(Note: This is an extract from an academic dissertation. If you need assistance with writing essays. dissertations and similar coursework in Law, Management or computer science engineering, I will be glad to help out.)
Serra da Leba, Angola (Pic courtesy Wikipedia)
From legally sanctioned slavery until abolition in 1836 to constitutionally guaranteed human rights in 2010 when the latest constitution came into force, Angola is experiencing a significant transformation.
Conflict has ended in 2002 and Angola is in a state of reconciliation where “enemies are becoming friends“. Reconciliation typically is a peacemaking process between one-time enemies who move to recognise the causes and injuries suffered. The antagonistic groups then show mutual conciliatory accommodation to establish a “relatively cooperative and amicable relationship.”
A scrutiny of Angola’s context makes it evident that certain causes and their effects mutually fuelled each other over centuries. A singular lack of respect for human dignity and life led sequentially to division of the society on ethnic lines, centuries of foreign rule and decades of civil war. These in turn severely infringed human rights resulting in a strife-ridden and divided society.
This study shows that the logical solution for achieving National Reconciliation and a prosperous Angola, a robust and inviolable human rights regime is essential.
Angolan narrative puts out three propositions. Firstly, a strong human rights framework conditions the state to act in such a manner that is conducive to peace. Secondly, the framework must temper the non-state actors (and foreign states) as much as it guides the state. Thirdly, rights are rarely conferred; it is for the society to secure the human rights for itself.
Since, the last proposition may appear rather unscholarly and is likely to be misconstrued as aggressive, it is clarified that absolutely no belligerence is advocated. For, peace can be achieved through peaceful means. As Freeman observes, India’s Gandhi formulated a unique pattern for “effectuating change within the law when law’s normal procedures were inadequate or held captive by anti-legal forces” and could bring about the “necessary change in a democratic, consensual, non-violent way.” Subsequent discussion will show that reconciliation is possible only through a strong democracy.
Returning to the discussion, it is admitted that the first proposition is not a novel one. History, particularly Angola’s history, scholars, jurists and case law have repeatedly proven that societies with a vigorous human rights regime enjoy peace and economic development.
The second proposition is situated in the relationship between human rights and non-state actors. Commenting on the 1991-2002 conflict in Angola, Comerford says that “the ‘tribal differences’ could be exploited by others unless the seeds of discord” were identified and cured.” This is exactly what happened between 17th and 19th century.
Angola’s history of breach of human rights, though the concept had not evolved fully and was not known by that name, begins with slavery. Ethnic and linguistically divided people fought frequent battles with each other and enslaved the losers. The modern concept of ‘nation’ was absent and consequently there was no ‘national law’ to prohibit slavery. It is widely accepted that there was a sizeable indigenous slave population in Africa before the Europeans arrived.
With the arrival of Europeans, Portugal in the case of Angola, the trans-Atlantic demand for slaves flourished swiftly. Apart from Portuguese colonial officials, the lineage heads, African rulers and Luso-African merchants were the principal actors in slave trade. The demand incentivised the local populations to further systemise capture and trade their fellow beings into slavery.
Suppose, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948 was in existence, the crime by the Angolans and the Portuguese would be in breach of Article 3 and 4 which hold that every individual has the right to life and liberty and that “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude…” Suppose, the Angolan constitution was operative in those days, the state (the lineage heads and the foreign colonial forces being representative of the ‘state’) would be in breach of Article 21which directs that individuals will not be discriminated on account of race, sex, origins, colour and other protected characteristics. In fact the entire Section I of chapter II of the constitution including Articles 30, 31, 36 which require the state to protect right to life, human person and human dignity, physical freedom and individual security would have been infringed.
The violations support the point already made that the causes and effects mutually fuelled each other. If the democratic framework was strong, it could perhaps have prevented the ‘state’ from infringing the human right to individual liberty as above.
