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 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 12:07 GMT
Angola's momentous year
Former Unita soldiers
Former Unita soldiers are impatient at the lack of help

Angola began the year 2002 at war.

Today, there is peace in 17 of the country's 18 provinces.

The turning point was the death in February of the veteran Unita rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi.

This prompted the Angolan armed forces to approach the remaining Unita leadership and start peace talks - even though many people now believe that Savimbi was on the point of agreeing to talks when he was shot in the bush of eastern Angola.

Jonas Savimbi
Savimbi's death swiftly led to the end of war
The United Nations political mission in Angola, which has existed in one form or another for more than a decade, played a relatively minor role in the negotiations, and is expected to wind up its operations in February, when its present mandate expires.

At about the same time, Angola is due to take up its non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Diplomats have remarked that the government seems keen to create at least an appearance of normality before Angola assumes this high profile role.

Cabinda

Equally in domestic politics, "back to normal" seems to be the order of the day.

New Prime Minister Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos
Angola's new premier faces a huge corruption problem
President dos Santos recently appointed a prime minister - an office which has been vacant for three years - and sacked his finance minister in what appeared to be a response to criticism of Angola's dismal macroeconomic performance.

The end of the war with Unita has also forced the government to face up to the conflict that continues against separatist rebels in the oil-rich northern enclave of Cabinda.

But most independent analysts agree that the changes so far have been superficial.

In Cabinda, the government talks of a peaceful settlement, but has in reality stepped up its military campaign.

There is talk of greater political freedom, but the governing MPLA party still retains many privileges from its days as the only legal party.

And it will take more than a new finance minister to sort out the deep-rooted problem of corruption, which has allowed the squandering of billions of dollars of Angola's oil wealth.

Fears

The real immediate challenges are practical ones.

Woman in burnt down village
Rebuilding Angola is a monumental task
Three hundred thousand former Unita soldiers and their families have been promised help in reintegrating into society - but have so far received almost nothing, and indications are they are becoming impatient.

Civilians displaced by the war have started heading home, but despite the promises, they too have received little help in rebuilding their lives.

War may be over - but many people fear that social unrest could be looming if these needs are not met soon.

Jonas Savimbi, killed after 26 years of civil war

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18 Oct 02 | Africa
25 Nov 02 | Africa
05 Dec 02 | Africa
23 May 02 | Africa
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