April 14, 2007:
Angola has made peace work. For example, Congo (Brazzaville) four years
after its peace agreement, still has problems with rebel groups. Not so in
Angola. Five years ago this month Angola reached a peace agreement that ended a
27 year long civil war between the government and the UNITA (National Union for
Total Independence of Angola) guerrilla movement. Angola, has made some
progress. One reason is oil prices. Angola managed to stay in the oil business
during the civil war. That's because much of it is off shore and in Cabinda
province which is separated from the rest of the country by a slice of neighboring Congo. A small Cabinda separatist
movement continues to limp along, but is no threat. High oil prices and rising
production provides Angola with makes
billions from its oil industry. However,
there has been little economic development in rural areas and among
Angola's poor. The Angolan government is only nominally democratic. The regime
of Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and his MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of
Angola) is largely unchallenged. Angola has not had a presidential election
since 1992. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2008 and a presidential
contest in 2009. No one knows if Dos Santos will run for re-election (at one
time he claimed he would not). UNITA has tried to morph into a political party,
but it remains weak. Critics accuse Dos Santos of buying political support with
government funds, which is a common practice in oil rich, but otherwise
The government has some useful foreign friends.
China is increasingly active in Angola. China is helping rebuild the rail line between Benguela and
the capital, Luanda. The rail line was a frequent target of UNITA guerrillas.
The new and improved railroad will also connect with the port if Lobito, where
dock facilities are being upgraded. China agreed to supply military equipment
to Angola. Trade between China and Angola is over $5 billion a year. China
needs the oil, and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the oil coming.
That includes propping up local dictators. Whatever it takes.