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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Profile: Unita's new 'diplomatic' leader
By Zoe Eisenstein
BBC, Angola

Isaias Samakuva, the newly elected leader of Angola's Unita movement, is what many would probably call a perfect gentleman.

Isaias Samakuva
Samakuva's friends say that power will not change him
He is polite and discreet but always impeccably dressed - he usually wears suits perfectly tailored to his small teddy bear-like stature

But on some days he prefers to wear Nelson Mandela-style shirts.

Almost everyone describes Mr Samakuva - who is from Angola's largest Ovimbundu ethnic group - as a man blessed with the skills of a natural diplomat.

But his diplomacy may have more to do with the years he spent abroad than with his nature.

Bush credentials

He was Unita's treasurer in London for several years and spent the last four as the party's Paris representative before coming back to Angola last October.

But Mr Samakuva has also got his bush credentials - he spent years in the south-east of the country with Unita's leadership during the civil war.

Jonas Savimbi
Samakuva replaces Jonas Savimbi, who was killed last year

He was the movement's chief of logistics in the mid 1980s and was then transferred to Unita's Jamba headquarters where he became the chief of Jonas Savimbi's cabinet until leaving for Europe in 1989.

For someone who has sometimes been described as lacking charisma, Mr Samakuva revealed he has also got a fiery side during the heated campaign for the party's presidency.

In radio debates, he fired accusations at his main opponent, Paulo "Gato" Lukamba without as much as a moment's hesitation.

And during press conferences and party briefings ahead of the vote he seemed to have come out of his shell, and was already adopting the words and behaviour of a strong determined leader.

So, could these be signs that the 56-year- old son of a pastor is undergoing a metamorphosis?

His friends - who call him Sam and describe him as subtle, kind, thoughtful and 100% reliable - say they are confident the power will not change him.

The BBC's Emily Buchanan
"Democracy in Angola is still in its infancy"

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