The Angolan government is preparing the mechanisms needed to run presidential and parliamentary elections. The last elections were held in 1992, although the electoral process was not completed due to UNITA's return to war.
A major advance was made on 28 January when the Constitutional Commission of the country's parliament, the National Assembly, agreed on the future role of the President. Under the adopted agreement, Angola will remain a semi-presidential system, with both a President and a Prime Minister. As is the case currently, the President will be the Head of Government.
The Commission still has to look at issues such as the national symbols. The Constitutional Commission will shortly hand over its work to a technical commission that will draw up the final constitution for ratification by the National Assembly.
With agreement on the constitution, preparation is now underway for putting into place the necessary technical bodies for running the elections.
On 29 January Paulo Soma was sworn in as the National Director of Elections in the Ministry of Territorial Administration. The Angolan News Agency, ANGOP, quoted the Minister of Territory Administration, Faustino Muteka, as saying that "With the end of the armed conflict and the normal functioning of state institutions, the ministry should be prepared for the tasks leading us to the next elections, including the electoral census".
After the ceremony Paulo Soma called on civil society to participate in preparing for elections. He warned that the database of statistics is disorganised and will have to be updated to facilitate electoral registration.
The scale of the problem is clear: around 2.8 million people are still internally displaced, half a million people still living in neighbouring countries as refugees, and hundreds of thousands of people have for many years lived in zones controlled by UNITA. Many people do not have identity documents, and much of the country is inaccessible due to impassable roads and bridges. There is also the question of the huge cost of the registration process, which has to be successful in order to satisfy political parties that it is being carried out in a non-partisan manner.
The Angolan government is keen to hold the elections as soon as possible, perhaps in 2004. However, Angola's President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is currently consulting with political parties and civil society with a view to reaching an agreed date.
UNITA, which will be the main contender to the MPLA in the elections, has indicated that it would prefer the elections to be delayed until 2006.
UNITA's parliamentary leader, Jeronimo Wanga, speaking on the radio station LAC stated that the necessary conditions for holding free and fair elections could not be created in 2004. He said that the need for a new constitutional law, a new census, and the need for the displaced population to return to their homes are a precondition that cannot be met in 2004.
It is not yet known who will stand in the presidential elections, with both the MPLA and UNITA undecided over who their candidates will be.
Although Jose Eduardo dos Santos has previously indicated that he will not stand for re-election, there are growing signs that he may change his mind. MPLA Information Secretary Norberto dos Santos "Kwata Kanawa" recently stated that dos Santos continues to be the party's natural candidate for the presidential elections, and would remain so unless the party leadership takes a different decision. There is due to be a Congress of the MPLA in December at which the party will decide on its candidate.
UNITA has still to decide on who will be its candidate. Since the death of its leader Jonas Savimbi on 22 February the organisation has made progress in reuniting around a collective leadership known as the UNITA Political Commission, with its effective leader being Secretary General, Paulo Lukamba Gato.
However, Gato has surprised many by announcing to the Political Commission that he intends not to stand for the post of UNITA presidential candidate. Another front-runner, Isaias Samakuva, has hinted that he will not run either. This would open the way for Abel Chivukuvuku to run, unopposed, for the post of presidential candidate when UNITA holds its conference in June.
There is currently a consensus among political commentators that UNITA has little chance of winning the elections. It is still blamed by many Angolans for the destruction of the country and for war crimes committed under the leadership of Jonas Savimbi, and has no functioning infrastructure in much of the country.
Reconstruction donors conference
The United Nations and the Angolan government are to organise a conference in Brussels, perhaps as early as March, at which international donors will be asked to contribute to a multi-million dollar reconstruction plan. The plan is to be drawn up by the Angolan government with the assistance of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. The United Nations formally backed the conference on 30 January when the UN Secretary General's special envoy, Professor Ibrahim Gambari met with President dos Santos in Luanda.
The conference will be similar to the one held in Brussels in September 1995 under the auspices of the UNDP. At that conference donors applauded as President dos Santos shook hands with UNITA's leader Jonas Savimbi. More than a billion dollars was pledged for rebuilding the country, but little materialised and the country was thrown back into war.
Nearly eight years later the destruction has grown and the needs have increased. However, during the intervening years there has been a growing feeling in the international community that the Angolan government has squandered its oil-based resources, and that high-level corruption is responsible for much of the country's poverty. Government revenues from the oil sector have been the focus of serious allegations by organisations such as Global Witness, who claim that at least a billion dollars a year go missing from state revenues, and are stolen by individuals associated with the ruling elite in Angola. In this climate it may be hard to raise funds desperately needed to rebuild the country.
The government reshuffle late last year was intended, in part, to improve the standing of the government in international circles. In his address during the swearing in of the new Prime Minister, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos "Nando", President dos Santos was critical of some of the previous government's activities. The President called for strengthened government cohesion, discipline and team work. He said that "the future heads of the various ministries must be more diligent and show greater seriousness and competence in their work, so that they may perform their duties with more visible results, providing reliable information on the sectors they lead and thus contribute to greater accountability by the government as a whole".
