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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most