A top Angolan official said he believes his government and the rebel UNITA forces could agree on a cease-fire very soon. Speaking to reporters in Geneva, the vice minister for foreign affairs also expressed his belief that a peace deal could be signed soon.
Angola's vice minister for foreign affairs, Georges Chicoti, says the death of Jonas Savimbi, long-time leader of the UNITA rebels, has given peace a chance in his country. Mr. Savimbi was killed in fighting last month. Since then, Mr. Chicoti says the government has been negotiating a cease-fire with high-level UNITA officials, and the two sides are very close to agreement.
"I think that from the information that I got, they should conclude the negotiations today," he said. "If they conclude the negotiations today, then they will set a date for the signing of those agreements. It might be somewhere else or right in Luena, and that will be announced publicly."
The talks between the government and the rebel leaders were launched March 13 in the town of Luena, in Angola's remote Moxico province, which is about 770 kilometers southeast of the Angolan capital, Luanda.
Mr. Chicoti says once the peace deal is signed, the government will pass an amnesty law to allow all UNITA forces to participate in normal life. The minister says more than 26 years of war have left Angola in shambles. He says one of the first tasks is to immediately resettle four million displaced people and to assist 150,000 war orphans and about 70,000 mutilated people. With peace in sight, Mr. Chicoti says he hopes Angola will be able to attract foreign investment.
"We do need to rehabilitate most of the economic infrastructures, like roads, bridges and eventually social infrastructures like schools, hospitals, which should be able to respond to some of the problems in many areas," he said. "So, I think, the kind of support we need is very diverse. It can be financial, technical. But we also need, for example to improve areas like de-mining."
Angola is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. The minister says large portions of the country's fertile land will have to be cleared of landmines before farmers can, once again, grow their crops.