Storm Warnings in Africa

While the world's attention lately has focused on the conflicts in Kosovo and the Middle East, few in the West have noticed alarming developments in central and southern Africa. An international free-for-all continues to rage in Congo (formerly known as Zaire). And Angola appears again on the verge of civil war.

Impoverished but resource-rich Angola has seen little peace since Portugal ended colonial rule in 1975. The government party - the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) - has for more than two decades warred with Jonas Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). One of the cold war's biggest proxy fights, the Angolan civil war saw Cuban troops and Soviet logistics backing up the MPLA, while South African troops and covert American aid went to UNITA.

As the East-West confrontation ended, however, the government and UNITA agreed to a series of cease-fires and unity governments, most of which have broken up in renewed fighting as a result of Mr. Savimbi's obstructionism. UN peacekeepers have proved unable to stem the conflict.

Responding to UNITA's failure to comply with the latest peace accords, the government Aug. 31 "suspended" UNITA legislators and ministers from participation in government affairs. UNITA has gathered 30,000 well-trained troops in diamond-mining areas it controls in the north and south. While not enough to unseat the government, Savimbi's forces could wage war for years, prolonging the Angolan people's suffering and poverty.

The UN Security Council voted last week to extend peacekeeping operations through Dec. 3. But it's going to take a lot more than that to head off renewed warfare. The so-called "Troika" countries overseeing peace efforts - the US, Russia, and Portugal - and the UN must step up diplomatic efforts to get peace back on track.

One reason the Angolan government will not defeat UNITA is that it is wasting energy and resources intervening against Congolese rebels and their allies fighting the regime of Laurent Kabila. Angolan troops joined soldiers from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Chad, and perhaps Sudan to turn back a rebel assault on Congo's capital, Kinshasha. The battle has drawn in Rwandan and Ugandan troops, said to be supporting rebel forces.

Not one of these impoverished nations has any business in this conflict. Both sides should push Mr. Kabila and the rebels into talks to end it.

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