Angola's Wobbly Truce

THE cease-fire in Angola, heralded with relief just two months ago, has been a truce more in word than in fact. The guns have never been stacked in the conflict between the Marxist-led government in Luanda and the guerrillas of Jonas Savimbi, backed by South Africa and the United States. Since the cease-fire nominally went into effect on June 24, both sides have accused the other of initiating sporadic fighting that has left hundreds dead. Ending the 14-year civil war between the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) - the faction that prevailed after the former Portuguese colony won independence in 1975 - and Mr. Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) remains a distant and elusive goal. Hard negotiations doubtless lie ahead. The first step, though, is clear enough: Stop the fighting.

To that end, MPLA and UNITA troops should rest on their arms. Equally important, all parties to the agreement last December setting the stage for Angolan reconciliation (and for the independence of Namibia) should scrupulously honor the terms. If South Africa is still providing arms and intelligence to UNITA - as many observers believe it is, despite Pretoria's denials - it should desist. Cuba should resume its pullout of troops from Angola, which it says it halted because of UNITA truce violations.

As long as the belligerents have the backing of their main foreign allies, they will have a hedge against serious talks. Happily, the Soviet Union appears to have cut back its support for the MPLA.

The US says it will continue aiding UNITA to the tune of about $15 million a year until Angola has a government reflecting its political makeup. Does that help or impede the peace process? It's argued both ways. The US at least should use its leverage with Savimbi to ensure that US aid is used to keep UNITA politically viable and not to make war.

The June cease-fire was brokered skillfully by President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. Mr. Mobutu needs to keep running with the ball. It's hoped that he can bring Savimbi and Angolan President Jos'e Eduardo dos Santos together again to begin the negotiations pledged in June. Mobutu's first task is to clarify Savimbi's personal intentions. The MPLA says he promised to go into temporary exile, but Savimbi contradicts this.

The long and brutal war has devastated Angola. It's time for some true statesmanship - from Savimbi and President dos Santos, from Mobutu, and from Washington, Pretoria, Moscow, and Havana - to end the bloodshed.

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