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Abstract

In November 1994, Angola began what became an often circular struggle to implement the Lusaka Protocol, the second of two peace agreements meant to put an end to more than thirty years of civil strife. Four years later, the Lusaka peace process appears to have come unraveled. Just past midway between these two points, the National Democratic Institute carried out a series offocus groups in Angola that sought to gauge citizens' attitudes toward and understanding of key aspects of the war-to-peace transition and the new political system. This article discusses the results of the survey. Initially intended to provide the basis of a program to furnish civic education and promote improved governance in a new political context, the focus group results now afford a glimpse into the citizens' view of the peace process on the eve of its collapse.

The results of the survey suggest that in the minds of Angolan citizens, even while the implementation of the peace process was moving forward, the war was far from over and that the attitudes and behavior of political elites, not ordinary citizens, would be decisive. The results indicate a surprisingly high level of general awareness and specific knowledge about the peace process and the basic principles of democracy and human rights, as well as a high degree of cynicism regarding the application of these principles in Angola. The survey also highlights the serious limitations inherent in a strategy that would focus entirely on citizens or "civil society" to reinforce Angola's transition to formal democracy, even when peace prevails.

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