The Angolan government and the UNITA rebels have signed a formal cease-fire Thursday to end one of Africa's longest and bloodiest wars. Rebel and government leaders signed the truce during a formal ceremony at the parliament in the capital, Luanda.

The deal provides for the demobilization of some 50,000 rebel troops at 27 demobilization centers around the country. The United Nations will monitor the process. Cease-fire talks began last month, following the death of UNITA's longtime leader, Jonas Savimbi. The truce agreement includes a plan to demobilize UNITA fighters. This week, Angola's parliament unanimously approved an amnesty for UNITA rebels. The amnesty covers all civilians and soldiers, both Angolan and foreign, who committed what are called "crimes against the security of the Angolan state." It also covers anyone imprisoned as a deserter from the Angolan army during the war. In a speech Wednesday, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos promised to hold free elections, although he did not set a date. UNITA has fought the government almost non-stop since Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975. The last of two failed peace agreements collapsed in 1998, setting off a full-scale resumption of hostilities. The war has claimed at least 500,000 lives.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters