Angola’s Choice: Reform Or Regress
Angola’s Choice: Reform Or Regress
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Dealing with Savimbi’s Ghost: The Security and Humanitarian Challenges in Angola
Dealing with Savimbi’s Ghost: The Security and Humanitarian Challenges in Angola
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Report 61 / Africa

Angola’s Choice: Reform Or Regress

One year after more than four decades of internationally fuelled civil conflict came to an end, Angola is faced with a stark choice.

Executive Summary

One year after more than four decades of internationally fuelled civil conflict came to an end, Angola is faced with a stark choice. If the government undertakes and sustains meaningful political and economic reforms, peace and prosperity would be assured. If it delays and obfuscates on fundamental issues of transparency, diversification and pluralism, the country will likely be condemned to further decades of poor governance and localised violence.

ICG’s first report on Angola dealt with the humanitarian and security challenges to peace building.[fn]ICG Africa Report N°58, Dealing with Savimbi’s Ghost: The Security and Humanitarian Challenges in Angola, 26 February 2003.Hide Footnote Economic and political issues are equally important. Good governance in the context of a war that left so many destructive legacies faces many obstacles. Regional and ethnic inequalities that intersect with an inadequate governmental response to the needs of the displaced and the former UNITA insurgents can sow the seeds for future instability and warlordism. Interests entrenched in the political and economic system undermine reform tendencies at every turn. Decades of atrocities make reconciliation much more difficult. A history of external intervention and exploitation leaves the government resistant to meeting some international preconditions for engagement and aid.

Nevertheless, there are elements within the government and, more broadly, throughout civil society, that want to increase international engagement, make economic policy more transparent, and liberalise the political system. Battles within the government – and between the government and opposition parties and civil society – over basic policy directions are intensifying, and the outcomes are uncertain.

For a host of reasons, it is increasingly in the Angolan government’s interest to move down the economic and political reform path. Upcoming elections require the ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), to seek electoral support, and the most direct way is to improve the state’s capacity to deliver goods and services. The government’s desire to enhance its international image and project itself on continental and world stages also creates a reform logic, as does President dos Santos’s wish to enhance his legacy.

Political and economic reform – combined with a commitment to begin to address some social ills and inequities – would ensure more broad-based economic growth, allow a genuine private sector to develop, free up hundreds of millions of dollars for social investment through a more transparent budget process, transform the political system into a more pluralistic one that promotes human rights and lay the groundwork for long-term stability.

However, there are numerous obstacles. The benefits derived from wholesale diversion of oil revenues to individual accounts will be the most difficult to overcome, particularly in an environment of rising oil prices and discoveries of new reserves. Genuine reform would threaten the concentration of power in the presidency, or Futungo, the unimpeded annual diversion of an estimated U.S.$1 billion in oil revenues, and the patronage network and private accounts supported by that diversion. Leadership by progressive elements in the government and a fundamental decision by President dos Santos that reform is in the strategic interest of the country and the MPLA are needed.

Luanda/Brussels, 7 April 2003

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