Press Releases

    27 August 2002


    NEW YORK, 26 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a toast by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a State banquet hosted by President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola in Luanda today:

    It is a special pleasure for me and my wife and my team to be received here in Luanda by you, Mr. President, and by the people of Angola who have welcomed me so generously to your country. I arrive in Angola at a time in your history, which can also be described as a critical juncture –- where a budding peace at last offers you a real chance to build a future of security, prosperity and development for all your people.

    Let me pay tribute to the many Angolans who have sacrificed so much to bring about this moment, and help create a chance for peace -– and especially those brave Angolan civil society organizers that have played such an important part in fostering peace and reconciliation.

    You, the President, the people and leadership of Angola, deserve great praise for your determination to produce a peace agreement, and sustain it through challenges and difficulties.

    The fact that the ceasefire, formally signed on 4 April has held; that you negotiated the agreement without third-party involvement; and that the demilitarization and quartering process has been completed -- all this attests to the universal desire among Angolans to put war behind them, once and for all. Throughout this period, the United Nations has worked closely with you to help create a climate of peace and progress. I wish to assure you of our continued support as you begin the hard work of reconstruction and rehabilitation.

    Angola is blessed, as few other countries on our continent, with an abundance of natural resources, which, if properly utilized, can uplift the human and social conditions of your people. After so much suffering, they deserve nothing less. It is vital that you make the best use of those resources, as you begin to meet the challenges ahead -– from poverty to HIV/AIDS, from promoting the rule of law to building a stable democracy. These challenges are considerable, but with will, courage and determination I am sure Angola will succeed.

    Let me raise a few issues. First, the humanitarian crisis. One third of your people are internally displaced today and another 3 million people are in need of emergency assistance. I applaud you for making the return and resettlement of the internally displaced people a key priority, and for enshrining the guiding principles on the treatment of such people in your national legislation.

    A wide range of committed and dynamic humanitarian agencies are working to alleviate the suffering and assist the most needy. A deepening involvement of the Government in the humanitarian effort will, however, be necessary if they are to succeed. I am confident that you, Mr. President, will take on this vital challenge.

    Second, an effective programme of mine action. Angola remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. As you increasingly consolidate the peace, people will want to return to homes in areas that hitherto have been off-limits. At this point, mine action will become a key component of the resettlement and recovery efforts, ensuring that people can return safely and begin to rebuild.

    The presence -- or even the fear of the presence -- of just one landmine can prevent the cultivation of an entire field, robbing a family of its livelihood and an entire village of its sustenance. Each mine cleared may mean a life saved. Each mine cleared will bring you one step closer to building the conditions for lasting and productive peace.

    I appeal to the international community to do all it can to assist the Angolan Government and people in this massive undertaking. I am pleased to say that UNDP stands ready to work with the National Commission for Demining and Humanitarian Assistance to strengthen local capacity for a national mine action programme.

    Third, demobilization. As your country emerges from decades of conflict, you have a unique chance to direct your resources away from war and towards building a lasting peace. Demobilizing and disarming ex-combatants and reintegrating them, with dignity, into civilian life will present both challenges and opportunities. You must succeed in this endeavour, so that your people can rebuild their lives around work and family, rather than war and suffering.

    And that is the fourth task -- the enormous challenge of rebuilding Angolan society. Every part of your - – from infrastructure to institutions to schools and hospitals -– was affected by the conflict, and every part must be rebuilt carefully and effectively. This will require great commitment and patience, skill and resources. Investing in education, vocational training, and health will be equally important to the larger task of reconstruction. The United Nations funds and programmes are ready to help your Government as it focuses its efforts on economic and social development.

    The United Nations will also work with the World Bank and the Government to mobilize resources, and prepare for a donor conference focused on alleviating poverty and fostering development.

    However daunting these main areas of reconstruction may seem, succeeding in any one of them will depend on a greater transformation that must take place if national reconciliation is to be accelerated and development to take hold –- and that is democratization.

    The transition towards a lasting multi-party democracy will present challenges to all sides in the political arena, and call for true leadership. I am encouraged by your plans to hold general elections within the next two years, and believe the most inclusive approach will yield the best results. I also commend the Government for beginning the process of civil registration necessary for elections. The United Nations stands ready to assist in this vital building-block of democratic governance.

    Angola can draw on its past experience, experience that in your efforts to democratize, and the fact that the Government already includes more than one party is an encouraging example of willingness to cooperate across party lines for the benefit of the people. Angola can also apply the lessons learned in other societies emerging from war and conflict.

    They have learned that democratic governance -- by protecting minorities, encouraging political pluralism, and upholding the rule of law -- can channel internal dissent peacefully, and thus help avert civil wars. It is vitally important, therefore, to anchor the reconstruction of your society in a culture of respect for human rights, and to institute legitimate and representative political arrangements under the rule of law, through free and fair elections.

    Of course, wounds of war that have festered for a long time will not heal overnight. But we have learned that if a society is given the political and economic breathing space -- through democratic governance, human rights and sustainable development -- there is a real chance for it to escape the cycle of violence.

    As you and your nation set out on the path of national reconstruction and reconciliation, you will have the great talents and resources of your people to rely on. However, Angola will also need the active support of the international community in order to overcome the complex political, security, humanitarian and socio-economic challenges facing the country. I am confident that the international community is prepared to help you seize this unique opportunity.

    As evidence of this commitment, I am pleased to say that the Security Council has authorized a new United Nations mission in Angola with a mandate broad enough to play a significant role in helping to consolidate the peace. Our partnership has the potential to transform Angola’s future, and set an example of peace, stability and prosperity for this troubled part of Africa and indeed for the whole world.

    Let me ask you all to join me in a toast to peace!

    Thank you very much.

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