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The future depends on us

Angolans Discuss Their Political Future: Perspectives from the Villages to the Cities
Results of Focus Groups of Angolan Citizens

Prepared for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs by Helena Farinha, Isabel SerrРіo Emerson, Justino Pinto de Andrade

March 2004

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After the death of Jonas Savimbi, President of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and the signing of the Luena Memorandum of Understanding in April 2002, Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos stressed the need for free, fair and transparent elections, with the goal of guaranteeing the democratic and peace process in Angola.

Recognizing the important role citizens have in participating in the building of a peaceful and stable society, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) conducted focus group research on the expectations of Angolans about the future of their country, specifically as it relates to democracy and elections. The purpose of this report is to provide policymakers, elected officials, representatives of civil society and the international community with information that will help develop dialogue and consensus around the steps necessary to carry out elections in Angola. The research was carried out in collective interviews that capture the opinions of representative groups of Angolans about the electoral process in its various approaches, including the type of elections, and voter education programs requested by the population.

In April and May 2003, NDI held 27 interviews in which 278 people participated. The focus group participants came from representative groups, men and women of different ages, professions and geographic areas. This interview process explored attitudes and opinions of citizens about the new political dynamics in Angola. The interviews were held in eight provinces – Bengo, Benguela, Cabinda, Huambo, Huila, Luanda, Moxico and Uige – and demonstrate popular expectations and present what Angolans hope for the future, especially about democracy and elections in Angola. Section IX provides more details about the make up of each group.

As explained in Section VII, Methodology, the research was conducted through focus groups, a methodology for interviews conducted in semi-structured groups that uses a questions guide and a careful selection of people to be interviewed. The interview is carried out by a moderator trained by NDI and groups are homogeneous to determine the different points of view among different sub-groups of the population, and to create a more comfortable environment among the people to be interviewed, since people among peers are more prone to expressing their opinions.

In spite of NDI’s desire to organize representative teams of moderators, consisting of one man and one woman, NDI was not successful in convincing women from the provinces to participate in this capacity. The women expressed constraints domestic constraints as the primary factor. Although this kind of research is not common in Angola, there was great popular and political support. However, local leaders in one province intimidated the moderators, who feared for their safety. Luanda was the one province that presented the most difficulties in organizing groups. In one case the participants walked out halfway in the meeting; in another, after three nonappearances it became apparent that the citizens in that group did not want to participate; and in a separate case, the management of a factory would not allow the moderators to talk about “politics” after working hours unless the activity was conducted by the majority party. Despite these few set backs, NDI had access to a wide range of Angolan society for the focus group study.

We hope this type of research – listening to the people and relaying their hopes and concerns to the decision makers – will initiate meaningful discussion and action among the government, political parties, civil society and the international community. We are grateful for this opportunity in Angola and hope the information obtained will facilitate the ongoing dialogue among Angolans about their future.

Isabel Emerson
March 2004

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