Renewed civil war dashes Angolan hopes for talks

WHEN the Angolan government ended its 14-year, Marxist- inspired nationalisation of the Our Lady of Conception seminary last year, Catholic nuns opened a primary school in the first step towards a new beginning. That hope was short-lived, however, like Angola's experiment with multi-party democracy, which has collapsed into renewed civil war.

The seminary got off relatively lightly from the fierce fighting earlier this month that killed an estimated 1,000 Angolans in Benguela. Pock-marks and holes in the walls were the only signs of the battles between President Jose Eduardo dos Santos's government forces and troops loyal to Jonas Savimbi's Unita.

Few other buildings in central Benguela escaped the battles. Unita soldiers dynamited the central market, and government supporters did the same to Unita's provincial headquarters. Bulldozers were used to scoop up the hundreds of corpses that littered the city's wide avenues.

With the fighting in Benguela and the neighbouring city of Lobito now over, the government has been dispatching soldiers, helicopters and MiG-23 fighter jets from the nearby Catumbela airbase to the central highlands town of Huambo, Mr Savimbi's political stronghold. There, government forces have been engaged in fierce street battles and artillery duels with Unita troops since 9 January. Both sides have claimed victory, though the continued fighting suggests the claims are false. Unlike the routs suffered in Benguela, Lobito and other major cities, Mr Savimbi's forces have put up stiff resistance. Reports suggested that he has thrown the bulk of his forces into the battle.

Should the United Nations Verification Mission (Unavem) decide to take up Mr Savimbi's call for massive intervention to stem the crisis in the country, Unita would need Huambo as a provisional base. If Huambo falls to the government, Unita soldiers can expect another long spell in the vast Angolan bush where they fought for 16 years.

Either way, hopes for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, sparked by Mr Savimbi's rejection of his loss in Angola's first general elections last September, have faded. The Angolan Council of Ministers has put off a decision on declaring a state of emergency, but diplomatic sources said the move was likely as was the banning of Unita.

Margaret Anstee, the special UN envoy, was scheduled to present a report to the Secretary- General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, by the end of the month (when the current UN mandate runs out) recommending whether the Security Council should increase the UN presence in Angola, including the dispatch of a peace-keeping force, or pull out altogether.

On 14 January she suggested she was leaning towards recommending withdrawal. 'If hostilities don't cease, there is no sense in the United Nations staying here,' Ms Anstee told reporters as plans for a meeting between government and Unita military represenatives in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, collapsed.

Mr dos Santos' government, which has scored significant victories over Unita in the past two weeks, shows no signs of easing its current offensive. Mr Savimbi, on the other hand, has lost credibility in the eyes of international negotiators because of his violation of previous ceasefires.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...