The current population of Angola is estimated at 12 million with population density varying considerably between regions (Official website of the Angolan Government: http://www.angola.org/fastfacts/glance.html). The influx of war-displaced people from rural into urban areas has risen dramatically since the onset of the Second War: in 1995 it was estimated that 50 percent of the population lived in urban areas (UNDP, 1995). Angolas age distribution is typical of many developing countries, with an estimated 30 percent under the age of 10; 45 percent of the population under the age of 15 in 1993; and more than 50 percent under the age of 25 (OCHA, 2001). The sex distribution reflects regional differences with a large female surplus in most rural areas and a large male surplus in urban areas. Overall there are 92 men to every 100 women in Angola, but with the largest discrepancy occurring in the 20 - 24 age group where there are only 70 men to every 100 women (Tvedten, 1997). This is due to the mortality rate of young men killed in the war, and has led to an increasing number of female-headed households in the country.
The largest ethnolinguistic group in Angola are the Ovimbundu (language Umbundu), living in the Central Highlands in the interior of the country. The Mbundu (language Kimbundu) are the second largest group and live predominantly in the coastal regions around Luanda and the provinces of Malanje. The third largest ethnic group is the BaKongo (language Kikongo), settled in the north-western provinces that form a border with the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Congo. Smaller ethnolinguistic groups are the Lunda-Chokwe (language Chokwe) and the Nganguela (language Nganguela) and are located in a belt through several of the central provinces, including Huila and Huambo. Angolans of mestio and white (predominantly Portuguese) descent make up a small minority of the population (Official Angolan government website: http://www.angola.org/referenc/ethnicgrps.html).
Socio-economic impact of conflict
What impact have the wars had on the Angolan population? Angolan conditions fulfil most classical indicators of poverty and vulnerability, with a life expectancy at birth of only forty-five years, and 320 out of 1000 children dying before they reach the age of five (Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), 2001 http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/IdpProjectDb/idpSurvey.nsf/wCountries/Angola). In 1999 UNICEF described Angola as the country whose children are at greatest risk of death, malnutrition, abuse and development failure (OCHA, 2001), leading many organisations to conclude that Angola is the worst place in the world in which to be a child (NRC, 2001). Malnutrition rates amongst children are high: according to government statistics 35 percent of the countrys children are malnourished, with rates as high as 46 percent recorded amongst infants amongst the war-displaced in provinces such as Bi (OCHA, 2001).
No aspect of life has been left unaffected by the four decades of war. The countrys infrastructure has been severely damaged through the destruction of roads, buildings, airports, harbours, water supply systems, telecommunications and electricity systems (Cravinho, 1998). An estimated 80 percent of all schools have been destroyed or abandoned during the last three decades of war, and while school buildings are being rehabilitated by local and foreign organisations, the impact on the educational system has been severe (Tvedten, 1997). NRC (2001 http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/IdpProjectDb/idpSurvey.nsf/wCountries/Angola) estimates that 70 percent of first grade-aged children failed to enter school in the year 2000 due to a lack of resources and facilities. Of those who do enter the educational system, currently two thirds do not reach their fifth year of schooling. Illiteracy levels are high amongst children and adults, with approximately 54 percent of adult women and 46 percent of adult men being illiterate. Education received less than 2 percent of the governments public expenditure during the year 2000 (NRC, 2001 http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/IdpProjectDb/idpSurvey.nsf/wCountries/Angola).
The public health system seriously deteriorated following the outbreak of Angolas Third War, with the destruction of clinics and hospitals, inadequate supplies of medicines and medical equipment, a lack of qualified personnel and the difficulty of providing basic sanitary conditions for the displaced being characteristic of most areas. Health indicators suggest that only 30 percent of the population have access to even the most basic health services, and that a complete break-down of the health network has occurred in many war zones (Tvedten, 1997). Infectious and parasitic diseases such as measles, tuberculosis, sleeping sickness, malaria and tetanus are the most common causes of death (NRC, 2001 http://www.db.idpproject.org/Sites/IdpProjectDb/idpSurvey.nsf/wCountries/Angola). The governments budget allocation to the health sector has been low, in 1994, for instance, being only 2.8 percent. The reliance on external aid for medical supplies, for meeting the health needs of large groups of IDPs, and for health programmes such as vaccinations is increasing with international organisations such as Medicos Sem Fronteiras (MSF), UNICEF and International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) taking a lead. Another serious consequence of the wars is the continuing prevalence of landmines (see below).
