Angola's Agony: Tenuous Times Post-Civil War

Article excerpt

More than two years after the end of decades of armed conflict in Angola, many citizens--particularly in rural areas--in this oil-rich country are still waiting to reap the benefits of peace. During the conflict, Angola's largest opposition group, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), was an illegal militia that frequently clashed with the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) until the 2002 assassination of UNITA's chief, Jonas Savimbi. Since then, a peace marred by lawlessness and skirmishes has been sustained, and UNITA has been transformed into a political party under the leadership of Isaias Samakuva. UNITA and dozens of other opposition groups hope to win seats in the National Assembly in Angola's first elections since 1992, which are slated to occur within the next two years. Now that the civil war is over, however, Angola faces serious challenges on nearly every level.

Many of the estimated four million internally displaced persons and 440,000 refugees who sought asylum in bordering countries during the conflict have yet to return to their homes. Refugees who fought the MPLA are also afraid to return, despite the government's guarantee of pardon. Under-funded food-aid programs have been further hampered by the government's refusal to accept any genetically modified grain. The United Nations World Food Program has stated that, due to impassable roads, bridges decimated by fighting, and the land mines that remain, transporting food in a peacetime Angola costs five times more than in war-ravaged Sudan. This has led to a large number of starving rural children in a country with a birth rate of 7.2 live births per female. Furthermore, tribal wars over territory, cattle, and other scarce resources are commonplace in the drought-barren, undeveloped regions of Angola.

Politically, the state of affairs is no better. UNITA and other groups, such as the National Angolan Progressive Alliance Party (PDP-ANA), accuse the ruling MPLA of intimidating their members and have blamed the government for several assassinations, including that of PDP-ANA's president in July 2004. Opposition parties also accuse the government of delaying the elections, which they want to hold in September 2005. The MPLA insists on postponing elections until late 2006, claming that it is imperative that a revision of the country's constitution be made first, and in March 2004 laid out 14 "pre-conditions" that it says must be satisfied before any elections can occur. …