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Angola: Peace Process, 2
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Angola: Peace Process, 2
Date Distributed (ymd): 960328
From War to Peace in Angola: Increasing the Chances of Success
Position Paper, March 1996
Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) * Holland Committee on
Southern Africa (KZA) * Washington Office on Africa (WOA)
(continued from part 1)
(3) Be Prepared for Failure.
Perhaps the most disturbing remaining parallel to the fiasco
of return to war in 1992 is the apparent reliance on "best-
case" scenarios, at least in the public statements of the
international actors involved in the process. Whether or not
it is appropriate to keep "worst-case" scenarios private, for
the purpose of lowering the temperature of the rhetoric and
not inflaming the process with threats, it would be a serious
error to neglect contingency plans for the event of either a
return to war or indefinite delays on the part of one party.
In 1992, the international community (and indeed the Angolan
government) did not take seriously UNITA leader Jonas
Savimbi's warnings that he would take an election loss as a
priori proof of fraud, and deliberately turned a blind eye to
the fact that the UNITA army had been kept virtually intact
while the government army had been reduced to a shadow of its
While there have been and continue to be a variety of
obstacles on both sides to implementation of peace, rooted in
mistrust or practical political or administrative incapacity,
the fundamental doubt continues to be whether the leadership
of UNITA has the will to abandon its reliance on military
strength (i.e. a separate army) and take its chances in the
political arena, as both the 1991 and 1994 peace agreements
demand. Most Angolans, as well as those of us who have
followed events in Angola over a long period of time, tend to
be more skeptical about new promises made at summits than many
diplomatic optimists coming to Angola from other experiences.
Hopefully, this time the optimists will prove right, and our
doubts shown to have been unfounded. But the question is what
combination of carrots, sticks and diplomatic initiatives will
increase the chances of a positive answer to that question.
Recent movement is encouraging, and all parties should be
congratulated for the stepped-up pace of implementation in
January and February. But if the process should stall again--
and again--the question of the potential alternative--the
stick or threat of the stick--is unavoidable. And it should be
thought out in advance. The explicit threat made by the
international community is obvious--walking away, terminating
the UNAVEM mandate and letting the Angolan parties resolve the
issue by--at the extreme--a return to war. Such a threat does
put pressure on all who favor completing the peace process
over the alternatives of war or an indefinite state of neither
war nor peace. But its effectiveness as pressure on the
leadership of UNITA in particular depends directly on other
factors--namely, the extent to which the military balance
continues tilted against them, and whether they think that in
the final analysis the international community will support
the elected Angolan government.
Every effort should be made to complete the process
peacefully. But just as signing the Lusaka Protocol in 1994
only resulted from significant military advances by the
Angolan government, so its implementation depends on the
credible threat of resuming those advances, with the
endorsement if not the active support of the international
community. The more credible that threat, the less likely it
is that it will have to be implemented.
Two distinct conclusions follow directly, which are difficult
but necessary to combine in practice. One is that restraint
and flexibility on the part of all parties is needed not only
to move the process along but also so that if it does finally
break down it will be very clear where the responsibility
lies. Thus, early this year, Angolan government withdrawal of
foreign military advisors and rapid implementation of the
quartering of the Rapid Intervention Police aided in
increasing pressure on UNITA to begin quartering significant
numbers of their troops in February. On the other hand, any
such move must be considered carefully in terms of its
implications on the military balance. The Angolan government
is understandably wary of repeating its mistake in 1992 of
letting down its guard and trusting too much in the good faith
of its opponent and in international rewards for an election
The international community should avoid the fallacy that
"evenhandedness" is always appropriate or the stance most
conducive to peace. Objectivity is certainly appropriate in
identifying and condemning violations of the accord or delays
by either party. There can be no blanket endorsement of either
side, in a confused situation of mistrust which requires
patient confidence building and careful checking of a flood of
conflicting reports. But it would be foolish and contrary to
the facts not to recognize that the will to implement the
accord is still most doubtful on the side of UNITA--
particularly when it comes to the critical points of
integrating its military forces and surrendering the
dictatorial control which it exercises over the population in
the zones it occupies. The government is also the elected and
recognized authority in the country, and the Lusaka Protocol
mandates integration of UNITA into government military and
political structures, not the formation of new structures on
an equal basis.
That is why we think that proposals for an arms embargo on
both sides, such as recently suggested recently by Human
Rights Watch/Africa, however good intentioned, are mistaken.
Such a move, if seriously implemented, would tend to increase
the chances for war rather than for peace. Calls for restraint
on both sides--whether in response to provocative incidents or
in terms of new build-ups of military strength--are indeed
appropriate. We also agree with HRW/Africa's call for
transparency in arms sales, particularly if it is applied with
equal weight to Zaire. But planning for a renewed embargo
should focus on direct or indirect measures to squeeze the
supply of weaponry which UNITA obtains through Zaire in
exchange for diamonds. While all arms traffic is hard to
trace, those purchased by the government and entering through
Angolan ports are probably easier to identify that those
moving to UNITA illegally through Angola's northern neighbors.
