West Africa Time Zone UTC+01:00
Capital City Luanda
Currency Angolan Kwanza AOA
National Day 11 November
ANGOLA’S NEW AMBASSADOR Rui Jorge C. Mangueira returns to the capital after 25 years. The Manchester United fan was last here as First Secretary at the Embassy in the early 90s. He observes that “London is the same vibrant city,” but that the biggest change has been the way he has been received by his colleagues and institutions. “People are now far more open to a representative of a country like Angola. I feel really positive about working closely with institutions and other Heads of Mission in London.”
The Ambassador arrived on 27 April, with his wife Maria, and presented his credentials to Her Majesty just five days later. This was just in time to be included in the 65th anniversary of the Coronation of the Queen celebrations.
Graduating in Law in the late 1980s, the Ambassador found himself inspired by one particular teacher: John Philip Martin was not only Dean at his university, but also Angola’s first Ambassador in Belgrade, who went on to be Ambassador at the UN. “His friendship was a strong influence and inspired me to go into diplomacy,” he notes.
Accordingly, Mr Mangueira’s career began in the legal department of the MFA in 1987. Just 10 days later, he found himself at a conference on human rights at the UN in Geneva. “It was the best start. To be in touch with different cultures, languages and people, and discuss the various perceptions on human rights was a transformational experience.”
During the following year came one of the most memorable events of his career, when he was involved in Angola signing the peace agreements in New York. “The battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the Cuban intervention in Angola was a turning point in Southern African history, which drove for Namibian independence and the democratisation of South Africa.”
London was his first bilateral experience, and came “at a special time for Angola-British cooperation. I was at the centre of negotiations with the British government who agreed to lift the embargo and support the government in order to change the situation in our country.”
Various other roles at the MFA involved working on economic integration and building strong relationships with SADC countries, plus Angola’s successful election as a non-permanent UN Security Council member. Then Mr Mangueira was posted to Dubai as Consul General, eventually opening the Embassy in 2008 as the country’s first Ambassador to the UAE.
As Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Ambassador had the opportunity to work with 38 heads of state, successfully leading a campaign to elect Madam Dlamini-Zuma, then South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, as the first woman leader of the AU. Shortly after, he became Angola’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights (2012-17), leading the delegation to defend Angola’s report on the protocol on civil and political rights and protocol on economic culture and social rights before the UN.
Now as Ambassador in the UK he says, “Our primary target is to increase, strengthen and promote our relationship with the UK at both political and economic levels. We have big opportunities for investment: many British companies work in oil in Angola already, but there is room for more. We have also diversified into agribusiness; energy and transportation networks providing further options.”
At the start of October, he hosted a heavyweight delegation from his capital to attend the London Illegal Wildlife Trade conference hosted by the FCO. “We believe this is a very important issue for Angola, and we need to protect our wildlife. We also have strong cooperation with SADC countries on environmental matters.”
What does he think is Angola’s greatest diplomatic challenge? “Angola needs to be seen to have its own context from which to conduct international relations. Of course, countries can’t act alone, and in Angola, we believe that multilateralism is essential, whether it’s the AU, UN or SADC, or other organisations.” He continues: “With this in mind, Angola has a plan to request membership of the Commonwealth. We believe that the values of the Commonwealth will help Angola to place itself in the right context. But we have a lot of work to do.”
Reflecting on his life, Mr Mangueira says “I’ve had a happy career that’s taken me to over 130 countries. But what is really important in diplomatic life is the fact we exchange points of view on politics, culture and economics. Diplomacy is essentially an exchange of ideas and experience, and sometimes with people that you might never imagine you would meet. We may have different views, but we can still make friends. This is the beauty of diplomacy.”