Angola: peace

After 40 years of war, Angola could be on the verge of a lasting and genuine peace. UNITA, the opposition faction, presents a peace plan in the Angolan parliament, a plan which the governing party, MPLA, has accepted to debate. This potential giant, humbled and ravaged by four decades of war, has one of the worst standards of living in the world, whilst it is potentially the second richest country on the African continent. In a no-win situation, both sides have around 100,000 armed troops in the field, but in such a vast territory, the sphere of combat is reduced more to a game of cat-and-mouse, with armed groups roaming around enormous areas of uninhabited countryside, than a classical military confrontation with two clearly-marked areas. The UNITA Member of Parliament, Manuel Saviemba, has presented a proposal for peace which the MPLA has accepted to debate. The proposal has three points : an immediate ceasefire, mutual pardon and a Ministry to implement the reconciliation process. The proposal calls on President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to proclaim an immediate ceasing of hostilities, which would be made simultaneously by UNITA leader, Dr. Jonas Savimbi. After a ceasefire, an army of national unity would be formed from the two sides, avoiding mistakes made in the past to create a National Army, in processes where political and tribal prejudices clouded opinions. The MPLA/UNITA split, it will be remembered, is based mainly, though not wholly, on the Kimbundu/Umbundu cultures. For any peace plan to be successful, a culture of dialogue must be found in Angola, a country with 100,000 people mutilated by land mines. Such a spirit will not be easy to find in a country which was launched into war in 1961, when the (then) three factions, MPLA, UNITA and FNLA on one side, and Portugal, the colonial power, on the other, started a bitter 13-year war which was to result in the independence of Angola in 1975. Civil War between MPLA and UNITA broke out soon after the Independence Treaty was signed. It should also not be forgotten that many in government circles are making fortunes through arms sales. For these people, a perpetuation of the conflict is paramount to an increase in their personal wealth. MPLA may impose certain humiliating conditions on UNITA before signing a peace plan, since the government party controls the main cities and Angola’s huge oil reserves. UNITA controls the hinterland and many important deposits of diamonds. However, for this country to reach its full potential, a lasting, genuine peace is necessary, in a spirit of national reconciliation and political maturity.

TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.RU LISBON