Pickering remarks on Angola

U.S. Department of State
Thomas R. Pickering, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Catholic University, Luanda, Angola
December 14, 1999

As prepared for delivery

Angola: A Call for Peace

Your Eminence, Dom Alexandre, Cardinal de Nascimento, Chancellor of the Catholic University; Your Excellency, Dom Damiao Franklin, Rector of the Catholic University: Thank you for allowing us to use this facility today. Your Excellencies Members of Government, the National Assembly and Supreme Court; Your Excellencies Ambassadors, distinguished professors, and students; ladies and gentlemen: It is a great privilege to be with you tonight, at this place of scholarship and in this season when so many dare to hope that joy and peace will prevail.

We are gathered at the end of many things--at the end of the day, the end of the year, the close of the century and of the millennium.

But I came to Angola with two questions: Is Angola at the end of war? On what new beginning will Angola embark? The answers to those questions will come from many of you in this room, as well as in the countryside. The answers are not yet clear, but I am reminded of a symbol from my own country.

North America is approaching the Winter solstice, which is the time of year when the nights are longest. After the solstice, slowly and steadily, the light will increase and the days lengthen. In Angola this week, I have seen reason to believe that your night might end. I have seen new light. On behalf of my country, I join you in hoping that 3 decades of war are coming to a close.

A year ago, the situation was vastly different. UNITA reneged on the terms of the Lusaka Protocols and Angola was plunged back into war. Tonight, Angolans hope for peace. But peace will not be achieved solely on the battlefield. Too much blood has been shed. Too many people have run, in fear and hunger, from both sides. And 86,000 victims of landmines carry the pain of all Angolans as the country learns to walk again.

Robert Kennedy, whose wife and children worked with the Catholic church to open this university, said, "The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy."

Angolans exercise the courage of life every day. Now, they are asking their leaders to exercise the same courage. Triumph will come not at the end of an AK-47 but through an enduring peace, constructed through the inclusion of all the people of Angola in a process to rebuild the nation--one school, one clinic, one election, one newspaper at a time. This effort will be neither easy nor natural: survival is an instinct but building peace must be a deliberate act that begins with the decision to make amends with enemies. The suffering of the Angolan people has gone on too long. The time has come to reconcile and to work together to heal and build a nation. Those are acts of courage.

On what new beginning will Angola embark? More than half of Angolans have never known their country at peace. When swords are turned to plowshares, will hunger end? Can pumping one natural resource--oil--be the means for providing all Angolans with clean water and sanitation? Can diamonds build a ring of schools and hospitals? Such are the visions before you now. With such dreams, Angola can become a great country. It is richly blessed in people and resources. Tonight, it also is blessed with a rare opportunity in the life of a country: Angola, if it so chooses, can escape its damaged past and build a new future.

The time to use military means to resolve political differences is over for all. I call upon UNITA to lay down its arms and address its grievances through democratic and legal means.

The government of President dos Santos has a special responsibility to guide the transition from a closed system to one that is open, transparent and fully subject to the rule of law. We are encouraged that the government has, by and large, honored its commitments under the Lusaka Protocol and that President Dos Santos, in his Independence Day speech, welcomed UNITA members who forsake their weapons.

The government also has a responsibility to foster independent legislative and judicial institutions that reflect the political will of all the Angolan people and guarantee the rule of law. It must ensure that political parties have the ability to reach out to Angolan citizens and to carry out their work without fear of intimidation. And it must provide citizens with a voice--through the press, the vote, and their free and unfettered participation in civic and political life.

The task for UNITA is equally challenging. UNITA must learn whether it has the courage to rebuild Angola rather than to continue destroying it. UNITA must abide by the Lusaka Protocol, as the government largely has done. UNITA must open its eyes and realize that a new Angola can emerge only from reconciliation and a concerted effort to rebuild this country.

Reconciliation does not mean the dominance of a single view, but rather the creation of an environment in which Angolan citizens have the freedom to express different views peacefully, and to find ways to work together to advance the common good of the country.

Democratic institutions can be instruments of national reconciliation. They include:

a system of independent political parties with active citizen involvement;

non-governmental and religious institutions that represent social and political interests; and

a strong and free press that operates without government interference.

Freedom and dialogue are integral to the peace process. I have come to Angola, and Ambassador Holbrooke and Senator
Feingold before me, so that we could make manifest our interest in working with you, the government and people of Angola. The Cold War's ending has opened a new beginning between our countries.

What is on our agenda? Working for peace and humanitarian relief remain central goals, but we are expanding our relationship and beginning to look at longer-term issues. As many of you know, Angola and the United States this year formed a Bilateral Consultative Commission, abbreviated as the BCC. This represents a major commitment by both countries to develop a systematic and comprehensive dialogue that covers the breadth of political, social, and economic issues before us. As in any democratic exercise, we will not always agree. But we are committed to the dialogue and to learning from each other.

