Cape Verde and Drug Trafficking: A Major Challenge to the Rule of Law

drug-trafficking-west-africaWest Africa has been affected by a range of illicit maritime activities, such as human trafficking, the smuggling of small arms and narcotics, illegal fishing and piracy. In an increasingly interconnected world the rise in these activities in the region does not solely represent a challenge to security and stability. In fact, it has profound implications for the international community, namely the EU and the US. Those activities, drug trafficking in particular, are a major source of income not only for drug cartels in Latin America, but also for jihadi groups in West Africa, the Sahel and the Maghreb, thus threatening international security and stability.
Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde are two drug trafficking hubs in West Africa. While this is hardly a surprise in the case of Guinea-Bissau—some regard it as world’s first narco-state, Cape Verde has been away from the spotlight. The difference can partly be explained by the fact that Guinea-Bissau has become a main transit point of drug shipments to land-routes towards the Maghreb and Europe, therefore representing an apparent more immediate threat to the international community, while Cape Verde is a transit point between Latin America and the African continent.
Cape Verde, despite being considered a case of success in the continent in terms of socioeconomic development and democratic resilience, has faced recurrent difficulties regarding financing and capacity-building of its security forces, which, added to the fact that the archipelago is located in the route between Latin America and West Africa, makes the country extremely appealing for drug traffickers.
Cape Verde’s increasing relevance in the expansion of drug trafficking led to the inauguration in 2010 of the Maritime Security Operations Center (COSMAR) in the country’s capital, Praia. Financed by the US, COSMAR enables a more efficient collaboration between national agencies responsible for monitoring and controlling illicit activities along the territory. It facilitates the planning of joint operations with other nations. Among other benefits, COSMAR provides access to radar and satellite images. This is the second such center in Africa, the other being based in Morocco and focused on the Mediterranean region. Cape Verde’s choice to be the host for COSMAR indicates the country’s increasing centrality in international drug trafficking routes.
Drug trafficking clearly undermines the rule of law. In a recent interview, Cape Verde’s ambassador to the UN, Fernando Wahnon, alluded to the threat represented by the spread of drug consumption in the country, and also the greater risk of corruption among the authorities. In his words: “These [criminal] organizations’ power of corruption is immense. In a vulnerable state such as Cape Verde [criminal organizations] threaten the rule of law and the institutions themselves”.
Therefore, it is clear that Cape Verde’s democratic institutions must be robustly supported. Under this line of thought, in 2005 Cape Verde became the third country to join the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US-backed programme aimed at promoting economic growth in countries that abide by certain criteria of good governance. Cape Verde also managed to become the first African country to complete the programme, and in 2012 signed a second governance pact.
Often regarded as a democratic example in the continent, Cape Verde has been a relevant vector in Washington’s strategy for the region’s security and stability. Of equal importance, it is considered an important piece in the US campaign against international terrorism. The small African archipelago is not only a center of stability in a volatile region, but also enjoys a strategic location in the South Atlantic. To lose Cape Verde to drug trafficking would be a strategic nightmare for the US and Europe.
Coincidence or not, the new US ambassador to Cape Verde, Donald L. Heflin, previously served as the first official and general-consul at the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo. Located in the border with the US, Nuevo Laredo is known for the drug trafficking and bloody clashes between rival drug cartels. Heflin also held high positions in Africa. However, it is his experience in Nuevo Laredo that makes his nomination to Cape Verde an interesting development. In his testimony to the Senate, Heflin could not have been clearer: “The United States and Cabo Verde are partners on a number of important matters. Among them, maritime security and transnational crime are key. The Government of Cabo Verde strongly supports counter-narcotics maneuvers and is a gracious host to U.S. ship visits. Cabo Verde is a model in the region for strategic partnership”.
As Fernando Wahnon affirmed, “Cape Verde’s inability to monitor its economic zone lures organized crime”. Without means and resources “it would be impossible to do it alone.” He concluded that in order to “try to overcome the difficulties [it is necessary] to initiate joint operations with other countries”. In the absence of support programmes for maritime monitoring (COSMAR) and socioeconomic development (MCC), Cape Verde would possibly place its democratic regime and rule of law at risk. That does not necessarily mean that the island nation will follow in the footsteps of neighboring Guinea-Bissau. Nonetheless, it is important not to let everything that was achieved in recent years go to waste due to drug trafficking.
Like the US, Portugal should strengthen cooperation with Cape-Verdean authorities in the fight against drug trafficking. The new Indicative Cooperation Programme (ICP) 2015/2017, which will soon be signed by both countries, will surely reflect this.

