AFP – Angola marked the 10th anniversary of the end of its three-decade civil war on Wednesday as President Jose Eduardo dos Santos unveiled a monument near the site where a long-time rebel leader was killed.
The 27-year war was one of the longest and most brutal in Africa and Dos Santos praised the country’s accomplishments since a peace deal was signed on April 4, 2002.
“Over the past 10 years we’ve been proud to see that many things have changed in (the province of) Moxico as well as in the rest of the country and our goal is to keep changing to develop the country,” said Dos Santos, in power for 32 years.
He spoke in Moxico’s capital Luena, where UNITA rebel chief Jonas Savimbi was killed while battling government soldiers on February 22, 2002, paving the way for the peace deal less than two months later.
Dos Santos, 69, was greeted at the airport by supporters wearing shirts branded with his image before unveiling the peace monument in a city park, named after Russian revolutionary Lenin, images broadcast on national television showed.
The Angolan conflict became a Cold War proxy battle, with the Soviet Union and Cuba backing Dos Santos’ MPLA, while the United States and apartheid South Africa assisted Savimbi’s UNITA rebels.
Since the war ended, oil exports have fuelled massive economic growth and billions of dollars have been poured into repairing roads, railways and airports.
Dos Santos trumpeted the successes of his ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party.
“After the 2008 general election, we made a promise to work to improve the situation in the country, and I think, little by little, we are succeeding,” the veteran leader said.
UNITA, still the main opposition party, was roundly beaten in the 2008 polls amid accusations that the vote was stacked in the MPLA’s favour.
Some have voiced concern that fraud could taint an election expected in September, which would be only the third vote in Angola since independence from Portugal in 1975.
“We have no need to cheat because we are very big and very strong party,” said Dos Santos, who is Africa’s second-longest serving president.
In the capital Luanda, residents wore white and marched to music, while children joined a street race across the city. A concert with several prominent local artists was set for later on Wednesday.
Dos Santos has been hailed as peacemaker who steered the oil-fueled economic boom but has through the past year faced criticism amid signs of mounting corruption within his regime.
Authorities have also stamped out a series of youth-led protests calling for reform.
Despite boasting one of the world’s fastest growing economies, poverty is still rampant in the country of 18.4 million people.
Nearly 2.4 million people still live in areas riddled with landmines, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.