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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 14:06 GMT
Signs of peace in Angola
Bishop Kamwenho
Kamwenho is working hard for peace
Angolan peace activist, Bishop Zacarias Kamwenho, has said he sees positive signs of moves towards a ceasefire in the country's 26-year-old civil war.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
President dos Santos says the war is almost over
Bishop Kamwenho, recently named co-winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov human rights prize, made the comments after meeting Portuguese government officials in Lisbon.

The United Nations representative in Angola has also described what he called "new signals" of an end to the war, which has claimed at least 500,000 lives.

Separately, the AFP news agency quoted Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos as saying the conflict was "practically finished".

More than three million Angolans have been displaced in the past 10 years, and more than a million of them are dependent on food aid.

Contact

Bishop Kamwenho, Angola's most senior clergyman, said he had had direct contact with representatives of the Unita rebel movement in Rome.

He said the signs were hopeful, partly because Unita had tired of the war.

A monk in Angola
The Catholic Church is playing an active part in the peace process
Correspondents say he has offered himself as a mediator in any peace talks.

In September, the country's Catholic Church launched a campaign aimed at mobilising civil society to put pressure on the warring parties to seek a negotiated peace.

Bishop Francisco de Mata Mourisca, the head of the Catholic peace movement, said at the time the attitude of government and rebels reflected an incomprehensible logic.

"Not wanting to make war, yet making war; not wanting to kill, but ordering killings; not wanting there to be deaths, but causing deaths," he said.

'Residual troops'

On Wednesday, President dos Santos told a news conference in the capital Luanda that Unita forces was left with "only residual troops".

"The war is practically finished," he was quoted as saying by AFP.

But the BBC correspondent in Luanda points out he has made similar comments in the past.

The two sides took up arms again in 1998 when a UN peace agreement brokered in 1994 finally collapsed.

The government has since captured Unita's major strongholds, but the rebels have reverted to a guerrilla war.

In another development, the representative of the UN Secretary General in Angola, Mussagy Jeichande, said the two sides were ready to use the 1994 accord as a framework for a new ageement.

"It's looking positive," Mr Jeichande told reporters after talks with Interior Minister Fernando dos Santos Nando, the government's coordinator for peace negotiations.

He said last week that the current international situation was now more conducive to peace.

See also:

28 Sep 01 | Africa
Catastrophe facing Angola
25 Sep 01 | Africa
Unita hits Luanda power supply
27 Aug 01 | Africa
Many feared dead in Angola ambush
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
19 Jun 01 | Africa
Angola's civil war in pictures
13 Jun 01 | Africa
Savimbi: No end to war
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