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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Diego Costa, Ross Barkley, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Pardew and Christian Eriksen
footballRodgers is right to be looking over his shoulder, while something must be done about diving
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
gaming
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

Argyll Scott International: Business Analyst - MGA - London Market - Insurance Broker

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Argyll Scott International: A Business A...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Network / Systems Administrator (LAN, WAN, Windows)

£38000 - £42000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Netw...

Investigo: Group Financial Controller

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Investigo: A growing group of top end restaurants l...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible