Angola Wants to Trade Bullets for Ballots

The opinion-page article ``UNITA, Angola, and Calls for Reconciliation,'' July 14, by Jonas Savimbi, head of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), in response to the opinion-page article June 29 by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is revealing but not very encouraging.

While the author was professing his concern for the welfare of Angola, his troops were firing on United Nations World Food Program aircraft carrying food and medicine to civilians. The WFP has been repeatedly forced to halt its mercy missions because of UNITA attacks.

Contrary to Mr. Savimbi's claims, the International Red Cross has certified that Angola holds no political prisoners.

Savimbi has a warped view of democracy: He apparently only recognizes those elections in which UNITA did well, and then misrepresents them. This apparently allows him to claim victory in provinces where his party had a plurality in the National Assembly elections in 1992, but to reject the national outcome because voters rejected UNITA.

Also, the elections in the provinces he professes to have won were not, as implied, for the governorships of those provinces, but for representation in the National Assembly, and UNITA holds all the seats it won.

Instead of accepting the decision of voters in an election internationally recognized as free and fair, UNITA has waged a war that has left tens of thousands dead and millions homeless. Savimbi's contention of having agreed ``in principle'' to the outcome of the UN-mediated peace talks is misleading. The Angolan government has accepted this proposal, including much we do not like, while UNITA consistently refuses unless all its demands are met.

Huambo is not a historic homeland for UNITA, but rather a province it conquered in 1992 and a potential power base for the partition of Angola. UN mediation has offered UNITA vice-governorship of Huambo province and mayoralty of Huambo city, but Savimbi insists on full control of ``his'' province.

Had UNITA not restarted the civil war when it lost the 1992 elections, the elected government of Angola would today be holding long-planned local elections.

The same is true of presidential elections. Mr. Dos Santos won 49 percent in the first round of elections and Savimbi, who received 40 percent of the vote, was afraid he would lose in the runoff and decided to go with the bullet rather than the ballot. The Angolan government remains eager to accept the verdict of the voters and complete the elections.

We have unconditionally accepted the UN mediator's proposal. We join with the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, Portugal, and an overwhelming majority of nations in urging UNITA to do the same. Jose Patricio, Washington Ambassador of Angola

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published, and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ``Readers Write,'' and can be sent by Internet E-mail (200 word maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115

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