Friday, October 14, 2011

critical issues in US foreign policy in Angola

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United States foreign policy has been, and still is based primarily on the expansion of its economic, political and military interest . This imperialistic nature of the United States moreover has been triggered by an obsession to dominate, to maintain its global hegemony, and to maintain this disparity . In the process, many countries, especially in the Third world have been stumbled upon. Angola for instance, is a country that has been deliberately derailed and destroyed by the U.S. foreign policy objectives .

This paper, in examining the covert but important role that the U.S. has played in escalating the civil war in Angola, brings to light a major critical issue in U.S. foreign policy. First, it brings to clarity rhetoric in the supposed interdependence between U.S. foreign policy and liberal democracy- isolated strands of the relationship are recognized more easily than the overlapping patterns. This cleared it goes ahead to illustrate that in the new world order of globalization, capitalism and free trade are the determinants of the general direction of U.S. foreign policy. Globalized economic structure supports the warfare in Angola . This paper examines this perilous U.S. foreign policy objective in the country, as the value of human life is overlooked.


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Angola gained independence on 11 November 175, when the red and black flag with the yellow star representing independent Angola was raised over Luanda, the capital city, after five hundred years of Portuguese rule . This was after guerilla warfare raged against the fascist Portuguese by the three parties, MPLA, FNLA and UNITA. Since the MPLA, led by Agostinho Neto had a stronghold in Luanda at the time, victory was theirs and they become, legitimately, the first government in Angola .

Immediately after independence there was a threat of a catastrophe, since the three parties’ talks on a transitional power-sharing agreement at Alvor in January 175 had collapsed. The MPLA invited Cuban military support in Angola since FNLA-under Holden Roberto-, and UNITA-under Jonas Savimbi-, were being backed mainly by the U.S., covertly .

On 10 February 176 Savimbi announced the beginning of a new war, producing a manifesto that threatened, “…No peace in Angola, no economic development…while the Luanda regime hangs on to power thanks to the Cuban soldiers and Russian armor and fighter planes” .

Post-independence also witnessed a period of South African insurgency. Since Angola had harbored the African National Congress (ANC) from South Africa, the South African apartheid government waged an undeclared war upon Angola . Pretoria and the CIA created Jamba, the Potemkin village in the southeast corner of Angola which was Savimbi’s headquarters for 1 years , and from here UNITA launched bloody attacks to the southern towns in Cunene and Bie provinces . Savimbi was riding high.

The period of 181 to 188 saw the threat against the society as a whole as the country was drawn into the cold war by the U.S. via the policies of Constructive engagement and Linkage . With Chester Crocker as the architect, ‘constructive engagement’ was the U.S. strategy to bring apartheid South Africa back from the brink of chaos. Pretoria was to cede Namibian Independence and give up its illegal military occupation of the country. This Crocker linked to the pullout of Cuban troops from Angola. This was the period when South Africans occupied the southern provinces of the country, and which ended with the defeat of South Africans at Cuito Cuanavale. The war continued between UNITA and MPLA up to the Bicesse Accord of 11 .

The Bicesse Accord was signed on 1 May 11 at Estrol in Portugal, and saw the exhausted sides agree to end the long post independence war . It provided for a cease-fire; disarming and demobilizing of both armies; the formation of a new national army with an equal number of soldiers from UNITA and the government’s FAPLA, under Portuguese and British instructors; and multi-party elections which would be monitored by the UN .

Various indications of the gravity of the situation during post-Bicesse were ignored. Two of UNITA’s top generals; Antonio da Costa Fernandes and Miguel Nzau Puna defected and sought political asylum in Portugal. They warned of Savimbi’s 0,000-man secret army which he was not going to demobilize, and was preparing to return to war if he did not win the elections. The U.S. did not take them seriously enough to drop their support for Savimbi . Worst of all, UNITA remained in control of 4 municipalities and 16 communes against Bicesse. “If there is no opening up there will be no electoral registration, and no registration means no election- there can be no moral justification for this”, head of UNAVEM warned. Yet the UN continued to act as if everything was on track as planned. When U.S. Assistant Secretary for African affairs, Herman Cohen visited Luanda, he reinforced the decision to, “…focus on technological difficulties, minimize them, and ignore the political implications” . U.S. foreign policy was so fixated on the need for change from the MPLA government in Luanda that the issues of human rights and of democracy were conveniently forgotten.

