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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
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Angola: Peace Anniversary Update
Africa Policy E-Journal
April 21, 2003 (030423)
Angola: Peace Anniversary Update
(Reposted from sources cited below)
This posting contains excerpts including the executive summary from
a report on Angola issued earlier this month by the International
Crisis Group. The full report is available on the ICG website.
For recent updates and analysis, see also
the monthly Angola Peace Monitor at
and updates on Africa Infoserv at
as well as news coverage at
See also, from September 2002, "Options for peace and
reconciliation" Paper by Dr. Steve Kibble of the Catholic Institute
for International Realations, at
ANGOLA'S CHOICE: REFORM OR REGRESS
7 April 2003
Africa Report N 61
International Crisis Group
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
One year after more than four decades of internationally fuelled
civil conflict came to an end, Angola is faced with a stark choice.
If the government undertakes and sustains meaningful political and
economic reforms, peace and prosperity would be assured. If it
delays and obfuscates on fundamental issues of transparency,
diversification and pluralism, the country will likely be condemned
to further decades of poor governance and localised violence.
ICG's first report on Angola dealt with the humanitarian and
security challenges to peace building. Economic and political
issues are equally important. Good governance in the context of a
war that left so many destructive legacies faces many obstacles.
Regional and ethnic inequalities that intersect with an inadequate
governmental response to the needs of the displaced and the former
UNITA insurgents can sow the seeds for future instability and
warlordism. Interests entrenched in the political and economic
system undermine reform tendencies at every turn. Decades of
atrocities make reconciliation much more difficult. A history of
external intervention and exploitation leaves the government
resistant to meeting some international preconditions for
engagement and aid.
Nevertheless, there are elements within the government and, more
broadly, throughout civil society, that want to increase
international engagement, make economic policy more transparent,
and liberalise the political system. Battles within the government
and between the government and opposition parties and civil society
over basic policy directions are intensifying, and the outcomes are
For a host of reasons, it is increasingly in the Angolan
government's interest to move down the economic and political
reform path. Upcoming elections require the ruling party, the
Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), to seek
electoral support, and the most direct way is to improve the
state's capacity to deliver goods and services. The government's
desire to enhance its international image and project itself on
continental and world stages also creates a reform logic, as does
President dos Santos's wish to enhance his legacy. Political and
economic reform combined with a commitment to begin to address
some social ills and inequities would ensure more broad-based
economic growth, allow a genuine private sector to develop, free up
hundreds of millions of dollars for social investment through a
more transparent budget process, transform the political system
into a more pluralistic one that promotes human rights and lay the
groundwork for long-term stability.
However, there are numerous obstacles. The benefits derived from
wholesale diversion of oil revenues to individual accounts will be
the most difficult to overcome, particularly in an environment of
rising oil prices and discoveries of new reserves. Genuine reform
would threaten the concentration of power in the presidency, or
Futungo, the unimpeded annual diversion of an estimated U.S.$1
billion in oil revenues, and the patronage network and private
accounts supported by that diversion. Leadership by progressive
elements in the government and a fundamental decision by President
dos Santos that reform is in the strategic interest of the country
and the MPLA are needed.
To the Government of Angola:
1. Address the problem of state capacity transparently by focusing
on improving existing national and provincial administration, and
(a) give priority to basic social services (health and education),
agricultural development, and support for micro-enterprise;
(b) invest in basic infrastructure that will help move goods and
people around the country; and
(c) extend state administration gradually in the areas of the
judiciary, police and other elements of the rule of law.
2. Begin to create the architecture for the upcoming presidential
(a) setting a date, accelerating the constitutional reform process,
and clarifying electoral laws and other related actions; and
(b) giving civil society organisations and political parties the
space to organise, operate and campaign freely, including
throughout the provinces.
3. Diversify the economy beyond oil, including by taking such
specific steps as working with the U.S. government to qualify for
participation in the benefits of its African Growth and Opportunity
4. Restructure the investment and commercial codes.
5. Develop an equitable, consistent and transparent land use policy
that balances agri-business and smallholders and avoids the
stereotypical situation in which coastal residents own most of the
land in the interior.
6. Formulate and prioritise a poverty reduction strategy that lays
the groundwork for structural adjustments that will benefit more
than just the wealthiest segment of the population and helps
prepare for the promised donors conference.
7. Agree with the IMF on a reform program to make economic
management more transparent, especially in the oil sector, and
demonstrate commitment to this objective by giving the newly
established "accountability court" real enforcement power,
particularly for large public companies.
To Donor Governments, the United Nations, and the International
8. Fully fund an agricultural assistance program in advance of the
September 2003 planting season.
