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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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: 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

+++++++++++++++++end summary/introduction+++++++++++++++++++++++


7 April 2003

Africa Report N 61

International Crisis Group



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 uncertain.

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 in particular:

(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 election by:

(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 Act (AGOA).

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 Financial Institutions:

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 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 economic reforms.

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 and disaffection.

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 dividing power".

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 leverage.

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 Planalto.

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 environment.

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Date distributed (ymd): 030421
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+

The Africa Action E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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