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U.N. delegate tries to salvage Angolan peace accord

U.N. helicpoter and soldiers September 20, 1997
Web posted at: 1:55 p.m. EDT (1755 GMT)

LUANDA, Angola (CNN) -- As the United Nations was threatening harsh sanctions against UNITA rebels in Angola, special U.N. envoy Alioune Blondin Beye of Mali traveled to the country in what could be a final attempt to make the rebels abide by a peace accord they signed in Lusaka in 1994.

At the top of Beye's agenda was to convince Jonas Savimbi, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) to abide by the Lusaka Protocol.

Angola has been plagued by civil war since its independence from Portugal in 1975. A cease-fire lasted from May 1991 to October 1992, when the insurgent National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) refused to accept defeat in internationally monitored elections. Fighting resumed in many areas. Another peace accord was signed in November 1994. Since then, a cease-fire is generally holding, although many parts of the agreement remain to be implemented.

That U.N.-mediated peace treaty ended more than twenty years of armed conflict between the once Western-backed UNITA rebels and the formerly Marxist MPLA party that dominates the current Angolan government.

Under the peace accord, UNITA pledged to demilitarize its forces, become a regular political party and help normalize governmental activities throughout the country.

The U.N. Security Council has repeatedly accused UNITA of failing to fulfill its commitment, and the world body noted in its last review in August that the military situation was tense throughout the country, but particularly in the provinces of Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul and Malange.

The United Nations -- which has about 2,600 military personnel in Angola -- also said there were reports of mobilizations of troops and military equipment, and an increase in hostile propaganda.

'A lack of political will'

 Mali diplomat Alioune Blondin Beye

"It is almost three years now (since the Lusaka peace accord). We have exercised a lot of patience, we have understood UNITA and we have followed them, helped them. But it appears that there is what you would call a lack of political will. That is why the Security Council has had to adopt the extreme measures of sanctions," Beye told CNN.

Those "extreme measures" include travel restrictions on senior UNITA representatives, which become effective by the end of the month if UNITA does not implement the peace accord. The council also has warned of additional trade and financial restrictions.

While U.N. officials assert that the government of President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos has implemented its role in the peace accords, some experts believe that UNITA leader Savimbi never intended to comply with the treaty. Instead, they say, UNITA has been using the time to rebuild its forces.

Military analyst 
Jackie Potgeiter

"Savimbi wants to be president of Angola," military analyst Jackie Potgeiter told CNN. Potgeiter said there was evidence of weapons shipments reaching eastern Angola via the Horn of Africa, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique. icon (103K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Diamond mines key to long-term peace

Beye told CNN that if the armed conflict in Angola were to erupt again, U.N. troops would withdraw.

A key component of any real Angola peace accord, analysts believe, is the future of the diamond mining areas in the northeastern region, which is mainly controlled by UNITA forces.

The diamond mines bring in about $500 million a year, according to experts. But so far, UNITA has failed to hand over control of this valuable source of income, and U.S. Ambassador to Angola Donald Steinberg said American officials were trying to broker a deal.

"UNITA needs to give up control of the diamond regions. That is part of the Lusaka Protocol. But at the same time, they need some guarantees that their interests in participating fully as an unarmed political party in the democracy that is in the offing in Angola is secured," Steinberg said.

As the countdown to international sanctions proceeds, Beye has been going public with his appeals for cooperation, even using a music gala in Luanda to get out his message.

"The time will come when UNITA realizes that there is no other choice but to execute the commitment, and, therefore, advance with the peace process."

The alternative, Beye warned, would mean war.

Correspondent Peter Arnett contributed to this report.

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