In short, in this respect as in others, international and
public pressure on both former belligerents is needed. But
instead of being balanced equally, it should be proportional
to the status of the parties as elected government and
opposition force, and to the extent of the obstacles placed by
either side to implementation of the agreed peace process.
(4) Make Haste Slowly.
While those directly and officially involved in the peace
process must find the ways to go ahead on the principal
agenda, a host of other efforts, in humanitarian aid, planning
and beginning reconstruction, and private as well as public
investment in economic recovery and transforming government
structures are either under way or under consideration. The
long-term success of these efforts depends on the peace
process. It is equally true, however, that short-term advances
on these fronts can increase confidence in the prospects for
peace and add to the incentives for former belligerents and
other Angolans alike to invest energy in peaceful activities.
The details of these issues--including economic reform,
infrastructure development, demining, reform of government
institutions--are beyond the scope of this statement. But two
points are very clear. On the one hand, major changes are
absolutely necessary in Angolan institutions. On the other, no
simple transplant of international models, without sensitive
attention to local Angolan realities, will be sustainable. As
in the peace process in the more narrow sense, Angolan
ownership of the process of reconstruction is essential if it
is to work. This means that urgency to implement specific
projects must be combined not only with training but also with
dialogue and open debate.
The quantity of international resources coming into the
country to support peace and reconstruction, or into specific
projects, as measured in dollars, is undoubtedly important.
Even more important, however, will be the quality of the
planning and implementation. The test for any project and
program will be whether it successfully combines international
expertise and resources with Angolan perspectives and
knowledge of the local reality, and whether it balances the
urgent need for quick impact with the equally decisive
imperative that there be some lasting result.
It is important to recognize that, in overwhelming numbers,
Angolans survive not on charity or or on food handouts, but on
their own individual and collective survival strategies. In
many cases poorly funded initiatives by Angolan non-
governmental organizations have proved more effective than
much more expensive efforts mounted by foreign governmental or
non-governmental agencies newly arrived in the country and
lacking local expertise. Respect for these strategies should
be a fundamental pillar of aid strategies from the
international community. Yet, in some cases, there has been
little effort to engage in dialogue with Angolans engaged in
The international community should be congratulated for its
support for both relief and recontruction efforts. These
resources are a vital support for the peace process. But it is
essential that those involved in such projects make every
effort to learn from as well as work with their Angolan
colleagues in civic society as well in governmental positions.
Despite the sincere desire for improved relations on both
sides, the lack of mutual understanding stemming from
different cultural realities as well as decades of non-contact
and political hostility is still profound. Sustainable
cooperation efforts, in support of the current peace process
and of improved bilateral relations in many sectors, must take
this previous history into account. It is also essential that
mechanisms be developed for evaluation of the success of
projects implemented by international agencies and foreign
non-governmental organizations, including not only internal
review but also eliciting feedback and evaluation from Angolan
Selected Sources for Background Information:
(1) Periodic reports of the United Nations Secretary General
to the Security Council are available on-line on the APC
computer networks in the conference unic.news and on the World
Wide Web at the URL: gopher://gopher.undp.org:70/11/uncurr
(2) The Angola Peace Monitor is published by Action for
Southern Africa (ACTSA) in London. It is also available on
the World Wide Web at
(3) Angola: Country Profile (March 1995) is available from
APIC (same address as WOA, below). A text-only version is
available on the WWW at
(4) Washington Notes on Africa, "A Second Try at Peace in
Angola: Have the Right Lessons Been Learned?" June 1995.
Available from WOA.
(5) ADRA monthly chronicle, in Portuguese and English. From
Action for Rural Development and the Environment (ADRA), P.O.
Box 3788, Luanda, Angola. Tel: 244-2-395132; fax: 244-2-
396683; e-mail: email@example.com.
(6) Human Rights Watch Arms Project & Human Rights
Watch/Africa, Angola: Between War and Peace, Arms Trade and
Human Rights Abuses since the Lusaka Protocol. February 1996.
HRW, 1522 K St. NW, Suite 910, Washington, DC 20005. Tel:
202-371-6592; fax: 202-371-0124.
ACTSA, 28 Penton Street, London N1 9SA, UK
Tel: +44 171 833 3133; fax: +44 171 837 3001;
Holland Committee on Southern Africa (KZA),
Oudezijdsachterburgwal 173, 1012 DJ, Amsterdam, The
Netherlands. Tel: +31-20-6270801, fax: +31-20-6270441, e-
Washington Office on Africa (WOA), 110 Maryland Ave. NE #509,
Washington, DC 20010. Tel: 202-546-7961; fax: 202-546-1545;
This material is produced and distributed by the Washington
Office on Africa (WOA), a not-for-profit church, trade union
and civil rights group supported organization that works with
Congress on Africa-related legislation. WOA's educational
affiliate is the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC).