Source Pravda.Ru

Angola: Peace - 20 June, 2002

UNITA leader Paulo Lukamba Gato visits Lisbon to confirm that the peace process is under way in Angola, as the country takes giant strides towards democracy, healing four decades of bloody civil war which have left hundreds of thousands destitute, maimed…or dead.

“We are living the end of the armed conflict in Angola and we need to work hard to construct peace to deepen democracy and national reconciliation”, declared Paulo Lukamba Gato, the coordinator of UNITA’s management committee and the movement’s secretary-general. UNITA, the rebel movement in Angola, has been fighting a civil war against government faction MPLA, led by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, since 1975. On 20th February this year, UNITA’s historic leader Dr. Jonas Savimbi was gunned down in an ambush in the bush in eastern Angola.

Paulo Lukamba Gato declared that “We want to look to the future”, extremely important for Angola, a country where the movement Medicins Sans Fontieres has launched an international appeal for help, due to the elevated number of starving and disease-stricken civilians, caught up between the warring factions for decades, unable, most years, to reap what crops they managed to sow.

Lucia, a farmer, saw her husband shot by UNITA rebels in 1976. In 1977, a detachment pf MPLA soldiers shot all her pigs, because they were white and killed all her white chickens. In the following years, her farm was raided by one faction or the other, which helped themselves to whatever food they wanted, along with alcoholic drinks, and even Lucia’s daughters. Lucia told Pravda.Ru “What could I do? If I complained they would have shot me and taken my sons away. At least they are still alive, but I sent them away to Portugal”.

Lukamba Gato is on a diplomatic mission to inform foreign governments about the current situation in Angola. He has already visited Washington, where he held similar meetings with Congress, which he classified as extremely positive, declaring that the Bush administration “is open to the construction of democracy and the consolidation of peace” in Angola.

However, he warned that “it is necessary not to confuse elections with democracy. Elections are a moment, an act in the process towards democracy. There is a certain tendency to say that everything is running very well, that elections are near and so there is democracy. But this is nor really the case”.

UNITA and UNITA Renovada, a splinter faction nurtured by Luanda, are expected to come together in July’s conference, when the ground will be set for a candidate to fight the presidential elections against the MPLA candidate, whether this will be President dos Santos, or another.

Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru