Global Policy Forum

Angola's Wealth: Stories of War and Neglect

September 2001

Executive Summary

After more than three decades of war, the humanitarian situation in Angola is catastrophic. 78% of the rural population lives in deep poverty, and one child in three never reaches the age of five.

And yet, Angola could be one of the richest countries in the developing world. It has great wealth in natural resources, particularly oil. Properly managed, the money from oil, diamonds and other natural resources could, in the short term, respond to Angola's humanitarian crisis. In the long term, these resources could bring prosperity and development to Angola's population for decades to come. Instead, the bulk of the money goes to fight Angola's 26-year old war.

In a country that earns 90% of its revenues from oil, the national energy sector has been left to decay; many of the provincial capitals have been without electricity for more than 10 years. In fact, the oil sector - for export - is the only part of the economy that has expanded. Everything else has come to a grinding halt.

Angola's oil reserves are mainly off-shore; therefore neither oil companies nor the small number of Angolans profiting from the industry have much interaction with ordinary Angolans. This creates an economic and political distance that encourages neglect and undermines accountability. Most Angolans see few results of their country's wealth. Government spending on social services, such as health and education, remains just a fraction of what is spent in the war. The Angolan government does not spend nearly enough on humanitarian aid, despite the fact that millions are in need. 3.8 million people are currently displaced by the war, nearly one-third of the population.

In the following interviews with displaced people and analysis of the wider socio-political situation, Oxfam illustrates the cost - in human terms - of Angola's economy of war and neglect.

With the momentum of a growing network of peace activists, and with better accountability in government, peace talks may be on the horizon. Still, the international community has the responsibility to ensure that moves towards peace have the full participation of Angola's civil society. Their role will be crucial in monitoring and supporting a lasting peace.

Oxfam recommends that:

  • The government must do more to ensure the delivery of humanitarian relief to populations in need, particularly in areas where humanitarian agencies do not have access.
  • The international donor community must step up its provisions for humanitarian relief in Angola, in the face of the escalating humanitarian suffering from increased military action.
  • The international community, under the auspices of the UN General Assembly, should adopt a binding international scheme for the certification of rough diamonds by December 2001.
  • Both UNITA and the Government must act to end human rights abuses committed by their troops. As a military solution does not seem feasible, the international community must press both sides to create and maintain a lasting peace.

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