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Vol 43 No 5

Published 8th March 2002


Death, not peace

After four decades of war, the killing of 'O Mais Velho' Jonas Savimbi makes peace possible but not certain

The government sent a message of reconciliation. After the death in combat of Jonas Savimbi in late February, President José Eduardo dos Santos said the army was working towards local truces, with a view to a general ceasefire. The aim, presumably, is to placate the foreign observers who want the government to focus on development rather than war ­ and perhaps to coax the remaining fighters of Savimbi's União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola out of the bush and into Luanda politics. There is, the authorities tell them, 'nothing to be afraid of any more'. The necessary compromises could take time to achieve, though. It is by no means clear who will lead UNITA's forces after Savimbi's death. The first post-Savimbi contender, António Sebstião Dembo, has just been killed in unexplained circumstances; some say by the government, others by UNITA rivals. Dembo has not been replaced by the harder line UNITA Secretary General, General Paulo Lukamba 'Gato'. Dos Santos has said it would be absurd for the army to declare a unilateral ceasefire. There are still reports of limited rebel attacks, though it is, as usual, rarely clear whether the attackers were UNITA fighters, renegade government soldiers or 'armed bandits', a vague but comprehensive term. Would-be peacemakers, such as Dom Zacarias Kamuenho, of the Comité Inter-Eclesial para a Paz em Angola (Inter-Church Committee for Peace in Angola, Coiepa), say they are deeply disappointed by Dos Santos' position.

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