THE recent flare-up in Namibia has again drawn Washington's
attention to the still-simmering civil war in Angola.
The Namibia incidents heightened concern about the promises of
Cuba and the Angolan government to withdraw all Cuban troops from
Angola by July 1991 as part of the US-mediated accords on
southwestern Africa signed in December.
The House of Representatives last week passed an amendment
bolstering requirements for the administration to monitor Cuba's
compliance with its withdrawal commitments. The amendment mandates
an immediate cutoff of United States funding for United Nations
operations in Namibia, if Cuba violates its commitments for a
The Namibia clashes brought to light political skirmishes in
Washington related to Angola's civil strife.
Supporters of the rebel National Union for the Total Independence
of Angola (UNITA) are urging the US to keep up political pressure on
the Angolan government to negotiate an end to the 14-year civil
strife. Four key senators have sent the administration draft
legislation intended to embody these goals as well as ensure that
Cuba meets its commitments.
Some congressional and UNITA sources say the congressional
intelligence committees are, or soon will be, considering a boost in
covert military assistance to the guerrilla group. (This could not
be confirmed as intelligence committee deliberations are secret.)
UNITA sources have suggested they would like to receive about $50
million annually to help UNITA weather the cutoff of aid from South
Africa and the end of its free access to Namibia. Press reports say
UNITA is getting about $30 million this year from the US, up from
about $15 million last year. (The Soviet Union provided Angola with
about $1.5 billion in military aid last year, US officials say.)
Those who oppose aid to UNITA argue that US assistance should
end, especially as Cuban troops leave. Supporters say US aid is now
an even more important lever in getting the Angolan government to
negotiate an end to the civil war and accept free elections.
The administration's view, a senior official says, is that "it is
not a question of whether there will be national reconciliation in
Angola, but when and how" as the pressure on both parties mounts.
The speed of Cuba's front-loaded withdrawal, he explains, creates
battlefield pressure on the government, while foreign backers of
both sides are saying "enough is enough." UNITA, he says, has
continued to adapt its public posture to challenge the government to
negotiate. In mid-March, UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi offered to
exclude himself from peace negotiations and to stay out of a
transitional government as the country prepares for elections. The
government rejected the offer.
"Put all together, there is a fairly formidable set of forces
pushing the two sides together," the senior official says. But, he
adds, this will take a while: "We've stripped away the soft outer
shell, but the hard core of the nut remains to be cracked."
Opponents of US aid to UNITA are rallying their forces around
recent charges that Mr. Savimbi has had rival members of his group
executed and condoned at least one incident of witch-burning in
1983. Those reports were aired on a recent US public television
program and a British TV report. …