Angola celebrates its freedom
Second in economic growth among African countries commemorates 38th anniversary of its independence. CLAUDIA FONSECA SOSA
ON November 11, 1975,
President Antonio Agostinho Neto proclaimed before Africa and the world the birth of the People’s Republic of Angola (now the Republic of Angola). After 14 years of armed struggle, the last Portuguese colony was finally achieving its independence. However, the Angolan people were initially unable to enjoy the fruits of freedom. After learning of the results of the first elections which gave the victory to the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and other opposition forces supported by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Zaire initiated a fratricidal civil war which lasted 27 years.
Operation Carlota, through which Cuba contributed in a selfless manner to preserve the independence and territorial integrity of Angola is inscribed in our memory. Thanks to the resistance of the people and the work of hundreds of thousands of African and Cuban combatants who joined efforts on the battlefield to restore stability to the country, after extensive negotiations, in 2002 peace and national stability agreements were signed.
Thus began a new period of democracy for Angola, in which the MPLA was consolidated in government through general elections. During those years, socioeconomic development programs were implemented. A new Constitution was approved, along with legislation needed to ensure political pluralism and the creation of associations of a diverse kind, guaranteeing the right to free expression in this multiethnic country of 21 million inhabitants.
A further step was taken to restore families separated due to military instability and the lack of security which existed in many regions of the country as a consequence of the armed conflict.
Large infrastructural works were completed to reconstruct the basic highway network and part of the secondary road system, railroads, bridges, power and water treatment plants. The sad panorama left by the war began to recede. Angola has had the second highest economic growth on the continent over the last few decades, with an average rate of 9.2%. Given its abundant natural resources, such as oilfields and gas in the maritime areas of the coast around Cabinda and the Congo estuary, the country decided to develop its industrial sector.
In 2005, oil production reached 1.4 million barrels of crude oil, estimated to rise to more than two million by 2019. Oil production contributes approximately 45% to the national gross domestic product and stands at 90% of exports. Its exploitation has been consolidated in a state conglomerate of companies known as the Sonangol Group.
At the same time, agricultural programs have succeeded in meeting the needs of 85% of the national population, thus reducing the level of food imports.
Angola has reached peak levels in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of establishing higher, technical and basic education. Since its independence, education has been free of charge and obligatory for boys and girls between six to nine years of age.
The country has 17 universities and 44 institutes of higher learning. These achievements were the result of effective measures taken by the MPLA government to stabilize the nation.
From the point of view of foreign policy, Angola has gained recognition from neighboring nations for its participation in the solution of differences of various kinds in the heart of the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other regional integration mechanisms. Angolan diplomacy is based on the principle of mutual respect and reciprocal advantages.
Recently, the country received the responsibility of being a guarantor for peace negotiations in relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) conflict in the area of the Great Lakes.
"We are a country at peace, stable and with an immense potential for cooperating and joining links with the world," affirmed current President José Eduardo dos Santos.
SISTERHOOD CONSOLIDATED OVER TIME
November 15 is the 38th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Angola, which took place just four days after this sister nation’s proclamation of independence. "We Angolans have the duty to praise the ties of friendship and sisterhood which unite the peoples of Angola and Cuba, forged in difficult times, and which have grown in stature with the blood and sacrifice of heroes who made possible the consolidation of Angolan independence, contributed to the liberation of Namibia and Zimbabwe and ended the apartheid regime in South Africa," states a note from the Angolan embassy in Havana, sent to Granma.
"The heroism of the 300,000-plus internationalist combatants and more than 50,000 Cuban civilian collaborators, who with bravery and determination fulfilled missions in Angola, is of incalculable value," adds the text, which also emphasizes the continued strengthening of bilateral links as a legacy to future generations.