Thursday, March 14, 2002

Former U.S. ambassadors and Christian leaders paid tribute last night to the late Jonas M. Savimbi, a longtime Angolan rebel leader who was killed in battle last month by government troops.
Described by many as “a heroic Christian patriot,” Mr. Savimbi spent most of his adult life in Angola fighting for the freedom of its people from Portuguese colonialism and later the Marxist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
President Reagan, one of Mr. Savimbi’s supporters, once called him “the George Washington of Angola.”
Mr. Savimbi, 67, was shot to death by MPLA troops Feb. 22. He was shot at least 15 times in the small town of Moxico, about 480 miles southeast of Luanda.
Last night in Washington, the Persecution Project Foundation, a Christian ministry dedicated to shedding light on cases of religious persecution, political and religious repression and genocide, held a dinner commemorating Mr. Savimbi’s life.
Among those who attended the dinner at the Army and Navy Club in Northwest were Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, and Howard Phillips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick called Mr. Savimbi “extraordinarily educated, intelligent and cosmopolitan a guerrilla leader on our side.”
“He was a courageous, dogged and determined leader of the people who followed him,” she said.
Mr. Keene shared Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s sentiments. “His death is a great loss,” he said.
The foundation’s president, Bradford Phillips, who had been friends with Mr. Savimbi since 1979, said Mr. Savimbi represented hope for those people who were being persecuted in Angola. More than 1 million people have been displaced by wars in Angola, according to the foundation.
“He was a heroic Christian leader who relied on his faith for strength, courage and wisdom to wage a lifelong struggle for the freedom of the Angolan people,” Mr. Phillips said last night. “He was one of the most promising leaders of our times.”
In honor of Mr. Savimbi, the Warrenton, Va.-based foundation has renamed its PPF-Angola Fund to the Black Cockerel the symbol of Mr. Savimbi’s party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). Donations made to that fund will be sent directly to widows, orphans, displaced and other victims of religious and other persecution in Angola, Mr. Phillips said.
In a statement after Mr. Savimbi’s death, the Angolan government accused Mr. Savimbi of being “responsible for the destruction of national property and the death of countless innocent civilians throughout the country.”
The son of an evangelical Protestant lay minister who also was a railway stationmaster, Mr. Savimbi rose to prominence in the 1960s during the struggle for Angolan independence from Portugal. After that ended in 1975, a civil war between Angolan factions immediately broke out and continued into the 1980s.
Mr. Savimbi and UNITA gained the support of the United States and South Africa as it tried to unseat the government led by the victorious MPLA. Mr. Savimbi led a guerrilla war over much of Angola, from 1975 to 1991, until a cease-fire was achieved.
In 1992, Mr. Savimbi ran for president, but was defeated. He refused to accept his defeat in the election, and twice declined gestures by President Eduardo dos Santos to share power.

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