Letters to the Editor
Thank you for the comprehensive coverage on Angolagate (May 2001). I hold no brief for Pierre Falcone but I wonder if his crime, if it is a crime, lay in falling foul of French rules regarding the sale of weapons.
Your article states: "Falcone is a French citizen and his oil-backed operations aimed at facilitating the purchase of weapons for Angola were made with financial support of the French bank Paribas. For both these reasons, he should have asked the French Defence and Foreign Ministries for permission before going ahead with the deals." From this it would appear that his mistake lay in not asking the French Ministries for permission rather than in facilitating the sale of arms to the Angolan government.
Does this imply that if he had asked for permission, he might have got it? If so, would the arms deal still have been illegal by some other definition? Your article fails to clarify this point.
My own suspicion is that the French government was incensed because Falcone chose to go it alone on the deal, thereby perhaps scuppering French foreign policy regarding Angola. As such perhaps his crime was more 'political' than moral.
At any rate, we all know that conflict diamonds are still being marketed by UNITA and that the rebel organisation has stepped up its war operations.
Is the Angolan government expected to fold its bands and not respond to damaging attacks from the rebels? All sovereign states have the right to defend themselves. Since Savimbi is funding his war from illegal sales of diamonds, why should the Angolan government not be allowed to purchase arms legally through the sale of its oil?
Perhaps your correspondent or someone else who knows can enlighten me on this point.
The civil war in Angola will not end until Savimbi can no longer carry on the war. As long as he can find the money to do so, he will continue to wage war. Until such time as a peace can be forced on Savimbi, the government of Angola has no option but to arm itself sufficiently to fight the war. Since the international community frowns on its attempts to buy arms, it has no choice but to use its 'friends' like Falcone to come to the rescue. No wonder Angolan President Dos Santos, as quoted in the article, says Falcone has "helped preserve democracy and the rule of law in Angola."
I am a little disappointed therefore that African Business, a magazine with a solid reputation, did not attempt to look at the other side of the equation and instead swallowed the French government line hook, line and sinker. Please be a bit more objective when reporting on such sensitive issue in the future.
Durban, South Africa
Your article on Angolagate shows clearly that greed is no respecter of race or social standing. Where there is money to be made, people are ready to forget principals. Those who have connections in high places, such as Marc Rich, can not only flout international law, they can get away with it. …