Oil Abounds, Misery Too: A Case Study By RACHEL L.
This article from the New York times confirms what we already
oil wealth does not benefit the people; also that USA has become the
Angolan regime's biggest backer, and is not likely to change, or to demand
much more than the present quiet diplomacy requires.
Disturbing are the links of 2 of Bush's new cabinet Cheney and Rice to 2
big oil companies- Chevron and Halliburton who invest heavily in Angola.
Week in Review Desk; Section 4
Oil Abounds, Misery Too: A Case Study
By RACHEL L. SWARNS
The New York Times
Page 6, Column 4
c. 2001 New York Times Company
JOHANNESBURG -- EIGHT years ago, the United States established its first
embassy in Angola's crumbling capital, Luanda, and erected a small
bronze monument to mark the occasion. Coming after nearly a decade of
cold war hostilities, the modest gesture ushered in an extraordinary new
Today, the United States, which was spending some $60 million
to arm Angola's rebel group, known as Unita, in the late 1980's, is the
Angolan government's most powerful ally and the country's biggest
investor. And Angola is America's eighth largest supplier of oil.
Instead of bankrolling rebel tanks and AK-47's, Americans now
millions of dollars on aid intended to relieve suffering -- and on the
government's vast offshore oil fields.
Africa watchers say the attention, particularly to the oil
likely to continue under the Bush administration as oil prices rise and
demand for energy surges. Vice President-elect Dick Cheney ran the
Halliburton Company, a multinational energy corporation. Condoleezza
Rice, the pick for national security adviser, sat on the board of the
Chevron Corporation. Both oil companies have significant interests in
So why aren't the Angolans cheering?
The restive population is beginning to wonder how much the
actually benefited from one of the most intense relationships between a
sub-Saharan African nation and the world's remaining superpower. The
answer, unfortunately, is not very much.
Sixteen years after the United States began supplying annual military
aid to the rebels (it agreed to end it in 1991 with the withdrawal of
Cuban support for the government), most Angolans still live in desperate
poverty in a country plagued by corruption, human rights violations and
seemingly endless civil war.
In recent months, some human rights activists have praised the
States and the International Monetary Fund for quietly pressing the
Angolan government to reduce poverty, to repair shattered
infrastructure, to rescue the collapsing health and school systems and
to respect press freedoms.
For the first time, the government has also agreed to allow
auditors to examine how it spends its enormous oil revenues, which
critics allege have often ended up lining officials' pockets. If the
government keeps its commitments, it may actually have a shot at winning
low-interest loans from the I.M.F.
But in Angola, broken promises are as plentiful as the
offshore oil reserves. And America's choice of quiet diplomacy instead
of sharp, public condemnation of corruption and human rights abuses has
prompted priests, journalists and academics to argue that American
officials are as blinded by economic interests today as they once were
by the cold war.
And so, while other African countries cry out for Western
attention, some Angolans are warning that such attention is not always a
''The Angolan government and Unita have benefited from the
with the United States, but the Angolan people have yet to benefit,''
said Rafael Marques, a prominent Angolan human rights activist and
journalist who was jailed for criticizing the government of President
Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and whose passport was confiscated last month
when he tried to attend a conference in South Africa.
On a policy level, however, much has changed. And in many ways,
changing relationship with Angola reflects how dramatically American
policy toward Africa has shifted since the end of the cold war.
In 1985, when the Soviet Union and the United States were
battles across sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan, Somalia and Liberia topped the
list of America's direct aid recipients. None had a democratic
government. Today the leading recipients are all democracies -- Nigeria,
South Africa and Uganda. The Angolan rebels, led by Jonas Savimbi, who
abandoned two peace accords in 10 years, are pariahs.
And in official statements last year, the State Department made
of prodding Angola toward democracy, criticizing its government for
arresting and trying outspoken writers like Mr. Marques.
BUT even architects of America's Africa policy find it hard to
exactly how American engagement with Angola has benefited ordinary
people in recent years.
''The question of: Have Angolans benefited at all from the last
years in the process that's unfolded -- that's a hard question,'' said
J. Stephen Morrison, who left the State Department's policy planning
staff last year after four years of working on Africa policy.
''I don't think there's hard and fast proof that it has paid
said Mr. Morrison, who directs the Africa program at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington. ''I think what we've
done in the past few years is a defensible approach in an exceptionally
difficult situation. We will only know in time whether this kind of
engagement can deliver results.''
Mr. Morrison says America's oil interests in Angola do not play
primary role in policy making. But there is no doubt that the United
States will become increasingly dependent on West Africa for energy. In
a December report, the Central Intelligence Agency predicted that by
2015 North America will import 25 percent of its oil from West Africa
(up from 16 percent now), but that it was unlikely that the oil riches
would benefit the people of West Africa.
''The pattern of oil wealth fostering corruption rather than
development will continue,'' the C.I.A. report said.
Photo: A child leaves a sleeping spot in Luanda's sewers. (Joao
Silva/Sygma for The New York Times)
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