Angola: Reconciliation crucial to lasting peace

JOHANNESBURG, 30 January (IRIN) - The success of the Angolan government's reintegration programme of ex-UNITA fighters into civil society depended on reconciliation efforts within local communities, analysts said on Thursday.
"The question is whether the reintegration programme is being implemented properly on the ground. While the availability of funds is crucial for the plan to work, it is not the only factor. More important is peace building at the local level. It is imperative that there are genuine efforts of reconciliation among the local population, the former soldiers and the IDPs [internally displaced persons]," a senior researcher at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, Joao Porto, told IRIN.

Although observers have said a return to war was unlikely, given UNITA's inability to wage war, the successful reintegration and resettlement of some 80,000 ex-rebels and their families is seen as key to lasting peace and political stability in the oil-rich country.

On Thursday the state-run news agency Angop reported that the government had made US $125 million available toward its two year reintegration plan. More than 70,000 demobilised soldiers are expected to benefit from the initiative, estimated to cost about US $160 million.

At the official launch of the programme last week, Assistance and Social Reintegration Minister Joao Baptista Kussumua handed over "kits" to over 6,000 people at the Val de Loge and Uamba quartering camps, Angop said.

The kits are made up of working equipment, cooking utensils, bedding and hygiene material.

According to a recent survey conducted by the International Office of Migration (IOM), almost half of the former combatants interviewed had a farm prior to joining UNITA and wanted to return to farming. Fifty percent said they would welcome professional training to do better in their previous jobs or to change profession.

IOM carried out the survey among 4,731 demobilised UNITA soldiers currently living with their dependants in eight gathering areas in the provinces of Benguela, Bié, Huambo and Kuanza Sul.

"Whilst surveys have indicated that there is an interest among former soldiers to return to agriculture it does not rule out the possibility of many of them moving to the urban areas to seek employment. This is very likely given the mobility of the population at this point in the country," Porto said.

Meanwhile, UNITA's Secretary-General, Paulo Lukamba "Gato", on Wednesday accused the government of "tremendous negligence" in implementing the reintegration programme in the reception areas holding the movement's former troops.

"The visits we made to the reception areas and the reports produced suggest tremendous negligence of the authorities responsible for the implementation of the social reinsertion programmes, in view of the peace process and national reconciliation," Angop quoted "Gato" as saying.


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