U.N. delegate tries to salvage Angolan peace accord
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'
"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
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.
"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.
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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
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.