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Angola’s role in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a unique opportunity

(Ifoto/Village Urugwiro)

(Ifoto/Village Urugwiro)

Angola has for the second time in its history secured a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). In all likelihood, the 2015/2016 mandate will grant Luanda a more active voice in the defense of national interests, in particular on matters related to the Gulf of Guinea and the Great Lakes. It is also worth noting that in January 2014 Angola assumed the rotating presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The simultaneous presence in the UNSC and ICGLR adds greater diplomatic visibility and represents a relevant window of opportunity. If Angola’s interests over the Gulf of Guinea generically fall on commercial and economic matters, driven by the threat posed by the piracy phenomena, those related to the Great Lakes region have a more multidimensional nature, making this region of tantamount strategic importance.
Recent events in the Great Lakes region, namely the UN offensive approach against rebels in eastern DRC – in 2013 the UN mission’s mandate in the east of the country was extended and an unprecedented “intervention brigade” was created through Resolution 2098 – mean that presence in the UNSC and the ICGLR presidency places Luanda at the front line of security-related matters concerning Kinshasa. In fact, the Angolan president, José Eduardo dos Santos, has a clear notion of the danger and threat posed by a weak and insecure DRC government, and he knows the need for an active role in the fight against the rebels is of vital importance.
On October 20, 2014, Luanda hosted a ministerial defense meeting between the CIRGL and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). One of the focal points was the progress in the disarmament process of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group active in the east of the DRC and comprised of mostly ethnic Hutu Rwandans, many of whom were involved in the 1994 genocide. Considering the slow progress, the ministers reiterated the need for military action in case the January 2015 deadline is not obeyed. Given Angola’s interests in the country, and the leading role in the ICGLR and UNSC, it is worth asking: What would be Luanda’s role in a military intervention?
The recent strengthening of bilateral relations between Angola and Rwanda should in theory allow for a quick understanding over a joint military action. This is in fact crucial since both countries are two of the most militarily capable nations in the region and, equally important, with probably the greatest interest in the rebel group’s elimination. Moreover, joint action would substantially increase the mission’s military, logistical, financial and material capabilities, at the same time guaranteeing better preparation over the stabilization process in a post-FDLR scenario.
Conversely, in the absence of a regional military intervention it is highly likely that Rwanda will initiate a unilateral operation in eastern DRC. Under this scenario, the resulting instability would have negative implications for regional cooperation, and it would also represent a step back in the ongoing deepening of relations between Kigali and Kinshasa. Luanda’s aim of regional stability would be severely hampered.
The prompt launch of an eventual military operation is contingent on political will and also on strong leadership of a government that is committed to putting pressure on regional actors. Equally relevant is the fact that the intervention will in principle have the support of the international community, which until recently had failed to undertake concrete and concerted actions aimed at tackling instability in the DRC. On the one hand, international support provides international legitimacy to the military intervention while, on the other hand, it goes along with the aim of securing “African solutions for African problems”. This is therefore a significant opportunity for the continent in the sense that it represents a milestone in emancipating itself from external meddling.
In the event of intervention and the suppression of the FDLR, Luanda would emerge as a key-actor in the mediation and resolution of conflicts in the African continent. Nevertheless, Angola’s gains are not limited to this. In fact, Luanda’s goal of diversifying the Angolan economy relies on stability in the DRC. The railway that connects the Lobito port in Angola’s Atlantic coast to the border with the DRC may turn out to be a strategic means of transport for the outflow of minerals sourced in the Congolese eastern province of Katangafamous for its vast cobalt and copper deposits. In other words, apart from security challenges, greater instability in eastern DRC will clash with Luanda’s economic interests and plans.
Furthermore, regional stability does not only depend on military campaigns to tackle rebel groups. The reintegration of thousands of Rwandan FDLR fighters is vital for the sustainability of the DRC’s peace and stability. Such a task will be hard and complex to undertake. Nonetheless, Angola may play an important part in the process. Authorities in Luanda can collaborate with their Rwandan counterparts in adapting the reintegration programme of former Angolan fighters to the FDLR context. Accordingly, Luanda has a unique opportunity to leave its mark, not only as a central actor in the suppression of rebel groups, but also in the reintegration of former fighters. It is exactly in this role as peace and security provider in the region where Angola may take the greatest advantages and benefits of its presence in the UNSC.

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Angola’s economy grows, but what about the poor? | Southern Africa

Although Angola’s economy grew by 5.1 percent in 2013, making the Southern African country one of the world’s fastest growing economies, ordinary Angolans have seen little change in their standard of living.

As major public infrastructure investments in energy and transport kick in, Angloa’s growth is projected to reach 7.9% in 2014 and 8.8% in 2015. Yet, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that around 36% of Angolans live below the poverty line and one in every four people is unemployed.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Angola is a “post conflict country that produces a lot of oil and faces the challenges of both.”

Despite being the fifth largest economy in Africa, ordinary Angolans have seen little change in their standard of living. Only 37.8% of country’s 21 million people have access to electricity. While about half of the population has access to safe drinking water, this number falls to 34% in rural areas, says the World Bank. There are few jobs for the unemployed, mostly under 25 years, who make up 60% of the population.

What should Angola do to change the current situation? Analysts say the solution is for Angola to diversify its economy, save and invest for the future — especially in skills and infrastructure development — and improve governance.


Angola: already invests more than it receives

Angola is fast becoming a strategic actor in sub-Saharan Africa and is seeking to expand its interest outside the continent. Portugal and other lusophone countries are the prime targets.

