UN despairs of Angola's see-saw war

MARGARET ANSTEE, the British UN special envoy to Angola, spends a lot of time waiting for telephone calls that she hopes will help stop the civil war.

The voice she wants to hear is that of Jonas Savimbi, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), whose refusal to accept defeat in the country's first elections in September brought a poorly funded, UN-backed ceasefire and democracy plan crashing down into a renewal of the 16-year conflict.

Truces have been ignored and attempts to set up new negotiations rebuffed. The UN Angola Verification Mission (Unavem), which Ms Anstee heads, has closed 41 of its 67 monitoring stations throughout the country and more evacuations of military observers continued yesterday. 'You might be on a tragic see-saw,' Ms Anstee said in an interview. 'When one side is up they don't want to talk and when the other is up, they don't want to talk.' Last week the government had the initiative, but in recent days the see- saw has tilted in Unita's favour.

It has recovered from routs in several big towns last month to fight to a standstill government forces in the central highlands city of Huambo. On Tuesday, Unita captured the oil-producing city of Soyo. Oil accounts for 90 per cent of the income of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government.

Mr Savimbi had promised to strike at the government's main foreign-exchange earnings, oil and diamonds, and at Luanda. In the Soyo attacks, which destroyed several oil tanks, Unita captured 17 expatriate workers and another seven were reported missing. Three Britons were among them.

At least 10,000 people have been killed since polls closed on 30 September. In slums around many cities, vigilantes have pursued Unita militants in a campaign sometimes known as 'caca homen' (manhunt).

In 10 days the UN mandate, which Ms Anstee described as 'increasingly irrelevant', runs out. There are three options for the UN: a pull-out; the dispatch of thousands of UN troops with a role changed from observers to directly supervising the demobilisation of tens of thousands of soldiers; or a smaller mandate, what Ms Anstee called 'a holding pattern'.

What she does not want to happen is 'staggering on with declining influence and an irrelevant mandate'. A pull-out would be 'totally irresponsible and wrong', while the introduction of a large UN force would be impossible, given the present scale of fighting. Thus the most likely decision would be to reduce Unavem to a skeleton operation, mainly in the capital, and wait for the two sides to call with ceasefire proposals.

Many ordinary Angolans, who mistakenly believed that Unavem's role included powers to intervene, blame the UN for the crisis. Many diplomats blame both the Angolans and the weak UN mandate drawn up in accords brokered by Portugal, the US and the former Soviet Union.

(Map omitted)

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
techResearchers recover 100s of nude photos from second-hand smartphones
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Head of Digital Marketing,London

To £58k Contract 12 months: Charter Selection: Major household name charity se...

Network Support Engineer / Junior Test Analyst

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: A market leading, in...

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice