mercoledì 1 luglio 2015

Angola and the struggle between peace and democracy

Myself between children in Sambizanga - Luanda

After almost four years in Angola I’m very close to leave this country for good. 

When I first came here I tried to get a press visa in order to carry on with my job of investigating the different ways human beings use to live despite the difficulties due to either environmental or governmental issues.

I failed, most likely because this is not a very free press friendly country and that’s also why I decided to open this blog where I started publishing several stories from Angola reaching roughly  30 thousand page views in three years. 

In my blog I published stories related to a population that gained its independence from the Portuguese only 40 years ago and after that went through a violent civil war to decide who would have ruled the country, a war lasted 27 years, finished in 2002.

So far the Angolans have been in peace for only 13 years and this, as a matter of fact, is a post-war country still facing all the consequences linked with this status.

The consequences of the war are still affecting the population: landmines are disseminated in the countryside; thousands of people moved to Luanda, the capital, to look for a better and safer life and now are stuck in unhealthy slums; the great plantations of coffee and cotton were abandoned and all the industries, such as the sugar refineries, have been shut down leaving thousands of families without any chance to survive. 

The civil war also left the heritage of a dominant party system (MPLA) that is ruling the Country since 1975, with that "paternal way of ruling" that so much is appreciated by those whom are part of the dominant élite and by their internal and external stakeholders.

Nowadays the Mpla-isme, even if it is hard to say,  compared with the extreme instability spread all over the african continent, looks as one of the few ways to rule a Country that most of all wants to keep its hardly gained peace.   

Unfortunately, wherever we look in Africa: Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Sud Sudan, Burundi, Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea, just to mention a few Countries, we will easily find instability, refugees, illegal immigration, ethnic wars, religious issues, terrorist attacks, Isis, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, and so on. 

As a foreign correspondent in Gaddafi’s Libya and as a witness of the end of that regime and bearing in mind what is going on since Gaddafi died, I’m wondering what will happen in this country if Josè Eduardo Dos Santos, the president of Angola reelected in the 2012 presidential election, who leads the Country since 1975, will do a step out to give room to the different voices from the opposition parties and from the civil society?

I am wondering what should be the costs of introducing in such a Country, by force from the outside or with a revolution from the inside, a real Democracy and a real multi-party system, not just one almost fake as the one in Angola nowadays.

This is a Country that  is clearly making its confidence grow and, after 500 years of colonialism, 27 years of civil war, is still savouring the taste of freedom and the one even sweeter given by the peace gained in 2002.  

So the question is: what does matter the most, is it the peace they are keeping even under an amount of "collateral social costs" or our idea of what a democratic country is? 

What I’ve learned here is that even though this is not the land of perfection and even though there’s an unfair distribution of wealth and even though here what is a basic human right, it is believed a privilege for an Angolan, for most of the angolan population a safe life, without weapons, blood and death, is more desirable than anything else. 

So today the reality is that Angola is one of Africa's major oil producers and a member of oil cartel OPEC since 2006. Most of angolan GDP comes from the oil sector, most of its oil is exported to either China or the United States. 

The country, which is also rich in diamonds, phosphate and iron is developing infrastructures and facilities in all its most important cities but, despite all these valuable resources, most of its population still live in poverty. This is something the Angolan economic partners and  international stakeholders must bear in mind when it comes the time to sign agreements with  Mr Dos Santos, because in Angola what is definitely needed now is  a real governmental commitment to change , but hopefully in the smoothest way possible.