The large size of Angolan investments abroad, namely in Portugal, is already reflected in the country’s statistics, which showed that in 2013 Angola was the only country in Africa that made more investments than those it received from abroad.

Angolan state oil company Sonangol has spearheaded Angolan investments abroad in recent years, notably in the energy sector in Portugal (Galp Energia), Brazil (oil exploration), Sao Tome and Principe and Cape Verde (fuel distribution and logistics). Some of the latest investments include banking, Sonangol being the main shareholder of the largest Portuguese private bank, Millennium bcp, as it recently accompanied a capital increase involving investment of almost 435 million euros, according to the Africa Intelligence Monitor.

More recently, Angolan private groups have begun to take an interest in the construction and banking sectors, especially in Portugal, with businesswoman Isabel dos Santos leading the way. The daughter of President José Eduardo dos Santos, listed by Forbes magazine as the first African female billionaire, shares control of Portuguese telecommunications operator Nos, with Portugal’s largest private group Sonae, is one of the largest shareholders of Banco BPI and continues to increase her investments. In addition, Angolan businesspeople have taken stakes in the media sector, as is the case of António Mosquito in the Controlinveste group and Álvaro Sobrinho in weekly newspaper Sol and, now, in daily newspaper “I”.

Guinea-Bissau: Indjai exonerated and Nan Tan takes over



This week has been rich in surprising but nonetheless good news.

First, the Guinea-Bissau army chief of staff behind the 2012 coup and other equally damaging developments in the country, Antonio Indjai, was exonerated by a Presidential decree. Yesterday, Biaguê Nan Tan, a discreet member of Guinea-Bissau’s armed forces, and also a ethnic Balanta like his predecessor, was appointed to the position.

Said to be close to the recently elected President of Guinea-Bissau, José Mário Vaz, Nan Tan was a United Nations military observer in Angola, in 1995, and took part in joint operations with 12 regional countries plus France, Russia and England. He is always a former deputy-chief of the army.

During the take-over ceremony, Nan Tan  affirmed that under his command the Armed Forces will respect the Constitution and be subordinated to the democratically elected political establishment.  Nan Tan also affirmed that one of the main aims of his mandate will be to organize the Armed Forces and prepare the youths that in the future will take up the task to run the country’s military establishment.

These are indeed good news. However, one must wonder what will happen with the military nomenclature that, alongside Indjai, took part in the Guinea-Bissau’s troubling recent history. Will they remain in their positions as not to initiate a potentially dangerous revolution in the Armed Forces? Probably.

Nonetheless, it is obvious that these individuals deserve at least the same treatment as Mr. Indjai, if not something worse such as legal prosecution. But for this to happen it is first necessary that the main culprit, Indjai, is taken to justice and face the consequences for his actions. This might turn out to be hard to implement: during the ceremony President José Mário Vaz said words of appreciation directed to Antonio Indjai, which may mean that the newly democratically elected political power may be willing to temper any possible source of tensions, worried about the potential consequences of legal actions being taken against the former head of the army and his circle.

Angola: Towards Supremacy in Sub-Saharan Africa?


Headed since independence by the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), the Angolan government has pursued domestic goals, such as internal security and stability. During the Cold War, the government in Luanda allocated disproportionate resources to its foreign relations in a way to engage external allies in its favor and help Angola overcome the challenges across the volatile borders. Support from Cuba and the Soviet Union proved crucial for MPLA survival. On the other hand, support by the United States, Namibia and South Africa to the rebel União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), posed a serious challenge to the MPLA regime.

The aftermath of the USSR demise in the early 1990’s and the end of the Angolan civil war in 2002 drove the MPLA-led regime to adjust its foreign relations to changed domestic, regional and international dynamics. Changes in the neighborhood’s political environment – namely in former Zaire, Namibia, the Republic of Congo, and South Africa – deprived Angola’s rebels of fundamental support, meaning that the MPLA was free to consolidate its power and build foundations capable of delivering rapid economic growth, political stability and social cohesion. As part of the changed dynamics, Angola boosted its engagement with China so as to take advantage of the country’s economic growth and hunger for resources. China provided large quantities of capital and specialized labor that Angola desperately needed for its post-war reconstruction, and also to achieve high levels of economic growth. Unlike the West, China does not require good governance and transparency as a condition for economic cooperation and investment, a fact that eased and accelerated this relationship.

The MPLA regime has to satisfy Angolan’s desire for economic growth and development, as well as the patronage system at the core of political stability, if it is to maintain social cohesion and the political status quo. If protests and opposition rallies, driven by popular dissatisfaction towards the authoritarian and corrupt nature of the regime, gain strength and become more frequent, it will endanger the country’s stability and possibly threaten the regime’s survival. In order to prevent domestic pressures from escalating into wider instability1 the government has to create jobs, expand its economic and political clout throughout Africa, and engage with more mature democracies – namely in the West – as a way of satisfying domestic demands for less corruption, better governance, and greater transparency.2 With these goals in mind, Luanda has engaged in an active and constructive foreign policy, alongside a resilient economic expansion strategy.