9. Work closely with the Angolan government in advance of any
donors conference to create a strategic partnership and quid pro
quo on three or four fundamentally important areas such as
demining, roads, health and education,
10. Advocate that the Angolan government set a date for the
upcoming presidential elections and as the electoral process
unfolds, urge constitutional and electoral law reform and
guarantees for the exercise of basic freedoms.
11. Donor governments should provide increased assistance for
political party development and civil society capacity building.
12. Get on the same page regarding the economic reforms expected of
the government and in particular stay focused on the threshold
steps to improve transparency and accountability set by the IMF.
To International Investors in Angola's Oil Sector:
13. Make cooperative efforts with the government to achieve more
transparency surrounding the business practices of the major oil
companies investing in Angola.
Luanda/Brussels, 7 April 2003
ANGOLA'S CHOICE: REFORM OR REGRESS
Angola is mostly at peace for the first time in over four decades.
On 4 April 2002, six weeks after the death of National Front for
the Liberation of Angola (UNITA) leader Jonas Savimbi, his
insurgent group and the Angolan government signed a cease-fire.
With this, Angola entered a new era. The country is finally in a
position to realise the tremendous potential that its natural
wealth makes possible.
However, three major challenges could perpetuate extreme
underdevelopment and inequalities and sow the seeds of future
instability if they are not addressed. All three can be met but
only if the government pursues and sustains major political and
The first challenge is the considerable shortfall in the
government's ability to fulfil its promises to internally displaced
persons (IDPs), UNITA excombatants, other vulnerable populations
and underserved regions. The disparities involved reflect the gulf
that has historically existed between the elites in the capital,
Luanda, and the rest of the country, but that is particularly acute
in former UNITA-controlled areas inhabited by the Ovimbundu people
in the central highlands (the Planalto). Angola's pronounced
regional and ethnic disparities were made worse by the long war,
and it also suffers from inequitable resource distribution, overly
concentrated political power and a general lack of government
transparency. The agricultural populations in the areas that most
strongly supported UNITA are the most seriously affected by
economic policies that favour urban areas and the most severely
penalised by oil-induced distortions. If these disparities are not
dealt with, more organised and strident opposition may eventually
coalesce, whether through UNITA or some other political group.
Although a renewed war is unlikely, a chronic humanitarian
emergency is deepening among displaced populations and demobilised
excombatants that could create the context for future instability
The second is the struggle to reform the state and the economy.
Although numerous high level officials seek to enact fundamental
changes, they operate within a deeply entrenched system of
economic, political and military networks run by the Presidency, or
Futungo (a shorthand reference to the presidential residential
complex at Futungo de Belas). Futungo coordinates the broader
patronage networks that comprise the foundation of the state and
controls the resources and major government decisions. "The system
is designed to make money for its members", charged a leading
Angolan civil society activist. "Futungo talks about reform but
they would lose power, so the system will stay as is". A long-time
regional analyst added: "The system is based on patronage.
Transparency would be counter- productive".
Just below the top layer of the power structure are many officials
who are embittered by their exclusion from this system. Resentment
also stems from a perception that the leadership has distanced
itself from the base of the ruling party (the Popular Movement for
the Liberation of Angola, MPLA). Some peripheral actors within the
military, the MPLA, and Parliament are trying to make the system
more accountable or to provide an eventual alternative, but no
common agenda has yet emerged. The third challenge is rooted in the
local and national schisms created by the war, which left a million
dead and one-third of the population displaced. "There are
memories of terrible atrocities", pointed out one senior civil
society leader, referring to the effects of war and the attendant
human rights abuses. "You can't just divide the cake, eat it and
hope everything is forgotten. Reconciliation goes far beyond just
Accountability is not a high priority in the political transition.
The government and UNITA agreed to sweeping amnesties in their
April 2002 agreement. Nevertheless, "blanket amnesties shouldn't be
given", warned one leading civil society figure. "That would
encourage impunity. There is a need for having things come out
through a process, and then forgiveness can occur". Africa is
replete with examples of cycles of impunity that remain unbroken
and encourage further rounds of abuses across generations. However,
UNITA took an important first step to break this cycle early in
2003 when it formally apologised for abuses it was responsible for
during the war. Furthermore, the manner in which the war came to
end the battlefield death of Jonas Savimbi has facilitated
reconciliation and allowed local community mechanisms to speed
social healing and forgiveness.
As Angola seeks to assert itself regionally and internationally,
its position on many issues will be unpredictable. Tendencies exist
within the government that are sympathetic to state control of the
economy and restrictions on political rights, while others are more
closely aligned with the politics of free markets and multi-party
democracy. There is a keen resentment that Angola was misused by
outsiders throughout its history, from slave market to colony, to
Cold War battleground. Debt repayments, International Monetary Fund
(IMF) requirements, human rights conditionality and other forms of
international obligations appear to key leaders as a continuing
effort by foreigners to limit Angolan sovereignty. Others, however,
want to take advantage of international assistance regardless of
its motivations and recognise that this requires playing by certain
rules. These internal contradictions will probably not be
consistently resolved for some time.
