The life of one of Angola’s odious leaders has been cut short - Jonas Savimbi, the head of the L’Unita movement (the National union for Angola liberation), was killed in a fight with the government troops on February 22. Savimbi’s militants have been oppressing Angola’s people for dozens of years already; the whole of the country has suffered great damage because of them. Jonas Savimbi was pushed by his drive for the power only, but he failed to achieve it.
L’Unita was founded in 1966. This organization, together with MPLA (People’s movement for Angola liberation), has fought for Angola liberation from their Portuguese colonialists. However, when the Portuguese withdrew from Angola in 1974, the largest political organizations of the country launched a struggle for the power that, in its turn, resulted in military conflict and, eventually, a civil war. MPLA counted on the Soviet Union, and L’Unita relied on the USA and the Republic of South Africa. The war entailed not only collisions between the Angolan forces. South African troops invaded Angola in August of 1975, and only the USSR’s pressure caused the withdrawel of the troops in March of 1976.
However, the hostilities did not stop after that. The ruling MPLA party understood that it could not deal with L’Unita alone and, after Moscow’s approval, appealed to Fidel Castro for help. As a result, Cuba’s military contingent of 50,000 soldiers was stationed in Angola at the end of the 1970s. In addition, the Soviet Union was of great help to the ruling regime as well, as it supplied military technology and sent experts to the country. The assistance of the USA and the Republic of South Africa was also great, as they helped L’Unita to gain control over Angola’s southern and eastern provinces. Washington and Pretoria stuck to an old and safe principle: “Savimbi is a son of bitch, but he is our son of a bitch.” The struggle for control in Angola was caused not only by the fact that the MPLA regime stuck to its socialist orientation. There are large oilfields and, what is more important, diamond fields in Angola. We understand perfectly well why Jonas Savimbi was so actively supported if we remember where the office of De Beers, the diamond monopolist, is located.
The opposition between the Soviet Union and the USA aggravated the Angolan conflict. The withdrawal of Cuba’s contingent from Angola at the end of the 1980s initiated the improvement of the situation. The MPLA and L’Unita concluded an amicable treaty in 1991 with the Soviet Union’s assistance. Multi-party parliamentary elections took place in 1992 for the first time in Angola’s history. The MPLA won the elections. Savimbi and his organization refused to accept the elections’ results, which gave rise to another civil war.
This time, Savimbi lost the support of the USA and the Republic of South Africa. The government of Nelson Madela, who came to power in the South Africa, did not wish to support L’Unita, because it dirtied its good name by its cooperation with the racist regime. The USA did not need Savimbi any more, as Russia had given up its presence in the region. In July of 1993, the Angolan government said that it would conclude oil production contracts with Exxon, the US company, and Royal Dutch-Shell, the British-Dutch company. In response, the USA lifted the arms embargo on Angola.
That very moment was the beginning of Savimbi’s end. The governmental forces gradually dislodged Savimbi’s militants from the regions in the south and east of the country, which were earlier controlled by L’Unita. The organization started breaking up.
Will the organization survive after its leader’s death? If its structure remains unchanged, the organization will certainly stop existing, as its leaders are more likely to start a struggle for power. L’Unita will fall to small groups. L’Unita spokesmen accused foreign mercenaries (Portuguese, South Africans, and Israelis) of their leader’s death. The organization has lost international support. US President George W.Bush will meet with Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos in Washington for the discussion of a peaceful settlement in the country.
Thus, the MPLA has won its long war with L’Unita, during which over 500,000 Angolans died. The leaders of the ruling regime turned out to be more experienced politicians than Jonas Savimbi, who failed to adjust to the changing political conjuncture. Now, his successors are responsible for L’Unita’s further role in the political life of the country. The only way for its possible preservation of influence is for the organization is to give up its military struggle and defend its interests by parliamentary methods.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/26/37545.html