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UNITA, Angola, and Calls for Reconciliation

Cease-fire and presidential runoff are among rebel group's benchmarks

Editor's note: This article is a response to one written by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, whose article ran on June 29.

PEACE is possible in the very near future in Angola if the sentiments of ``reconciliation, reform, and renewal'' expressed recently by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos are put into practice. If a durable peace is established, democracy can be institutionalized in all spheres of national life. This must also be extended to the national economy, which continues to suffer from the lingering distortions caused by central planning. The economy also is being strangled by high-level corruption, which has created a class of millionaires in the upper ranks of the government and armed forces.

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The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the Angolan government have agreed in principle at the United Nations-mediated peace talks in Lusaka, Zambia, that UNITA should be involved in governing the country at the local, provincial, and national levels. Agreement has been reached on UNITA'S participation in the armed forces, police, and civil service. However, the government's commitment to ``reconciliation'' and ``democracy'' does not extend to allocating governorships to UNITA in provinces where it won substantial majorities in the Sept. 29-30, 1992, elections.

UNITA proposed that its designees be appointed as, among others, the governors of Benguela, Bie, and Huambo provinces, where we won 59.7, 83.9, and 81.4 percent of the presidential votes, respectively. When the government refused, we withdrew the proposal for Benguela and Bie provinces in the spirit of compromise. However, we have remained steadfast in reference to Huambo province, which has great historical significance for UNITA.

The governorship of Huambo Province will assure UNITA members throughout the country that the government is sincere about national reconciliation. Failure to do so fosters the belief in our ranks that this is a ploy to marginalize and destroy UNITA.

Traumatic memories of government-sponsored political and ethnic violence beginning at the end of October 1992 and extending into 1993 are still fresh in the minds of our supporters. UNITA Vice President Jeremias Kalandula Chitunda, Secretary-General Adolosi Alicerces Mango, and Elias Salupeto Pena, the UNITA representative to the Joint Political Military Commission, were killed in Luanda, where they had gone to negotiate the modalities for an interim arrangement leading to the second round of presidential elections. Their bodies have not yet been released to their families for a proper burial.

Our secretary for foreign relations and other UNITA officials, women, and children are not yet allowed to leave Luanda where they have been detained without charges since November 1992. Thousands of our members continue to languish in prisons throughout the country without being charged with an offense.

For national reconciliation to occur, these issues must be addressed in an open and expeditious manner. The government's intransigence on the issue of national reconciliation has prevented the conclusion of an agreement.

A constitutionally mandated presidential runoff election between Mr. dos Santos and me is necessary. No candidate won the required 50 percent of the vote plus one.

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The UN Security Council is encouraging the government's failure to be more flexible and inclusive. It voted to impose sanctions on UNITA if we do not accept the mediator's proposal in its entirety, which does not include the governorship of Huambo. This short-sighted action undermines democracy in Angola.

I urge President dos Santos to end the fighting by agreeing to an immediate cease-fire in situ. This will allow the parties to talk about sensitive and difficult issues in a serene atmosphere. It will further allow the government to repatriate thousands of foreign nationals, including former South African soldiers, serving in its armed forces. The country can also stop the financial hemorrhage of $2.5 billion dollars a year that has been expended on military equipment while hospitals lack medicine and children die of hunger.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos should join with me to forge a just, workable peace in Angola. Neither side can win a military victory. Only an honest, accountable, inclusive government of national unity can meet the daunting challenges facing our country. Angola needs the full participation and cooperation of UNITA, the ruling party -

the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola - and all other political forces and civil institutions to open a bright new chapter in the country's history. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.

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