The status of human rights appears to be improving. While, opinions that choose to differ may argue that even today the availability of rights is more on paper than in reality, some of the recent Court decisions are promising. In the “15+2” in which the Supreme Court modified prison terms of Luaty Beirão and 16 of his companions to house arrest. Journalist and author Rafael Marques de Morais was handed a suspended six-month jail sentence for “defaming army generals.” Human rights activist José Marcos Mavungo was acquitted of ‘incitement to rebellion and violence’ after serving one year prison sentence .
House arrest, suspended jail term or acquittal after one year in jail may not be exactly satisfactory; but viewed against the ground realities, the three decisions are signs of some progress.
The second proposition expects foreign states and non-state actors (NSAs) to be included in the scope of human rights regime for a simple reason. NSAs can be risk multipliers or force multipliers for development.
According to UNICEF, wars are increasingly turning into low-intensity internal conflicts fought for longer time and in which civilians are deliberately targeted. The inference is that NSAs engaged in internal conflicts infringe human rights as much as or more than the state and therefore must be considered in any scheme for national reconciliation. Grossman typifies rebellion as an industry that profits from looting and the insurgents as no different from “bandits and pirates.” This raises a point as to who these NSAs are.
When identifying NSAs, it is easy to categorise armed groups as NSAs and the effects of their actions are easily perceived. There is another category of NSAs who play an equally significant role in disturbing or promoting peace and economy. These are organisations or individuals who do not identify or ally themselves with any country but wield enough economic, political and social power to influence national and occasionally international affairs. Pearlman and Cunningham speak of only political actors with no direct nexus with the state but who pursue aims which affect a state’s vital interests. A list of NSAs, to be holistic must include PMSCs, MNCs, NGOs, interest groups, faith-based organisations and other organised formations.
PMSCs, the new label for old-world mercenaries are a matter of serious concern. According to Ballesteros, UN Special Rapporteur, the mercenary “is present as a violator of human rights” whether as an individual or as an employee of multi-purpose security companies. Occasionally he may undertake terrorist operations, illicit trafficking or sabotage. The reason for hiring him is his lack of scruples “in riding roughshod over the norms of international humanitarian law or even in committing serious crimes and human rights violations.” Executive Outcomes, a South African mercenary “firm” is perhaps the one to attract substantial attention for its activities in Angola. One of the firm’s members is reported to have said on television that they killed 300 enemy soldiers on the way to North Angolan village of Cafuno.
MNCs are an important sub-category under NSAs. They do bring with them benefits in terms of capital, technology and jobs which are essential for economic progress, but some of them bring adverse effects also along with them. Manipulating the domestic politics and the state, manoeuvring to corner land, raw materials and other natural resources occur in many states. Agbakwa, points out how some of the MNCs seriously violate human rights in the third world countries with impunity. He emphasises that the “underlying issues, actors and beneficiaries” must be controlled for ensuring security and equality.
In Angola’s own instance, for some corporations, low-intensity war is more profitable than peace as it enables them to capture higher rents from diamonds and oil. These minority beneficiaries are powerful inflicting large losses on the majority. Of course, it would be unfair and economically unwise to tar all the MNCs with the same brush. International commerce does contribute to progress and the proper approach would be to control the conduct of these Corporations. This point leads to the second main category of NSAs who hold a positive promise for human rights.
In the midst of fragile contexts that prevailed in Angola, it is natural that there is a multiplicity of institutions engaged in relief and welfare. This was not only inevitable but desirable since the local stressors were such that the state was too busy fighting a civil war, did not have a mechanism, inclination or sufficient resources to discharge its civic functions. More importantly, faith-organisations enjoyed a higher degree of trust and acceptance by the population compared to the state or international organisations.
Angola’s churches discharged two crucial functions. While providing relief to displaced population people in conflict zone was commendable, their active role as peacemakers is significant. The Catholic and Protestant bishops adopted a position that the war did not represent either the voice of the people or their interest. They jointly launched “Movimento pro pace” a Movement towards peace in 1999 aimed to create a “new mentality that values peace.” In 2000, all religious leaders convened Congress for Peace. The church as a political actor was a potent factor in persuading the warring MPLA and UNITA towards peace talks.
