Talking key to national reconciliation
Angolan envoy touts cooperation with Korea in development
By Philip Iglauer
Angola’s top envoy in Korea said the key ingredient to resolving his country’s devastating decades-long civil war was simple: “Talking.”
Angola won its independence from Portuguese colonial rule in 1975, but immediately upon its long-fought for freedom, the southern African nation sank into decades-longer political division and guerilla war, which pitted a Soviet Union-backed government against U.S.-backed UNITA rebels.
After a road map for peace talks devoid of foreign influence was hammered out, peace was finally attained through some eight further years of hard negotiations.
“Talking is key. You have to start talking if you want to reconcile your differences,” said Angolan Ambassador to Korea Albino Malungo, reflecting on how his country resolved one of the world’s most intractable civil conflicts. “You will never succeed if you do not talk. You also have to give something.”
Angola’s Peace and National Reconciliation Day was proclaimed on April 4, 2002, when the Angolan government signed a memorandum of understanding with former rebel movement UNITA bringing to an end 27 years of civil war.
“They are Angolan,” he said. “We saw that there no difference between us.
Malungo was directly involved in peace negotiations with UNITA through the 1990s.
Peace and reconciliation in Angola took a page from U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in how he concluded the U.S. Civil War, in which Lincoln stressed a peace with “no victors, no vanquished, with malice toward none and charity to all.”
(Peace and Reconciliation Day) in 2002 was “the first step of a sustainable, democratic and peaceful Angola, Mulango said.
“On this day we celebrate the signing of the annex of the 2nd protocol. It means the end of all hostilities, the fighting of our people in the civil war, the free movement of people and goods into the country — the real meaning for me is it is the 2nd most important day for all Angolans, he said.”
Independence Day, which Angolans achieved on Nov. 11, 1975, is the most important day for Mulango.
Mulango said two things made a peace without victors or vanquished possible. One was the effective integration of Angolans who fought with UNITA back into the mainstream of society. The second was more than two decades of uninterrupted economic growth.
Here investments and development cooperation from China and, to a lesser extent, Korea played an important role.
Development and reconciliation programs integrated the some 4 million people displaced by the fighting, as well as over 100,000 rebel forces, back into Angolan society.
“From April 4 Angola is a different country, it is a sustainable country, and a leading country in the region,” Mulango said.
Mulango, who was in charge of the Red Cross of Angola from 1998-2006 and the minister of social welfare and integration from 1994-2002, said that about 25,000 UNITA soldiers were integrated with the Angolan Army, some 5,000 into the police but the bulk of them into agricultural and construction projects.
In fact, the Chief-of-Staff of the Angolan Army was a former UNITA general.
“It was important to have bilateral discussions among Angolans without any interference from outside influences,” he said. “It turned out to been the right way to meet compromises and make progress.”
Decades of civil war destroyed some 70 percent of the nation’s road network as well as two thirds of its four thousand bridges.
“The infrastructure is rebuilt now,” Mulango said.
Between 2002 and 2008, gross domestic product rose 260 percent and the average annual growth rate registered 14.6 percent. Even taking into account the inflation rate, the Living Conditions Index of the Angolan population registered an annual average increase of 20 percent.
Angola had the highest annual GDP in the world from 2001-2010 at 11 percent.