Angola’s Economic Potential as a Foreign Policy Vehicle

Oil production comprises 95% of Angola’s exports, 46% of the country’s GDP, and 80% of government revenues.3 In less than a decade, Angola’s oil revenues transformed a war-torn African country into an economic power that intends to parlay growth into socioeconomic development and become less vulnerable to external shocks. With this in mind, the government has initiated attempts to diversify the economy, which is today the most concentrated economy in the world in terms of exports, after Iraq.4 Agriculture, which employs two-thirds of the population, is one of the targeted sectors. The country has 35 million hectares of arable land, of which only five million are currently under cultivation.5 The mineral sector, on the other hand, is seen as a potential major source of revenue and with great job creation prospects. Also, diamond mining accounts for 5% of GDP. The government wants to increase diamond production by up to 5%, encourage local stone-polishing, and create a jewelry market.6

The Angolan government is also looking to expand its presence towards the mineral riches in the Great Lakes and Southern Africa region, which implies rivaling South Africa. South Africa has setup a transport and supply network encompassing Botswana, the DRC, Zambia and Zimbabwe, making these countries reliant on the port of Durban to export their mineral output. In face of this challenge, Angola is developing new infrastructure that may change transportation across Southern Africa. A deepwater port at Lobito with a new bulk ore terminal has been rebuilt, a 200,000 barrel-a day oil refinery is being set up, and a railway system that will link the Atlantic coast of Angola to the eastern border – which is projected to reach the mineral-rich Katanga province, in the DRC, and the copperbelt province, in Zambia – has been reopened.7

In fact, the re-opened 1,344-kilometer Caminho de Ferro de Benguela (CFB) is the shortest rail line connecting Congolese mining interests to international markets. China has invested US$6 billion in the 600-kilometer rail from the Katanga province to the border town of Dilolo where it will link with the CFB.8 Furthermore, in Zambia the construction of a railway connecting the rich copperbelt province to the CFB is expected to start before the end of 2014.9 Lobito will therefore become the logical place to export minerals from Zambia and the DRC, placing Angola on the right path to create its own mineral trade network and allowing the country to compete with South Africa in the lucrative sector. Going forth, Angola is also attempting to project its oil-producing capacity onto its neighborhood. In April 2012, Luanda and Lusaka signed a US$2.5 billion dollar Memorandum of Understanding for the construction of a 1,400-kilometer petroleum pipeline to connect Lobito to the Zambian capital, which is slated for completion in 2016.10 Adding to this, in 2013 Luanda committed itself to supply Zambia with refined petroleum products.11

Luanda does not limit its actions to the Great Lakes region and Southern Africa. The Gulf of Guinea is a major shipping transit region for world trade that is also rich in natural resources. Angola has been investing in the Gulf countries – particularly in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and São Tomé e Príncipe – in areas such as infrastructures, mining and oil exploration, in a way to boost its influence across this strategic area. In 2012 Sonangol bought 51% of São Tomé’s airline, STP. Angola has also opened a US$180 million credit line to São Tomé and has a participation in the country’s fuel, ports and airports sectors.12 Furthermore, in 2011 Angola and the Republic of Congo signed an agreement for the joint-exploration of oil and gas in the Lianzi field, which is located within the two countries’ maritime borders. Negotiations are still ongoing and exploration is expected to begin in 2015.13 Luanda’s support for Guinea-Bissau’s security sector reform (SSR) and fragile government, prior to the 2012 coup, was largely aimed at guaranteeing bauxite exploration projects owned by a Sonangol subsidiary and resurrecting the strategic port of Buba, through which the mineral would be shipped onto international markets.14 Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy and oil producer, is one of Angola’s greatest competitors, alongside South Africa. West Africa, which is Abuja’s main sphere of influence, encompasses Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and São Tomé, overlapping with Luanda’s own interests. To Angola’s benefit, Nigeria, which faces a number of internal threats, has failed to add political stability and social cohesion to economic growth. Luanda can therefore expand its interests across West African countries, capitalizing on Nigeria’s change of focus to national problems and consequent diminishing intervention in regional affairs. Instability in Nigeria may also drive foreign investments to focus on other African markets, of which Angola is one of the most attractive. In addition, despite obstacles to increasing oil production in the near term, Luanda may become sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil producer by 2020.15

Economic diversification and expansion of Luanda’s economic sphere will not only spur economic growth, create jobs and feed private ambitions, but also provide Angola with the chance to go beyond the status of important petro-partner16 and gain greater leverage to project influence across borders. Oil will play an increasing role in promoting Luanda’s rise, namely through the national oil company Sonangol, the country’s foreign policy spearhead. In fact, Luanda’s financial liquidity is a powerful soft power tool, meaning that strong economic participation in other African countries allows the Angolan regime to have a say in their national politics, in particular whenever Luanda’s interests are ignored or violated.

Still, Luanda needs hard power to achieve regional prominence. To that end, the country is asserting itself as a military player in an Africa that lacks professional and capable national armed forces. Driven by oil revenues, Luanda’s military budget has surpassed that of South Africa, leaping 175% since 2004. Angola has become the largest military spender in sub-Saharan Africa.17 Considering the huge investment in military capacity and Luanda’s historical use of its armed forces as a foreign policy tool to project the country’s influence and power,18 one might expect occasional action when the country’s interests are threatened.

