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Monday, June 29, 1998 Published at 01:04 GMT 02:04 UK

World: Africa

Endless patience of Angola envoy

By former BBC Angola correspondent Chris Simpson

Alioune Blondin Beye arrived as the UN's special representative in Angola in July 1993 in the middle of what had been described as the world's worst war.

His death five years later comes with Angola nominally at peace, but with strong divisions still evident between the government and the Unita opposition movement and the suggestion from some quarters that hostilities could break out at any time.

Mr Beye strove throughout his time in Angola to promote a lasting reconciliation.

In the face of considerable scepticism, the former Malian foreign minister and lawyer coaxed the Angolan government and UNITA through a year of peace talks in the Zambian capital Lusaka.

His efforts culminated in an elaborate peace agreement in November 1994.

Failure to implement agreement

With hostilities suspended, Mr Beye was charged with supervising the implementation of that agreement, chairing endless meetings, welcoming in thousands of UN peacekeeping troops, and pressing both sides to keep to the letter of what they had signed.

This he did with charisma, good humour and considerable energy. But as the peace process dragged on with deadlines flagrantly ignored and the international community losing patience, Mr Beye was increasingly accused of simply presiding over a stalemate.

Significantly, the past few months, which brought a rash of serious incidents, saw a change in tone with Mr Beye's habitual optimism fading.

Instead he warned openly of the serious consequences which awaited Angola if the stalling and the distrust were allowed to continue, making it clear that any peace agreement was only as good as its signatories.

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