Angola in the 1990's

The changed international order that occurred with the end of the United States-Soviet Union bipolarity laid in Angola, as in many African countries governed by one-party regimes, the basis for a possible evolution in a democratic sense. The final outcome of this process depended on long-term factors linked to the legacy of colonial domination, the strategic role of the state within its regional context, the complex interaction between nationalistic movements, ideological oppositions, political conflicts and ethnic conflicts. In Angola the situation of internal war between the governmental MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola) and UNITA (União Nacional para a Indipendência Total de Angola)), inherited from the postcolonial period, prevented the first free elections in 1992 from opening the way to effective democratization, causing an armed conflict to re-explode, the final outcome of which depended on compliance with the Lusaka agreements signed in 1994 by the contending parties and by the effectiveness of UNAVEM mission iii (United Nations Angola Verification Mission iii) of the UN.

According to PARADISDACHAT, the elections of September 1992 concluded a four-year period of radical changes in the internal and international structure of the Angola: in 1988 an agreement was signed between Angola, Cuba and South Africa for the immediate withdrawal of the South African troops and the staggered departure of the contingent Cuban from Angolan territory, and for the granting of independence to Namibia (the two issues being united by the so-called linkage policy); in 1990 the general congress of the MPLA had decided to abandon the Marxist ideology, which was followed by the transition to a market economy; in May 1991, under the auspices of Portugal, the representatives of the Angolan government and UNITA had signed the Estoril peace agreements which provided for the holding of free elections in 1992 and the creation of a national army, made up of equal numbers of the two. rival organizations. Finally, during 1992, UNITA had been recognized as a political party, while new amendments to the Constitution had introduced multi-partyism, sanctioned the election by universal suffrage of the President of the Republic (holder of the executive power, in office for five years and re-eligible) and entrusted the legislative power to a National Assembly of 223 members (elected by universal suffrage for four years).

The pre-election climate was characterized by mixed signals: at the announcement of the merger of the governmental Forças Armadas Populares de Libertação de Angola (FAPLA) and the UNITA militias into the new national army, the Forças Armadas de Angola (FAA), it did not an effective demobilization by the two contingents followed, while some secessionist groups occupied the province of Cabinda, an Angolan enclave rich in oil between the Republic of Congo and Zaire. However, the elections were held regularly on 29 – 30 September 1992: in the legislative elections the MPLA obtained 129 seats against 70UNITA and the presidential head of state in office since 1979, JE Dos Santos, had 49, 6 % of the vote, compared to 40, 1 % of J. Malheiro Savimbi, leader of UNITA. The latter won in the East and South-East constituencies, while it failed to assert itself either in the MPLA strongholds located in the North-West, or in the rest of the country, inhabited by ethnic groups substantially not represented by the UNITA forces, composed almost exclusively from Ovimbundu. As for the other parties, almost all recently formed and not yet sufficiently organized, they obtained a total of 12 % of the votes.

The results of the elections, whose conduct was declared correct by the UN representative, were contested by UNITA which resumed fighting throughout the country, defecting the inauguration of the National Assembly on November 26. UNITA in a short time managed to occupy 65% of the entire national territory; the government troops managed to regain control of the main cities but lost that of Soyo, on the border with Zaire, home to oil fields. The devastating consequences of the conflict, which quickly resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and the disruption of links between the various parts of the country, prompted the United States to recognize the Angolan government and Great Britain to lift the arms embargo. to the MPLA, which lasted from 1975. At the same time the UN decided to impose an embargo on the supplies of arms and oil to UNITA (but refusing to take further measures) to induce the armed opposition to an immediate ceasefire,(United Nations Angola verification mission ii), which went into action in 1991 to verify the smooth running of the elections and general demobilization.

Negotiations resumed only in November 1993 and ended, thanks to the mediation of the new South African president NR Mandela, in November 1994 with the signing of the Lusaka protocol which provided, in addition to the immediate ceasefire, the integration of UNITA forces into the national army, the release of prisoners and the sacking of mercenaries who fought for both sides. In December 1994 the UN Security Council extended the mandate of UNAVEM ii until the establishment of a new two-year mission, UNAVEM iii, which became operational in February 1995: 7000 blue helmets had the task of verifying the demobilization of the UNITA army, guaranteeing the free movement of goods and people and clearing the territory of the 10 million mines scattered by the belligerents on Angolan soil. The armed conflict, however, continued, particularly in the UNITA-controlled Huambo province, prompting criticism from the UN Secretary General, Boutros Ghali, who accused both sides of obstructing the peace process and threatened to withdraw UN forces.

An effective reduction in fighting took place only from May 1995, when the leaders of the rival organizations met directly in Lusaka. On that occasion, Savimbi recognized Dos Santos as president, and the two agreed, on the basis of the Lusaka protocol, on the establishment of a government of national unity. In the following July an amendment to the Constitution created two new posts of vice president, in order to attribute one to Savimbi, and in the same month the government and UNITA agreed to increase to 90. 000 FAA personnel. In September, after UNAVEM observers found a decrease of 50% of violations of the ceasefire, the Angola he was able to obtain an international loan amounting to nearly one billion dollars to deal with the dramatic economic situation (inflation of over 1500 %) and to help hundreds of thousands of refugees. The completion of the peace process, however, continued to suffer setbacks caused by the delay and partiality with which UNITA demobilized its troops; Savimbi refused in August 1996 to hold the position of vice president, after having made his assumption conditional on maintaining control over the diamond region of Lunda Norte, while in November 1996 a constitutional amendment extended the term of office of the National Assembly until 2000.

In September 1996, the UN officially announced that UNITA had completed the demobilization and disarmament of its army and that the mandate of UNAVEM iii would end in February 1997. The UN observers themselves, however, admitted that some 15,000 UNITA troops had not actually turned up to lay down their arms, and the UN had to further extend the mandate of the peacekeeping mission.

The civil conflict that broke out in neighboring Zaire (see Congo, Democratic Republic of, in this Appendix) contributed to unblocking the situation, through whose territory UNITA, allied to dictator Mobutu, exported diamonds and imported weapons. The Angolan government instead supported the Zairian rebels led by L.-D. Kabila, who in March 1997 conquered Kamina, a stronghold of capital importance for the trafficking of Savimbi’s men. The consequent weakening of UNITA prompted the latter to follow up on the Lusaka agreements: Savimbi continued to refuse the vice-presidency, but accepted the official position of ‘leader of the opposition’ and in April 1997it was possible to set up a ‘government of national unity and reconciliation’, also open to representatives of ten smaller parties. These developments led the UN to replace UNAVEM iii with a mission of lesser commitment in early July (United Nations Observer Mission in Angola, UNOMA); however, faced with further delays by UNITA in returning the areas under its control and completing the demobilization of the personnel, in October 1997 the Security Council decided to impose new sanctions on the Savimbi organization. During 1998 the situation underwent a tragic worsening which led to the resumption of the civil war. In January 1999 two UN planes were shot down and, in the following month, at the end of the UN mandate, the government of Luanda asked for the withdrawal of the military contingent.

Angola in the 1990's