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Jonas Savimbi
"How come we are all over the country if the people did not support us"
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Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Savimbi: No end to war
Jonas Savimbi
Jonas Savimbi rarely makes public statements
Jonas Savimbi, leader of the Angolan rebel movement Unita, has said that he will only resume negotiations with the government if it stops its attacks on Unita positions.

Mr Savimbi told the BBC that it is not possible to "say 'capture the bastards and hang them' [when] at the same time you're talking about negotiations for peace. It does not work that way."

Maionga Isaura
The government claims that Unita is kidnapping children
In 1999 Unita abandoned conventional warfare in its fight against the government, and Mr Savimbi said that its guerrilla tactics have led to the movement's presence in 15 of Angola's 18 provinces.

Mr Savimbi made these statements in a rare interview to the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Recently the rebels have been accused of terrorising civilians and kidnapping children.

Guerrilla war

Unita attacked Caxito in the north of Angola at the beginning of May, and it was reported at the time that the guerrillas had abducted 60 children.

The children were returned three weeks later and Mr Savimbi said that the taking of the children was a mistake.

He said that following the attack on Caxito there was a lot of panic and confusion and the children fled with the Unita soldiers.

Mr Savimbi said as soon as it was realised that the children should not have gone with Unita they were returned.

How come we are all over the country if the people did not support us?

Jonas Savimbi
Unita has been accused of using similar tactics in another attack at the weekend, but Mr Savimbi said that the government was just smearing Unita.

Mr Savimbi then turned on the government, saying it was responsible for terrorising people in rural areas and moving them into urban centres.

He said: "If we start attacking the civilians we are going to lose their support. How come we are all over the country if the people did not support us?"

Unita has been fighting against the Luanda government since 1975. Elections were held during a ceasefire in 1992, but Unita did not accept the results and fighting resumed.

A second attempt to find peace in 1994 finally broke down in 1999.

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See also:

26 May 01 | Africa
Rebels free children in Angola
22 May 01 | Africa
Unita attack east of Luanda
11 May 01 | Africa
Angolan children relive raid
10 May 01 | Africa
Unita 'made children carry loot'
29 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
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