In order for all of Luanda’s projects and ambitions to become reality it is imperative that Angola does the utmost to build rapport with its neighbors, while also guaranteeing peace and stability across the region. With this in mind, Luanda should promote cultural and commercial interactions between border communities, foment positive and constructive official engagement with other countries’ authorities – either bilaterally or within the aegis of regional organizations –, and show active commitment to strengthen the region’s security environment. Angola’s porous and volatile borders need to be secured, and that can only be achieved via a ‘good neighborhood policy’. In brief, a policy focused on promoting a good neighborhood is the pillar that sustains Angola’s ambitions and prevents the country’s rising edifice from crumbling.

The Assertion of a Committed African Leadership

In January 2014, President José Eduardo dos Santos took over the biennial presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), promising to work “for peace, stability and economic and social development”.19 A few weeks later, in a visit to the ICGLR’s headquarters in Burundi, Angolan Minister of Foreign Affairs Georges Chikoti announced the release of funds aimed at making the ICGLR more efficient and proactive. Also relevant was the visit to Luanda, in February 2014, by UN Secretary-General Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region Mary Robinson following a meeting with DRC President, Joseph Kabila, in Kinshasa. The visit to the DRC took place when of the announcement of a Presidential amnesty to the M23 former rebels. In Luanda, Robinson expressed satisfaction at the meeting with President José Eduardo dos Santos, in his capacity as chair of the ICGLR, and over his commitment to actively support regional peace and stability.20 Catherine Samba-Panza, interim President of the Central African Republic (CAR), visited Luanda in May 2014 with the aim of guaranteeing aid and support for the conflict-ridden country. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding whereby Luanda pledged US$10 million in humanitarian aid and support to the country’s security forces and new political authorities.21 Later, in June 2014 President José Eduardo dos Santos called for the international community to strengthen humanitarian aid and deploy a peacekeeping force to the CAR, in line with the Security Council’s resolution.22 Around the same time, the Angolan President summoned two important African politicians to Luanda in order to discuss ways to strengthen security in the region: Denis Sassou-Nguesso, head of the Libreville Accord Follow-up Committee for peace and stability in the CAR, and Idriss Déby Itno, chairman of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).23

Luanda knows that instability in the neighboring DRC may trigger new threats. Considering this, Luanda has engaged with key regional actors. In May Rwanda, which has regularly intervened in eastern DRC in order to suppress threats to its own stability and security, signed a cooperation framework with Angola that aims to defuse tensions and improve bilateral relations. Presidents José Eduardo dos Santos and Paul Kagame expressed their commitment to regional peace.24 The following day Angola and Uganda signed agreements aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation. The two sides also analyzed the security situation in the region with particular attention given to the M23 amnesty issue.25 Later in July, foreign and defense ministers of the ICGLR and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met in Luanda and agreed to suspend military operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group operating in eastern Congo, for six months. Behind this decision is the intention to give the group more time to disarm.26 However, it is uncertain if international military action will be authorized in the event the group refuses to disarm.

Furthermore, although tensions in the oil-rich Cabinda enclave – the source of 65% of Angola’s oil production – are currently low, Luanda has engaged with neighboring countries in an attempt to minimize the prospects of a cross border crisis in the area. Angola and the Republic of Congo, on the one hand, agreed on the creation of two sub-commissions aimed at the attainment of better security and control of common maritime, fluvial and land boundary limits, alongside the oil and gas exploration deal mentioned earlier.27 Conversely, Luanda and Kinshasa have failed to reach a similar agreement over the region where Cabinda’s oil-blocks are located, the likes of which seriously restrict the DRC’s access to the sea. So, despite mutual recognition that an agreement is needed, rival demands have impeded it.28

Growing maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea calls for Luanda’s readiness to use military force, while requiring a committed engagement among regional countries, with an eye toward guaranteeing an unrestricted trade flow and, therefore, safeguarding Angolan oil exports – Angola, the second main oil exporter in the Gulf after Nigeria, relies on the Gulf to export its oil production onto international markets. Cooperation within the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) – headquartered in Luanda29 – is therefore of vital importance. Luanda, as one of the most capable military powers in the region, can promote the GGC as a bridge between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and ECCAS, strengthening a comprehensive regional strategy that encourages the countries to act together. Overall, to devise a common agenda is of fundamental importance if regional instability is to be addressed.

A Point of Convergence for International Interests in the Region

Luanda’s scope of action is not limited to the Great Lakes, Southern Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. In fact, the MPLA has been widening alliances with a diverse array of non-African countries. Such geopolitical interaction reflects Luanda’s intention to attain greater international prestige, attract foreign investment and skilled workers, assert itself as an economic gateway to the region, and enter non-African markets. In short, Luanda is seeking to influence international engagement with the continent. The other side of the spectrum juggles between expanding commercial ties and promoting the region’s security environment as a means to advance their interests in the region. Angola has become a vital partner for those international actors seeking to have a stake in the promising African continent.

