This chapter examines participation spaces in peri-urban Luanda, Angola – a context very different from those that have originated most recent studies in this field and which presents a series of apparently highly adverse conditions for the development of citizen participation.
Sometimes labelled a ‘fragile’ or ‘failed’ state, Angola could more correctly be described as a state that is failing its people. It has a tradition of centralised and authoritarian rule stretching back through decades of single-party government and civil war to the centuries of Portuguese domination and colonisation. This tradition has remained powerful despite the shift towards economic liberalisation and formal multi-party democracy since 1991. Sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest oil producer, with a GDP per capita 29 percent above the continent’s average, Angola’s Human Development Index is nevertheless among the worst in the world, with the country rated 166th out of 177 nations (UNDP 2004). With the end of the civil war in 2002, attention has begun to shift to the role of governance issues in perpetuating this situation, and in particular the link between limited participation and accountability and lack of social justice.