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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Angola: Updates/Commentary, 1 Angola: Updates/Commentary, 1
Date distributed (ymd): 020302
Document reposted by Africa Action

Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for Africa at

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Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+


This series of two postings contains a number of short documents concerning the prospects for peace in Angola after the Feb. 22 death of Jonas Savimbi.

In this posting:
(1) a brief introductory note by Africa Action senior research fellow William Minter, (2) excerpts from the most recent issue of the Angola Peace Monitor, reporting on Savimbi's death and international reaction, and (3) a report from the Jesuit Relief Service on the reaction to Savimbi's death and the current situation in Luena, Moxico province, Angola.

In another posting sent out today:
(1) a brief excerpt from a Feb. 27 speech in Washington by Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, (2) an article from reporting on the Feb. 26 meeting of Presidents Chissano, dos Santos, and Mogae with President Bush, (3) a statement from Angolan traditional leaders at a Feb. 20 meeting in Luanda hosted by the Open Society Institute, and (4) a UN press briefing on the humanitarian situation in Angola.

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Introductory Note from Africa Action

Jonas Savimbi died in combat on February 22 in the bush in the area of Moxico province which was his guerrilla base from 1968 to 1974, the final years before Angolan independence. His capacities for deception and persistence were already well-developed in that period, as he combined his nationalist campaign with a secret agreement with the Portuguese military to join forces against the rival Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which later became the ruling party in independent Angola.

After 1974, Savimbi won support from large numbers of Angolans on the basis of regional and ethnic appeals. But he also relied on South Africa and the U.S. to back his campaign of terror against civilians as well as government targets. Returning to war after two successive peace pacts in the 1990s and the loss of his international sponsors, he relied on iron discipline to control his soldiers and on diamonds to provide the means of war.

[for a good summary of Savimbi's background, more extensive and accurate than the majority of media accounts, see Shana Wills, Washington's 'Freedom Fighter,' Africa's 'Terrorist', in Foreign Policy in Focus, Feb. 27, 2002;]

Commentators are almost unanimous that the death of Jonas Savimbi has removed one of the greatest single obstacles to peace in Angola. But the scars of war and social fragmentation are deep. Until now, the government in Luanda gained much of what credibility it had from the contrast to Savimbi. Now it faces both high expectations and profound skepticism of its capacity to shift from war to peace.

Luanda is being advised from all quarters to seize the opportunity to substitute dialogue for continued war. Some in Washington are reportedly also pushing for elections as soon as possible. Yet the chances for real peace are unlikely to advance far in formal talks unless there are also more fundamental changes, including a turn towards greater openness and, above all, investment of the country's oil wealth in meeting the humanitarian, social, and economic crises. Without such changes, moreover, elections are as likely to stir up conflict as to assuage it.

Speaking the day after the meeting of three African presidents with U.S. President Bush, Mozambican President Chissano listed some of Mozambique's lessons on the requirements for a successful peace process. Characteristically diplomatic, President Chissano did not present these comments as advice for either his Angolan or U.S. counterpart. Nevertheless, his message, stressing the need for a culture of tolerance and for attention to social and economic factors, was clear.

There is indeed a new opportunity for peace in Angola. Taking advantage of it, however, requires fundamental changes for both Luanda and its current international partners.

- William Minter, Senior Research Fellow

Angola Peace Monitor

Issue no.6, Vol. VIII, 6th February 2002

The Angola Peace Monitor is produced every month by ACTSA - Action for Southern Africa. ACTSA, 28 Penton Street, London N1 9SA, e-mail:, fax 44 20 7837 3001, tel 44 20 7833 3133

[Excerpts only: for full issue and archive see]

Jonas Savimbi killed

UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi was killed on 22 February following a fierce battle between his rebel troops and the Angolan army (FAA). The battle took place in the locality of Lubuei in Moxico province, some 100 km away from the Zambian border.

Jonas Savimbi died on the same day as some of his most senior generals, including Brigadier "Big Joy" and Brigadier Mbula. The Angolan army states that they ambushed Savimbi's military column. During the fighting around 25 UNITA people from his platoon were killed. Fighting is also reported to have taken place between FAA and other UNITA forces who had the task of diverting military attention away from their leader, led by Mbula and Big Joy.

To allay the cynicism of some foreign journalists, the government put the body of Savimbi on show to journalists at the nearby town of Lucusse. The Angolan news agency, ANGOP, reported that following this the body was buried in the nearby cemetery.

The decisive battle took place following several major FAA victories over UNITA, including a large-scale ambush on a column of UNITA fighters who were attempting to flee to Zambia earlier in the week. During fierce fighting many senior UNITA generals were captured or killed. ...

Sources indicate that fierce fighting is continuing in Moxico, where many of Savimbi's top troops - including his "presidential guard" - remain under siege.

Several senior UNITA figures are reportedly still alive including vice-president Antonio Dembo, secretary-general Paulo Lukamba Gato, chief of staff General Geraldo Abreu "Kamorteiro", General Esteves "Kamy" Pena and General Camalata Numa. ...

