On 4 April, the Day of Peace and National Reconciliation, Angola celebrated two decades of peace. However, some former National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) rebels, who fought under the late Jonas Savimbi, complained that the socio-political and economic status of the country had declined.
In a statement, Unita’s Standing Committee of the Political Commission said it was concerned about “the vertiginous rise in the prices of basic food products, endemic corruption and the systemic and degradation of moral and civic value and the abuse and violation of human rights”.
Unita also added that “after 20 years, the balance is mitigated as Angolans are experiencing a serious economic, financial and social crisis”.
Angola, like most African countries, is resource rich. Its economy hinges on diamonds, natural gas and oil.
However, opposition parties as well as political analysts said corruption in these sectors had risen under President João Lourenço.
Rajen Harshe, from the Observer Research Foundation, said the poverty gap had widened in Angola.
He said, unsurprisingly, the gap between the rich and the poor, amongst [the] 33 million Angolan population, has been growing and an overwhelming majority of the people in Angola live with an average income of less than $2 per day.
On 1 March, Unita leader Adalberto Costa Júnior met with Lourenço to encourage him to “persist in this path that is absolutely salutary and exemplary for the citizens and institutions of the country”.
With Angola set for the polls in August, the rebel veterans said the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government had been in power since independence from Portugal in 1975, and was failing to uphold all peace treaties agreed upon at the ceasefire after 20 years of civil war.
Costa took with him the grievances of Unita’s civil war veterans who said peace was their leader Jonas Savimbi’s wish.
Unita said in a statement, “to this end, Dr Savimbi took several diplomatic initiatives and spared no physical and other sacrifices, to the point of donating his own life.”
As Angola marked 20 years of peace, Unita said it would press ahead with seeing all peace treaties ratified mainly for the social inclusion of ex-combatants and the return of their material heritage.
Savimbi, Unita’s founder and revolutionary politician cum rebel military leader, died in battle on 22 February 2002 against government forces. He was 67.
His storied life became an enigma, having been reported dead at least 15 times and having survived numerous assassinations. His eventual death signalled a new chapter in the history of Angola as a peace agreement between Unita and MPLA was signed eight weeks after.