Tim Bancroft-Hinchey: ANGOLA, A LAND DIVIDED

Angola was the jewel in the crown of the Portuguese empire. Its coast rich in petroleum, its lands so fertile that two crops can grow every year and its interior rich in diamonds, metals and other mineral riches, this country should be a success story. Instead, Angola is split in two, divided between MPLA, the ruling party in Luanda, the capital, whose ruler, Jose Eduardo dos Santos is reported to be one of the richest men in the world, through his commissions from petroleum and arms contracts and the opposition UNITA, based in Jamba, a city in the interior of the country, led by Dr. Jonas Savimbi, an African Nationalist whose main income comes from the rich diamond fields of Lunda, in the interior-north of Angola. As so often is the case in Africa, this question is based on ethnic conflict : President Santos represents the Kimbundu culture in the north of the country and Dr. Savimbi is the leader of the Umbundu tribe in the south. After nearly 40 years of war, first against the Portuguese, then against each other, neither side seems to be ready to accept democracy. There have been numerous peace initiatives over the years and indeed, treaties, namely those of Bicesse (Lisbon), 1991, which preceded the presidential and parliamentary elections of 1992. These attracted the leadership of UNITA to Luanda, only for the vice president Jeremias Chitunda to be assassinated along with tens of UNITA’s leaders, and Lusaka (Zambia), recognized by the countries involved in Angola’s recent history - Russia, the USA, Portugal and South Africa. However, violence continued, perpetrated by one side or the other as neither leader proved willing to give up power or riches. UNITA declares itself ready to carry on with the conflict. “We are reorganised and ready for war in all the country, ready to act very soon in the towns and cities, where the enemy class of UNITA always existed”, declared a spokesman of the oppositoon movement, which controls the interior half of Angola. The Secretary-General of UNITA, Lukamba Gato, declares that “UNITA is an invincible guerrilla force”. Lukamba Gato stated on Friday that if negotiations do not take place, the war in Angola will again flare up. He says that his movement is positioning itself behind the enemy’s (MPLA) flanks, from the north to the south of the country. He stated that UNITA has more than 100,000 armed men fighting against the 120,000 men of the MPLA of Jose Eduardo dos Santos. “UNITA is present in 16 of Angola’s 18 provinces, ready for war all over the country”. With the communications between the country’s cities precarious, due to the civil war, the situation of the civilian population is dramatic. “We are working but our stomachs are empty”, says a man from Huambo, in the centre of the country, whose children have dilated stomachs and yellowing hair, the signs of advanced malnutrition. The rural populations have all but given up working in the fields because their crops are devastated by one faction or the other. The alternative is to take to the cities, looking for workposts which do not exist. Marginalism and criminal activities follow as a natural consequence of those who have nothing to do. How is it possible that a country with the potential wealth of Angola has a population which is homeless and starving? Children in Luanda sieve through the rubbish tips looking for scraps, drinking from water pipes which are broken. In a country rich in petroleum, fuel prices have recently risen 1,600%. The final verdict on this country is passed by the owner of the Cafй Biker, in Luanda, the Portuguese Alberto Passos. This cafй is the only one which has kept its doors open during the colonial war against Portugal and the subsequent battle between MPLA and UNITA. “I used to be a Catholic, but after all I have seen in Angola, I lost my faith”.

Tim Bancroft-Hinchey Correspondent of PRAVDA.Ru Lisbon