Angola: China Tries To Help

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April 14, 2007: Angola has made peace work. For example, Congo (Brazzaville) four years after its peace agreement, still has problems with rebel groups. Not so in Angola. Five years ago this month Angola reached a peace agreement that ended a 27 year long civil war between the government and the UNITA (National Union for Total Independence of Angola) guerrilla movement. Angola, has made some progress. One reason is oil prices. Angola managed to stay in the oil business during the civil war. That's because much of it is off shore and in Cabinda province which is separated from the rest of the country by a slice of neighboring Congo. A small Cabinda separatist movement continues to limp along, but is no threat. High oil prices and rising production provides Angola with makes billions from its oil industry. However, there has been little economic development in rural areas and among Angola's poor. The Angolan government is only nominally democratic. The regime of Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and his MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) is largely unchallenged. Angola has not had a presidential election since 1992. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2008 and a presidential contest in 2009. No one knows if Dos Santos will run for re-election (at one time he claimed he would not). UNITA has tried to morph into a political party, but it remains weak. Critics accuse Dos Santos of buying political support with government funds, which is a common practice in oil rich, but otherwise backward, countries.

The government has some useful foreign friends. China is increasingly active in Angola. China is helping rebuild the rail line between Benguela and the capital, Luanda. The rail line was a frequent target of UNITA guerrillas. The new and improved railroad will also connect with the port if Lobito, where dock facilities are being upgraded. China agreed to supply military equipment to Angola. Trade between China and Angola is over $5 billion a year. China needs the oil, and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the oil coming. That includes propping up local dictators. Whatever it takes.

 

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