Dr. Jonas Savimbi, the leader of the Angolan rebel faction, UNITA, has ended an 18-month silence and comes forward with a proposal for dialogue with Luanda. Angola was a Portuguese colony until the Portuguese Revolution on 25th April, 1974, prepared the way for the independence of Portugal’s colonies: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe Islands and East Timor, a process which was culminated in 1975. UNITA was one of the three Angolan independence factions (along with MPLA, now in government, and FNLA, the most violent of the factions, whose members were involved in decapitating and raping the corpses of Portuguese women and children and whose leader, Holden Roberto, now lives in the USA) which launched the fight for independence in 1961. Unita’s historic leader, Jonas Savimbi, has kept to his strongholds in central Angola and has adopted a clever policy of attack and retreat, arming his troops with the most sophisticated equipment on the market, financed by the sale of diamonds. However, his Umbundu ethnic origins have been confirmed by UNITA’s area of influence: UNITA operates in the areas where this tribe is dominant. Outside this area, in the capital, Luanda, for example, UNITA is seen only as a marauding group of bandits. Beset by desertions and an internal rift, UNITA lives difficult times. This is maybe the reason behind the latest diplomatic offensive of UNITA, in which Dr. Savimbi states: “We are for dialogue and we agree that dialogue should be organised. I would like to say to the Angolan people that we should take advantage of the international situation. The Americans are also starting to see that dialogue is the way to solve the problem”. It is most unlikely that the party in government in Angola, MPLA, will take any notice of Dr. Savimbi’s offers for dialogue, especially now, at a time when the independence movement in Cabinda gains the attention of the world’s press. However, the signs are that the winds of change are blowing in Angola, potentially one of Africa’s richest countries but through the obstinacy of its leaders, one of the poorest.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON