A further point emerging from the Angolan case is that it seems dangerous to accept uncritically the thesis that eliminating the leader of the armed rebellion and militarily defeating the insurgency will provide better prospects for sustainable peace and future stability than a negotiated settlement, with the concomitant recognition, however minimal and reluctant, of the other side's perspective as well as its inevitable compromises. This 'realist' position appears to be becoming more widely defended with regard to intractable conflicts such as the war between the Ugandan government and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). It is even being promoted in some quarters as the only viable solution. This may be due in part to the influence of the rhetoric accompanying the global 'war on terror' unleashed by the US and its allies. Most Angolans would undoubtedly agree that bringing an end to four decades of internecine warfare was in itself of the utmost importance, and that sentiment should in no way be diminished. 'Negative peace' or the absence of war is by far preferable to no peace at all. But in circumstances such as those of Angola, with its long history of bitter rivalries, mutual exclusion, one-party rule and authoritarianism on all sides, the price for the way this result was finally achieved may be very high indeed. It is a price which is only gradually becoming known as the situation develops and many of the hopes and expectations are not being met.
Previous peace efforts also had an impact on the final conclusion of the war. That it was possible to reach a ceasefire and complete peace package so quickly after the elimination of Savimbi, was certainly due in part to the fact that the parties could fall back on a series of failed agreements. Many of the issues had thus been addressed and worked out in detail on previous occasions and as a matter of fact, the Luena Memorandum is formally a mere supplement to the Lusaka Protocol, which in itself was based on the Bicesse Accords.
The end of the war has resulted in the victorious side – the MPLA government and the social groups which support it – getting a virtually free hand, not only in the political arena, but also socially and economically. The necessary incentive for change in order to address the issues that caused the conflict in the first place or perpetuated its continuation may be missing. Currently, more than two years after the formal end of the war, Angola shows some worrying signs that this may indeed be the case: growing social unrest, continuing mistrust and ostracisation of political opponents, lack of economic opportunities and a sense of disillusionment and frustration on the part of broad sections of the population, not just people with UNITA sympathies. The process of democratisation, including the elaboration of a new constitution and the preparation of elections, is a slow and cumbersome one, as Vieira Lopes indicates in his article. The social and physical rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country and the resettlement of internally displaced persons and refugees require massive efforts. Imogen Parsons describes the need for ongoing support for the reintegration of ex-combatants and for programmes to disarm the civilian population. These were always going to be huge and challenging tasks, but the fact that there are few opportunities for participation, for real debate and opposition and for a free exchange of ideas does not help.
As ending the war by military means consolidates the power of the victorious party, the democratic process, which depends on dialogue, negotiation, respect for other points of view and eventual compromise, has been sidelined as a preferable means of resolving conflict, not only in the political sphere but also more generally. Force and violence seem to carry the day. This may further marginalise those groups in society who are less adept at using those means, such as women, but also all unarmed citizens in general. The habits of strength and power prevailing over justice and rights, and of 'winner-takes-all' approaches, are not challenged effectively, despite the best efforts of some church leaders and other civil society actors.
Contributions by Christine Messiant and Manuel Paulo look closely at the reasons for the failure of the peacemaking attempts at Bicesse and Lusaka and the role of the UN at the various stages of its involvement. Messiant's provocative analysis not only sheds light on the underlying reasons for the failures of both processes (too many interests of what she calls the 'real international community', combined with the marginalisation of the interests of the majority of Angola's population), but equally leads her to the conclusion that the way peace has finally been achieved at Luena necessarily has a negative impact on the very nature of this peace, in the sense referred to above that real democratisation and participation will be not be easily attainable. One of the signs of hope – paradoxical in the light of UNITA's history of extreme authoritarianism and the ruthless leadership of Jonas Savimbi (but then, the history of Angola is full of paradoxes) – might be that the latest congress of the party, held in Viana in June 2003, showed greater openness and democratic procedure.