Progress but no deal on peace in Angola: Rebel demands are holding up talks, writes Karl Maier in Johannesburg

A PEACE settlement in the Angolan civil war remains a distant prospect, despite significant progress made in UN- mediated negotiations between President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' government and Jonas Savimbi's Unita rebels.

Big advances have been made during a month of negotiations in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on the mechanics of an eventual ceasefire and demobilisation of the two warring armies, sources say. But sticky political issues, such as the rebels' demands for senior cabinet posts in a national unity government and for autonomy for the central highlands region where Unita enjoys wide popular support, could block a final accord. Agreement reached on demobilisation did not include the government's controversial paramilitary force, known as the ninjas, which are to be discussed separately.

'Even after an agreement is reached, it is going to be very easy to derail the process,' said one source. Angola, gripped by civil war since independence from Portugal in 1975, enjoyed an 18-month ceasefire and its first general elections in September 1992 under a peace accord brokered by Portugal, Russia and the United States. The country returned to war, described by the United Nations as the world's most destructive conflict, after Mr Savimbi rejected his electoral defeat. Up to 100,000 are estimated to have been killed in the past year through fighting and famine.

As the talks broke up last week for Christmas, the UN special representative, Alioune Blondin Beye, was optimistic that a peace deal was within reach. 'We are not far from concluding the Lusaka protocols because all the difficult questions are behind us and we have already created conditions for resolving the remaining ones,' he said.

'A truce has not been signed, but both sides have freely made commitments to that effect in Lusaka and they should respect this by making sure that the action on the ground corresponds to this commitment.'

Mr Beye insisted, however, that he would not authorise a ceasefire before all disputes had been settled. His position has angered Unita, which has been pushing for a ceasefire and the deployment of UN peace-keepers as soon as possible. Western diplomats believe Unita wants the quick arrival of a UN force to shield it from the government army so that it can maintain control of the 60 per cent of Angolan territory it now controls.

Unita officials have warned, however, that they might not return to the negotiations. 'By waiting for the full package we will lose everything that we have achieved so far. You have to learn to win by steps because if there is a military crisis within the next few days all will be lost,' said a Unita spokesman, Jorge Valentim.

The talks nearly collapsed after government planes bombed Unita positions near Cuito on 11 December. Unita claimed it was an attempt to assassinate Mr Savimbi, but UN investigators disproved this.

(Map omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there