- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

President Bush yesterday in a meeting with Angolan President Jose dos Santos called for an immediate cease-fire with the rebel UNITA group and move quickly toward democratic elections in a nation torn by war for 27 years.
In a White House meeting, Mr. Bush told leaders of three African nations they must do more to quell regional violence and encourage peace.
"We agreed that peace is within reach," Mr. Bush said in a statement. "I urged President dos Santos to move quickly toward achieving a cease-fire in Angola. And we agreed that all parties have an obligation to seize this moment to end the war. … President dos Santos has it within his power to end 26 years of fighting by reaching out to all Angolans willing to lay down their arms."
But Mr. dos Santos said peace in Angola depends on the action of the rebel group.
"The government has the responsibility to keep the peace and responsibility of any government in the world. Therefore, the government is not going to shoot if someone who has arms doesn't shoot," he said after the meeting.
Mr. dos Santos was noncommittal in comments he made in the White House driveway. On a cease-fire, he said: "It will depend on the signs we will receive from the commanders who are controlling some residual forces. We are making some efforts in this sense."
But he said through an interpreter his nation is open to "compromise … to achieve a cease-fire as soon as possible."
"I think the war still is continuing. The strategic commander of the UNITA forces was attacked. They lost great capacity. But they can realize isolated actions, but we are not discouraged to go through the cease-fire."
His hopes were shortlived.
UNITA rebels killed nine persons and wounded 15 in central Angola yesterday when they fired on a truck carrying about 50 people, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported.
Asked yesterday if he thought UNITA was still a threat, Mr. dos Santos said: "I think not. UNITA as a political party has its space, its room. We don't allow that UNITA has a private army."
The White House pressure follows the death Friday of Jonas Savimbi, the leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) movement. The resulting power vacuum in UNITA, diplomats say, provides the best opportunity for peace since civil war broke our following Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975.
The United States supported Mr. Savimbi, who at times was anti-communist, but nows looks more favorably on Mr. dos Santos, who claims he has abandoned his Marxist past.
As the two factions fight on to achieve a cease-fire, spending enormous sums on arms, Angolans live in abject poverty. More than 1.5 million people have been killed in the war in Angola, a southwest Africa nation about twice the size of Texas.
The U.N. secretary-general's special representative in Angola said he had urged a meeting of Angolan government ministers Tuesday to push for a cease-fire.
"We stress to the government that this is the time for the government to show magnanimity. We appealed for a cease-fire in order that the other side [UNITA] could find space to think about ways of coming back to the peace process," Mussagy Jeichand told Reuters after the meeting.
Mr. Bush also met Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano and Botswana's President Festus Mogae.
Mr. Chissano said the group "tackled issues pertaining to the cooperation of the whole continent of Africa with the United States."
Said Mr. Mogae, "We're committed to democracy, and we are using our best endeavors to resolve the conflicts in the sub-Saharan Africa."
In his statement, Mr. Bush said "I remain committed to working with the leaders of southern Africa to achieve lasting peace and stability in the region."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide