- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

After decades of war over diamonds, oil and ideology (or its pretexts), Angola seems to be poised for peace. Sadly, the Angolan government was unwilling to advance this goal until it could do so over the corpse of UNITA rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. Now that the government has reached its publicly-stated goal of mortally wounding its opposition by killing Savimbi, it is finally prepared to de-escalate hostilities.
This week, the Angolan army and UNITA rebels agreed to begin cease-fire talks. Hopefully, the two sides will soon pledge to stop the killing that has ravaged a country that otherwise has rich prospects for economic development. The international community should cheer and spur on progress in negotiations between the ruling MPLA and UNITA, the military and political group Savimbi once headed. It would also behoove the large oil companies doing business in the country to voice their desire to see Angola establish the enduring stability needed for making large-scale investments.
But countries in the region and beyond must be wary of the MPLA's penchant for repressive crackdowns and should offer help in establishing monitoring safeguards that could verify both sides' compliance with agreements reached. Also, UNITA must soon state unequivocally that it is committed to pursuing its goals through democratic means. The government, meanwhile, should quickly establish immunity for all of those individuals involved in Angola's civil war, which has lasted more than 25 years. It should also integrate former UNITA fighters into Angola's military for a transitional one or two years.
The MPLA can no longer scapegoat Savimbi for the country's war and economic woes. And, given the government's recent peaceful overtures, UNITA has little justification to continue its military struggle. Angolans have seen enough war and misery. They deserve a share in the fruits of their country's riches.


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