Prospects for peace brighter

Jonas Savimbi had centralised power within UNITA to such an extent that the main military, political and financial aspects of the organisation were handled primarily by him. His death has considerably improved prospects for peace in Angola as UNITA is no longer an insurrectionary force threatening the survival of the state.

Jonas Savimbi led UNITA in a war against the Angolan government since the country gained independence in 1975. Relying heavily on the American CIA and the apartheid South African regime for protection and support, he denied Angola the opportunity to flourish.

Today, two generations of children have known nothing but conflict. Angola is now ranked one of the worst places in the world to be a child - nearly one in three die before their fifth birthday because of war and war-induced poverty. More than half a million people have died, and millions have been forced to flee their homes.

There have been lulls in the fighting. In 1991, negotiations led to a cease-fire and the following year United Nations-supervised elections were held. Rejecting the results, Savimbi led his troops back into war, seizing much of the country. It was not until the Angolan army managed to recover much of the lost ground that Jonas Savimbi allowed his organisation to enter into another peace agreement - the Lusaka Protocol - in 1994. This time he used the peace process as a breathing space to rearm his organisation under the noses of the United Nations using funds from his conflict diamonds. Eventually UNITA led the country back into full-scale war in 1998, using its new conventional army to try and seize the country. However, this effort failed, leading to the Angolan government's determination to destroy Savimbi's fighting force. ...

The Angolan government has moved quickly to call for the end to conflict. In a statement on 23 February the government appealed to "all those, that voluntarily or involuntarily, were associated to these terrorist practices to consider their options and reintegrate themselves in the normal life of the country, contributing in this way to the consolidation of the democratisation and national reconciliation process". It continued that it will soon issue "a communique containing a detailed programme to cease all hostilities in Angola".

The government reiterated its "intention to completely implement the Lusaka Protocol and also considers that all Angolan political parties are essential for Angola's democratisation". It called for the nation to remain calm and tranquil, "respecting law and order, particularly the right to differences and peaceful co-existence of all Angolans".

During a visit to Portugal on 25 February Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos expressed hope that the prospects for dialogue would improve. He stated that "we have to look to the future and Angolans from all quarters have to be able to pardon, pave the way for rapid national reconciliation and establish bridges to define as rapidly as possible a cease-fire conducive to the demilitarisation of UNITA".

On the question of elections, which have not been held since 1992, the President stated that "if we rapidly advance this year to conclude a cease-fire and the demilitarisation of UNITA it may be that in one to two years elections will be held in Angola". ...

International reaction to Savimbi's death

Leaders of states and international organisations have united in hope that the death of Jonas Savimbi will provide an opportunity for Angola to finally achieve peace.

Namibia's foreign minister Theo-Ben Gurirab told the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation that Savimbi "chose to live by the sword and inevitably he died by the sword".

Uganda's Defence Minister Amama Mbabaza was more blunt in his comments, when he told AFP on 23 February that "there are no regrets. He was trouble maker for Angola, and Uganda never supported his cause". He continued that "Savimbi represented the reactionary forces in African politics, we think that if it is true that he is dead, it would be good for the region and the world".

The South African president, Thabo Mbeki, was far more reticent. According to the South African Press Association, President Mbeki said on 24 February that he would prefer not to comment on Unita leader Jonas Savimbi's death until he had had a chance to apply his mind properly to the matter. Deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, said that Savimbi's death will "affect the capacity of UNITA to sustain itself".

Mozambique's president, Joaquim Chissano, on 24 February regretted that Savimbi's life "ended in this way, which he could easily have avoided if he had cooperated with the government". What was important now, he added, was for all Angolans, regardless of whether or not they were UNITA sympathisers, "to look ahead, and commit themselves to national reconciliation, and the consolidation of democracy, to end the suffering imposed by the war".

Savimbi had been a major obstacle to peace, said President Chissano, because of his excessive pride, and his failure to keep his promises.

President Chissano recalled that after independence, Savimbi allied himself with the mortal enemy of African nations, the apartheid regime which then ruled South Africa, which provided him with massive military support.

The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, stated his support for the peace process. His spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said that "as far as the secretary general is concerned, it has created a new situation and he hopes that all stakeholders will take advantage of it to take the peace process forward".

The representative of the European Union to the Great Lakes Region, Aldo Ajello, said on 23 February in Luanda that the death of Jonas Savimbi was an "appropriate time for a definite peace in Angola". He continued that "the death of a man is always sad news, but at the same time, and in this case, it is an opportunity for peace and peace concerns all people of Angola".

UNITA's representative in Portugal, Carlos Morgado stated on Portuguese television "from now on, the scenario has changed, we'll have to find new paths. But this will never mean a military surrender. There'll be no military victory [for the government]".

