The Effects of War and Peace on Foreign Aid

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Wars were waged in many nations for various reasons, including nationalism, alliances and military strategy, strive for independence and ethnicity. Angola is an example of a third world country, which has experienced war after the struggle for independence from Portugal in 1975. The civil war pitted two sides: Soviet and Cuban-backed People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) against a host of political parties whose most prominent faction was the US-backed National Movement for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA). About this time, the country which was then heavily reliant on farming, was hit by a major agricultural crisis. Consequently, the United States and the Soviet Union felt obliged to pour in foreign aid with the US estimated to have spent about 100 million dollars on food. By the late 1980s, most foreign powers had pulled out of Angola probably an aftermath of the end of the Cold War. However, bungled elections of the early 1990s plunged the country back into chaos (Laband, 2007). In 1993, the US formally recognized the Angolan government and marked a new phase for the war-ravaged country.

Current research paper discusses the effects of war and peace on foreign aid with close reference to the Angolan War that lasted from 1975 to 2002. Peaceful times foster increased efficiency in disbursement of foreign aid in periods between wars. For example, in the semblance of peace, the US and several humanitarian organizations stepped up their aid and development efforts in Angola, as the years in the 90s progressed (Wright, 1997). However, the war flared up again and escalated towards the mid to late 90s, taking a critical toll on the supply and distribution of foreign aid. Aid became limited and inconsistent and at some point the supplies were erratic and almost cut off completely. In 2002, the Angolan government again attained some level of peace and stability and US aid increased dramatically (Anderson, 1999).        

Long periods of war destroy the normal socio-economic set-up of a nation and Angola was no exception. Angola’s agricultural ainstay was in tatters and the infrastructure that would facilitate the distribution of the much-needed aid was in shambles. At this stage, foreign assistance was channeled towards post-war humanitarian initiatives. Towards 2005, the US began to direct the focus of foreign assistance towards a full development agenda, away from the initial focus in post-war initiatives (Johnson, 2005). The focus now turned to agriculture, healthcare, education and economic growth. Angola’s war era left behind a legacy of destroyed roads, railways and bridges built during the colonial days of Belgian rule (Laband, 2007). The population was scared after the war and the normal cycle of life was turned upside down. For example, at a certain point, nearly half of Angola’s population was aged less than fifteen years and its infant mortality rate ranked among the highest in the world. US agencies like the United States Agency for International Development have been major partners in the foreign aid and post-war developmental agenda but other wealthy nations across Europe have also come in.        

Peace has also seen Angola turn a new page concerning the utilization of foreign aid (Anderson, 1999). For example, she has been able to focus her attention on rebuilding the country. Recently, China has emerged as a leading partner to Angola, in not only providing donor funding but also spearheading the development agenda. The relationship between Angola and China is pegged on the need for development on the side of Angola and the quest for resources on China’s part. As Angola’s president Eduardo Dos Santos put it 2006, “China needs natural resources, and Angola needs development”.

Consequently, the relationship between the two nations has gone beyond donor-recipient to an economic symbiosis. While oil exports from Angola to China have increased sevenfold between 2002 and 2007, the Chinese government has extended three multi-billion credit lines to Angola. These include two loans of $2 billion from the China Exim Bank in 2004 and 2007 besides another of $2.9 billion from the China Internattional Fund Limited in 2005. The two loans from the China Exim Bank were directed towards energy, water, health, education, communications and fisheries.

Additionally, through these partnerships Angola has designed a path towards the total repair of infrastructure and projects that were almost entirely inexistent because of the lengthy war. Has Angola successfully utilized foreign aid to mitigate effects of war and eradicate poverty? While Angola has successfully set up a number of infrastructural projects with Chinese aid, many sources question the ability of the Angolans to maintain them after the departure of the Chinese. Moreover, the aid ties have also resulted in the strained diplomatic relationships between the host nation, Angola and previous development partners over Chinese dominance of projects. For example, construction of the railway to Lobito, an Angolan port city, was halted at some point due to these concerns. Negotiations for setting up a petrochemical factory in the same city were also halted in 2007.

As Angola embarked on the rehabilitation phase after the war ended in 2002, it has spent an estimated $187 million on settling internally displaced people who numbered about 98,000 in 2004, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The World Bank provided an additional $33 million for this effort. The war had displaced 4.28 million people, which was almost a third of the entire population (Moorehouse & Cheng, 2005).

Foreign aid in efforts to reduce conflict and post-war poverty has not always been successful. A number of factors among them the role donor nations played during the conflict and their intentions for awarding the assistance come into play. For example, the United States is known to have played a role in the Angolan crisis by funding the UNITA rebels; therefore, its aid in the post-war reconstruction has always been viewed with some suspicion (Laband, 2007).

Additionally, despite spending billions of dollars in aid in Angola, she remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

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