The business of US diplomacy in Angola
LUANDA. On 7 November, an MD-11 aircraft arrived from Houston, Texas, marking the maiden flight of the Houston Express shuttle service.
Sonair, a subsidiary of the Angolan oil company, Sonangol, struck the deal with World Airways, a US carrier which has become the first airline to provide direct air services from north America to Angola.
Sitting on board the aircraft was Paul Hare, famous for his rÿle as US special representative for the Angolan peace process (1993-1998) and author of Angola's Last Best Chance for Peace, published in 1998. Now, he is enjoying a less public position as executive director of the US/Angola chamber of commerce. Hare, like Edmund DeJarnette, the first US ambassador here and Hare's predecessor at the chamber of commerce, has played an important rÿle in getting the Houston service off the ground.
President of Sonair, Mateus Neto, says, 'I can't deny that there was a certain support. The intervention of De Jarnette was extremely important.'
Hare and DeJarnette are among a long list of US diplomats involved in Angola who have turned their hand from diplomacy to business.
Witney Schneidman, special aide to assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Susan Rice, is, according to his official profile, 'enhancing America's commercial and economic engagement throughout sub-Saharan Africa' among other responsibilities. Schneidman, or Dr Schneidman as he is sometimes known, was senior vice-president at Samuels International Associates Incorporated. Samuels is officially 'a consulting firm for international trade and investment', however many observers say it is a lobbying group which represents the MPLA party.
At the time of Schneidman's appointment to the state department, some congressional staffers queried his new position given his former rÿle at Samuels. 'The State department assured the staffers that Witney would not work on the Angola dossier,' a source explained recently.
Clearly that assurance is no longer is force. Schneidman makes regular trips to Angola every year. He has also received support from his former college tutor, Dr Gerald Bender, now based at the University of Southern
Bender has maintained a strong interest in Angola throughout his career - he visits the country several times a year and is thought to be very close to the ruling MPLA.
He has worked as a consultant for oil companies in Angola including a brief spell this year with BP/Amoco thanks to another prominent protÿgÿ of his, Shawn McCormick, who took up his post at BP/Amoco after working at the
US national security council.
Bender is widely admired by several embassies in Angola, including the US and Israeli offices here which, according to one observer in Luanda, 'hang on to his every word as if he were a demi-god'. He is also on the honorary advisory council of the US-Angola chamber of commerce alongside Robert Cabelly who served as an aide to Chester Crocker. (Crocker was assistant secretary of state for African affairs for most of the 1980s..)
Herman Cohen, another former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, has been described as 'another over-paid lobbyist for the MPLA' alongside Andrew Young, an 'historical' African American figure who once served as US ambassador to the UN. According to one diplomat, however, 'the two of them are a couple of has-beens'.
The US connection extends to Dick Cheney, the former defence minister and also, until last July, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Halliburton's, the oil service company with interests in Cabinda.
Cheney dropped the Halliburton position when he accepted George W. Bush 's invitation to be his running mate.
Not surprisingly, people became suspicious when Airscan gained the contract to provide air surveillance to Cabinda's borders: some said the facilitator was Cheney.
No wonder that the current US ambassador to Angola, Joseph Sullivan, is viewed with suspicion by some observers in Luanda. But the Americans are not the only ones to have benefited handsomely from their Angola connections.
John Flynn, a former British ambassador to the country (1990-93) and previously a chargÿ d'affaires for nine months in 1978 is now a consultant to the US oil giant, Chevron.
Source: issue of "Africa Analysis"
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