About the Author: Dan Mozena serves as U.S. Ambassador to Angola.
For the first time in 16 years and only the second time in Angola's history, on September 5, Angolan citizens had an opportunity to vote and select the political parties to represent them in the National Assembly. The government of Angola and the National Election Commission invited the United States to observe the Angolan legislative elections. I led the U.S. Embassy Election Observation Mission, which deployed 37 persons in 12 teams across five of Angola's eighteen provinces.
Election Day was a long one for us observers. My team departed from the Embassy at 5 a.m., and we didn't return until nearly midnight. My team began by observing the opening of a voting station, to which we arrived well before 6 a.m. During the day, I visited over 20 other voting stations. I finished the day by watching the vote count at a polling station in Cazenga, one of the most populous municipalities in Luanda.
I witnessed millions of Angolans turning out to vote. Lines of voters were often long, but the voters peacefully awaited their moment in history. Most were voting for the first time ever and some for only the second time in their lives -- this time with the hope that their votes would help bring about a better Angola. Nearly a half million Angolans participated directly in the Election Day process as polling station workers, political party poll-watchers, and domestic observers. Many of these workers safeguarded the election materials for two nights to ensure the integrity of the process.
The teams witnessed logistical and other problems in the capital Luanda, but the elections proceeded relatively smoothly in the provinces outside Luanda. The U.S. Embassy observers found the elections peaceful and free from the intimidation and fear that had characterized the elections of 16 years ago. Those elections precipitated renewal of Angola's terrible civil war, which did not end until 2002.
UNITA and most of the other opposition parties have accepted the results of the elections. Now, the focus is on forming the next parliament and, after that, preparing for next year's presidential elections, which I hope will benefit from the lessons learned from these elections.
I hope the Angolan people are proud of their participation in this important step in strengthening Angola's emerging democracy.