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A virtual state of war

Increased fighting in central Angola and a heightened war of words through the media between President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and the UNITA rebel movement have thrust the country into a new, if undeclared, state of war, say diplomatic sources.

Western diplomats and analysts in the Angolan capital Luanda told IRIN on Tuesday that they agreed with the analysis the former Portuguese foreign minister, Durao Barrosso, whose country with Russia and the United States is one of the three Angola observer nations reporting to the UN Security Council. He said in a weekend Portuguese Radio interview that “war is inevitable, whether or not it is the final offensive, as there has often been talk of final offensives.”

His remarks were made as government war-planes at the weekend attacked the UNITA-held town of Andulo hours after a group of UN military observers held for over a month were airlifted to safety. The diplomats cited reports of fighting along a north-south front of some 300 km between the central towns of Kuito and Quela as government forces sought to seize UNITA strongholds.

The war of words

In his opening address to the fourth ruling MPLA party congress which ends on Friday, President Dos Santos called Savimbi “a running dog” of “the agents of foreign interests” who had long sought to dominate Angola and exploit its wealth. His speech carried in a Radio Angola report monitored by the BBC also called Savimbi, “a man who only knows how to kill, destroy
and divide”

“All attempts that we have made to integrate him in normal life have been fruitless. All patriots who are active in UNITA ranks have also come to the same conclusion. Against the murderous wrath of that man we must, therefore, mobilise and unite all the Angolan people,” he said. “The only way to attain definitive peace today is to isolate Dr Savimbi and his warmongering wing domestically and internationally, as well as to neutralize him politically and militarily.”

On Monday, a day after the weekend speech, Portuguese Renascenca radio carried the UNITA reaction from its Secretary-General Paulo Lukamba Gato in Andulo. In remarks breaking nearly three months of silence by the UNITA leadership, he said: “Jose Eduardo dos Santos has declared war. Not only did he declare war but his forces are acting on it. I must tell you that at the moment we are being bombed. As for land forces, the people’s resistance, which is perfectly organized, is countering this offensive. It has practically freed all the communes and municipalities in Bie Province and it has managed to force government forces to stay within Huambo Province. I can also tell you that at the moment Jose Eduardo dos Santos is moving troops from Quitona to Huambo... The congress speech is irrelevant. We shall see on the ground what will happen.”

UN to launch Angola appeal

Meanwhile, the UN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Unit (UCAH) in Luanda told IRIN on Tuesday that the number of internally displaced people had increased from 350,000 confirmed last week to 360,000 or more.

“Current military activities in central parts of the country will undoubtedly have their impact on vulnerable groups. But the consequences will only be seen in the weeks to come,” a spokesman said.

The UN, he added, would launch a formal appeal in Geneva next week seeking US $66 million for humanitarian aid in Angola.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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