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Angola still in trouble after a year of peace

September 11, 2017 2:27 AM
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Luanda - Angola has known a year of peace after more than a quarter of a century of civil war, but the reconstruction of the ravaged south-west African nation has yet to begin.

Many former rebels of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) are still living in ramshackle camps with their families though their leaders signed a peace accord with the army on April 4 last year.

Much of the rest of Angola's population has seen no benefit from the oil wealth which helped pay for the government's side during the war, which was halted six weeks after UNITA's veteran leader Jonas Savimbi was killed.

The war claimed at least 500 000 lives in a country of 12 million, while about a third of the population has been displaced.

The conflict began even before independence from Portugal in 1975, pitting a then-Marxist government - which won Cuban backing - against Savimbi's men, who for more than a decade had direct support from apartheid South Africa and the United States.

When the die-hard rebel leader was tracked down and slain in the eastern Moxico province on February 22 last year, the guns fell silent everywhere but in the oil-rich Cabinda enclave, which lies to the north of Angola and where a divided separatist movement is waging its own fight.

Soon after the accord was signed a year ago, 85 000 UNITA soldiers were gathered in 35 camps across the country, demobilised and disarmed. Most of them are still there with their families and only five of the camps have been closed.

More than 450 000 Angolans remain in exile in neighbouring Zambia, Namibia, Congo Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Between November 2002 and February this year, only 93 000 displaced people were able to return to their home villages but they all did so on their own, without the promised help of the government.

"The state our former soldiers are in worries us deeply," UNITA spokesperson Marcial Dachala said.

He acknowledged that President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos's government has "done part of its job, but it must take on all of its responsibility, including the integration into civilian life of the one-time fighters and their families".

Pledged professional training programmes for former rebels have only been given to a handful of them.

A government plan for "one citizen, one job" has yet to be implemented, since it is waiting for finance from the World Bank.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and donor nations have delayed delivering the aid the government asked for as soon as the war came to an end.

Officials with the international bodies have urged the government to come up with guarantees of transparency in the allocation and handling of the funds to be provided for the reconstruction of the country, where much of the infrastructure was destroyed in the war.

Though Angola has immense oil and diamond resources which bring in most of the country's foreign currency earnings, 63 percent of the urban population live below the breadline, according to official figures, and only 15 percent have ready access to drinking water in the countryside and 25 percent in the towns.

Prime Minister Fernando da Piedade is trying to attract foreign investment outside the oil sector, and to brush up the tarnished image of a government long seen as a "clan" around the head of state, raking off much of the oil income for personal gain.


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