28 Feb 2002
DEATH OF JONAS SAVIMBI-A HAPPY RIDDANCE
The elimination in battle of Savimbi, one Africa’s durable terrorist is relieving news to the long-suffering people of Angola in particular. Jonas Savimbi entered the Angolan political scene in the late sixties as an anti colonialist crusader. Failing to outsmart his rivals and grasp power when the colonial masters left in 1975, Savimbi and his followers went into the bush to wage war against the MPLA government then led by Dr. Neto. The war was later to transform Savimbi into Africa’s great traitor (he allied himself with Apartheid South Africa), and a psychopathic butcher judging by the ruthless way he conducted the war.
Savimbi is largely to blame for the perpetuation of the Angolan civil war. He rejected the results of free and fair elections organized by the international community in 1992 because he was the loser. He violated the Lusaka accord of 1995 and rejected the post of Vice president offered to him by Dos Santos (Angolan president) in 1996. Savimbi placed obstacles on every negotiation and invented all the excuses to justify his preference for the rule of the gun. In effect, he realized that he could protect his selfish interests better when his country was at war than at peacetime. Savimbi was not only a warlord. He was a bandit and an outlaw heading a criminal organization that depended on what the United Nations termed “Conflict Diamonds” for survival.
Angolans have paid dearly for Savimbi’s war of graft. According to a 1999 BBC News Online report, Angola has the greatest concentration of land mines in the world. The 15 million land mines (one mine to every Angolan) scattered all over the country effectively render a third of the land unusable. There are 70,000 Angolans believed to have lost limbs to land mines, and close to a million that have perished due to the war. Angola is a country with close to 4 million internally displaced people many of whom are homeless. Savimbi ran the part of the country under his control as a personal fiefdom and profited from that to loot diamonds and sell. The U.K. based Global Witness Ltd. reported that diamond production generated $ 3.7 billion in revenue for Savimbi’s UNITA between 1992-98. This represented 60-70% of Angola’s total diamond production.
Africa is indeed unfortunate. This monster of a man was a relic of the cold war era. He was propped by the CIA in the seventies to counter Soviet influence on the continent. In the eighties, Reagan (U.S president) embraced him as ‘friend’ and ‘freedom fighter’ and he turned out to be a robber and murderer in the nineties. When the Americans discovered that their ‘friend’ was becoming an embarrassment, they had a policy review paving the way for the Clinton administration to recognize the government of Dos Santos. Of recent, Savimbi’s UNITA is suspected of having shady diamond deals with Al Qaeda-Washington’s principal foe. If the Americans confirm the Al Qaeda link, they will shed no tear for their departed former comrade.
The death of Jonas Savimbi is a development that is welcomed with joy by the teeming millions of Angola’s wasted generation. It is the only ray of hope after 26 years of civil war that peace may one day return to this troubled land. We hope that the U.S. government and all those involved in the genesis of the Angolan saga will use this opportunity to find a lasting peace for Angola.
Copyright ã2002 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah [e-mail]