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Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK

World: Africa

Angola seeks Savimbi's arrest

The government blames Unita for the failure of the peace process

By Lara Pawson in Luanda

The Angolan Government has issued a warrant for the arrest of Unita leader, Jonas Savimbi.

Late on Friday state radio broadcast a statement from the national department for criminal investigations.

Rebellion, sabotage and the use of explosives are among a long list of crimes alleged to have been committed by the Angolan rebel leader.

The announcement comes seven months after the Prosecutor General labelled Savimbi a war criminal, shortly after a fresh outbreak of war in the battered southern African state in December.

Under Angolan law, the Unita leader is accused of committing a myriad of crimes, ranging from murder and assault to the trafficking of war material.

Indeed, there is no shortage of allegations against Dr Savimbi.

[ image: Jonas Savimbi is facing a long list of allegations]
Jonas Savimbi is facing a long list of allegations
Aside from official testimonies given by victims of Unita, hundreds of thousands of Angola's displaced recount similar tales of massacres in their rural villages. More often than not, they blame Dr Savimbi for the deaths of their relatives and friends.

The fact that the government has resorted to legal means to isolate the rebel leader may reflect its apparent inability to defeat Unita militarily.

The announcement of the arrest warrant comes days after the rebels carried out an attack on a town just 70km from Luanda.

A diplomat in the capital said this was a major psychological blow to Angola's armed forces. However, one legal analyst describes the arrest warrant as wholly appropriate and believes it to be part of a broader strategy to use legislation to bring down Dr Savimbi.

Backed by the UN

The government has always blamed Unita for the breakdown of the Lusaka peace process, signed in 1994.

It also has the United Nations on its side. The Security Council agrees that Dr Savimbi is the one who failed to abide by the peace accords.

Next week, a delegation from the government will fly to New York to discuss the creation of an international criminal court.

If that is ratified, there is little doubt that the government will push for an international arrest warrant for its long-time enemy.

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