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Nigeria Masterweb News Report

    Jonas Savimbi, Angola Rebel Leader, is Dead

    (Saturday, February 23, 2002)

    By Chief Charles O. Okereke, Nigeria Masterweb

    Aids Patient Jonas Savimbi, 67, UNITA leader, who led the rebel group in a war against the Angola government for more than 30 years has been killed. Savimbi died in fighting with government troops on Friday, in the rural province of Moxico in south-east Angola. Two senior UNITA officers, brigadiers Big Jo and Bula, were also killed. Others, including some of Savimbi's closest aides managed to flee. Angolan forces in recent months had been closing in on UNITA forces in the region. Senior UNITA officers had been captured in the area in the past few months. Alves Fernandes, a Portuguese state television reporter, said Savimbi "sustained 15 bullet wounds, two in his head and the rest spread through his upper body and legs". Portugal, beset by revolution at home in 1975, abandoned its African colonies. This paved the way for Angolan independence in November of the same year. Angola immediately became a cold war front line. Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev sent weapons, Fidel Castro, Cuban troops, and East Germany special forces to help the Marxist MPLA seize power. United States, Britain and France countered by backing Jonas Savimbi’s Maoist UNITA movement. The western allies encouraged South Africa’s President P.W. Botha to send his army to fight the Cubans and Germans.

    Angolan and Cuban forces fought UNITA and its South African ally for 13 years until the new Soviet war initiative under Mikhail Gorbachev to end the war in their favor failed. The Soviets had invested $1 billion to force South Africa and the western allies from their Angolan footholds. The offensive failed and a tank battle left 600 soldiers dead. The aborted offensive culminated in the withdrawal from Angola of the Soviets and their Cuban and German allies. South Africa apparently from pressure from the west also pulled its forces. Savimbi continued the war against the MPLA, after the departure of foreign forces. He became quite ruthless with critics and disloyal comrades. Savimbi began burning on public bonfires the wives and children of senior comrades suspected of leadership ambitions. He ordered the beating to death with rifle butts of Tito Chingunji(his foreign secretary), along with his wife and their year-old twins. A statement by the Angolan government on the death of Jonas Savimbi is reproduced below.

    "The Government of the Republic of Angola would like to inform the national and international public of the death of Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, who was leading the armed groups responsible for the destruction of national property and the death of countless innocent civilians throughout the country.

    The Government of the Republic of Angola appeals to those who voluntarily or involuntarily had associated themselves with these terrorist actions to reconsider their options and reintegrate themselves into Angolan society so as to contribute to the consolidation of democracy and national reconciliation.

    In due time and according to the signals it receives from those who are still armed, the Government will issue a communiqué that will include a detailed program to ensure the final cessation of all hostilities in Angola.

    The Government reiterates its intention to fully implement the Lusaka Protocol and considers also that all political parties are necessary for the democratization of Angola.

    The Government of the Republic of Angola appeals to the population to maintain calm, preserve law and order and respect differences of opinion so that all Angolans may live peacefully.

    The Government also praises the Armed Forces, the National Police, the Civil Defense Forces, and the intelligence community for their dedication in fulfilling their duty to ensure the security of the nation and protect public assets and those of its citizens."

    Signed
    The Government of the Republic of Angola
    In Luanda February 22, 2002

    For Further Information Contact:
    Evaristo José, Second Secretary - Press
    202-530-0900
    evarjose@angola.org


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