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Angolan Summit Meet

Making most of a calm period.

There is a current lull in the fighting in Angola with strong prospects for peace, writes K.T.Rajasingham in Lusaka.

Angola the African nation, beleaguered with civil strife and war for the last 20 years, rejoiced last week at the prospect of perpetual peace. Reports are emerging about all-night celebrations held in the capital city of Luanda and other provinces to commemorate the successful meetings of the protean leaders of Angola in Lusaka, Zambia.

Several churches have held thanksgiving services at the success of the long awaited meeting of their leaders in Lusaka.

Jonas Savimbi, the leader of the Uniso Nacional para Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA), met on May 7 with Jose Edurado do Santos, the president of the Republic of Angola at Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, to consolidate the peace process under the Lusaka Protocol signed in Nov 20, 1994.

This meeting was scheduled upon the initiation of Frederick Chiluba, the president of Zambia, and on the request of the UNITA leader. It was supposed to have been held on May 5, but was delayed as dos Santos has postpone the sojourn until last Saturday.

The arrival Savimbi on the morning of May 5 was shown in the television stations around the region. His arrival in Lusaka from his base in Bitunda in the province of Huambo was heralded as a precursor of hope and peace.

Picture of dos Santos and Savimbi hugging each other and shaking hands in Lusaka were flashed on Television Angola Popular (TAP) and this elicited collective sigh of relief from the people at last after many years of waiting, as their prayers for peace have obviously been answered.

In his addressed, dos Santos emphasized on the urgency to proceed with the peace process and appealed for cooperation, as the people and the country had suffered long enough. He also invited UNITA leader to visit Luanda to participate in the nation-building efforts.

In his reply, Savimbi stated that it was meeting between brothers and that dos Santos was also his president. He added, amidst cheers, that he is prepared to work with the president of Angola to consolidate the peace process according to the Lusaka Protocol.

Peace is holding after signing of the Lusaka Protocol in November last year.

South Africa which in the apartheid era supported UNITA and sent troops to Angola will play a vital role in clearing landmines littering the country side.

UNITA and the Luanda government have repeatedly accused each other of violating the Lusaka accord. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced since the start of the war, which devastated the resource-rich countrys economy and destroyed its infrastructure.

A peace accord in 1991 halted the war briefly but Savimbi started fighting again after he lost the UN-supervised elections in 1992.

The United Nations Security Council approved sending of 7,000 peacekeepers and a thousand civilians to monitor the cessation of hostilities and the demobilization of UNITAs 80,000-strong armed forces. Alioune Blondin Beye, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General, signed an agreement to make use of the naval base in Lobita and the military and air base in Catumbela. At present, there are already 400 British troops in Lobita.

I would not say the mistrust had disappeared but the wall of mistrust has been pushed back, Beye said after talks with South African President Nelson Mandela.

This is a turning point with the support of the heads of state of this region, things are going to be faster, he told a news conference at Pretorias Waterkloof air base.

The Lusaka Protocol created the right momentum for the setting up of the Commissao Conjunta (CC) a commission for peace presided over by Beye, with the ambassadors of Russia, Portugal, and the US, who represented the three observer-nations of this peace process, as members.

UNITA represented by Isais Samukruva and by his deputy, Brigadier Techessauha. The government also created a special Ministry for peace and appointed Fernando Faustino Mutcka to head it. This is the highest body created to consolidate peace in Angola.

The agreement paved the way for the establishment of a National Reconciliation Transitional Government. Accordingly, Savimbi will be appointed as vice president of Angola and UNITA representatives will serve as ministers of geology and mine, trade, health and hotel business and tourism.

At Lusaka the two leaders agreed to meet again in Luanda to finalize details of the National Government, the troop demobilsation and holding of the second round of the stalled presidential election.

The Angolan government and UNITA have also entrusted the International Red Cross (ICRC) with the task of supervising the release and organizing the return of persons held in connection with the conflict. The ICRC has been given information regarding the number of prisoners from both sides and granted access to most of them.

The peace process has set the momentum for many new business activities and regulated economic growth in the country.

Recently, Marcelino Joso Carlos Moco, the prime minister of Angola, made an official visit to Japan, inviting businessmen to invest in Angola. South Korea, China and Taiwan are among those who have already started to explore the potentials of doing business in Angola. India has opened the embassy there and high-level delegations from the United Arab Emirates, the World Muslim League and Saudi Arabia were recently in Luanda for bilateral business and political negotiations.

A group of businessmen from Thailand led by Soontorn Redeployed for Ever Truth International Group is expected to visit Angola this week to discuss investment opportunities in Angolas ministers in charge of public works, planning and economic coordination, agriculture and forests, mining and geology and exterior relations.

The Nation - Thailand - 15/05/1995.