Prime Minister Wen Jia Bao with President dos Santos
(This is the second of two blogs contrasting US and Chinese foreign policy in Angola and other oil-rich African countries.)
The Angolan civil war ended in 2002 with one million dead, four million permanently exiled and a country rich in natural resources littered with landmines and crumbling infrastructure. The MPLA government was left with the daunting task of clearing landmines, rebuilding the decimated infrastructure, retrieving weapons from a heavily-armed civilian population and resettling tens of thousands of refugees who had fled the fighting. Eduardo dos Santos, who has been president for more than 30 years, remains immensely popular, with the MPLA winning an 82% majority in the 2008 election, the second in Angolan history.
In addition to underwriting Angola’s oil industry, low interest Chinese loans and investment have helped fund mineral prospecting in the country’s copper, iron and gold mines, as well as financing landmine clearance necessary to re-establish coffee and cotton plantations. Now that oil revenues are no longer needed to purchase armaments and pay government troops, they are used for national reconstruction projects – roads, airports, bridges, hospitals and schools. Angolan refugees in their millions once clamored for admission to Portugal. Now the reverse is happening. With Portugal in severe recession, more than 10,000 Portuguese natives emigrated to Angola last year, in search of business and employment opportunities.
Extreme Income Inequality
The Angolan middle class is doing great. The Porsche dealer in Luanda, the capitol city, can’t keep up with orders. Ironically Angola was also in the unique position of having 4G mobile access ahead of most of Europe and much of the US. The government partnered in this venture with the Chinese phone giant ZTE. The latter provided all the equipment, including the handsets, and most of the installation engineers.
Unfortunately the majority of the Angolan people has yet to benefit from the economic boom. Seventy percent of the population still lives below the poverty line. Half the country lives on less than $2 and one-fifth of all children die before their fifth birthday (though this number has improved significantly with the end of the civil war).
The Angolan “Arab Spring”
Unita, the official opposition in Parliament, complains bitterly that the ruling party silences any and all criticism. In 2011 a group of young Angolans, influenced by the “Arab Spring” movement, protested in the capital demanding Santos’ resignation. Their protests were quickly and forcefully put down by the Angolan police. Dos Santos also receives unfavorable publicity about human rights abuses in Cabinda province, home to a separatist movement that predates the civil war. Much of the country’s oil wealth comes from Cabinda. Human rights groups allege that Angolan troops deployed there have committed civilian atrocities.
Given the CIA’s historic links with Unita, their historic opposition to the MPLA and the role of CIA-funded foundations, such as National Endowment for Democracy (NED), United States Agency for International Development, and Center for Applied Nonviolent Strategies (CANVAS) in funding and training other “Arab Spring” activists (see Smoking Gun: US Role in Arab Spring, it’s hard to believe the CIA doesn’t have their sticky fingers in Angola’s “Arab Spring,” as well. The Agency also finds separatist movements hard to resist, especially those in regions suitable for cocaine or heroin trafficking (as in Kosovo and Balochistan – see Our CIA Freedom Fighters in Pakistan).
It may be pure coincidence that Angola is a growing transshipment hub for Nigerian traffickers transporting Brazilian cocaine to Nigeria or Europe.Share and Enjoy: