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Friday, 9 November, 2001, 17:46 GMT
Angola warns new conscripts
Angolan forces
Young men who fail to join up will be punished
By Justin Pearce in Luanda

In Angola, thousands of young men have been told to report for military service this week, as part of the government's annual conscription programme.

The announcement comes as the army steps up its operations against the Unita rebels in the eastern province of Moxico.

Political leaders on both sides of the long civil war are continuing to send out mixed signals on the prospects for peace.

Eduardo Dos Santos president Angolan President
Dos Santos believes a small push might end the war

Angolan National Radio announced that the Defence Ministry was calling up every male citizen born between 1 January 1979 and 31 December 1980.

Anyone born within that period was instructed to report to recruitment centres, and warned that they would be punished if they failed to do so without a reasonable justification.

Push against Unita

It is normal for the army to draft a fresh batch of conscripts at this time of year, and the precise number being called up this year is not known. Angolan law allows for men from the age of 18 to be called up for two years, but the rules are applied inconsistently.

This time round, the army appears to be making a particular effort to get new men in its ranks as it steps up its attacks against the Unita rebels in the east of the country.

Jonas Savimbi Angola Unita rebel movement
Savimbi says he is ready for dialogue

The last few weeks have seen a renewed campaign by the army in Moxico province. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has reported increasing numbers of refugees crossing into neighbouring Zambia.

Military sources quoted in the Angolan media have spoken of a new effort to capture Unita leader Jonas Savimbi, who is believed to be somewhere in Moxico at the moment.

Recently President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said that only "a small effort" would be needed to end the war.

Stalemate

"The war is practically coming to an end," the president said during visit by President Fradique de Menezes of São Tomé e Principe. "Savimbi only has residual military forces and with goodwill the problem can be resolved very quickly."

But previously, such optimistic assessments by the government have proved unfounded. Observers point out that Moxico is a vast province, from where Unita has long launched attacks on the rest of the country.

Savimbi is thought to be keeping on the move so as to evade capture, and reports indicate that Unita is still capable of attacking government-held positions.

In another development, the head of the Angolan Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Zacarias Kamwenho, last week said he had received a letter from Savimbi.

In the letter, as quoted by an independent Angolan newspaper, Savimbi wrote that his organisation was "ready for dialogue, to put an end to this war which I have always considered absurd, as soon as the government and the international community permit it".

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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