The traditional micro- and macro-economic systems in Angola have been affected through the war as well (see for instance Habgood, 1998). UNITAs strategy of attacking during the harvesting season and stealing harvested crops as well as animals from their owners have forced many people to abandon their agricultural lifestyles, or to visit their fields only at night-time. Creativity and desperation have led to many innovative survival strategies which include green belt farming in semi-urban neighbourhoods, chicken, pig and goat farming in small backyards, and negcio: informal trading in anything from soft drinks and cigarettes to diamonds and weapons (Van der Winden, 1996). Blacksmiths, tinsmiths, tailors and shoemakers ply their trades in urban centres and less conventional economic activities such as money-changing, child-care and carrying water are common ways in which people try to make a living. Urban environments may offer more chances of access to work, education and medical facilities but the rising numbers of children living in the streets attest to the fact that life in the towns and cities can be extremely harsh and difficult, especially for the young, the disabled and the elderly.
Socio-economic conditions vary greatly between regions and between social groups. A small minority of the wealthy elite live a life not dissimilar to European and North American lifestyles, while the vast majority of the population struggles with issues of daily survival. Such discrepancies between rich and poor are even more pronounced in Angola than in other developing countries by nature of the fact that the significant wealth of the countrys natural resources remains in the hands of a minute minority and does not reach the general population. Since the 2002 peace agreement, the government has committed itself to the process of reconstruction while at the same time stating that it does not have the financial capacity to launch such a programme on its own.
Angola is rated in place 166 out of 177 countries on the 2004 Human Development Report (UNDP: http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2004/, and while ahead of countries such as the DRC and Sierra Leone, the low ranking gives an indication of the serious economic situation faced by the majority of the countrys population.
Angolas civil society had been curtailed by various dominant political groups who used the war as a perpetual excuse (CCR, 2000). Mass organisations such as trade unions, womens and youth organisations were all tied to the MPLA after 1975 and lacked independent status and the ability to press for claims on behalf of their members. In government areas local organisations were repressed for the first 15 years following independence but in 1990 the MPLA announced its toleration of citizen action free from party and state supervision (Tvedten, 1997). This led to the formation of a number of small civic organisations that included welfare and charity organisations, womens organisations, sports clubs, professional associations and environmental committees, amongst others (Hart & Lewis, 1995).
Despite these developments, political constraints continued to hinder NGOs and the media from working freely. The case of Rafael Marques, a freelance journalist who was sentenced to six months imprisonment for defamation in March 2000 following the publication of an article in which he strongly criticised president Dos Santos, became a rallying point for organisations concerned with the lack of press freedom and freedom of expression in Angola (Amnesty International: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAFR120082000?open&of=ENG-AGO). Marques was just one of several journalists who were detained by the Angolan government during the war. A May 2003 report on press freedom by Reporters Without Borders commented that while no journalists have been detained since the signing of the peace agreement, several journalists have been subject to harassment and intimidation through various means such as questioning by the Criminal Investigation Department. Angola continues to have only one news agency which is publicly funded and state-controlled. A positive development was the revision of the 1991 press law, which was set in motion in July 2002 (Reporters Without Borders website: http://www.rsf.org/).
Angolan society had a large number of traditional organisations and customs that related to important events such as birth, transition to adulthood, marriage and death. The traditional council of elders ( conselho de velhos), secret societies and age group associations maintained social order and regulated alliances (Tvedten, 1997). These organisations were, however, targeted by the Portuguese colonialists who sought to impose their own traditional leaders on the population in order to control the population. Independence and the conflict also brought political interference in traditional structures as political affiliation rather than age, social status and experience was used as a qualifying criteria. However, traditional organisations continue to function, and African traditional religion and customs remain widely practised.
Churches and faith-based organisations form an important part of Angolan civil society. The dominance of the Christian church has historical been intricately linked to the history of colonialism in Angola (Henderson, 1990). The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) aligned itself with the colonial Portuguese government and became the largest and most powerful religious institution in the country during the colonial era. It has maintained this status to the present day with approximately 40-50% of the total population being adherents in 1995 (Cravinho, 1998). The Protestant churches were historically in a minority position in Angola socio-politically as well as membership-wise, and were not given official recognition during the era of Portuguese occupation of Angola (Tvedten, 1997). They were suspected of being subversive organisations providing theological cover for nationalists bent on liberation (Birmingham, 1992: 90), as the leaders of the three main liberation movements, amongst others, were all educated at Protestant mission schools. Post-independence in 1975, the Angolan government instituted a process whereby churches had to seek official registration, with the aim of placing all churches under effective government control. This goal was not achieved as a large number of churches that were not accepted for registration continued to operate, with many new religious movements also being established. The churches also attempted to influence the politics in Angola through calling for peace initiatives during the last two decades of war. In March 2002, the Inter-Ecclesiastical Committee for Peace in Angola (COIEPA) organised a forum in Huambo to debate the role of the churches and civil society in the search for http://www.hrw.org/wr2k3/africa1.html).
After the signing of the peace agreement, attempts were made to re-establish a broader functioning civic society. In September 2002, civil society groups in Angola met at a conference entitled Agenda for Peace and Reconciliation in the Republic of Angola where, amongst other things, critical views of the perceived undemocratic nature of the Angolan government were discussed (Angola Peace Monitor: http://www.actsa.org/Angola/apm/)