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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 11:44 GMT
Angola urged to back peace
Corpse of Jonas Savimbi
Savimbi was laid out for viewing under a tree
Angola's warring parties are being urged to seize the opportunity for peace presented by the death of veteran rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.

The Unita leader was killed by government troops on Friday - television footage of his bullet-ridden body a day later ended any lingering doubts about his fate.

It is going to take a couple of generations to heal the 30 years of war. But we can do our part in forgetting what is behind and focusing on what is ahead

Chimoko, Angola

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan led calls for peace, saying "he hoped all stakeholders would take advantage" of the new situation.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called on both sides "to fulfill their obligation to bring peace to the Angolan people".

Neighbouring South Africa and former colonial power Portugal also called for peace efforts to continue.

Some observers are now predicting Unita's collapse. Others say there will be a bitter power struggle within the movement.

However, without clearly charting out the group's future, a statement from its Portugal mission described Unita as a political project that did not come to an end with Mr Savimbi's death.

Unita tribute

State radio and TV in Angola have been urging Unita fighters to surrender.

But a Unita spokesman, Rui Oliveira, said on Saturday: "I can say that Unita's mission will continue."

A statement from the Portugese capital, Lisbon, said "anyone who thinks the ideals of Unita died with its leader is mistaken".

It said the movement would pronounce on the way forward at an unspecified time in the future.

The statement described Mr Savimbi as one of Africa's most "illustrious sons".

Body on display

The Unita leader's body was shown to reporters in Lucusse, a remote town in Moxico province, eastern Angola.

Jonas Savimbi

Jonas Savimbi

  • Born in 1934 in Bie province
  • Fought the Angolan Government since independence in 1975
  • US President Ronald Reagan called him a "freedom fighter".
  • Made a failed election bid in 1992
  • Rarely seen in public

    Click here for full profile

  • The Angolan state news agency Angop said Mr Savimbi, 67 - who has led Unita for more than 30 years - died in fighting with government troops on Friday.

    A Portuguese state television reporter, Alves Fernandes, said the Unita leader's body "sustained 15 bullet wounds, two in his head and the rest spread through his upper body and legs".

    Angolan reporters said two senior rebel officers - brigadiers Big Jo and Bula - were also killed, but that some of Mr Savimbi's closest aides managed to flee.

    Long conflict

    Unita has been fighting against the Luanda government since 1975, when civil war erupted after Angola's independence from Portugal.

    The latest fighting is reported to have taken place southeast of Luena, the provincial capital.

    Since late last year, the Angolan army has been waging a renewed military campaign against Unita in Moxico province, which was seen as the last rebel stronghold.

    Jonas Savimbi founded Unita - the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola - in the late 1960s as a rival movement to the MPLA which later became the government.

    The conflict is estimated to have killed more than 500,000 people, and displaced hundreds of thousands of others.

    The BBC's Nick Hawton
    "He was the driving force behind the rebel movement"
    Unita representative Joffre Justino
    "He died in combat"
    Africa Inform, Dr Vincent Magombe
    "We have always seen some form of power struggle"
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