Luanda between wars

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In 1992 the Swedish Social Democratic party was asked to hold, election workshops in Luanda the Angola capital.

After pressure from the international community it was finally established that multi- party and presidential elections would be held to put an end to a war that was just dragging on since independence from Portugal in 1975.

I was assigned to be part of a delegation that also included Julio Flores, the party treasurer Inger Mähler and elections expert Hans-Erik Holmqvist. My knowledge of the Portuguese language was useful, once again, when our party the Swedish Social democrats were asked to assist another member of the Socialist International family.

Our previous work in South Africa with The ANC had echoed in southern Africa and the MPLA were eager to learn what we could share as important issues in order to run a successful campaign. After all we had a long experience of running elections.

Our stay was very short. We arrived on 5th July and left on the 10th. During this time we managed to meet election general Daniel Chipenda at MPLA headquarters, we paid a visit to the Swedish embassy and held workshops on some basic principles of multi-party elections. Throughout the visit we were taken care of, by MPLA historic leader Mr. Lopo do Nascimento.

We stayed at the hotel Trópico in Luanda and it was easy to feel the tension in the city in a period where the war had just taken a break and hopes were high among the population to get a peaceful solution and an end to the conflict.

Election were held in September with a turnout of 92 %. Angolans had voted and they gave the MPLA 54% of the vote for the national assembly while UNITA got 34%. We were to learn that election results were not accepted and that war broke out again as a second civil war lasting until 2002 just after Unita leader Jonas Savimbi’s death.

This long conflict cost the country much suffering as it forced millions to a life as refugees, escaping the countryside and looking for shelter in the cities.

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One thought on “Luanda between wars

  1. Some facts is missing which never really came to light when the driving business forces constantly supported Jonas Savimbi. The British Embassy openly supported UNITA and so did many of the of the UN observers that were supposed to oversee the dismantling of the armed forces. I am sad to say that was mostly because bad recruiting not scrutinising vigorously the political views of the personnel.
    You cannot send personnel that are extremely inclined to one side and expect them to do an objective an fair work. So it become clear that a lot of the weapons that the UNITA turned in were old an out of use. Also it become evident that 30 000 armed men of the UNITA had been hiding. Some even so close as in the in the Cangandala National Park.
    Talking of the dismantling of the national army it was almost complete. Outside of Luanda close to the cement factory there was an enormous field filled with al kinds of army vehicles from tanks to trucks.
    The armed forces personnel were sent home and added to the national unemployment.
    The skirmish started with that somebody blew up the air force arms storage close to the airport and UN headquarters in Luanda. (The continuous explosions tock many hours to finish.) Some days later a rocket propelled grenade was shot into the national police headquarters originating from UNITA controlled hotel Turismo. This started a tree day event of civil defense in Luanda. The government opened the arms stores to civilians to fight back UNITA troopers invading by truck from the outskirts of Luanda. The organized fore of the government concluded of Police force, riot police, presidential guard and hastingly armed civilians.
    Tree days later the silence set in Luanda, the UNITA forces were killed or driven away from the city but most of the country had fallen in the hands of the witch doctor Jonas Savimbi.
    In the aftermath the personnel working at Savimbi’s residence were found buried in the garden and the staff at the UNITA Hotel Turismo was found together with some non UNITA unfortunate guests in the Hotel’s deep freezer.
    I recommend this book many of the descriptions of the happenings in Luanda are correct Some are not from what I remember but most importantly main events are there.
    http://www.amazon.com/Death-Dignity-Victoria-Brittain/dp/0865436363

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