UN envoys' death propels Angola back to civil war

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THE ANGOLAN government is preparing for a new outbreak of its long-running civil war, following the death of Alioune Blondin Beye, the United Nations special envoy to the country in a plane crash on Friday.

Beye's death was particularly untimely. The day before his plane crashed, the peace envoy from Mali, who had spent five years trying to negotiate peace between the government and Jonas Savimbi's Unita rebels, was told peace talks had collapsed.

Summoned to a private meeting with Dr Savimbi at his headquarters in Andulo, in central Angola, Beye was told Unita had no intention of meeting a UN deadline to hand over control of its territory to the government by tomorrow, in spite of a threat of UN sanctions. Unita also told the envoy that the peace process was "unfair".

Unita, the national Union for the Total Independence of Angola, accuses the government of murdering and torturing its supporters in those parts of the country it has already returned to government control as part of the peace process.

Beye's staff said the UN envoy, already exhausted and ill with heart problems, was visibly upset after the meeting with Unita, which spelled the collapse of his efforts to end Angola's 20-year civil war.

The Lusaka Protocol of 1994 marked the end of the two years of fighting that broke out after Dr Savimbi refused to accept the results of the 1992 elections, which Unita expected to win, but lost to the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

Under the agreement, Unita was to have accepted the election result, handed over control of its territory to the government and disbanded its army.

Last week the government army began registering men aged 15 to 34 for the combat. Extra soldiers have been sent to remote areas and unemployed teenagers rounded upand sent for military training.

Unita sympathisers have been targeted. The UN has confirmed that suspected members of Unita have been harassed, and even raped and killed, by government police.

Unita is ready to fight back. Since the beginning of this year the organisation has reportedly been offering former soldiers from the South African army $10,000 a month to train its soldiers at bases in the south of Angola.

Recently, Unita has taken control of villages and towns in the north and east, and has laid mines along access roads. Foreign engineers have been warned that if they try to build roads in Unita-held areas they will be killed. Last week Unita took over the town of Luaua, on Angola's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although police and foreign aid workers fled the town before the rebels arrived, Unita captured three UN police observers. They were released after Beye appealed to Savimbi.

As a result of the increased tension, many foreign aid projects in country areas are shutting down and expatriate workers are moving to the capital, Luanda.

Unita blames the renewed hostilities on the government, saying it will not hand over more territory until the safety of its supporters can be guaranteed. Horacio Junjuvili, a Unita spokesman, said 263 Unita leaders had been killed and 633 sympathisers jailed or "disappeared" in areas handed over to the government under the peace deal. He denied they were planning a full-scale war but said Unita was "frustrated" by police violence directed against its supporters.

"In a country like Angola, which has been fighting for nearly 30 years, one million men know how to fight well," he warned..

Beye was one of the few men who might have persuaded Dr Savimbi and President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to restart the peace talks. After five years in Angola he knew them both well. One observer said: "There's going to be chaos without him".