Summit fails to clear obstacles to Angola peace Summit fails to clear obstacles to lasting peace

Fresh assurances that Africa's longest-running civil war is over emerged from Thursday's summit between President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and the Unita rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, but progress on implementing their nine-month-old peace accord has remained elusive.

Disarmament of Mr Savimbi's 75,000 National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) troops, the confinement to barracks of government security forces, and the formation of a single 70,000-strong national army remain the key stumbling-blocks.

Failure to resolve those issues torpedoed Angola's previous peace agreement after Mr Savimbi rejected his defeat in the October 1992 UN-observed general elections and restarted the conflict, which erupted in 1975 on the eve of independence from Portugal. From 1992 to 1994 the war claimed 500,000 lives, reduced the central cities of Huambo and Cuito to rubble, and forced a third of the nation's 10 million people to become dependent on international food aid.

Angola's parliament created two new vice-presidential posts last month, but the ruling Popular Movement of the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has said that Mr Savimbi cannot take up the offer of vice-president for economic affairs until his army is disarmed.

The meeting on Thursday was the second following their May summit in Lusaka, Zambia, where the two rivals ratified a UN-brokered peace agreement signed last November, after the government army had routed Unita from its central highland stronghold in Huambo. The fact that the talks had to be held in the West African nation of Gabon - Mr Savimbi still fears for his life in Luanda - underlined how far Angola still must travel before a genuine peace takes hold.

There have been repeated, though relatively small, clashes between government troops and Mr Savimbi's rebels, especially in the north-eastern diamond producing areas, in recent weeks, prompting the armed forces chief of staff, General Joao de Matos, to warn that a return to war was "in the air".

Ironically, hopes for a lasting peace could reside in the hands of Gen de Matos, a charismatic 38-year-old veteran of Luanda's years of battles against Unita and its former South African allies. With the help of South African mercenaries, many of whom once fought alongside Unita, and massive arms purchases, he rebuilt an Angolan army that had effectively collapsed after the 1992 elections and had allowed Unita to take control of two- thirds of the country.

Known to be suspicious of both Unita and the MPLA, General de Matos ignored demands by the UN and the Clinton administration last November to halt an offensive against the rebel headquarters in Huambo, and broke Unita's traditional stranglehold on the Central Highlands. That humiliating defeat, combined with declining revenues for smuggled diamonds and increasing diplomatic isolation, forced Mr Savimbi to retreat to the village of Bailundo and to authorise his negotiators to sign the peace deal in Lusaka.

The UN Special Representative, Alioune Blondin Beye, capitalised on Unita's unprecedented military weakness to broker the deal and to convince a UN Security Council still feeling the sting of the 1992 debacle to authorise millions of pounds in funds and the dispatch of blue helmets to secure the peace.

But fewer than half of the expected 7,500-strong peace-keeping force has arrived in Angola, efforts to remove millions of landmines are months behind schedule, and indications are that government security forces remain on alert.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
Tattoo enthusiast Cammy Stewart poses for a portrait during the Great British Tattoo Show
In picturesThe Great British Tattoo Show
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?