Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Africa Program

Debate: The end of Angola Military ocupation of the Republic of Cabinda
Washington DC, April 5 2004

Presentation by James Hobart


I would like to thank the Africa Program of the WWICS, and Dr. Howard Wolpe, in particular, for the initiative to promote this debate.

Yesterday, Angola celebrated the second year of peace against the backdrop of ongoing military conflict in Angolan occupied Cabinda, and the worrisome rising levels of political intolerance in the southern part of the Angola.

On my way to DC, I spent a morning, in Johannesburg, assisting, with medical arrangements, for a young Cabinda lady, Judite Mavungo. For two months up to last November, she was routinely gang-raped, usually at gun point, by Angolan soldiers at a MPLA Military outpost in occupied Cabinda. During that time, the Angolan soldiers kept her sleeping outside on the grass enduring rainfalls, with no shelter at all. Judite’s case is one of many, which exposes the criminality of war in the oil-rich enclave. The driver of the private car she was in had been executed on the spot when she was first kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery.

Let us just reflect on the February 22 demonstration that took place in the Cafunfo village, in the diamond-rich basin of Cuango, Eastern province of Lunda-Norte.

People angrily prevented the local MPLA authorities from removing the power generators that were supposed to provide energy to the village, by brandishing machetes, sticks and bottles filled with gasoline. The police arrived in full force shooting and beating resulted in 15 people confirmed dead. Two of them were 15 year-old girls. Six of the casualties were thrown into the Cuango River by the police, according to local activists. Several more were wounded.

In retaliation to the killing for a 12 year-old child, David Alexandre Carlos, the population attacked a police station, thus further fueling a manhunt, which resulted in the looting of people’s houses and tens being arrested.

No one was expecting the loss of so many lives because of two power generators.

Unexpected as well was another violent confrontation opposing the police against hundreds of vendors and consumers, on March 8, a week later, when the first brutally moved into disband the latter from Estalagem de Viana market, in the capital city Luanda. The police killed three people, and there are no confirmed numbers of wounded. In the skirmish people stopped traffic and vandalized cars, and threw stones at the local police station.

As for the political intolerance, I would like to highlight the case of paramount chief Aurelio Kassela. On February 28, in the southern province of Huambo, the administrator of Samboto commune and head of the local MPLA committee, Orlando Nhanga, stripped off the paramount chief’s clothes in a public meeting as a punishment for meeting a UNITA delegation that visited the village. Furthermore, the administrator stripped Aurelio Kassela of his traditional title and forced him to leave the village to avoid further consequences.

How can we move towards the future, with the hope that it will be bright when the current reality is that of the rule of violence and no dialogue? How can we fight poverty, when the government is fighting against the poor by forcibly closing down informal markets that provide for tens of thousands of informal jobs without caring for alternatives? How will democracy be effectively established throughout the country without the rule of law?

As far as the rule of law is concerned one has to bear in mind the March 24 conviction of the director of Angola’s leading weekly newspaper Semanário Angolense, Graça Campos, for publishing a list of Angola’s 59 top millionaires. Some government officials, with the exception of President Dos Santos, felt offended for being reported as millionaires. It is now slander and defamation calling someone a millionaire. Yet, evidence abounds on the riches and millionaires lifestyles’ of government officials.

I have brought these sample yet illustrative cases to your attention to say that peace, in Angola, is hostage to the whims of MPLA. Quite often I hear western diplomats acknowledge that, in the case of Angola, the party which won the war has the right to establish the rules. I argue, in response, that there were three parties at war, the MPLA government, UNITA and the rest of the people, who were caught in the crossfire.

The government has not won the war against the people it is supposed to represent. The country has a Constitution which enshrines democratic principles and respect for human rights. The respect for the constitution has been thrown out of the window, with much support of the relevant members of the international community, especially the United States and the United Nations and their double standards on democracy and human rights around the world.

Notwithstanding, for the first time ever, since independence, the government is in a face to face challenge with the people, of direct confrontation so to speak. It is not delivering on its promises, but fueling more false ones such as the recent announcement that there will be a million jobs available next year.
Let me remind you, ladies and gentlemen that the biggest industrial project in the country after the oil and diamond industries, since independence in 1975, is the Coca-Cola bottling plant.

What are the options for Angola, its people and their future?

On March 09, several opposition parties and civil society organizations came together to launch a Campaign for a Democratic Angola. It is a national initiative to carve out a process that may generate more dialogue and foster a concrete agenda of democratization leading up to elections. But, above all, to restore hope in democracy and solidarity among those who believe it is the best path to lead desperate Angolans through.

If the international community continues to provide the legitimacy the government must seek from the Angolan people, then we will have more reasons to fear for an unpredictable transition from a military style peace to a fully fledged democracy, and for the success of internal pressures to bring about changes.

Thus, people might continue to feel cursed by the oil and other natural resources that Angolan rulers dispose of arbitrarily only to amass unimaginable private fortunes and to shower those countries and foreign business enterprises and individuals willing to help them remain in power without delivering to the people it claims to represent.

The days of people being passive to misrule are fast becoming part of the past.

On March 29, hundreds, who lost money to fast growing informal pyramide schemes, mounted a protest, in Luanda, in front of the Police Bureau for Inspection of Economic Activities to demand their money back and seek justice. It is officially reckoned that people have already lost over 10 million US Dollars in such schemes. A listener told a local radio that what attracted them to the schemes was the argument used by the crooks that it was a way for the government to help the poor in the fight against poverty. It is a good reminder of what happened in Albania and the consequences afterwards.

Angolans have the right to choose the government they want and legitimize it, through the ballot boxes. The current’s government democratic mandate expired in 1996, eight years ago. It is time for change, and for the world to acknowledge this right and unequivocally stand on the side of democracy for Angola and the respect for people’s rights. This is the best way to protect current and future investments as well as to secure peace for generations to come.
I call upon the United States, as the main investor in and beneficiary of Angola’s oilfields and for its long involvement in the making of war and peace in this Southern Africa country to stop supporting this sham government The US has more leverage than any other country or international institution over the Angolan rulers. It has been very supportive of them. So it can help, through a clear and committed support to democracy and human rights protection, to stop them from plundering the country and from derailing it back into the darkness of sheer violence and an uncertain future. It ought to send a strong and public message to such a brutal regime to either embrace democracy or lose its support. If the United States of America does not stand on the side of democracy who can we rely on?
Yesterday, I had the privilege to join a Washington family for a Seder dinner in commemoration of the Passover. During the heart-warming ceremony I sung along, as out of tune as everyone, a number of songs. One prophetic verse transported me back to Angola and I share it with you: “One of these days in the middle of the night/ people gonna rise and set things right…”

In the hope that I have not exceeded the 10 minutes allocated to me, I thank you very much for your attention.

cabinda@gmail.com


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