At the 30 November White House Bilateral Meeting, President Joseph Biden of the US and President João Lourenço of Angola capped off a momentous year in bilateral relations that witnessed an extraordinary transformation, especially in the realm of security cooperation.
Celebrating three decades of diplomatic ties, the leaders had multifaceted discussions. The meeting took notice of Angola’s influential role and acknowledged Angola’s pivotal standing and influential role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Of paramount significance was the White House’s pride in the meeting serving as a peak of a year focused on defence matters. A senior Biden administration official highlighted the significance of the meeting, characterizing it as a reflection on “committed investments” by the leaders. The consultation on regional issues, particularly the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was a focal point. The official underscored the Biden administration’s dedication to aligning efforts with the Angolans, emphasizing ongoing initiatives, including DNI Avril Haines’s recent diplomatic efforts.
The “Report: Focus on the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” published by the Global Terrorism Trends and Analysis Centre (GTTAC), shed light on the stark realities of the security landscape. In 2022 alone, the DRC witnessed 984 attacks, resulting in 3,458 fatalities, constituting 13 per cent of the global total. The data, sourced from the GTTAC Record of Incident Database, dated 22 March underscored the DRC’s unfortunate distinction of experiencing the highest number of incidents and fatalities worldwide.
A US Institute of Peace expert, offering insights into the complex security challenges in eastern DRC said, “Long-term, comprehensive peace needs to come from political dialogue, with better coordination between different regional institutions and other partners supporting dialogue. The role of religious actors and Congolese civil society is also critical to advance peace.”
To ease DRC-Rwanda tensions, the USIP expert said “The conversation that needs to happen is on a political level for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. A military solution alone will not be enough, as we have seen in prior cycles of conflict in the East.”
Clarifying the essence of the US-Angola defence relationship, a senior administration official highlighted the deepening security ties with Angola. President Lourenço’s prior role as the country’s defence minister and his strong ties with the US military and the Pentagon were noted by the official. The US Secretary of Defense’s unprecedented trip to Angola in September paved the way for potent conversations, especially regarding Angolan interests in military modernization. “Our security relationship with Angola continues to deepen. You may know that President Lourenço was a former defence minister and had visited the United States in that capacity and has built strong ties with the U.S. military and the Pentagon,” a senior administration official said on Thursday.
“And that really came together quite powerfully with Secretary Austin’s trip in September―again, the first-ever Secretary of Defense trip to Angola. And in those conversations, they talked about opportunities where we can deepen our cooperation, in particular, answering some of the Angolans’ interest in military modernization,” a senior administration official said.
The Embassy of Angola in Washington, D.C. said in a statement, “In the area of security, a memorandum of understanding was recently signed on how we can strengthen this relationship, both in the maritime security sector and in the equipment sector.”
Both leaders charted a course for intensified collaboration, with a high-level defence dialogue slated for 2024. Military-to-military exchanges will be a key focus, spanning education, English language capacity, maritime security, and peacekeeping. The anticipation is palpable, with the two leaders expressing enthusiasm about the myriad ways in which the U.S. and Angola can collaborate on security issues.
Recalling events from the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit 2022 and a phone call on 20 January in which Secretary of State Antony Blinken lauded President Lourenço’s contributions to peace in eastern DRC. About 20 months ago, a meeting at the Pentagon laid the groundwork for US-Angola defence cooperation, anchored by a Memorandum of Understanding dating back to 2017.
The US State Department’s assistance, including the International Military Education and Training (IMET) programme, plays a pivotal role in enhancing Angolan capabilities. The tangible support extends to financing professional military education, deploying military training teams, bolstering medical readiness, fortifying maritime security, and fostering English language proficiency.
As the White House welcomed President Lourenço, the Angolan delegation included key figures such as Minister of External Relations Téte António; Chief of Cabinet of the President, Edeltrudes Costa; Secretary for Diplomatic and International Cooperation of the President, Victor Lima; Director General of External Intelligence Services, Bertino Matondo and Ambassador of the Republic of Angola to the United States, Agostinho Van-Dunem.
In this paradigm-shifting meeting, the U.S.-Angola partnership not only celebrates the achievements of the past year but sets a powerful trajectory for a future defined by robust defence collaboration, geopolitical influence, and shared commitment to regional stability.
READ ALSO: Biden-Lourenço meeting paves way for unprecedented collaborations between US, Angola White House
The Angolan Embassy said, “This formalization put an end to a phase of political tensions and indirect confrontation, which began shortly after Angola became independent, in 1975, as a result of the Cold War that opposed the former USSR and the USA.”
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based White House Correspondent, and media commentator with expertise in US foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe
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