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Date: Wed, 22 Mar 1995 18:37:02 -0500
Sender: Pan-Africa Discussion List <AFRICA-L@VTVM1.CC.VT.EDU>
Subject: ANGOLA-POLITICS: An Old Man's Warning (fwd)
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From: Inter Press Service Harare <>

An old man's warning

by Chris Simpson, IPS. 22 March, 1995

LUANDA, Mar 22 (IPS) - Way back in 1975, Angolan political leaders signed an accord to pave the way to a coalition government and a peaceful transition from Portuguese colonial rule.

Angola has been at war almost ever since.

Three men put their signature to the Alvor Accord. Agostinho Neto, Angola's former president, died in 1979. Jonas Savimbi still controls a rebel army, while Holden Roberto is back in Luanda, warning that the latest U.N. attempt to organise a peace settlement is doomed.

''I think the United Nations is going to be discredited,'' the veteran leader of the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) told IPS. ''It's going to be shameful because it's going to fail.''

There are 400 U.N. peace-keepers in place as a result of the year-long peace talks in Zambia that led to the signing of the Lusaka protocol in November between the government and UNITA.

There have however been numerous reported violations of the cease fire agreement, notably unauthorised military fligh ts and troop movements.

U.N. secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali has called for the ending of all hostilities before Mar 25, or the U.N. will delay the deployment of 7,000 blue helmets due to arrive in the country from May.

Roberto, 68, has been in Paris for two-years receiving medical treatment. This is his second comeback. He says things now are just as bad if not worse, with no hint that the current ''peace'' will hold.

Roberto spent 15 years in the wilderness after the FNLA's defeat in 1976 by Neto's Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

Returning in 1991 after the Bicesse peace agreement and with the FNLA reconstituted as a political party, he contested the presidential elections but received a tiny percentage of the vote. When war broke out after Savimbi refused to accept his loss at the ballot box, Roberto left Luanda again.

He claims to have instigated the January 1975 Alvor accord. An agreement which rapidly collapsed, with Angola plunging into all-out civil war in which the FNLA was ignominiously defeated despite the backing of the Zairean army.

Roberto's cause and credibility were not enhanced by his recruitment of dozens of British mercenaries, several of whom eventually stood trial in Luanda, charged with atrocities against the Angolan people and within their own ranks.

Roberto emphasises that the FNLA was a victim of the cold war in Africa. ''Most of the African countries were under Soviet control at that time,'' he argues, noting that he had warned the United States earlier that there would be a communist takeover in Angola but that his words had gone unheeded.

Roberto spent time in both Washington and Miami during his period in exile, but never won the support or adulation received by UNITA's Savimbi.

He was initially the CIA's man in Angola, put on a retainer in the early 1960s by the Kennedy administration when he was leader of the old Union of Angolan People (UPA). Roberto was presented at the time as the authentic voice of Angolan nationalism, with the UPA claiming a pivotal role in a 1961 northern rebellion.

He claims he has been marginalised by the MPLA's rewriting of history. But many contemporary accounts of the guerrilla wars against the Portuguese play down his significance, with historians like Basil Davidson pointing out that Roberto was based mainly in Kinshasa, enjoying the patronage of Zairean president Mobutu Sese Seko.

Roberto says he is loath to discuss the past. Quizzed on his rift with Savimbi, who served as UPA foreign minister until 1964, the FNLA leader says simply: ''All this was a colonialist-imperialist manoeuvre, but we are trying to come together all of us to unite our forces.''

The veteran politician plays down his current ambitions, but claims he is ready to try and help build peace. Two years ago, he says, he did the same ''but found I was preaching in a desert, both sides had decided to make war.''

He remains fiercely critical of the government, alleging the MPLA rigged the elections. ''It's a disaster. People are dying because of the social conditions. What kind of government is this? People are living like pigs. As a Christian I can't accept that.''

While other former FNLA stalwarts like information minister, Henrik Vaal Neto, have been coopted into the government, Roberto is adamant he will not be bought off.

''Nobody will bribe me. I didn't come here to ask for a post."

He warns that if things continue as they are there will either be a new civil war or 'a general uprising'. ''People will raze this country, it will be the end of everything.''

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