At micro-level, the churches undertook relief work in thier regions. Serrano gives an example of the initiative by Evangelical congregational church in Angola (IECA) which undertook large scale social and relief work in Bunjei province.
Traditional authorities (TAs) are not merely yet another but an imperative actor in reconciliation vis-a-vis human rights discussion. Their importance prompts Ekeh to call the system “two Publics“. In the immediate aftermath of independence, the new postcolonial states in Sub Saharan Africa and the TAs had at best an ambiguous relationship. TAs collaboration with colonial regimes in countering organised resistance and acting as local “agents” in extracting natural and human resources triggered ill feeling which was not always well concealed.
The TAs who had exercised their own peculiar influence over the village population even in the era of the colonial “state”, in fact gained additional sway in the interregnum when the new “national” state was struggling to find its feet. An elder administered the land rights vested in patrimony in the Kongo of northern Angola and similarly sekulu the current elder held land rights in the Umbundu.
Ancient beliefs such as the mythical ancestor subsisted despite Christianity or by the state action. Customarily the population was used to depending on the TAs for inexpensive justice in land or family disputes. These factors combined with the nascent state’s inability to exhibit legitimacy ensure that the TAs continue to enjoy their sphere of influence.
The institution of the “elder” proffers both advantages and disadvantages. It is desirable on some counts compared to sole prerogative of the state. The TAs is a local person more attuned to the local needs, easier to access and can carry the public opinion with him than the “far off” state authority. The TAs are or at least can be a valuable asset in building reconciliation. On the negative side, they would be reluctant to let go their power, in other words monetary benefits, would tend to be hegemonistic and subjective. Their attitude may not be conducive to democratic conduct.
The discussion so far has touched briefly on how various stakeholders including civil society National and international organisations Church Traditional authorities contribute to the extreme complexity of the matrix in which the young Angola has to discover durable harmony. That takes this study forward to Chapter 1 in which the role of Nation-state in bringing all the stakeholders on board to complete the national reconciliation process and secure peace and inclusive development. The significance of educational programme of human rights, national unity, reconciliation and justice and the signs of change that are visible today will be presented.
Constraints on human rights hamper peace:
In addition to the “resource curse” caused by abundance of resources, Angola suffers from yet another type of affliction. This “resource curse” is caused by limited availability of information. The government is selectively reticent and opposition is habitually strident so much so that counterchecking to authenticate the available data is often difficult. Marques, Bustelo and Roemersma observe that the “Culture of secrecy,” practised by the state is the chief contributor to the situation. The media is perceived as adversaries than as partners in development and media workers lack knowledge of relevant laws and government policies.
According to Schubert, public sphere in Angola “is prefigured by a climate of fear” and the citizens are afraid to speak out openly. Pearce observes that the ruling regime is exploiting the opportunity to systematically politicise memories and indulges in ‘memorialisation’. By endeavouring to redefine the public memory, the government is to positioning itself as the sole liberator from colonial rule.
Faria avers that there is dichotomy of “conformity or resistance” and “pseudo-public or counter-public” because the public is conditioned by past memory and survival struggle. The government is using to breakdown opposing voices into small groups which are “easier to threaten and to co-opt.” In fact, rule of law and political pluralism have become instruments to further control and manufacture endorsement.
The restrictions of freedom of speech and right to association appear to fuel the fear complex and created an environment in which the state is able to infringe other rights easily. Human Rights Watch has catalogued instances of various forced mass evictions, violent removal of street traders, intimidating anti-government voices with surveillance, harassment, criminal defamation lawsuits, arbitrary arrests and unfair trials that occurred in 2014 and 2015. The government has passed Presidential Decree No. 74/15 in March 2015 placing undue restrictions on NGOs.
The role of the state and other actors in peace process:
The Angolan government’s actions discussed above are in clear infringement of human rights related to right to physical freedom and personal security, freedoms of expression, press, meeting and demonstrating and association guaranteed by Articles 36, 40, 44, 47, and 48 of the Angola’s Constitution of 2010. The condition automatically sets the agenda for the actors involved in the peace-building.