Not surprisingly, even before MPLA was announced to have won the elections-President Dos Santos had won 4.57% of the votes for presidency, compared with Savimbi’s 40.07%, a result which meant a second round was to be held as no one had a clear majority - UNITA was preparing for war . The war after the 1 elections and the takeover of two thirds of the municipalities in the country in three months by UNITA was made possible by various factors. There was a vast re-supply and logistics operation from South Africa (both South Africa and the U.S. lacked good faith for MPLA, and were allies ); support by units of the Zairian army, which had been equipped by the U.S. as a contingency plan if Jamba fell ; monitoring of airstrips by allied Frontline states, which the U.S. had influenced through high diplomatic pressure ; and a network of former SADF (South African Defense Force) personnel working as mercenaries . The capture of diamond mines at Cafunfo and the oil town of Soyo provided UNITA with significant resources to fuel the war. This period of war, termed as ‘The Siege of the Cities’ was the bloodiest (more than 1000 people died every day), and abated the sighing of the Lusaka Protocol in November 14 .

The Clinton Administration in 1 extended recognition of the Angolan government, after 0 years of diplomatic frost from Washington . However by then, MPLA was slowly experiencing death of principle and idealism, as had been advanced by Neto’s dream ‘the most important thing is to solve the peoples’ problems’ . In December 15, Angola failed to vote in the annual United Nations General Assembly debate against the U.S. blockade of Cuba . The height of MPLA’s degeneration has been the establishment of close links with the same forces that backed Savimbi and UNITA while they eulogized MPLA .

The Lusaka Accords called for a cease-fire, a new national army, and four ministries and seven vice-ministries for UNITA, plus ‘special status’ for Savimbi . A massive war erupted again years later and is the fifth full-scale war in the country since it gained independence in 175 . The current Bush Administration is willing to end the war; but almost obviously, this is to the economic advantage of the United States. Peace in Angola would allow the Benguela railway to be brought back into use and would fit into U.S. plans for the whole of central Africa . After all, U.S. had already established itself by the policy of free markets.


Democracy is the pillar of American political tradition . In the Gettysburg Address in 1864 Abraham Lincoln extolled the virtues of what he called, “Government of the people, for the people and by the people” . Liberal democracy is an indirect and representative form of democracy; based on competition and electoral choice; with a clear distinction between state and civil society, maintained through the existence of autonomous groups and interests; and the market or capitalist organization of economic life .

The American Executive, the key players of foreign policy, have paid so much lip service to the issues of human rights and of democracy, that these terms have been thought simultaneously to U.S. foreign policy. In his book ‘Promised Land, Crusader State’ McDougall defines three U.S. foreign policies that directly link with liberty and democracy. ‘Exceptionalism’, so called ‘liberty’ that gives impetus to other U.S. policies; ‘Progressive Imperialism’, making the world safe for democracy; and ‘Global Meliorism’, making the world democratic .

During the Cold War, Washington was well aware that the Kremlin bureaucracy was not interested in exporting revolution. Stalin and his supporters had wiped out a generation of revolutionary leaders in the Moscow trials and hunted down Trotskyists all over the world. After the Second World War they had suppressed revolutionary movements in Europe, Asia and Africa . Yet the U.S. over exaggerated the threat of Russian communist menace to argue successfully the global crisis of the free world . This rendered states dependent on the United States for economic and military assistance, as the U.S. accessed their resources.

U.S. intervention in Angola began in the pre-independence years in the name of fighting communism. The CIA was directly but covertly involved in Angola. There were several incidences where the CIA manipulated the media for certain outcomes . One Lusaka fabrication accused Cuban soldiers of committing atrocities in Angola. It mentioned false reports of their rape of some Ovumbundu girls in the Washington Post that led to UNITA soldiers rage and executing of 16 Cuban soldiers . The CIA-manipulated media also ensures response of American citizens to enlist to fight communists in Angola on the FNLA front . They were also successful in exposing Soviet Arms program to the world while they effectively hid their hand in the war . The CIA was also involved in recruiting of mercenaries, building support for the factions of FNLA and UNITA and garnering allies from other African political leaders with the approximate goals of overthrowing a government, building up its replacement, and strengthening a friendly group in its drive to power . Weren’t all these policies emanating from a simple frustration that the strong nationalistic forces would have pursued an independent foreign policy that would have posed a threat to America’s interests in Angola? That the global meliorist emergency food and humanitarian assistance to the Angolan people was merely a means to a more selfish end, oblivious to human rights and democracy?

