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
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...