Congress Keeps Wary Eye on Angola. Debate continues over aid to Savimbi amid charges of UNITA human rights violations
FOREIGN POLICY: SOUTHERN AFRICA
THE recent flare-up in Namibia has again drawn Washington's attention to the still-simmering civil war in Angola. The Namibia incidents heightened concern about the promises of Cuba and the Angolan government to withdraw all Cuban troops from Angola by July 1991 as part of the US-mediated accords on southwestern Africa signed in December.Skip to next paragraph
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The House of Representatives last week passed an amendment bolstering requirements for the administration to monitor Cuba's compliance with its withdrawal commitments. The amendment mandates an immediate cutoff of United States funding for United Nations operations in Namibia, if Cuba violates its commitments for a graduated pullout.
The Namibia clashes brought to light political skirmishes in Washington related to Angola's civil strife.
Supporters of the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) are urging the US to keep up political pressure on the Angolan government to negotiate an end to the 14-year civil strife. Four key senators have sent the administration draft legislation intended to embody these goals as well as ensure that Cuba meets its commitments.
Some congressional and UNITA sources say the congressional intelligence committees are, or soon will be, considering a boost in covert military assistance to the guerrilla group. (This could not be confirmed as intelligence committee deliberations are secret.)
UNITA sources have suggested they would like to receive about $50 million annually to help UNITA weather the cutoff of aid from South Africa and the end of its free access to Namibia. Press reports say UNITA is getting about $30 million this year from the US, up from about $15 million last year. (The Soviet Union provided Angola with about $1.5 billion in military aid last year, US officials say.)
Those who oppose aid to UNITA argue that US assistance should end, especially as Cuban troops leave. Supporters say US aid is now an even more important lever in getting the Angolan government to negotiate an end to the civil war and accept free elections.
The administration's view, a senior official says, is that ``it is not a question of whether there will be national reconciliation in Angola, but when and how'' as the pressure on both parties mounts.
The speed of Cuba's front-loaded withdrawal, he explains, creates battlefield pressure on the government, while foreign backers of both sides are saying ``enough is enough.'' UNITA, he says, has continued to adapt its public posture to challenge the government to negotiate. In mid-March, UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi offered to exclude himself from peace negotiations and to stay out of a transitional government as the country prepares for elections. The government rejected the offer.
``Put all together, there is a fairly formidable set of forces pushing the two sides together,'' the senior official says. But, he adds, this will take a while: ``We've stripped away the soft outer shell, but the hard core of the nut remains to be cracked.''
Opponents of US aid to UNITA are rallying their forces around recent charges that Mr. Savimbi has had rival members of his group executed and condoned at least one incident of witch-burning in 1983. Those reports were aired on a recent US public television program and a British TV report. UNITA has rebutted the charges.