During independence, the U.S. did not extend recognition to the MPLA government in Angola. Instead, it continued to fuel UNITA even against the Clark Amendment of February 176 which specifically outlawed U.S. arming of opposition groups . By 18 U.S. support for Savimbi reached a record $50 million (the year that George Bush senior, former CIA chief came to power). Two military flights a day maintained a UNITA campaign that became increasingly destructive . Angola is the grim holder of the world record for mine victims . Malnutrition, Kwashiorkor and Marusmus were visible everywhere, where people died from dehydration because nobody had the strength to walk as far as the rivers . Yet U.S. continued support for UNITA despite these atrocities and consequences of the war.

The three major ‘peace accords’ that were signed at Alvor in 175, at Bicesse in 11 and Lusaka in 14 never ushered in peace in Angola . From the period of Alvor to the Lusaka Protocol, the well being of the Angolan people was never a consideration in the formulation of strategies for peace. For instance, the preoccupation of the United States with the presence of Cuban troops in Angola led to UN Security Council under Resolution 66 of 188 to establish UNAVEM I which successfully saw the withdrawal of the Cuban troops . Bicesse Peace Accord and the UN Security Council 66 of 11 authorized the deployment of UNAVEM II. The U.S. State Department was convinced that the details of the accord would support a victory for UNITA in the elections that were to take place in 1 and the Bush Administration provided technical and financial support to UNITA. A visible sign of this support was the brand new four-wheel vehicles by the American company General Motors that UNITA forces cruised in during the elections . As indicated earlier above, indicators of UNITA’s plan were ignored. Their losing the elections led to the failure of UNAVEM II. Some insights from UN officials, revealed that since the United Stated supported one of the parties at war, implementation of the peace agreement was difficult . The U.S. illustrated in Angola that it was the boss of the UN.

Clearly therefore, the drive for U.S. intervention in Angolan civil war was neither democracy and liberty nor human rights. In the words of Tom Hanahoe, ‘war has always been at the hart of U.S. foreign policy’ . Not surprisingly, there exists a link between oil, militarism, liberalized markets and U.S. foreign policy in Angola.

Angola is the second most important oil producer in Africa after Nigeria. Oil was discovered in Angola in 155 and by 17 oil became the country’s principal export. Crude oil accounts for 0% of total exports, more than 80% government revenue, and 4% of the country’s GDP.

More than 7% of oil imports of the United States emanates from Angola. Chevron, Elf, Petrofina, BP, Texaco and Petrobas dominated the extraction of petroleum and the management of operations in the exploration blocs by 178. The establishment of the Angolan Exclusive Economic Zone attracted an investment of over $18 billion. With the discovery of massive oil fields the U.S. established a bi-national commission with Angola which supports further liberalization of the Angolan economy so that the vast wealth can still serve external forces.


Thomas J. McCormick, “America’s Half Century; United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War and after” (Baltimore John Hopkins University Press, 15)

Ellen Ray (Ed), “Dirty Work ; The CIA in Africa” (New Jersey Lyle Stuart Inc., 17)

Nincic Miroslav, “Democracy and Foreign Policy; The Fallacy of Political realism” (New York Colombia University Press, 1)

Victoria Brittain, “Death of Dignity; Angola’s Civil War” (London Pluto Press, 18)

Stephen N. Ndegwa & Bradshaw York (Ed), “The Uncertain Promise of Southern Africa” (Bloomington Indiana University Press, 000)

Walter A. McDougall “Promised Land, Crusader State The American Frontier Encounter with the World since 1776” (Boston Houghton Muffin Co., 17)

Ann Talbot, “The Angolan Civil War and US foreign policy” World Socialist Website April 00 http//

Tom Hanahoe, “America Rules US Foreign Policy, Globalisation and Corporate USA (Dingle, Ireland Brandon, 00)

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