For both internal and external reasons, the government is more
willing than previously to focus on fundamental crisis prevention
issues of democracy building, social service provision, and basic
rights and freedoms.
Internally, The MPLA fought for 46 years to gain or maintain power.
This is its first year of peace. It never previously had to rely on
popular support for legitimacy, given the war-induced state of
emergency and the substantial independence that oil revenues
provided. Now, however, in the context of the transition to
democracy and open political competition, it must reach out to the
civilian population and expand its support base. Providing for
basic human needs is firmly in its strategic selfinterest.
Providing resources for resettling UNITA ex-combatants and IDPs as
part of the effort to reconstruct the state and reorder budgetary
priorities will be perhaps the single most important initiative the
government can take to consolidate the peace. The government is
increasingly sensitive about its international image as it seeks to
become a major player in Africa and beyond. The higher profile that
comes with international leadership creates a dynamic for domestic
reform, as does the desire to project a positive image in advance
of elections expected any time between late 2004 and 2006.
But reform is not a certainty. Like many oilproducing states,
Angola could veer away from any genuinely democratic process,
maintain unequal patterns of domestic investment, fail to
diversify, stagnate economically, and continue to be ruled by a
small political and military elite based in Futungo.
The ruling party could presume that the international community
would overlook human rights shortcomings as long as the country was
stable and a reliable oil producer. This would, however, likely
return some degree of instability to Angola within a decade,
particularly if combined with a lack of action on some the major
humanitarian issues: reintegration of ex-combatants, resettlement
of displaced persons, removal of mines.
Serious reform combined with a commitment to address social ills
and inequities would ensure more broad-based economic growth,
encourage development of a genuine private sector, free up large
sums for social investment in the context of a more transparent
budget process, and transform the political landscape. But it would
also threaten the concentration of power in Futungo, the diversion
of oil revenues, and the patronage networks and private accounts
that diversion supports. The choice is up to the government, and
particularly President dos Santos.
Reform will not come quickly to Angola, and the processes leading
to progress will be hard-fought. This reality calls for a long-term
strategy of international engagement. Civil society should be
liberally supported to increase accountability; government should
be engaged and pressed to deliver the fundamental economic and
political reforms progressive officials say they want to make; and
more open electoral processes and more responsive governing
structures should be encouraged. Ambassador Paul Hare, former U.S.
Special Envoy to Angola, concluded, "The important point should
always be 'what is the trend line?' Is Angola moving forward,
however slowly, erratically, and incrementally, or is it mired in
the status quo"? Those with influence in Angola whether donors
or oil companies can play a positive role in influencing the
commitment to reform. Quiet engagement and partnership is most
effective, particularly when there is focused effort on specific
issues. But when bottlenecks have arisen, the government has
clearly reacted albeit bitterly to external public pressure,
particularly if focused and coordinated. The government's strong
desire for a donors conference in 2003 offers significant early
Angola's government is rather unique in Africa in that it cares so
little about whether individual aid agencies stay or leave and has
yet to internalise the strategic importance of building support
through the provision of basic human services. The practice of
reciprocity between rulers and ruled is nascent, in part due to the
legacy of the colonial and Cold War experience. This needs to
change or the seeds of future conflict could be planted in areas
where the inhabitants most acutely perceive themselves to be
marginalised, particularly in the old UNITA stronghold of the
There are promising new factors, however, that suggest the
government may indeed be reviewing its priorities. It is
increasingly sensitive about its international image for a number
of reasons. It sees itself as finally free to assume its rightful
place on the African and world stages. "There is a sense of Angolan
exceptionalism", noted one long-time analyst. "They see themselves
as regional kingmakers, having involved themselves in both Congos,
Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome, and Cote d'Ivoire". The government's
new regional and international responsibilities in the UN Security
Council, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the
African Union will shape its strategy of engagement. At the same
time, President dos Santos by many accounts is increasingly
interested in protecting and expanding his legacy, which will
require more robust domestic liberalisation. The upcoming
elections will increasingly focus attention on the political
Reform, therefore, is for the first time a strategic imperative for
the government, with potential benefits ranging from enhancing its
international stature, through expanding its domestic electoral
support, to addressing the reasons for past and potentially
future conflict and instability. Reform and thus a viable and
inclusive peace is not guaranteed, but the factors making it
possible are stronger than they ever have been.
Date distributed (ymd): 030421
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
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