforts to
address the series of major wars that block progress across a
central part of the continent, from Angola through Congo
(Kinshasa), Sudan, and the Horn of Africa.
For more information on the web:
General background and news:
Angola Peace Monitor, available on the Africa Policy Web Site
(http://www.africapolicy.org); also October 1999 report from
U.S. Institute of Peace on "Angola's Deadly War"
Human Rights Watch Report (1999) on the Peace Process in
Global Witness reports on the roles in Angola of the diamond
trade (1998) and the oil and banking industries (1999)
Speech by British Minister of State Peter Hain to the Action
for Southern Africa Conference, 20 November 1999 [Note: the
British government has recently taken a very active role in
international action on Angola; this speech stresses the same
points made in the APIC statement above.]
Background publications available from APIC
(order form at http://www.africapolicy.org/apicordr.htm)
Angola: Background Paper (Country Profile 1995). Includes
capsule history, map, fast facts, and poem. ($1.00 each for
1-19, $.80 each for 20 or more.) Order from APIC.
A Family of the Musseque: Survival and Development in Postwar
Angola (book 1996). Photos and text. Describes a day in the
life of a family in a musseque (shantytown) in Luanda. Their
story helps to illustrate five short essays on the economy,
gender, development, war, democracy and civil society. This
unique resource is the cooperative effort of six Angolans (A.
Gamito, J. Ramiro, J. Da Silva, V. Vunge, V. Paulo, and P.
Estevao) and Dutch photographer and writer Bob van der Winden.
($14). Order from APIC.
Key Background Books on Angola
Victoria Brittain, Death of Dignity: Angola's Civil War.
London: Pluto Press and Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1998.
In U.S. order on-line from Africa World World
Human Rights Watch, Angola Unravels: The Rise and Fall of the
Lusaka Peace Process. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999.
Order on-line from Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org).
Angola: Promises and Lies.
London: Serif, 1996.
Available from amazon.com through APIC's Africa Web Bookshop
Apartheid's Contras: An Inquiry into the Roots
of War in Angola and Mozambique. London: Zed Books, 1994.
Available from amazon.com through APIC's Africa Web Bookshop
This material is produced and distributed by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
objective is to widen international policy debates around
African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible
policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide
range of groups and individuals.