Mhambi has been redeployed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Angolas 5 years of peace

South Africa invaded Angola in 1975 and over time became embroiled in the conflict supporting Jonas Savimbi. In 1990 South Africa withdrew, but Savimbi fought on.

Today was the 5th anniversary of the end of the civil war and the death of Jonas Savimbi, just before. The BBC had this to say about the Angolas prospects and remarkable weatlh.

Russian obelisk, Luanda
Originally uploaded by focalplane.

When asked if they'll be celebrating today, Buéd Flow seem a little irritated. In their opinion, five years of peace has done little for the majority of Angolans.

"The shooting has stopped," says Cabras, "and that's good of course. But it's not nearly enough. We don't have much to celebrate."

Nevertheless, a great deal has changed since the death in February 2002 of Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, the leader of the former Unita rebel group, which led to an almost immediate end in hostilities.

Originally uploaded by SojournerImages.

Angola has become the first African country to turns its back on offers of assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Finance Minister Jose Pedro de Morais told journalists the economy had grown in real terms at an average of 13% during the last three years, and said of the IMF, "We do not need their money."

The oil-rich country has also paid off at least two-thirds of its $2.3bn (£1.16bn) debt to the Paris Club, and this year alone expects to produce 585m barrels of oil, worth over $30bn (£15bn), which is more than the entire Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development aid to the whole of Africa in 2006.

Originally uploaded by SojournerImages.

The UN integrated regional news network had this to say about the former rebel movement Unita:

One of Africa's longest civil conflicts ended with Savimbi's death, and the MPLA lost its chief excuse for poor social performance during 33 years of rule. Despite five years of peace, an oil boom and impressive economic growth, averaging 13 percent for the last three years, not much has changed. Angola has actually dropped a place on the United Nations Human Development Index, to 161 out of 177 countries, and one in every four children still dies before turning five.

"If we look at the social indicators we can see that Angola has not shown a very good improvement rate," said Dr Manuel Alves da Rocha, an economist at the Catholic University of Angola. "I know that on the social side things are very slow, but I'm afraid that for the next 10 years we will not register very good improvements. I'm very concerned about that."

Gloomy social and economic data could be to UNITA's electoral advantage. "This is a golden opportunity for UNITA to be different, to show that they aren't the same [as the MPLA]," says Isabel Emerson, Resident Director of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a US-based NGO. "There are some fundamentally big issues here: 67 percent of people living below the poverty line; how to attract foreign investment, how to boost agriculture, and these sort of problems need a big vision."

One of the reasons UNITA might be failing to make strides is because it is in the curious position of being the country's largest opposition party, while simultaneously forming part of the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation (GURN).

Nevertheless, one man who is sure that UNITA is gaining support is Reís Luís Mbwango, director of the National Counselling Centre, an Angolan NGO specialising in educating communities about legal reform, civil society and citizenship in 15 of the country's 18 provinces. This may not always be clear to the outside world but, he believes, it is because many UNITA voters are afraid of expressing their support publicly.

"It is even possible that UNITA has more sympathisers than the MPLA, although the MPLA probably has more visible militants," said Mbwango, who said he met many Angolans who were desperate for change.

"They want another party in power," he asserted. "And don't forget that UNITA leaders still speak the [indigenous] languages of the common people. This gives them a huge advantage in terms of being able to communicate with the public."

That may be so, but if UNITA wants to defeat the MPLA it will have to do more than appeal to its traditional support base; it needs to tap into other areas of support, which could be much harder. A survey six months ago by the International Republican Institute, an American NGO based in the capital, Luanda, showed that 91 percent of the respondents thought the government was doing a good job. If this is a true reflection of sentiment, people might not want a change of government.

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