Recognizing Angola

June 03, 1993

The Clinton administration's recognition of the Angolan government of Jose Eduardo dos Santos may be correct policy but it is not shutting down that country's long civil war. After Angolan independence in 1976, Washington shunned the Luanda regime because it was Communist, unelected, not in control of all territory and dependent on Cuban troops. Ironically, Cuban troops defended American oil installations from the depredations of U.S-backed UNITA guerrillas.

Not much of this Cold War rationale was left after the Bush administration and the Gorbachev Kremlin put down their hatchets and the formerly Communist government of Mr. dos Santos won an election over a strong showing by the U.S.-backed UNITA of Jonas Savimbi. The regime still fails to control 75 percent of the national territory.

The election result required a run-off, but Mr. Savimbi welshed and restarted the civil war. Well armed and stockpiled, he has done rather well, even without the South African and U.S. and Zairean help he used to receive. The Angolan people suffer accordingly. U.S. recognition was delayed because American diplomats still hoped to influence Mr. Savimbi to participate, and because President Clinton has left much of his government in the hands of holdovers carrying out Bush policies.

The administration has sent Mr. Savimbi the right message by recognizing the dos Santos government. Nothing UNITA does in rebellion furthers U.S. interests. Mr. Clinton urged UNITA once again to accept a negotiated settlement and become part of the government. Instead, war rages on and U.N. peace-keeping is stymied. The Angolan regime is living up to its commitments, which justifies U.S. recognition but changes little on the battlefield.

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