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Vol 42 No 11

Published 1st June 2001


Who blinks first?

Government and UNITA rebels edge reluctantly towards a ceasefire and new negotiations in one of Africa's longest-running wars

Rebel leader Jonas Savimbi has a cruel sense of timing. For 18 months, he has been calling on the ruling Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola to start talking again to his União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola. On 2 May, President José Eduardo dos Santos made his most conciliatory statement for a year, talking of a 'route to peace' and a dialogue with UNITA (AC Vol 42 No 9). Three days later, Savimbi's fighters killed at least 80 people in Caxito, abducting 60 children from a local orphanage. Many in Luanda believe both leaders are inching towards new negotiations but want to save face and get the best negotiating position beforehand. Dos Santos is under pressure from the growing popularity of Luanda's peace movement and needs a ceasefire if he's to hold elections next year. Savimbi is feeling the pressure of sanctions, the government's military efforts and the factionalising of his UNITA organisation.

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