- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos will join the leadership of UNITA, his longtime rebel rivals, in the capital, Luanda, on Thursday to sign a cease-fire agreement that both sides consider the most promising chance yet to end Angola's 40 years of internal conflict.

"We have agreed to stop shooting. We have promised to resume the political process set down in Lusaka [Zambia] in 1994. We are committed to integrating UNITA members into the national government and into the national army," said Adao Pinto, political counselor at the Angolan Embassy in Washington.

Today, the Angolan legislature is expected to grant amnesty to UNITA fighters.

"We are happy that the war is over and are ready to begin a new era in Angola," declared Jardo Muekalia, the UNITA representative who has served the movement in Washington through the war's major ups and downs.

"I am cautiously optimistic that this time the cease-fire will stick," he said.

Asked whether the combat death of UNITA's charismatic leader, Jonas Savimbi, in late February opened the way to reconciliation, Mr. Muekalia replied, "Some people say that, but I think basically that all Angolans have become sick and tired of fighting."

Two earlier cease-fires, one in 1991 and the second in 1994, failed to end the war. The first broke down because a winner-take-all election was unacceptable to the loser, UNITA, and the second failed because two balanced forces did not trust each other enough to begin laying down their arms.

UNITA is a Portuguese abbreviation for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.

The war, which began as an uprising against former colonial power Portugal by three separate guerrilla movements, evolved first into a surrogate Cold War conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States, then degenerated into a raw struggle for power between a sitting government and a rebel movement.

"I hope we have learned from the past that a nation's precious resources must go to benefit the people," the UNITA representative said.

In the last several years, after external aid had stopped, the Angolan government paid for the war by deploying its abundant oil resources.

UNITA financed its efforts through the illegal sale of diamonds, creating in the lexicon of international conflict a new phrase: "blood diamonds."

The Lusaka accords called for disarming UNITA fighters, assigning them to cantonments across the country and, finally, integrating them into the government army.

The signing on Thursday comes after a memorandum of understanding that was initialed at the eastern Angolan town of Luena. Signing for the rebels was chief of staff Abreu Kamorteino, his nom de guerre.

The Angolan Embassy's Mr. Pinto said that "reconciliation" is the watchword in Luanda on the part of the dos Santos government.

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