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Published Book or Work by:

Leon Kukkuk

Letters to Gabriella: Angola´s Last War for Peace; What the UN did and why

Letters to Gabriella: Angola´s Last War for Peace; What the UN did and why
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Published by Florida Literary Foundation
01 July 2005
ISBN: 1891855670
Book Description War in Angola lasted intermittently for more than forty years. After a failed attempt at peace from 1994 to 1998 a full scale conventional war broke out again at the end of 1998. This marked the end of a United Nations attempt, lasting more than twelve years, to make peace in this country. It was one of the first big UN missions after the Cold War and turned into a spectacular and expensive failure. Throughout this last "War for Peace" from 1998-2002 the author lived and worked in Huambo, at the epicentre of the war, implementing a United Nations project. This project, poorly planned initially, was restructured locally and achieved considerable successes before finally succumbing to UN incompetence that saw two thirds of its funding disappear and degenerated into a web of lies, excuses and accusations as the UN refused to provide an explanation to donors, the Angolan government and people, project staff and the press of what went wrong and why.
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Biography , Government/Politics , History , Military/War
 
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From: Leon Kukkuk (hotline_undp@yahoo.ca) 2004-12-30

From the Author "Letters to Gabriella – "Angola’s Last War for Peace; What the UN Did and Why" War in Angola lasted intermittently for more than forty years. After several failed attempts at peace throughout the nineties, a full-scale conventional war broke out again at the end of 1998. This marked the end of a United Nations attempt, lasting more than twelve years, to make peace in this country. It was one of the first major UN missions after the Cold War and turned into a spectacular and expensive failure. In 1995 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Angola had one hundred million Dollars of donor money available for community reconstruction. This was managed through a Trust Fund in conjunction with the Angolan government. UNDP planned a "Community Production Centre" in the city of Huambo, the second largest city in the country and one of the cities most affected by the war. The objective of the project was to create employment through the encouragement of local production. UNDP subcontracted a private company to implement the project in spite of government protests that this would be unsuitable. In the beginning of 1998 the author was contracted to start implementing the project. It very soon became apparent that the private company is not capable of working in Angola. In spite of this UNDP paid more than one and a half million Dollars to the private company, which was never seen in Huambo. Almost none of the project funds reached the project. Nevertheless it was adapted locally and became one of the more successful projects in the country. Soon it became the subject of an investigation by the Angolan government and the local press that exposed a host of irregularities within UNDP. To date UNDP has not yet provided an adequate explanation of what went wrong and how money from the Trust Fund was managed. Instead their responses reveal a web of lies, corruption and excuses. For more than four years the author sought explanations from the United Nations, going all the way to their headquarters in New York seeking answers. Investigations and audits were promised but never happened. Parallel to this the "Last War for Peace" was fought amongst Angolans. Much of the heaviest fighting focussed on the central highlands in the surrounds of Huambo. There are few people with such an intimate, and broad, experience as accounted in the narrative. This is not simply a dry account of war. It is a narrative, conversational, at times intimate, story, something told to his daughter, Gabriella, born during this time. At the same time it is also a detailed, authorative and comprehensive account of a fascinating time by someone who experienced much of it firsthand. The pride of Angolans, their friendly and outgoing natures in the face of incredible hardship, their capacity for hard work and sacrifice and sense of community comes through strongly. Path breaking insight is given on the shambles, the arrogance, corruption and sheer incompetence of many of the United Nations development agencies. It is a book that would not only appeal to specialists and those with a special interest in Angola, although they will find much in it that is new and never before published. The general reader will find an interesting story, much of it an expose, backed by original documents, of corruption and incompetence that makes for a bizarre, disturbing yet entertaining chronicle of the culture of control freaks and inept officials. In the narrative, United Nations officials, in their own words, provide a devastating account of the scale of their own internal incompetence, the extent to which they are neither accountable morally or legally, a rare insight into a world normally closed to outsiders. The war is a constant backdrop to this; the causes of this war, the nature of modern warfare, its destructive effect on civilians, and the strengths and weaknesses of development aid. The actors are global and local, public and private. It shows the brutality and meaninglessness of war, exposes the strengths and weaknesses of those who come to assist. It is academic, yet intimate and personal. It investigates the profound without loosing touch with the trivial.