- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

LUANDA, Angola With white flags flying and U.N. officials looking on, Angola's government and the UNITA rebel group signed a cease-fire agreement yesterday as a first step toward ending the country's decades-long civil war.
It was the fourth peace deal signed by warring factions since the country achieved independence from Portugal in 1975. At least 500,000 people are believed to have been killed in fighting since then.
The resumption of peace talks followed the army's slaying on Feb. 22 of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, who had commanded the group's struggle for power for more than 30 years. The government army captured or killed dozens of UNITA's senior officers before tracking down Mr. Savimbi in remote eastern Angola.
UNITA is the Portuguese acronym for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.
Rebel and government leaders signed the pact in a ceremony at the parliament in Luanda yesterday, attended by hundreds of guests, including foreign ambassadors and officials from the United Nations. The government declared today a national holiday to celebrate the agreement.
Gen. Geraldo Abreu Kamorteiro, UNITA's chief of staff, said the attendance of top field commanders at the ceremony provided "clear evidence of UNITA's determination to proceed with its total and definitive demilitarization."
The deal includes a pledge by the foes to abide by the terms of a 1994 peace accord that collapsed almost four years ago, the government said. The sides will hold further talks on issues relating to the peace process, especially the appointment of UNITA officials to public office.
Three previous peace deals signed in 1975, 1991 and 1994 all unraveled. Since civil war began in this southwest African country, roughly 4 million people about a third of the population have been driven from their homes, with most of them depending on foreign aid.
U.N. Undersecretary-General Ibrahim Gambari, the top U.N. adviser on Angola, said, "There can be no excuses for failure now."
The government says the cease-fire includes the demobilization of about 50,000 UNITA soldiers, as well as their families, which is scheduled to begin Monday.
The United Nations will monitor the demobilization at 27 regional centers. The government says it will take up to nine months to integrate the rebels into society.
The cease-fire was negotiated during two weeks of talks in Luena, an eastern Angola city. Only state media were given access to the talks.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos says he wants to organize national elections soon, but new minefields, poor transportation infrastructure and a lack of public records likely will delay that.
UNITA's secretary-general, Paulo Lukamba Gato, who for years opposed peace talks, met with the president yesterday and described their discussions as "fruitful."

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