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Jonas Savimbi, Longtime Angolan Guerrilla Fighter, Dead at 67 - 2002-02-24


Jonas Savimbi, the leader of Angola's UNITA rebel movement, killed Friday in a clash with government forces, waged war for three decades in Angola. He was 67-year-old.

Mr. Savimbi devoted his life to the struggle for power in the oil-and-diamond rich African country, first as a guerilla fighter against Portuguese colonial rulers, and then Angola's Marxist government.

The long civil war with the communists claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced as many as four million Angolans, crippling the country's economy.

In 1991, UNITA signed a cease-fire with the government. But Mr. Savimbi refused to recognize the results of the 1992 general elections, which he lost to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

His popularity began to crumble when he walked away from the country's first-ever elections and returned to war. Jonas Savimbi also incurred most of the blame for scuttling another peace accord in 1994, at which time he was ostracized by the international community.

UNITA has been blamed for frequent raids on both government forces and civilians ever since, even as unrelenting government attacks helped reduce its military might.

Jonas Savimbi was born into a poor family in Angola's central highlands, but rose to become an university-educated guerrilla fighter who spoke seven languages.

Mr. Savimbi was believed to have several wives and numerous children.

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