Clashes Stall Angola Peace Effort
The collapse of the electoral process has implications for security in southern Africa
JOHANNESBURG — HOPES of a negotiated settlement in Angola are fading following widespread fighting between government and rebel forces throughout the country last week. The fighting has left thousands of people dead and sparked an evacuation of foreign nationals.
Western diplomats said that heavy fighting in the Angolan capital Luanda last week had reduced the chances of a negotiated end to hostilities that followed Angola's first democratic elections at the end of September. Two top rebel leaders and key generals of the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) were left dead, injured, or captured in the clashes.
The collapse of the 17-month-old UN-monitored peace process in Angola has serious implications for southern Africa - particularly for Mozambique, where a precarious peace accord signed Oct. 4 is modeled on the Angolan formula.
And the developing trade and diplomatic relationship between Pretoria and the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), which was seen as a potential engine for promoting regional peace and reconstruction, appears to have been damaged by the post-ballot tensions. Savimbi and the UN
Rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who has rejected the results of the ballot even though it was declared free and fair by the United Nations, failed to respond to a request for a meeting by UN peacekeeper Marrack Goulding, who arrived Friday.
Mr. Goulding, UN undersecretary for peacekeeping, held talks with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos on Saturday and was reported yesterday to be on his way to try to see Mr. Savimbi in Huambo, the country's second largest city and a UNITA stronghhold.
Western diplomats say UNITA holds the cities of Huambo, Lobito, and Bie in central Angola, and controls parts of the south, the northern Uige province, and the diamond areas in the northeast.
The diplomats said that UNITA had taken the city of Caxito - only 40 miles northeast of Luanda - over the weekend, but they doubted that UNITA would mount a full-scale attack on the capital, which is a stronghold of the MPLA.
"It now looks as though UNITA controls a substantial part of the country and could hold out for a long time unless it gets the powersharing deal it wants," says one Western diplomat monitoring the situation in Angola. "It could develop into a long, drawn-out affair."
In a surprise move this weekend, the Angolan government declared South African Foreign Minister Roleof (Pik) Botha unwelcome and said it had confirmed that aircraft from South Africa had made 50 illegal flights to UNITA's Jamba headquarters in southern Angola last month.
The Angolan government also expelled a key South African mediator who had been trying to negotiate a powersharing deal between UNITA and the MPLA.
The South African government has denied knowledge of the flights and insists that it is working to bolster the peace accord. Mr. Botha made several trips to Angola last month at the invitation of the Luanda government and held talks with both Mr. dos Santos and Savimbi.
"South Africa - and we have said it quite clearly to Savimbi - is not going to support UNITA militarily," says a South African spokesman. "We still think it is essential for the two leaders to meet ... and we will do our best to facilitate such a meeting."
Oil- and diamond-rich Angola was considered to be in the best position in the region to achieve a rapid economic recovery after 16 years of civil war shattered its infrastructure.
Diplomats say that the UN-brokered peace accord failed to secure a peaceful ballot because time was not allowed for proper demobilization of rival armies and UNITA had not made the transition from a military force to a political party.
In a recent Monitor interview in the Mozambican capital of Maputo, the UN special envoy to Mozambique, Aldo Ajello, said it was vital that those involved in the peace and democracy process in that country should learn from Angola's mistakes and not embark on an election until demilitarization had been completed.
"I will suggest very strongly a delay of the proposed election date [October 1993] if the military process has not been completed on schedule," Mr. Ajello said. "The political process must be conducted with meetings and not with guns."
Angola and Mozambique, both former Portuguese colonies where Soviet-backed liberation movements seized power in 1975, have been embroiled in civil wars against anticommunist insurgencies backed by South Africa. And, in the case of UNITA, by the United States.
The peace accords in both countries emerged from the 1986 decision by the US and the former Soviet Union to resolve regional conflicts through talks rather than war. Over the past five years, the ruling parties in both countries have abandoned Marxism-Leninism and embraced multiparty and free-market principles.
South Africa insists that it has ended military support to both rebel movements but its critics suspect that elements of the South African military are still channeling aid to the rebels. After the ballot, violence
The MPLA won decisively in the parliamentary vote Sept. 29-30, but Dos Santos fell just short of the 50 percent needed in the presidential poll to avoid a runoff.
About 300 foreigners evacuated from Luanda over the weekend told chilling stories of shootings and summary executions in Luanda. Western diplomats have expressed alarm about civilians armed by the MPLA who have gone on the rampage, hunting down UNITA supporters.
Two of Savimbi's nephews, UNITA Army commander Gen. Arlindo "Ben Ben" Pena and Elias Salupeto Pena, a top UNITA official, were killed during attacks on Luanda last week. At least a dozen other top UNITA officials reportedly were either killed or have gone into hiding.
UNITA claims that its leaders were lured into a trap and massacred. The MPLA government insists that UNITA was planning to take Luanda by force.
UNITA Foreign Affairs spokesman Abel Chivukuvuku, who was injured in the shootout, told the Associated Press from his military bed in Luanda Sunday that only dialogue could save Angola from sliding back into all-out civil war.
"There is no way out rather than through negotiation," he said.