We also believe that the private sector is vitally important. As investors, employers, and providers of substantial social responsibility funds, the U.S. private sector in Angola remains an invaluable partner in facilitating economic, social and political change.

At the inaugural meeting of the BCC this fall, I was pleased that the Angolan Government made a commitment to carry out
economic reform and address the humanitarian and social concerns of the Angolan people.

President Kennedy once said that doing the right thing is the right thing to do politically. Indeed, political freedom, social welfare, and human rights are both the right thing to do morally and the foundations of stable, creative countries the world over. For our part, the United States believes that the government, citizens, civil society groups, and the private sector are important co-creators of a new Angola.

The list of needed reforms is long--from strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, to seeking greater transparency in government, to eliminating corruption, diversifying the economy, and ensuring that the riches of Angola are not reserved for a few but serve to build opportunities for many. Yes, the task is daunting but it is eminently achievable. I know this because I know Angolans. Families, churches and non-governmental organizations have kept this country alive through decades of war. Building from a foundation of peace is easy in comparison.

The capacity to build a new Angola exists if the desire to do so prevails on all sides. Angola, listen to your people, all your people--those here tonight and the thousands they represent; those in every corner of your country; those who are powerless and poor; those with whom you disagree. Hear their voices and together implement the vision you have expressed for economic, social, and political reform.

To UNITA, I say, war is not the answer. Listen to Angolans. Embrace their yearning for peace. Be heard not in the bloody clangor of combat but in the courageous act of rebuilding this country. There is no justification for more blood and suffering. You agreed to a peace settlement and I call on you to abide by the Lusaka Protocol, join in the effort to bring peace to Angola, and help build a democratic, peaceful society for all.

To the Government of Angola, I say, I am confident in Angola's capacity to change. But if you harbor any doubt, look around Africa, toward Nigeria, Mozambique, and beyond. If discouragement persists nonetheless, look toward Latin America and Europe, where scores of countries have tread the path already and built new political and economic systems--some out of the dust of war. It is not easy, but it is possible. Join the group of countries that has dealt with their past, reconciled with their foes, and built new economic, social, and political systems to guarantee their future. The United States will stand with you, politically and economically, as well as through assistance.

The United States has provided over $400 million of assistance to Angola in the past 5 years, including $62 million in the past year alone. Much of this assistance has gone to relieving the dramatic humanitarian problems of the Angolan people. Indeed, over half of the $67 million in World Food Program assistance in the past year was provided by the United States. In addition, the U.S. provided $36 million of bilateral humanitarian assistance and maintained programs to foster long-term development, particularly in the health and agricultural sectors, and in support of democracy and governance programs throughout the country. Our efforts in Angola reflect America's growing attention to Africa and President Clinton's pledge to return the levels of U.S. aid to Africa to their historic highs.

While there are many factors affecting U.S. assistance levels, a particular factor of relevance to Angola is the U.S. Congress. The political, strategic and economic interests our two countries share are evident to all. However, any student of American history can attest that a real politique view of the world has never been the sum total of our foreign policy.

Indeed, American foreign policy is an extension of the American dream. We fervently believe in governments of the people, by the people, and for the people, and in open society's where free individuals can build a life for themselves, aid their community, and contribute to the nation's well being. That American vision is in the eyes of Congress when they debate assistance levels. We will continue to work with Congress. In order to do this, however, we--working with you--will have to show concrete evidence that Angola is building a future of freedom, good governance, and opportunity for all Angolans, not just fighting a war or enriching a few.

Tonight we stand between endings and beginnings. A year that opened with our hopes of peace shattered, closes with the possibility of peace again at the threshold, and with the United States and Angola committed to deepening their relationship. With you, Americans dream of an Angola that is peaceful and democratic, of an Angola with a prospering economy and flourishing civil society.

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." Let Angola be such a place.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought." Let Angola be a place where differences of thought are peacefully resolved.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression." Let Angola be a country where free expression is not only tolerated but praised as the font of new ideas and a new future.

You in this room and Angolans everywhere are ready for a new beginning. May doubters join you, may cynics be imbued with public spiritedness, may your leaders share your courage and be true to your vision. Angola's first president, Agosthino
Neto, wrote:

"Create, create
stars over the warrior's sledgehammer
peace over children's weeping
peace over the sweat, the tears of forced labor
peace over hatred
create peace with dry eyes."

We will weep for the lives lost and the needless suffering inflicted on Angolans. But in this season of new light, may we also envision a harmonious and hopeful future, with all Angolans as co-creators.