However, UNITA Renovada, a group of leading UNITA figures that have decisively broken away from Jonas Savimbi's orbit, called on all of Savimbi's followers to "reject any option that seeks the continuation of the armed rebellion begun by Jonas Savimbi".

UNITA Renovada's spokesperson in the United States, Dinho Chingunji was more sanguine about the news. He announced "Savimbi is dead!!!"... For me this is definitely a cause to celebrate because of the genocide that Savimbi carried out against my family".

He continued that "people in UNITA, especially those in the bush who because of Savimbi security could not leave or make their feelings known in fear of their lives and that of their families, now are coming out in hundreds and the truth will come out".


Angolan government announces full withdrawal from DRC

The Angolan government on 31 January announced that it had removed its last soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Angolan army had assisted Laurent Kabila in ousting the late dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997, in an attempt to halt UNITA using the country as a staging post for its insurrection. In 1998 Angolan forces were involved in fighting when they saved Kabila from being overthrown by Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebels.

In its report on 13 November 2001, the United Nations Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo stated that it "believes that the involvement of Angola in the DRC is based on strategic concerns" and that "Angola is believed to be the only country that has not received any significant compensation for its military involvement in the DRC".

The fact that the Angolan army has not been engaged in economic activities in DRC is the main explanation why it has been so fast in pulling out of the country. ...

No. 107 - 28 February, 2002

Twice monthly news bulletin

JRS DISPATCHES is from the International Office of Jesuit Refugee Service, CP 6139, 00195 Roma Prati, Italy. Tel: +39-06 689.77.391; Fax: +39-06 687.92.83; Email:; JRS on-line:;


Angola: What Next After Death of Rebel Leader

The news of the death of veteran Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi has been greeted in the town of Luena with much public celebration and expressions of hope for an end to the country's long-running civil war. Savimbi was killed by government forces on 22 February, during a fierce gun battle that resulted in heavy casualties for both the UNITA rebels and the regular army. JRS Luena report that when confirmation of the rebel leader's death reached the town, people fired guns into the air during two hours of celebrations. Many local people strongly believe that the war has come to an end, that UNITA lacks the resources to continue the conflict, or a commander who can match Savimbi's strength and aggressiveness. Many captured UNITA rebels have confirmed that their movement's capacity has been heavily reduced of late, fuelling the government's belief that it will soon be able to put an end to the civil war.

Despite the general optimism in Luena, major challenges still have to be faced by the people of Angola if peace is to be given a chance.

-Many Angolans have suffered badly and lost family members during the conflict. ''Our discussions with them indicate that they are not prepared to forgive easily'', reports JRS Luena. The Government thus needs to construct an effective reconciliation and reconstruction project for the future.

-War has become a profitable business for many in Angola. Top government officials, military personnel and others have enjoyed huge benefits because of the conflict. How prepared are these people to see peace emerge?

-How prepared is the government to set up democratic structures that will allow for the expression of opposing views and philosophies?

-If peace returns, Angola will receive a lot of returnees from Zambia and DR Congo. Because of the infestation of mines throughout the country, many of the returnees may settle temporarily in provincial cities. Does the government have the capacity and will to deal adequately with these returnees? ''Despite these obstacles, if the government, civil society and political parties seize this moment as a genuine chance for peace, justice, and reconciliation, let us also hope the international community can play its part to assist Angola in bringing about an end to the war," writes JRS Angola.

Angola: Humanitarian Crisis Deepens

JRS in the Angolan town of Luena reports that the number of Internally displaced people has risen dramatically of late as a result of increased military operations in Moxico, and other nearby provinces. The government believes that the rural populations in the villages have been a logistical resource for UNITA's guerrilla warfare in terms of supplies. As a result the government has embarked on a clean-up operation moving rural people to Provincial capitals and settling them in camps, a move that has been condemned by the UN as contributing to a growing number of displaced civilians. The UN estimates that up to four million people - almost one third of the Angolan population - have now been forced to flee their homes as a result of the long-running civil war.

In the city of Luena alone, the displaced population has reached more than 89,000. During the month of January nearly 6000 people entered the city, 90 per cent of whom were women, children, and the elderly. The total number of orphans in Luena, including displaced and resident children, is 258, many of whom live in sub standard conditions at a local orphanage. Clothing, food and basic non-food items are urgently required for these children. On 12 February, addressing the UN Security Council, UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kenzo Oshimo, described the status of children in Angola as ''catastrophic'', with 30 percent of all children dying before the age of five.

The new reality of Luena had not been anticipated by the humanitarian agencies, most of whom had not created contingency plans to receive such large numbers of displaced people. Most NGOs on the ground are already operating at full capacity and simply do not have sufficient resources to respond to the growing anticipated needs of the thousands now arriving in the city. The delivery of humanitarian supplies has also been severely hampered by the poor condition of the Luena airstrip, the overall insecure environment, and the fact that surrounding areas are heavily mined, limiting access to agricultural land.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by Africa Action (incorporating the Africa Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa). Africa Action's information services provide accessible information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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