China’s strategy to Africa is exclusively aimed at reaching new markets and opportunities. In fact, Luanda is poised to be a major broker for China’s expansion in the Great Lakes region. In May 2014, just three days after a US delegation left the country, a Chinese delegation arrived in Angola to discuss cooperation agreements in the areas of infrastructure construction, agriculture and support for more Chinese investment.30 Concerning Brazil, the country’s interest in Angola falls mostly on strengthening economic cooperation, while not disregarding security in the region. Recently, the opening of a sixth credit line raised total of loans to Angola to US$7.83 billion.31 And apart from economic goals, in 2013 Angola and Brazil signed a military cooperation agreement aimed at developing the country’s armed forces and promote security across the South Atlantic. In addition, six military planes were already delivered and Brazilian authorities are analyzing the possibility of transferring technology to reduce Angola’s reliance on the exterior in terms of weaponry and logistics.32

Portugal’s strategy regarding Angola goes in line with that of Brazil. Portuguese private investment in Angola, in terms of small and medium enterprises, now only trails that of China. Nevertheless, Luanda is reversing the game by taking advantage of the economic and financial crisis in Portugal. Angola has already invested between €10 and €15 billion in Portugal, in areas as diverse as media, banking, building and agriculture.33 As a result, Luanda has found a gateway to the European market. Moreover, both countries maintain technical-military cooperation that focuses on training, logistical and administrative support to Angolan armed forces. The cooperation has allowed for the professionalization of the Angolan army and contributed to the subordination of the Angolan armed forces to political power.34 Both countries are in the process of expanding cooperation to areas such as communications, information systems, and maritime and coastal control.35 Conversely, other countries are as much committed to advancing economic interests as to promoting security. In fact, for them these are deeply interdependent. In a trip to Angola this year, US Secretary of State John Kerry commended President José Eduardo dos Santos on his engagement in the peace process in the Great Lakes region. Bilateral trade, cooperation, human rights and good governance were also discussed. Kerry noted the role that Angola – one of America’s three strategic military partners in Africa, alongside Nigeria and South Africa – may have in promoting security in the region, in particular regarding the potential airlift of troops to CAR.36 President José Eduardo dos Santos has also been to France to promote Angola as a prime destination for trade and investment. During the visit, France, which has vital strategic interests in the Great Lakes region, recognized Angola as a regional anchor for peace and security. The two also discussed possible joint action in conflict resolution in Africa.37 Finally, Angola is regarded by Russian leaders as a strategic partner. Russia has provided support to modernize the Angolan armed forces, and both countries are also discussing ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation, including in the transport sector, staff training, and recognition of university diplomas.38

Despite playing a small role historically in peacekeeping missions, Luanda’s potential in mediating conflicts and promoting stability is widely recognized. As a matter of fact, the deployment of Angola’s capable armed forces to regional crisis zones promises tangible benefit to the international community. On the one hand, Angolan military action would compensate for the lack of men on the ground, in theory making international peacekeeping operations more capable, as it is often difficult to find countries willing to make troops and other military resources swiftly available. In addition, the West – namely France and the US – would also see a considerable share of the burden taken off its back. On the other hand, an ‘African solution for African problems’ would be attained, making accusations of western meddling less likely to be made. However, in a recent interview, the Angolan Minister of Foreign Affairs rejected the idea of deployment of Angolan troops to CAR.39 This position suggests that President José Eduardo dos Santos is unwilling to deploy the Angolan army under foreign command.

A Prudent, but Potentially Decisive, Regional Stabilizer

Unilateral Angolan intervention in crisis areas should not be ruled out because it is in Luanda’s strategic interests to guarantee peace and security inland and at sea. Yet, any joint African intervention is contingent on the protracted establishment of the African Standby Force (ASF) and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis (ACIRC), the likes of which are expected to be launched by 2015 and October 2014, respectively.40 Equally relevant is cooperation within the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) in terms of promoting security and stability. Despite being relatively active in the area of capacity building, the organization still lacks an institutionalized military cooperation, i.e. peacekeeping operations, that would propel its importance in the international arena. Although an institutionalized military cooperation within the CPLP will hardly materialize in the short-term, its potential should not be discounted. Portuguese-speaking countries not only have deep cultural and political ties, which in principle could ease consensus and cooperation, but they also share strategic interests in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, the CPLP comprises some of the world’s fastest growing economies – namely Angola, Brazil and Mozambique –, a fact that may enable the organization to play, in the foreseeable future, an increasingly important role in the continent’s economic and political environment. With this in mind, Angola can spearhead the development of CPLP’s capacity to promote security and stability, especially in Guinea-Bissau and around the Gulf of Guinea, and thus advance its national interests on another front.

Considering the likelihood that Angola will deploy troops on the ground soon is low, and finding ‘African solutions for African problems’ is a way off, the most efficient way to address instability in the region would be to draw on Angola’s post-war experience. Despite a 27-year civil war, Angola managed to become an African powerhouse and place itself among the most stable and peaceful countries in the continent. Inclusion of former opposition fighters into the government and economic sphere drove this success, and led to reconciliation. Even despite some setbacks in delivering on a few promises to former civil war fighters,41 few other African countries managed to be as effective in the armed forces’ transition as Angola.42 Over and above, a victor’s justice43 was never applied in Angola, in contrast to what happened in other post-war scenarios in Africa.

