Angola Needs the World's Help in Making Peace Triumph

Its president asks for 7,000 peacekeepers, urges UN not to try for `peace on the cheap'

IT was with great satisfaction that I read the recent bipartisan congressional letter to President Clinton declaring that ``the United States has a strong national interest in a stable peace agreement in Angola.'' I share the view in Congress that the Lusaka Accords are the ``last, best hope for peace in Angola.''

The letter accurately notes that the treaty also offers a promise of stability and prosperity in our region along with opportunities to expand US exports to Angola.

I have called on all Angolans to make a pact in the defense of peace and absolute respect for national reconciliation so that we may reconstruct our war-ravaged country and vivify the soul of our people. It is a gigantic task, but I am confident we can show that we are equal to it, and are capable of making peace triumph.

Proxy battles of the cold war over

But we cannot achieve this difficult goal alone. Generations have been born and have grown up knowing nothing but conflict, first with colonial rulers and then among ourselves. If peace is to set down roots, it will need the nurturing of the international community, led by the US.

The cold-war superpowers who once used our differences in their proxy battles are now trying to forget their old differences. But they must not forget old obligations. We look to them now as partners. We were once a wealthy country and we can make ourselves one again - but not overnight, or alone.

Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has said, ``It is imperative that immediate action now be taken to implement the comprehensive agreement signed in Lusaka.'' Mr. Clinton gave me his written assurance, ``Once a peace agreement is reached, the United States government will be prepared to do all it can within the United Nations and bilaterally to ensure its successful implementation.'' Many of our friends, both old and new, implored us to take unpopular risks in the negotiations with the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). In response to their urgings, we went that extra mile. We have done that and now we turn to them to help us make that peace a success.

The Security Council's decision to deploy a contingent of about 500 cease-fire observers is welcome, but we need prompt dispatching of at least 7,000 peacekeepers to ensure that all provisions of the agreement are adhered to. The UN and the international community cannot skimp on this vital aspect of the peace process. We want our former enemies to know from these credible sources that we are sincere in word as well as deed, and I am sure they feel the same way. Peacekeepers will help instill confidence among past foes.

To repeat 1992's tragic mistake of trying to ``make peace on the cheap'' would doom our nation and all of southern Africa to more war and bloodshed. The cost of providing peacekeepers and launching national reconciliation is only a fraction of the cost of making war and caring for the victims.

The national healing process must begin with caring for the hurt, the hungry, and the homeless. We urgently need portable hospital facilities that can rapidly be dispatched to the hard-hit areas like the devastated cities of Cuito, Huambo, Uige, and Melange.

The need to clear mines

The fighting is over, but we urgently need help to clear millions of antipersonnel mines strewn throughout our nation, so that our farmers may till our fertile fields, our children may attend school and play safely outdoors, and all our citizens can travel in peace to and from their jobs and homes.

Before the war, we were known as a country with abundant mineral and agricultural resources. We were self-sufficient in most foodstuffs. Our exports ranged from crude oil and uncut diamonds to coffee and tobacco to textiles and shoes.

Now we must repair and rebuild as we heal our wounds and our wounded. We need technical assistance to rebuild our infrastructure, we need international peacekeepers to enforce our cease-fire, we need foreign investment to restore our industrial base, we need equipment and expertise to clear away the deadly debris of war. We also need loans and credits to stimulate our economy, as well as debt relief and restructuring.

Savimbi invited for talks

We have launched our democracy. Our elected National Assembly is at work and soon we will hold the final round of our presidential elections. Meanwhile, our former foes will be joining us in governing the nation by assuming positions of major responsibility. They will be Cabinet ministers, provincial governors, mayors, ambassadors and much more. The two former enemy armies will join together in a national defense force as most former combatants are demobilized.

I have invited UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi to meet with me at any time and any place in Angola so we may show our people we are fully engaged together in national reconciliation and reconstruction.

A new page is being turned in Angola's history. It presents new challenges for Angolan political leaders, government officials, and ordinary citizens as we try to reconstruct a third time from the rubble and ruins of the tragedy that devastated Angola. We call upon the United States and the international community to join us in our historic task of making peace work not just for ourselves but for a continent that is struggling hard to spread the blessings of peace and democracy to all its citizens. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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