THE WORLD FROM...Luanda, Angola

Long mired in colonialism and war, Angolans cast wary eyes toward foreign involvement as they vote. DEMOCRATIZATION IN AFRICA

ANGOLANS are showing understandable signs of confusion in response to the network of United Nations personnel and international development workers who poured into the country ahead of the first democratic vote Sept. 29-30.

In August, the government of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos complained to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali that the 800-strong observer mission, the UN Angolan Verification Mission (UNAVEM), was biased toward the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the main opposition party.

Only weeks later, the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) asked the UNAVEM observers to remain for at least two months after the election in case there were delays in installing a new government or the ballot had to be repeated.

UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi has also taken an ambivalent attitude toward international development groups, and many UN officials and foreign aid workers fear that a UNITA government would crack down on foreigners.

"Angolans know they need the international community but they have been so stung by their past experience," a Western diplomat says.

Yet in the villages and rural areas, many Angolan peasants who once produced cotton and coffee for Portuguese traders, long for the day that such employers might return.

Carruge Quessonge, a traditional head man, or soba, of a community displaced by the war says his people have now returned to the overgrown cotton fields of Jombe in Kwanza Sul province. "I recently received a postcard from the Portuguese trader who used to buy our cotton," Mr. Quessonge says. "I would like him to come back, so that he could make things work again, and then there would be jobs for the people."

When the MPLA seized power in 1975, about 350,000 Angolans of Portuguese descent left suddenly for Lisbon and South Africa. Some Angolans of Portuguese descent have begun returning to Luanda to assess the prospects for business.

Angola's history gives its people little reason to have any feelings of warmth toward the international community. When harsh Portuguese colonialism gave way in 1975, Angola became the arena for a clash of the superpowers. The Soviet Union backed the ruling Marxist-Leninist MPLA, while the United States and South Africa supported the UNITA rebels. Cuban troops helped shore up the government.

"There was a great overlay of the cold war here," US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen said during a recent visit here. "Once that went, there was nothing else [for the parties in Angola] to do but to negotiate for power."

Angolan officials are coming to terms with the fact that new international partnerships will develop here that lie somewhere between the colonial and cold-war interests of the past.

"We are living in a time of democracy instead of dictatorship," President dos Santos told an enthusiastic MPLA rally in the town of Namibe. "We have to construct a new life and undergo reconciliation in Angola. We have to install and consolidate democracy and we cannot do this by practicing the old ways."

A Luanda-based Western diplomat points out: "It's the beginning of a new world order in which institutions like the International Monetary Fund will oversee macroeconomic and fiscal policy and small bands of UN monitors will ensure that democratic forms of government are sustained." -PATHNAME- /usr/local/etc/httpd/plweb/DBGROUPS/paper/database/tape/92/sep/day30/30032.

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