Hope for Angola

ANGOLANS may finally be viewing the end of their country's 20-year civil war. The war has pitted not only a ruling faction against a rebel one, but both factions against every aspect of normal life. Farming stopped as fields were sown with land mines; a whole generation came to know little but combat.

This was a classic cold-war sideshow. The left-leaning government was aided by the Soviet Union and Cuba, while the rebel forces were sustained by South Africa and the United States. With those supporting roles vacant, the conflict had to wind down. And the United Nations, its 7,460-man peacekeeping mission now moving in, has the job of managing Angola's transition to stability.

It won't be easy. On the positive side, the country is thoroughly tired of war. Its citizens have little sympathy for either side, and simply want to get back to educating children, tending businesses, and planting crops. The principals in the conflict - President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and rebel leader Jonas Savimbi - met in Lusaka, Zambia, in May and shook hands. That was their first direct meeting in years, though their armies agreed last November to stop fighting.

But suspicions between the government and Mr. Savimbi's guerrillas run deep. The UN blue helmets posted between the two forces could have their hands full. Some of the government's generals might prefer to push for victory over the weakened rebels, and Savimbi has torpedoed peace initiatives in the past.

The UN forces will be stretched thin in Angola - as, indeed, peacekeeping resources are stretched thin around the globe. But in Angola, at least, the UN has a signed cease-fire and an apparent readiness among the former combatants to build on it. Angola could be another entry in the plus column for peacekeeping.

That will require some form of power-sharing arrangement to incorporate rebel leaders into the government. It also will require a UN-guided effort to demilitarize the country and clear its vast mine fields. Then Angola's economic crisis can be eased, and the country's substantial wealth - oil, diamonds, farmland, and other resources - can be put to better use than in buying weapons.

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