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Angola repeats accusations, Chiluba reacts

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba said on Wednesday that Angola had formally written to the Zambian government reiterating its accusation that it was supplying arms to the UNITA rebel movement.

In a statement to local media, Chiluba said it was “unfortunate” that the charges, first voiced at the weekend during Zambian-chaired talks on the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), should come just after similar accusations had been dispelled by a UN and OAU verification mission.

“We have received a letter accusing Zambia of supporting (UNITA leader Jonas) Savimbi and you know this is extremely sad because Zambia has neither the political will nor the money to engage in such,” Chiluba said.

He said the war which has raged in Angola since the country’s independence from Portugal in 1975 was “wearing out the leadership: “You must understand their frustration and desperation. You must understand them when they speak so strongly and emotionally. They could be making a mistake, but you must appreciate their position.”

Chiluba said he had expressed his “indignation” at the charges to OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim. Western diplomatic sources in Lusaka told IRIN on Wednesday that while the Angolan accusation had “undermined” the Lusaka DRC talks, the real reason for the repeated posptonement of a regional presidential summit remained the refusal of Congolese President Laurent-Desire Kabila to engage in any direct talks with the rebel movements fighting to overthrow him.

The sources said they did not consider the latest Angolan accusations against Zambia to be true: “The accusations in essence relate to UNITA supplies being flown out of Zambia.” This was unlikely given the considerable number of officials who would need to be involved in such an operation.

The source added: “It is believed that this latest charge again forms part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to serve Angola’s security interests.”

The Angolan charges were announced as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan this week recommended the withdrawal of the contingent of 1,000 military observers from Angola over the breakdown of the UN-brokered Lusaka Protocol peace accords.

The diplomats said they were concerned that one of the immediate effects of the “carefully timed” Angolan accusations was a loss of credibility for Zambia as a potential mediator in the DRC conflict. They cited concerns that it could spell a new joint strategy between Angola and the DRC, with the support orf their allies, Zimbabwe and Namibia, which could see the centre of the confrontation move to the southwest of the DRC and Angola itself.


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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