Galtung distinguishes peacebuilding from peacekeeping and peacemaking. The last two are mere negative aspects of peace, an absence of conflict. Peacebuilding on the other hand embodies the positive aspect of peace based on a “reservoir for the system itself to draw up…” its strength. The logic behind Galtung’s concept of peacebuilding put forward by Chetail and Jütersonke is commendable for being holistic and in fact setting the agenda for all the actors. The authors see peacebuilding as securing social justice through equal opportunity; a fair distribution of resources and power; and the rule of law providing equal protection.
Role of the church
Providing care and welfare service during conflict times is what is normally expected from religious organizations. Going beyond the regular call of duty, the Angolan church exercised its extensive influence amongst the population to mentor and foster peace. Comerford brings out the significance of the church’s initiative in peacebuilding. The strong public opinion created by the church was instrumental in compelling the warring parties to the negotiation table which eventually ended the civil war.
Role of the international actors
Prompted by their deep economic interests tied to oil and diamond sources in Angola, Russia and the USA radically contributed to and prolonged the Angola civil war. This inference comes out distinctly from Comerford’s detailed analysis of the history of Angolan conflict . A brief summary of the role played by the international actors Russia intervened actively on behalf of the MPLA from the beginning and continues its support. The USA not wishing to jeopardise relationship with Portugal, a NATO ally was initially tentative but subsequently supported Holden Roberto in 1959, FNLA in 1974 and began actively arming the UNITA from 1985. Approximately 500,000 persons died, tens of thousands suffered mutilation by anti-personnel mines and more than a million people were displaced during the civil war according to US Department of Justice.
For a survey of human rights violations in Sub-Saharan Africa, see the report of José Doria in this publication.
Carola Eyber & Alastair Ager, Conselho: Psychological Healing in Displaced Communities in Angola, 360 LANCET 871 (2002).
Louise Mallinder, ‘Global Comparison of Amnesty Laws: The pursuit of international criminal justice: a world study on conflicts, victimization, and post-conflict justice’ (2009) in M. Cherif Bassiouni (ed) (Intersentia 2010) <http://ssrn.com/abstract=1586831> accessed 25 July 2016
That was the role enacted by the international community in the Angola’s past. That also defines their current responsibility to rebuild the nation, support the reconciliation process. Some of the duties proposed by various scholars are as follows.
The international community should adopt mutually accountability approach that holds the foreign actors accountable for their economic and political interests. The international community must persuade Angola to include human rights in the political agenda. Economic and social rights must form an inalienable part of the dialogue in addition to civic and political rights.
Role of education in peace process
Tinker upholds views similar to Comerford. She maintains that the modern day peace education programmes are also founded “in religious heritage.” Though the programmes assert their secularity, their philosophical assumptions are seen to be directly and indirectly influenced by religious heritage.
The conceptualisation of teachers as “peacebuilders” is rooted in Galtung’s (1975) distinction between peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
“Culture of secrecy” Rafael Marques, Bustelo MG and Roemersma R, (2003) ‘The media as a tool for civil society’ Unpublished report, Amsterdam: Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa (NiZA) (as cited in Cândido Mendes and Barnaby Smith, Angola Research findings and conclusions (BBC World Service Trust, 2006)
Tinker Peace Education as a Post-conflict Peacebuilding Tool (must be important for chapter on education for peace & church also
- The Role of the Recognised Participants in Effecting National Reconciliation and Peace-Building in Angola
The past must be stopped at a point, for reconciliation, by definition is remedying the past and former enemies becoming friends. By corollary, the present and the future should move forward, fully secured against recurrence of previous errors. While all the actors involved in peace building have to discharge this twofold duty, the nation and the state bears the highest responsibility in bringing about positive change.
- The role of the nation-state
The reason for assigning the primary role to the state in nurturing reconciliation is based on the four significant duties it has to fulfil. 1. Considering that reconciliation is intertwined with fundamental rights, state has to endeavour that all the persons within its territory enjoy the full benefit of fundamental rights. 2. Win over the national actors such as the civil society, NSAs, religious groups and traditional authorities. 3. Influence international community favourably and obtain its cooperation of the in all spheres; and 4. Develop bilateral and multilateral economic and cultural relationships with neighbouring states.
