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Country analysis > Angola Last update: 2020-11-27  

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Why did Bicesse and Lusaka fail? A critical analysis

Christine Messiant

Centre for African Studies of the School for Advanced Studies in Social Science (EHESS)


SARPN acknowledges AFP as the source of this article -
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It has taken three peace accords - and, in February 2002, the killing of Jonas Savimbi - for the arms to be silenced for good in Angola. There are several ways to look at this trajectory, extended over 12 years. The simplest observation is that the two first agreements - those of Bicesse in May 1991 and Lusaka in November 1994, both reached under the auspices of the international community - resulted in a resumption of the war, with ever more deadly consequences for the civilian population; while the third one - the 2002 Luena Memorandum - in which the international community played a minimal and largely symbolic role, not only succeeded in formalizing a cessation of the fighting but effectively brought an end to the cycle of wars that has devastated Angola since its independence in 1975. This is how the Angolan government has chosen to portray the course of events, while the international community has opted to see Luena as also resulting from its patient efforts to bring peace.

How should these failures and this success in reaching peace be interpreted? Looking back, the answers seem to lie in the combination of two factors: a deadly pursuit of military victory and hegemonic power by the two warring parties, and a situation of 'too many interests' among the 'real' international community. In Angola the interests of this 'real' international community of great powers and transnational corporations have always provided the context for and strongly influenced the attitude of the 'official' international community (the United Nations); this was the case firstly with respect to the Bicesse and Lusaka accords and their implementation, and later in relation to the 'real' international community's support not just for the Angolan government but also, silently, for the military option, and the abandoning of any attempts at negotiations.

These interests provide the basic explanation for the shortcomings and failures of international interventions. Although they certainly changed over time, they remained constant in reinforcing the sidelining of the needs for peace and democracy of those forces that one may call 'unarmed' - the Angolans who did not recognize themselves in the hegemonic intentions of the warring parties (including a number of members of those parties). These interests made it possible for both 'armed parties' to treat society as they wished in their attempts to achieve total power by any means.

This article will briefly indicate which issues were at stake for the national and international players with regard to the Bicesse and Lusaka accords, and how they developed and changed following the end of the Cold War. It will also assess their impact on the 'peace process', up to the point where it was replaced by a 'war process'. Ultimately, the precious result of peace was achieved, but the way it came about has obvious implications for the very nature of this peace.

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