The Once Violent Country of Angola

By: Douglas Scott

Angola harbours incredible riches of oil and diamonds yet remains close to the bottom of the Human Development Index. Emerging from a long period of civil war, the countrys leaders seem in no hurry to adopt standards of transparency and governance which might translate the booming economy into more determined reduction of extreme poverty and provision of basic healthcare.

Angola faces the daunting tasks of rebuilding its infrastructure, retrieving weapons from its heavily armed civilian population and resettling tens of thousands of refugees who fled the fighting. Landmines and impassable roads have cut off large parts of the country. Many Angolans rely on food aid.

Much of Angolas oil wealth lies in Cabinda province, where a decades long separatist conflict simmers. The government has sent thousands of troops to subdue the rebellion in the enclave, which has no border with the rest of Angola. Human rights groups have alleged abuses against civilians.

A supplier of crude oil to the US and China, Angola denies allegations that revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement. Oil exports and foreign loans have spurred economic growth and have fuelled a reconstruction boom.

A ceasefire was finally achieved in 2002, paving the way for a final political settlement and, in April 2003, the people and government of Angola celebrated their first year of continuous peace for more than a quarter of a century.

Although there is still some sporadic fighting, notably between government forces and separatist groups in the oil rich Cabinda enclave, most of the country has now embarked upon the monumental task of reconstruction.

Angola is slowly re emerging from decades of civil war, and adventurous travellers are beginning to tentatively discover its Portuguese architecture, seemingly never ending beaches and little visited wildlife parks.

Angola is one of the most exciting and least visited birding countries in Africa. Crammed into its generous borders is a multitude of habitats, deserts in the south west arid savannas in the south, mountains in the west, with associated Afromontane forests and grasslands, tropical lowland forest in the north and Cabinda, sub montane forest along the escarpment, and vast areas of broadleaved Miombo woodlands over most of the east.

It has a bird list of more than nine hundred and twenty species but there has been little ornithological activity for some thirty years. Sadly, a long running war and political instability have impacted habitat adversely as well as limiting opportunities for visiting birders.

With the war now ended, the situation is much improved and the African Bird Club ran a very successful flagship tour in conjunction with Birding Africa in October 2005.

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