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Despite a fitful series of cease-fires and three failed United Nations peacekeeping missions, including a highly disputed 1992 election in which Dos Santos defeated the much-feared Savimbi, the war ebbed and flowed, killing upwards of 500,000 people.Now it appears to have sputtered out, though Angolans are justifiably leery about its closure. " the soldier reprised, waving the bricks in the air, as if his body was a wound-by-wound primer of his beleaguered nation's geography. They were nothing but props anyway, and he had something much better. About a half-inch in diameter, deep enough to store a small marble, the depression was located where one might find the centering whorl on a young boy's scalp. And here it was, presented on a platter, right down in the black hole in this poor dude's noggin. The legacy of the slave-master Portuguese who during their 500-year reign had shipped roughly four million Angolans off to the plantations of Brazil and Hispaniola? His head had a hole in it, a dark well descending into his cranium. No, he must have gotten hit with a pickax, a rake, the point of a machete. Well, I'd come to see the lingering nightmare, hadn't I? But now there were other soldiers in the waiting room, a dozen men in camouflage from the Forças Armadas de Angola (FAA) carrying AK-47s, ready to be shipped out to some new venue of potential doomall of them young like him, all looking just as haunted. Get up, they told their drunken comrade, no more Castle beer, no more shouting at the tourists, time to move on. IT IS A FABLE YOU HEAR TOLD all over this country, about how when God made Angola, he was in a very happy mood.
As much as 30 percent of the population live as deslocados, internally displaced people, in refugee camps run by the government and aided by the UN World Food Program; currently, half a million are starving due to famine.
THE DRUNKEN soldier in the airstrip waiting room put down the AK-47 he'd been pointing at my head and picked up a pair of bricks. Bricks don't go off by themselves; their clips are not emptied out of fear, or habit. Besides, despite demands for beer money and much raving about my motives for being in Saurimo, a backwoods diamond-mining town in the far east of the country, it had become clear that the soldier was not 100 percent serious about killing me. " he announced, displaying a six-inch gash on his rail-thin lower thigh. The soldier grunted, clamped his cap down over his broken head, and picked up his gun once more. Tucking it into the southwest coast of Africa, with Congo to the north, Zambia to the east, and Namibia and Botswana to the south, he gave Angola every manner of gift: vast diamond fields, huge oil deposits, numerous rivers flowing throughout the countryside.
He simply wanted to make a point about his life here, in Angola. " the soldier exclaimed, shouting the name of the devastated city on the central Bié highlands, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the longest civil war in African history. " he repeated, pointing to the swatch of blistered skin on his left forearm. He gave it savannas teeming with wildlife and farmland second to none, with wide and rambling meadows for grazing animals.
When the other African nations saw what God had given Angola, they protested.
Why did Angola have so much, when we have only this pile of dust, these rivers of disease? He'd been too generous to Angola, but there was no changing it now. As recompense, God made the Angolan people so contentious, so disputatious, that they would never be able to enjoy the riches he had given them.