Of particular interest to international donors is the relationship between Angola and the International Monetary Fund, IMF. The Angolan government has hired the accountancy firm KPMG to produce a financial diagnosis on state income from the oil sector at the request of the IMF. A summary of the initial report should have been published by the end of 2002. The final report is due to be completed by the end of February 2003, and should also be published in summary.
The oil diagnostic is likely to be the focus of debate between donors and the Angolan government prior to any reconstruction conference. Without improving its financial statistics and transparency the Angolan government will not get access to an IMF structural adjustment programme, which is a barrier to the government restructuring its loans on a more commercially advantageous rate. However, improving transparency would remove many of the doubts in the minds of international donors and open the way for large-scale support for reconstruction.
Scale of reconstruction needs
Despite its enormous natural resources, Angola is a very poor country with a devastated economy. Recent statistics published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) show that one in four children die before they reach the age of five.
The high death rate for children is a result of poverty, malnutrition, poor health facilities and a lack of sanitation. In a survey, the Institute found that 45 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, and that 38 percent of people do not use properly treated water. In a separate survey, INE found that 69 percent of people in Luanda were living in poverty.
One of the urgent tasks is to rehabilitate the infrastructure of the country, to allow for the free movement of people and goods. Without this rehabilitation the country will remain crippled.
On 29 January Minister of Public Works, Higino Carneiro, stated that the cost of repairing roads and bridges is at least $300 million. According to the government, so far $80 million has been spent on rehabilitating roads, bridges and airport runways.
The state of the runways in many of the provincial capitals is so poor that there are severe limits on the number and size of aircraft that can operate out of the airports. This is a limitation to the delivery of aid in several cases.
Recently there was a commission of enquiry into the state of the runway at Kuito where repairs had been clearly ineffective, leading to its closure in the last quarter of 2002. According to the Angolan News Agency, ANGOP, the commission found that the former Minister of Public Works, Antonio Henriques da Silva, was to blame for the technical errors behind the collapse. The report of the commission was handed to the government on 10 January.
The railway network in Angola is largely in a state of disuse, and the government estimates that it will cost $4 billion to repair part of it and to rebuild the rest. According to a Ministry of Transport study it will take eleven years to get the network fully running. The first phase will cost an estimated $300 million.
Many of the country's bridges have been either destroyed by war or have degenerated with age. However, the government has already begun work on several vital bridges.
On 24 January President dos Santos officially reopened the bridge over the Kwanza river which had been closed for almost the past two years. The bridge, south of Luanda, is the main link with the south and centre of the country, and repairs cost $8 million.
The bridge over the Cavaco river has been repaired to reopen the route between Lobito and Benguela. In Kwanza Norte province, the bridge over the Zenza river that links Ngonguembo Municipality with the provincial capital Ndalatando has also been repaired. Work is still being carried out on the bridge over the Lui river which links Malange to Luena.
Work is continuing on Angola's main capital project, the Capanda dam in Malange province, which will be a major provider of electricity for the country from December next year. When completed the dam will produce 520 megawatts of energy from its hydroelectric turbines.
So far the project has cost $1.9 billion, and it is estimated that the total cost will reach $2.95 billion. Restoring equipment destroyed during the war has cost $400 million.
Another major area requiring reconstruction is housing. In Luanda much of the housing is sub-standard. However, some improvements are planned. On 24 January President dos Santos inaugurated a new residential complex of a thousand houses at Panguila, Cacuaco district. The housing will be for families moved from areas needed for drainage. The cost of the housing is put at $7 million, and the houses will have clean water supplied.
Luanda's desperate sanitation problems are also being addressed in a project costed at $26 million. It is hoped to complete the work by 2004.
To encourage private capital's role in reconstruction the Angolan government has announced tax reductions on imports of capital goods needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of the economy. Under the scheme, new trucks and buses will be exempt from import duties. There are also going to be tax breaks for medium sized investments, and the process for approving private investment is to be speeded up.
Belated action on landmines
Angola is one of the most mine-infested countries in the world. The mines pose a major problem to the rehabilitation of the country, both in stopping the free movement of people and aid deliveries around the country, and in impeding agricultural production.
According to the National Institute of Removal of Obstacles and Explosive Devices (INAROEE), provisional figures up until November show that last year landmines caused 42 deaths and 124 injuries. However, the final number is likely to grow when all data is collated. In 2001 there were 170 deaths due to landmines, and in 2000 the total was 388.
Those surviving the blasts suffered injuries such as amputation as well as visual and hearing problems. Most of the accidents occurred during trips to fetch wood or water, or when hunting.
Demining has been one of the most underfunded sectors of the UN Consolidated Inter Agency Appeal, despite universal acceptance of its importance. Demining operations have been held back due to lack of funding. However, there are signs that this situation is slowly changing.
France has announced that it is to donate $3 million to Angola, much of which is earmarked, for demining. The funds will be directed at the provinces of Malange and Huambo.
In October last year Britain's Department for International Development donated £300,000 to a UNDP project aimed at improving the effectiveness of mine action. In addition the European Commission has recently made available 6 million euros for mine action in Angola, of which DFID will contribute a fifth.