Peace and reconciliation transcend political boundaries and limitation of times. This aspect places certain interlinked obligations on both the nation and the state and leads to a rather quaint requirement. The responsibilities are joint sometimes and are independent at other times e.g. while both the nation and the state have to believe in and foster democratic traditions, the state has to administer the enforcement mechanisms to protect the democratic framework. In other words, the nation and the state have to chaperone each other to achieve enduring peace. For the sake of simplicity, except when it is necessary to distinguish between them, the roles of the state and the nation are discussed together.
The pivotal function fundamental rights in reconciliation:
Building peace in the aftermath of stubborn conflicts is not a sequential process and it is marked with inevitable ups and downs. Long-term commitment on part of the actors than “momentary conjectural optimism or opportunism” alone can achieve peace. Different schools of thought have been putting forward different views on approaches to build peace. These range from ‘retributive and prosecutorial’ proponents to advocates of traditional justice who believe that a mature resolution of the differences and compensating the victims is more appropriate path to harmony.
It is only recently that reconciliation has been recognised as a mechanism to resolve post-conflict reconstruction. While evidence is still being gathered and experience has been limited, the “transitional justice” process has proved itself commendably in South Africa and to a limited extent in instances such as Guatemala. It is a disappointment in a few states including Uganda and Haiti where the post-conflict democracy did not take firm roots.
South African success which in fact prompted global interest in the mechanism and other contracting scenarios such as Haiti, establish a close linkage between successful reconciliation and democratic culture. Bloomfield outlines democracy as “managing conflict arising out of differences in beliefs, ideology, culture, ethnicity without recourse to violence. Instead of eliminating the differences (obviously by compulsion) or excluding the population who have different beliefs from the society, democracy facilitates them to coexist without threatening the whole system. Democracy is evidently interlinked with human rights and the rule of law and as has been seen above, it is the primary building block of peace.
The Angolan experience regarding reconciliation has been at best a mixture of success and satisfaction. A brief review of the situation will assist in understanding the role that the state is playing in reconciliation and peace-building. However, one point has to be made: evaluating Angola is problematic because of lack of transparency. Even Supreme Court decisions are not placed in public domain and the government is studiously tight-lipped most of the time. On the other hand, persons who hold opposing views are highly vocal but it is difficult to cross verify their contentions and reports. Because of this, even favourable analysis or comment generally ends up with an escape clause.
The major challenge facing the state was that the state riddled inherited many flaws in 2002. Generations of dependency characterised the administrative mechanism and political framework, the system was militarised, centralised and corrupted and customised for “colonial purposes and thus ipso facto antidemocratic”.
In spite of such a burden, Angola is striving in the right direction. In a signal development, Constitution 2010 has written a vigorous fundamental rights regime into the legislative mechanism. The 2012 general elections were peaceful and the international community acknowledged them to be “free and fair.” If the status of women is considered for illustration, their representation is 30 per cent and 36 per cent in the judicial system and parliament respectively. The Parliament enacted Domestic Violence Act 2010 which aims to protect women from ‘homemade’ violence is a much needed relief in a male dominated society. The budgetary cuts and inflation however have adversely affected quality of life particularly for women. On education front, the number of children in primary education was tripled between 2002 and 2013 and the current literacy is about 79%.
The real concerns however hover on the human rights. Public posturing by the government authorities is often aggressive. Ambassador Lima believes that the sole formula for peace is to overpower the warring parties who attack democracy with weapons and that African military conflicts cannot achieve peace through a “goalless match.”
Chronicling hundreds of cases of torture, killings, mutilation of women’s bodies in Cuango province, Morais observes:” “Cases are not…..a random series of unfortunate events in a context where everything else operates under the rule of law.” It was systematic and premeditated abuse of human rights.
(To be continued)
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 The concept is elaborated in Chapter 1.2.4
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