Paulo Lukamba Gato*







 An interview with Charles Zorgbibe**


Charles Zorgbibe – After two dramatic events, almost incidentally, you find yourself at the head of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA): the death in combat of your historic leader, Jonas Savimbi, on February 22, 2002, and the death of the vice-president Antonio Sebastiao Dembo, victim of a crisis of diabetes, on March 3.


Paulo Lukamba Gato – Nevertheless I’m an old activist of UNITA, I joined when I was 19 years, in late 1974, during the “revolution of the carnations.” The liberal colonels of Lisbon had seized power and were ready to grant independence to Portuguese colonies, but by transferring power to the Marxist guerrilla of the Popular Movement of Liberation, the MPLA. At the time we stood up against this undemocratic transfer of power.


C. Z. – Five years later, you took the direction of the youth movement of UNITA, the United and Revolutionary Youth of Angola (JURA). Then, it was your ascension within the movement: at first director of Savimbi’s cabinet, then representative of UNITA in Paris for eight years. What are the results of these eight years?


P. L. G. – I improved my French …


C. Z. – You are perfectly French-speaking …


P. L. G. – And Francophile. I maintained numerous contacts in Paris, in political circles of the center-right and in the employers’ organizations.


C. Z. – After the peace agreement of May 30, 1991, concluded with the MPLA government, you went back to Angola and were put in charge, in the UNITA, of implementing the peace process. A substantial number of negotiations followed, particularly in Addis Ababa in 1993. How do you explain your final failure, and the resumption of the fighting?


P. L. G. – We lost our external support. The Reagan administration had described us as “fighters of freedom.” At the end of the Cold War, we were sacrificed to the altar of Angolan oil. The UN diabolized us, going as far as prohibiting our leaders from traveling abroad. We were the “bad boys” of the international community.


C. Z. – The Security Council eliminated all these sanctions on December 9, 2002.


P L. G. – A new era has begun. We have to turn to a future of peace, and convert our action of armed struggle into political confrontation.


C. Z.How did the civil war end?


P. L. G. – With the agreement of April 4, 2002, the most unequal agreement that has ever been signed. But we are still in the game, and consequently we loyally implement it. Our direct responsibilities concern the stationing of troops in barracks, and the demilitarization of the UNITA. This means that 83,000 people must be disarmed, fed and dressed. But the most painful aspect was the future of the civil populations, these two million Angolans who lived in our sphere of influence and who found themselves in a disastrous humanitarian situation.


C. Z.Is there a possible explanation to all this distress?


P. L. G. – I think that the MPLA itself was surprised by the concrete dimension of the necessities. It had not visualized the exact scope of the situation. There are also differences about the future of the civil populations in the zones under our control: we wish to make them settle down rapidly on the spot, so that we can continue to work with them. The government of Luanda, for evident and understandable political reasons, would like to make these populations “leave” the rural areas and have them settle down in the cities under its control.


C. Z. – What are your political prospects?


P. L. G. – In exchange for the demilitarization, we expect a true democratization, the construction of a constitutional State.


C. Z. – At the time of the civil war, you were a sort of party-State with an administration, an army, a large part of Angolan territory and its inhabitants. How do you plan to transform it into a democratic party?


P. L. G. – It is a challenge, but we are going to accept it. However, if we behaved as a party-State on part of the territory, we were at the same time submerged in the global Angolan State: thus, since the 1992 general election we had seventy representatives of two hundred and twenty. Regrettably, they could not take part in the political life, they were threatened. Henceforth, MPLA seems seriously decided to associate us to power: we currently have four Ministers in the central government, three province governors, six ambassadors abroad, one  of whom represents us at the UNESCO in Paris.


C. Z. – But the creation of a powerful party is not only based on sharing posts. It is also a question of organization, democratic culture...


P. L. G. – I agree. We have to give up the culture of the violence, the cult of weapons. We have to train our executives in political “management” and “marketing.” We are going to establish our party in all the country’s provinces and municipalities. Currently we are largely in majority in the central region of the high plateau. I am convinced that we represent 40% of the global electorate. We have to politically mobilize the citizens of Angola before the presidential and legislative elections of 2004.


C. Z. – What happened to your former dissidents of UNITA “Renovada,” who had been seduced by the sirens of the MPLA?


P. L. G. – We restored the unity of our movement: the members of the dissident branch called “Renovada,” created in 1998, joined us on October 8, 2002. It was a very touching ceremony of reconciliation. Reunited once again, we can start again in the political conquest of the country.


C. Z. – Do you have an original doctrine? Is it possible to distinguish the personality of UNITA after the disappearance of such a charismatic leader as Savimbi and in front of such a great charismatic leader as the head of MPLA and the State, President José Eduardo Dos Santos, who has the support of the entire international community and who, inside the country, is considered the one who succeeded in uniting the Angolans?


P. L. G. – After dismantling our party-State, we shall know how to show that we have a true society project. Our program defined as “Muangaï”, the name of the village where UNITA was based in 1966, became truly famous. We recommend a dynamic conception of democracy, based on the practice of consensus, consultation reinforced by social partners, the Churches and actors of the civil society, the organization of a non-partisan public administration, whose personnel would be evaluated only according to its merits …


C. Z. – In the economic domain there is only a slight difference with MPLA which has converted to economic liberalism?


P. L. G. – The economic foundation of our government project is more precise: we always gave priority to rural development and the creation of small and medium-size proximity industries. We always granted priority attention to the fate of rural populations. Besides, we have to insure the social aspects, assuring dignity and “developing” the reintegration of all the civil war veterans. And also to highlight the status and the work of women, who represents an important segment of our society but whose social importance is unfortunately not recognized.


C. Z.The electors will vote… Will we witness the construction of a true pluralistic political system in Angola, around the MPLA and UNITA?


P. L. G. – This is what we are hoping for. The new national pact that we are working out must be an example for Africa.


* Secretary General of UNITA


** President of the Editorial Board of African Geopolitics/Géopolitique Africaine.