Angola Seeks Peace With UNITA Rebels
RECONCILIATION, reform, and renewal are the guiding principles behind Angola's efforts to bring peace and a better life to all our people. We know there is a wide gap between making peace and making peace work, and we are trying to bridge that chasm by building a solid structure for Angola's future.
We are negotiating peace with full dedication, but we are not waiting until the talks in Lusaka, Zambia, are completed before embarking on the future. We realize there is only so much we can do in the absence of a peace agreement, no matter what we and our friends would prefer. But even if the unthinkable happens and the negotiations fail, we intend to carry out our program to the greatest extent possible.
The seeds we are planting need the sunshine of peace to flourish and make our young democracy bloom. But even if we must begin in the shade, we are ready.
Our nation has been deeply divided for too long. It cries out for reconciliation. As the democratic revolution of the 1990s swept much of the world, we moved quickly to end our civil war and hold elections. The September 1992 voting was internationally recognized as free and fair. Tragically, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rejected the outcome and has been trying ever since to overrule the voters by waging a civil war far bloodier than in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Armenia, South Africa, Rwanda, and Burundi.
We have tried to be generous at the peace table in the spirit of national healing. Conscious of our responsibility, the Angolan government is striving to achieve understanding in a peaceful manner while protecting people and their homes from rebel violence.
We have been generous in offering UNITA a significant place in government at the national, provincial, and local levels. Our May 27th proposal has been lauded by the United States and most United Nations Security Council members, as well as impartial observers at the Lusaka talks, and they have urged UNITA to ``follow suit.''
We are prepared to welcome UNITA into the government and provide housing and jobs for war veterans, refugees, and displaced persons from all sides. We are committed to the reintegration of rebel forces into Angolan society because we believe that helping former soldiers is essential to removing the seeds of war.
To make reconciliation succeed, we have embarked on a reform program to improve the quality of life - economically, socially, and politically - for all Angolans. We are accelerating the transition to a free-market economy, privatizing most state businesses, bringing down inflation, tightening monetary supplies, correcting pricing mechanisms, cutting deficits through vigorous budget control, and slashing state bureaucracy. We are creating a legal, economic, and political climate attractive to foreign investment.
Special attention is being paid to renewal, repair, and reconstruction of our agricultural, housing, transportation, energy, and water systems, as well as to professional training. This will be done in all corners of our country, particularly those under rebel control, so that shortages of these vital elements do not become pretexts to sabotage the peace agreement.
It is a source of great national pride that President Clinton acknowledged the historic achievement of our elections and recognized our government by establishing full diplomatic relations on May 19, 1993.
Our commitment to democracy is genuine and permanent, not a propaganda declaration rendered transparent by a refusal to accept the decision of the voters.
We have embarked on a new relationship with the US. Angola is America's second-largest foreign trade partner in sub-Saharan Africa. The Angolan government has approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation that will open the doors for direct American investment. The US has been generous in providing humanitarian relief, but that has been only a fraction of what it spent in the last decade to arm our enemies. Now that we are friends, we look forward to expanding our alliance as partners in building peace.
WE are prepared to take risks for peace, and we look to our stronger friends to help us minimize those risks.
Many Angolans, weary of holding out the olive branch only to have it shot off, question whether we should be so forthcoming because it may be perceived by our enemies as a sign of weakness, encouraging them to take future grievances and demands to the battlefield. But we are steadfastly committed to a negotiated settlement and are prepared to make significant compromises because we want more than a piece of paper; we want a real working peace.
We cannot afford to make mistakes because they could prove fatal for our country and our burgeoning democracy. With the friendship and support of the US, I am confident we can build the national consensus to permit us to go the extra mile along the perilous path we have charted. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.