Angola is one of the few African countries that has managed to achieve high levels of financial liquidity – derived from oil revenues – while maintaining internal stability. Such an achievement provides Luanda with enough leeway to support other countries in need. That financial liquidity can be applied along the lines of the support given to the CAR, and also to make regional organizations more efficient and to contribute for the swift establishment of an African intervention force. Clearly, the task to stabilize troubled countries can be made easier if regional actors get together and actively commit to addressing instability. Considering this, Luanda can use its growing influence in the region to try to find a consensus that may serve all key regional actors. In fact, a consensus aimed at improving the political and security environment in the region is likely to have greater success if attained under the umbrella of regional organizations.

The Angolan regime may play an additional role in promoting stability. Using its growing status as an African powerhouse, and as a major economic and security partner, Luanda can push for the region’s interests in the international scene. That can be done without disregarding the principle of ‘finding African solutions for African problems’. Organizations like the World Bank, which had an important participation in Angola’s post-war reconciliation, can interact with Africa in an active manner, but according to regional dynamics and driven by African interests. In addition, a successful bid to join the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for the 2015-2016 period will certainly give Luanda greater leverage within the international community to promote Angola’s interests, and hence those of the region and the continent.44


Angola’s remarkable post-war recovery and reconciliation, coupled with an immense oil wealth, was ingeniously transformed into an incisive and constructive foreign policy that, above all, aims at maintaining internal stability, both among the general population and the patronage system that has supported the regime. Internal stability is largely contingent on socio-economic development, job creation, economic diversification and economic expansion towards foreign markets. Still, Luanda has realized that economic power alone will not suffice. In order to guarantee internal stability, Luanda needs to minimize instability on its borders and in the region more broadly. Therefore, for Angola it is essential to go beyond projecting economic and political influence abroad, and accumulate hard power. In other words, soft power is a tool that can only yield results when backed up by hard power – military might and economic heft.

Angola’s oil-fed military investment drive has given rise to one of the most capable armed forces in sub-Saharan Africa, alongside Nigeria and South Africa. Having Angola’s hard power in consideration, President José Eduardo dos Santos’ ICGLR chairmanship and leading role in the GGC have been widely recognized by African and non-African actors as key to the region’s peace and stability. In particular, the acknowledgement that troubled countries in the Great Lakes can draw on Angola’s post-war experience as a model to follow, and also that the Gulf of Guinea can benefit from having Angola’s capable armed forces at its core, so as to assure smooth trade flows and overall security. Luanda now has enough interest and sway in the region to promote regional joint initiatives to foster peace, security and stability.

Such a capable country stands at the forefront of those entities with which international actors have to interact so as to better advance and protect their own interests in the continent. Hence, Angola has become a major partner that has to be engaged on any sort of matter in the region of the Great Lakes, Southern Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. Luanda’s rise in the region, in Africa, and on the international scene is certain. Notwithstanding, one should bear in mind that President José Eduardo dos Santos may be nearing the end of his 34-year rule, a fact that will possibly originate internal power disputes and even opposition-led social upheaval that may threaten the regime, and thus undermine the stable path that the country has taken since the end of the civil war.


