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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 00:12 GMT 01:12 UK
Angola to end civil war
Angolan soldiers
Unita soldiers are to be absorbed into the army
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By Justin Pearce
BBC correspondent in Angola

In Angola 26 years of civil war are to be brought to an end with the signing on Thursday morning of a ceasefire agreement between the Angolan army and the Unita rebels.

Previous peace efforts in Angola have failed but most Angolans are optimistic that this latest plan will work

The accord is the culmination of a process of talks that began after the death of Unita leader Jonas Savimbi six weeks ago.

In an address to the nation on Wednesday evening, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, said the country was on the eve of a historic event.

Angolans had looked forward for a long time to this moment of peace and certainty, the president said.

Troop absorption

On Thursday morning, the commanders of the Angolan armed forces and Unita's army are due to sign a ceasefire that formally ends a civil war that has gone on ever since Angola became independent from Portugal in 1975.

General Paulo Lukamba 'Gato'
General Gato is accepted as Unita's new leader
The peace agreement comes after two weeks of talks between the rival armies who on Saturday approved a plan for the demobilisation of 50,000 Unita troops.

Those soldiers will now be absorbed into the Angolan army and police.

Savimbi's role

Previous peace efforts in Angola have failed but most Angolans are optimistic that this latest plan will work.

Some are encouraged by the fact that the process was conducted entirely by Angolans themselves rather than by foreign mediators.

Others believe that Unita leader Jonas Savimbi was the principle driving force behind the war and that with him now dead the chances of peace are better than ever before.

But Unita's interim leader, General Paulo Lukamba Gato, told the BBC that Savimbi himself had taken the decision to enter into negotiations with the government in December, two months before he died.

And while many observers have said that Unita's army was all but destroyed in the last few months, General Gato said that Unita could have continued fighting had it wanted to but had decided that peace was the better option.

The BBC's Justin Pearce
"Rebel officials are expected to arrive in the capital before the signing"
The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"How do you demobilise these men now?"
See also:

31 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola: One step from peace
02 Apr 02 | Africa
Angola rebels granted amnesty
31 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola moves closer to peace
27 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola rebels back truce talks
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
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