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Angola/Cease-Fire - 2002-04-04

The cease-fire was signed in the capital, Luanda, by the Angolan army's chief-of-staff and UNITA's military commander, in the presence of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. After the signing, Mr. dos Santos held talks with interim UNITA leader Paulo Lukamba Gato.

Also present among four-thousand guests at the national parliament in Luanda was United Nations official Ibrahim Gambari and representatives from Portugal, Russia and the United States -- the so-called troika of countries tasked with overseeing implementation of the 1994 Lusaka protocols.

Under the terms of the cease-fire agreement, 50-thousand UNITA troops will be demobilized at 27 assembly points across the war-torn country. Camps will be set up near the assembly points for the families of UNITA soldiers.

On Tuesday, the Angolan parliament agreed to an amnesty for UNITA troops and others deemed to have committed what parliament termed "crimes against the security of the Angolan state." The amnesty will also apply to deserters from the Angolan army.

Richard Cornwell of the independent Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, says, last month's battlefield death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi created an opportunity to revive the defunct peace process. And, he says, UNITA forces were also under pressure.

Well, I think that they [UNITA] have been certainly under a great deal of stress because of the recent government campaigns, which have consisted largely of moving population out of rural areas, and thus depriving -- in Maoist terms -- the fish of the sea in which they swim. So, it has been very, very difficult. And a number of their members, including senior men, have died of starvation.

Three decades of civil war have ravaged Angola's economy and claimed at least half-a-million lives.

Mr. Cornwell says, even if peace is restored to the shattered country, the task of rebuilding Angola is immense.

The Angolan economy is in shambles, with the exception of the oil industry and the coastal towns. It's going to be a massive rebuilding project. It's almost like creating a country, or re-creating a country, from scratch. It's all very well to talk about even 30 years war in Angola, or 28 years of war in Angola, but, in fact, the so-called pacification of Angola didn't occur until the 1930's. So, this is a country that's known little but war for all of its modern history.

Mr. Cornwell and other analysts in southern Africa have welcomed the truce in Luanda, but say both sides to the conflict must demonstrate an honest commitment to peace in Angola.