December 18, 2001

Angola agrees to UN contacts with rebel leader

Angola's government has agreed for the United Nations to resume contact with Jonas Savimbi, the nation's main rebel leader, to "facilitate" possible talks, the official Jornal de Angola said on December 18. "The government made a concession in allowing the UN, supported by civil society and churches, to initiate contact with Jonas Savimbi," the paper said. Savimbi heads the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which has battled the army in an almost non-stop civil war since 1975. During a visit to Angola, UN deputy secretary for African affairs Ibrahim Gambari said last Thursday that the world body could renew its contacts with UNITA in a bid to relaunch the peace effort. Angola's government severed all formal contact with UNITA shortly after all-out warfare resumed in 1998.

The United Nations brokered the 1994 Lusaka peace accord, which sought to end the fighting and pave the way for multi-party elections. That process broke down after the rebels refused to recognize their electoral loss. Now the only UN presence in Angola is an office of about 30 people who co-ordinate humanitarian work and monitor the human rights situation. At least 500,000 people have died in Angola's civil war, with another 100,000 maimed and four million forced from their homes.

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