Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi - charismatic, elusive, and
stubborn - was never one to compromise. The man who was often quoted
as saying "either I succeed or I die violently," walked away from
peace negotiations, broke cease-fires, and helped perpetuate a 27-
year civil war that has left half a million civilians dead and 4
million homeless. On Friday, he was shot down during fighting with
Savimbi's death leaves the National Union for the Total
Independence of Angola (UNITA) without a leader or clear successor,
adequate funding, or a known plan. This leads many observers to
express optimism for a breakthrough peace agreement.
"As soon as I heard the news, my reaction was that Savimbi's
death permits peace to break out in Angola," says Robert Rotberg,
director of the program in interstate conflict at Harvard
University's Kennedy School.
Pik Botha, a former South African foreign minister who supported
Savimbi under South Africa's apartheid regime, said he expected a
rapid settlement and was hopeful the Luanda government would oblige.
"Depending on how the Angolan government now reacts, this is
perhaps the best opportunity - certainly since 1992 - to achieve
successful solutions to peace," he told Reuters. "I am encouraged by
the first reactions of the government not wanting to pursue this in
such a way that UNITA followers feel humiliated."
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is to meet US President
George Bush later this month in Washington. Western diplomats say
the US government and the international community are encouraging
Luanda to draft an inclusive peace agreement, under the framework of
the moribund 1994 Lusaka protocol.
The government on Friday appealed to UNITA fighters to
"reintegrate themselves into Angolan society so as to contribute to
the consolidation of democracy and reconciliation."
Dr. Rotberg predicts most of Savimbi's lieutenants will try to
cut deals with the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of
"A few will hold out for a while, but with Savimbi's death,
nothing holds them or their soldiers together," he says. "Savimbi
had the funds and was the patron and mastermind. Nobody else
remaining in the UNITA movement can command the loyalties of what
now remains of UNITA."
The son of a railway stationmaster who studied medicine in
Lisbon, political science in Switzerland, and guerrilla warfare in
China, Savimbi spoke three African and four European languages.
He formed UNITA in 1966, amassing some 60,000 troops to fight
Portuguese colonial rule in Angola. …