  1. The political opposition has increasingly been protesting against the government’s violence and detention of opposition activists. See “Angola: Repressão Violenta de Protesto da Oposição” (Human Rights Watch, 26 November 2013) and “Angola” (Human Rights Watch).
  2. The West can equally provide investment, skills and know-how, all of which contribute to the realization of Angola’s ambition of becoming an African powerhouse.
  3. “Angola” (African Economic Outlook).
  4. “Angola Economic Update” (World Bank).
  5. “Angola with 35-million hectare arable surface” (Agência Angola Press, 18 November 2013).
  6. “Angola seeks to diversify its economy by developing mining sector” (Mining Weekly, 6 September 2013). 7 For a thorough analysis of the subject see “Angola’s Chinese-built rail link and the scramble to access the region’s resources” (Wits China-Africa Reporting Project, 26 February 2014).
  7. Ibid.
  8. “Grindrod, Northwest Rail Company team up on Zambian rail prospect” (Engineering News, 14 February 2014) 10 “Zambia and Angola sign $2.5bn Oil deal” (Lusaka Times, 16 April 2012)..
  9. “Angola fornece combustíveis à Zâmbia” (Jornal de Angola, 12 December 2013).
  10. “Angola boosts its influence in Sao Tome and Principe with credit line” (Macauhub, 27 January 2014).
  11. “Angola e Congo exploram petróleo” (Jornal de Angola, 6 June 2014).
  12. See “Guinea-Bissau Coup Puts Angolan Investments at Risk” (Think Africa Press, 13 April 2012).
  13. “Angola May Miss 2015 Oil-Output Target, Wood Mackenzie Says” (Bloomberg, 7 May 2014).
  14. Angola is China’s second largest crude-oil supplier, behind Saudi Arabia, while the European Union, the United
  15. States and India are also major oil clients. See “Angola” (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 5 February 2014). 17 See Sam Perlo-Freeman and Carina Solmirano, “Trends in world military expenditure, 2013” (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 14 April 2014).
  16. In 1998, Angolan troops intervened in the DRC’s conflict in support of President Laurent Kabila’s fight against the Tutsi rebels. Angolan authorities feared that if the Congolese rebels toppled the government they would provide support to rebel UNITA.
  17. “Angolan President takes up ICGLR chair” (Agência Angola Press, 15 January 2014).
  18. “President, UN Envoy discuss situation in Great Lakes region” (Agência Angola Press, 18 February 2014).
  19. “Angola, CAR sign legal instruments for bilateral cooperation” (Agência Angola Press, 5 March 2014).
  20. “Security Council Authorizes United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Central African
  21. “Republic” (United Nations Security Council, 10 April 2014)
  22. “Dos Santos garante atenção especial a situação na RCA” (Rádio Nacional de Angola, 6 June 2014).
  23. “Rwanda, Angola sign cooperation framework” (The New Times, 16 May 2014).
  24. “Uganda and Angola sign two major agreements” (Republic of Uganda Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 May 2014).26 Since having agreed to disarm, in May 2014, only 200 fighters out of around 1,500 have done so. See “African nations give rebels in Congo six months to disarm” (Reuters, 3 July 2014).
  25. 27 “Angola e Congo-Brazzaville garantem melhor segurança da fronteira comum” (Agência Angola Press, 16 June 2014). 28 “Angola e República Democrática do Congo debatem remarcação de fronteiras marítimas” (Observatório dos Países de Língua Oficial Portuguesa, 20 August 2012).
  26. The GCC was established with the purpose of managing threats and concerns common to the region in the particular domain of maritime security.
  27. “China’s Li Pledges to Boost Investment in Angola During Visit” (Bloomberg, 9 May 2014).
  28. “Brazil offers Angola $2 billion credit for energy, construction” (Reuters, 16 June 2014).
  29. “Ministros da Defesa de Angola e do Brasil assinam acordo de cooperação” (Observatório dos Países de Língua Oficial Portuguesa, 27 February 2013).
  30. “Portugal indebted to Angola after economic reversal of fortune” (The Guardian, 3 June 2014).
  31. See Pedro Seabra and Paulo Gorjão, “Intertwined Paths: Portugal and Rising Angola” (South African institute of International Affairs, 13 August 2011).
  32. “Portugal apresenta proposta de cooperação militar a Angola” (Observatório dos Países de Língua Oficial Portuguesa, 11 July 2013).
  33. See “Press Availability in Luanda, Angola” (S. Department of State, 5 May 2014) and “Angola” (United States Africa Command).
  34. “Angola-França: na procura da paz em África” (Radio France Internationale, 29 April 2014).
  35. See “Angola, Russia discuss military-technical cooperation” (Agência Angola Press, 28 March 2014) and “Angola and Russia sign Mutual Memorandum of Understanding” (Agência Angola Press, 8 April 2014).
  36. “George Chicoty, ministre angolais des affaires étrangères” (Radio France Internationale, 30 April 2014).
  37. “Concerns over readiness of new African strike force” (Mail & Guardian, 4 July 2014).
  38. “Ex-militares angolanos voltam às ruas em protesto” (Observatório dos Países de Língua Oficial Portuguesa, 10 August 2012).
  39. For further Reading on the subject see “Banco Mundial “satisfeito” com programa de reintegração de ex-militares” (Angonoticias, 7 July 2006), “Angola Overview” (World Bank) and “MDRP Final Report: Overview of Program Achievements” (Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program).
  40. For a thorough insight on the victor’s justice subject see Gary Jonathan Bass, “Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The
  41. Politics of War Crimes Tribunals” (Princeton University Press, 2000) and Victor Peskin, “Beyond Victor’s Justice? The Challenge of Prosecuting the Winners at the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda” (Journal of Human Rights, 16 August 2006).
  42. China, Russia, AU, SADC, and the CPLP have already declared their support for Angola’s bid. See “Angola confiante na eleição para o Conselho de Segurança da ONU” (Lusa via RTP, 17 June 2014) and “Angola seeks international support for Security Council” (Agência Angola Press, 27 September 2013).

Originally published in the Portuguese Journal of International Affairs – Portuguese Institute of International Relations and Security (IPRIS).

President Guebuza exonerates Mozambique’s Attorney General

Mozambican President, Armando Guebuza, has today (9 July) exonerated the country’s Attorney General.

The detention of Renamo’s speaker, António Muchanga, by national authorities is behind the decision. The Attorney General’s critics to the government’s arbitrary arrest worsened the already tense relations between him and President Guebuza, culminating in his exoneration

Are we witnessing the surge of a less tolerant Frelimo? Is this crackdown on opposition voices going to continue? What will be Renamos’s response? And what about that of other political movements, such as the MDM?

These are bad news for Mozambique’s fragile democracy.