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12/9/02 - ANGOLA AT PEACE - 2002-12-10

The peace accord signed in Angola marks a turning point for a country that has been engulfed for decades in civil war.

The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, known as UNITA, and the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola, which later became the government, went to war after Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975. In 1994, the government and the UNITA rebels negotiated the Lusaka Protocol. But UNITA did not comply with its obligations under the accord. In 1998, the fighting resumed, killing thousands.

This past April, after the army killed longtime UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan government and UNITA agreed to end the fighting. UNITA voluntarily dismantled its military organization. Both sides signed agreements in November declaring the full implementation of the Lusaka Protocol and committing themselves to the long-term tasks of national reconciliation. In the words of UNITA's interim leader, Paulo Lukamba Gato (loo-KAM-bo GAH-toe), "The basic conditions are now in place for Angola to build democracy and national reconciliation in peace."

Achieving these goals will be a formidable task. The Angolan government's greatest challenge is to rebuild the country after decades of war. The war left a legacy of four million Angolans who have been driven from their homes, many of whom are dependent on foreign aid. There is widespread poverty, a wrecked economy, and rampant corruption.

The U.S. will continue its extensive humanitarian assistance programs to alleviate the suffering of millions of Angolans. But with the end of the civil war, it is the Angolan government's responsibility to play a leading role in meeting the humanitarian needs of the people. At the same time, the government must work with other nations to develop resettlement programs for internally displaced refugees and former guerrillas.

The U.S. recognizes the need for development and reconstruction assistance for Angola, but for such assistance to be effective, it must be preceded by macroeconomic reforms and anti-corruption initiatives and there must be a significant financial resource commitment on the part of the Angolan government.

Angola's success will also depend on the reintegration of former UNITA personnel into society, multi-party elections, and free market reforms. It is up to UNITA to assume its proper role as a viable political party and work with the Angolan government for national reconciliation.