Is there hope for peace in Angola?
September 17, 1997
Web posted at: 4:07 p.m. EDT (2007 GMT)
From Correspondent Peter Arnett
MUXINDA, Angola (CNN) -- Angola's former rebel movement UNITA
must finish surrendering its weapons in the coming weeks as
required by the 1994 peace accord that formally ended years
of civil conflict. But the agreement may be threatened,
because many UNITA members are ignoring the order.
At Muxinda, a registration point for UNITA troops in the
northeastern Lunda Norte province, former rebel soldiers
danced to celebrate their demobilization and the end to more
than 20 years of civil war.
The soldiers had been waiting for the disarmament procedures
for more than a year, living in the confinement of special
camps under United Nations supervision.
The return to civilian life had been delayed because of
political bickering between the former Marxist MPLA-dominated
government and the rival UNITA rebels, who were once backed
by the United States and apartheid-era South Africa.
"We don't want more war. We hope for a free, peaceful Angola
where people can live well," nurse Emilita Piedade told CNN at the Muxinda camp.
This year, the U.N. observer mission has been flying
officials of both sides all over the country to supervise the
In the central town of Kuito, former government soldiers were
also pleased to be finally able to leave a tent encampment
where they and their families had languished for months.
U.N. disappointed by the numbers
However, U.N. officials were concerned that at many assembly
sites far fewer soldiers were waiting to be demobilized than
Only 810 turned up in Muxinda, even though 4,000 were
originally registered there. And more than one-third of the
70,000 UNITA soldiers originally registered for
demobilization simply disappeared.
This raised the threat of severe U.N. sanctions against UNITA
at the end of the month, if the former rebel movement does
not fulfill its pledge to surrender arms. Under the Lusaka
peace accord, UNITA committed itself to completely demobilize
and become a regular party, U.N. spokesman David Winhurst
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The U.N. was not only worried by the apparent troop
disappearances, but also by the fact that there were still
illegal UNITA roadblocks in some areas.
Unmarked aircraft also were continuing to land frequently at
small airstrips, unloading supplies in defiance of
restrictions imposed by the accords on unauthorized traffic.
Despite such incidents, some former fighters were preparing
for a new start in their home villages. They were trading in
their guns for two agricultural tools, three bags of corn and
18 nails. With this basic help, they hope to build a new