UNMA to close in February
It has been announced that the United Nations Mission in Angola, that was set up on 15 August 2002 to replace the UN Office in Angola, will not have its mandate renewed when it runs out on 15 February. This is because the political situation in Angola has been normalised following the end of the war and the conclusion of the major elements of the Lusaka Protocol.1
The United Nations has offered its continued support to the Angolan government, with several of its agencies involved in assisting the country. The main UN operation in Angola is the World Food Programme, which feeds 1.7 million people. UNICEF runs vital vaccination campaigns, and UNDP is working with the Ministry of Finance to draw up documents for the forthcoming donors' conference on reconstruction.
OCHA coordinates the UN Consolidated Inter Agency Appeal that covers short and medium term aid. The United Nations has also offered technical assistance for the country's general elections.
This year the UNHCR will play a vital role in bringing home some of the 456,000 Angolan refugees living in southern Africa with: 211,000 in Zambia; 24,000 in Namibia; 193,000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo; 16,000 in the Republic of Congo; 10,000 in South Africa; and 2,000 in Botswana.
About 170,000 are expected to return to Angola this year in the largest repatriation programme undertaken by UNHCR in Africa since the Great Lakes crisis.
However, UNHCR does not have sufficient funding for the operation. It needs $29.5 million - $9.3 million urgently - to prepare for the returnees and to help them reintegrate. Roads and bridges need to be repaired, and basic items such as blankets, cooking pots, seeds and agricultural tools must be at the destination awaiting the refugees' return.
The Angolan repatriation convoys are expected to start in May. However, the UNHCR warns that without adequate funds the plan may collapse.
According to David Lambo, UNHCR Director for the Africa, "we need to get funding right now, failing which, the organised repatriation operation this year may simply not take place. We need to set up field offices, reception centres, warehouses for the relief items and logistics support for the repatriation. Everything has to be done from scratch."
So far, only $4.6 million has been received for the Angolan operation. However, the United States recently announced that it is to donate $4.1 million for the return of Angolan refugees.
The process of returning former UNITA soldiers to their areas of origin and providing them with basic kits and possibilities for training has continued, although at a slower pace than planned and there are increasing numbers of former fighters who are leaving the camps.
UNITA's Secretary General, Paulo Lukamba Gato, has complained that the government has not been supporting the former soldiers.
However, the government has rejected these complaints. Minister of Assistance and Social Reinsertion, Joao Baptista Kussumua, said on 28 January that the government has made available $125 million for the integration of ex-UNITA soldiers and their families. His comments came during a visit to Uige province where he oversaw the delivery of kits for demobilised soldiers containing tools and blankets.
However, there has been criticism that the delays in distributing seeds and tools have resulted in former soldiers missing the chance to sow for harvesting later this year either where they are based now or where they are due to move to, making them dependent on aid for another year.
Meanwhile, the government has been assessing the standards of former UNITA nurses with a view to incorporating them into the national health sector. Of 265 nurses assessed in Huambo recently, 138 were found to have the necessary standards. Of these, 128 will be registered at Huambo Technical Nursing School.
Humanitarian situation improving slowly
Aid agencies are continuing to deliver food aid and other essential supplies to 1.7 million people in Angola, and it is expected that this number will increase to perhaps 2.4 million before the next harvest is ready in April and May.
The UN's World Food Programme has now received $118 million for its emergency work in Angola, having recently received major donations totalling $27 million. The WFP now expects to be able to continue its food aid until mid-April, which will bring it into the period when the next harvest should help alleviate hunger.
There continue to be pockets of extreme hunger around the country in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarian agencies. Often this is due to poor roads or destroyed bridges. The WFP is working to overcome these obstacles, and has recently hired a team of SAMIL military trucks to deliver food in Kuando Kubango province, funded by Britain's Department for International Development.
WFP also plans to shortly begin dropping aid by helicopter to areas that are inaccessible by road. A WFP team has undergone training in air dropping techniques and procedures in Sudan and Kenya. Despite the high cost, airdrops are being considered to save the lives of those in risk of starvation.
There continue to be pockets of serious problems in several parts of the country. In some cases heavy rain has cut off areas from the rest of the country. In other areas, such as Cazengo and Kambambe municipalities in Kwanza Norte province, insufficient rain is a threat to crops.
1 The Lusaka Protocol, signed on 20 November 1994, was a comprehensive framework for restoring peace and democracy in Angola on the basis of the Bicesse "Acordos de Paz" and several United Nations Security Council resolutions. The agreement between the Angolan government and UNITA brought the United Nations into the centre of the process, and involved the United States, Portugal and Russia as a troika of "observer states".
Angola reached a historic milestone on 21 November 2002 when the Joint Commission that oversaw the implementation of the Lusaka Protocol formally dissolved itself. Eight years after the signing of the Lusaka Protocol the Joint Commission declared that it had verified that the main tasks of the Angolan peace process had been completed and that the medium and long-term tasks will be dealt with bilaterally between the Government and UNITA.
The Angola Peace Monitor is produced every month by ACTSA - Action for Southern Africa.
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