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IN THE NEWS - April 6, 2002: Cease-fire in Angola - 2002-04-05

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

The Angolan government and the UNITA rebel movement signed a cease-fire treaty Thursday in the country’s capital, Luanda. The treaty ends a civil war in Angola that began twenty-seven years ago.

The Angolan Army chief of staff and the military commander of the rebel group signed the document. Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and the temporary leader of UNITA, Paulo Lukamba Gato, observed.

Four thousand guests filled the National Parliament building where the signing ceremony took place. Among them was United Nations official Ibrahim Gambari and representatives from Portugal, Russia and the United States. They have been helping to establish terms for carrying out a peace agreement reached in Lusaka, Zambia in Nineteen-Ninety-Four.

Under the cease-fire, fifty-thousand UNITA fighters will surrender their weapons. More than five-thousand will begin preparations to enter the country’s army and police forces. Others will be trained so they can re-enter the economy.

The Angolan Parliament has approved a pardon program for UNITA armed forces. The pardons also will be given to Angolan army soldiers who fled their duties.

The war between the government of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola began in Nineteen-Seventy-Five. That is the year when Angola became independent from its colonial ruler, Portugal.

The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or M-P-L-A, took control of the government in Luanda. UNITA and another group declared a coalition government in the Angolan city of Huambo. However, by early Nineteen-Seventy-Six, the rulers in Luanda had gained control throughout the country. M-P-L-A remains the ruling party. It is now led by President dos Santos.

UNITA was established by Jonas Savimbi in the Nineteen-Sixties. He led the group until his death on the battlefield six weeks ago.

More than five-hundred-thousand people have died in the Angolan conflict. Others have been wounded—many by landmines. The United Nations says the war displaced four million people, about one-third of Angola’s population. The years of fighting have greatly damaged development efforts in the country.

The Angolan government and UNITA have reached several other peace agreements in the past. None lasted. However, some experts say peace has a better chance with the death of Jonas Savimbi. They say he was an important part of the conflict.

Other experts are expressing hope about this peace agreement for a different reason. They say a lasting peace is more probable because Angolans led this latest peace process.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.