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Thursday, April 2, 1998 Published at 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK

World: Monitoring

The Black Cockerel crows its last
image: [ Silenced: Voice of the Resistance of the Black Cockerel ]
Silenced: Voice of the Resistance of the Black Cockerel

The Unita anthem from the last broadcast of the Voice of Resistance of the Black Cockerel (0' 31")
The former Angolan rebel movement Unita has announced that its radio station, Voice of the Resistance of the Black Cockerel - Vorgan - is ending its role as propaganda mouthpiece for the movement.

After 19 years on the air without interruption, Vorgan's last announcement said that from the following day, and in line with the four year Angolan peace process, it would be rechristened Radio Awakening, a commercial FM station broadcasting from the capital, Luanda.

A new station awakes

Unita Secretary for Information (in Portuguese): "Vorgan Radio will be transformed" (1' 03")
"The Unita Political Commission Standing Committee, in fulfilment of the Lusaka Protocol and its obligations within the framework of the final timetable, hereby solemnly and unequivocally declares through my voice, as Secretary for Information, that from 2400 hours on April 1 1998, our radio station - Voz da Resistencia do Galo Negro (Vorgan) - will be transformed into a bipartisan radio station to be called Radio Awakening (Radio Despertar) which will begin to operate in Luanda soon."

Just a few hours before the deadline for the conclusion of the peace process was due to expire, the station - named after Unita' s emblem symbolising new dawn - also reported the arrival in Luanda of a high-level Unita delegation, another step envisaged under the peace accords reached between the Angolan government and Unita in 1994.

"Unita promised, and has delivered its promise," the radio said.

The delegation is to open an office in the Angolan capital and prepare for the arrival there of Unita leader Jonas Savimbi, who remained at Unita headquarters in the central town of Andulo.

The government is then due to extend its control to the remaining Unita strongholds.

'A sacrifice beyond measure'

Vorgan has been immensely important to Unita - disseminating their belligerent anti-government message to the nation over the last two decades of civil war by the most accessible and influential medium in Angola.

The station has been a source of extreme irritation to the Angolan authorities.

The government tried repeatedly to bomb Vorgan into silence or to jam its frequencies. But by mounting its transmitters on mobile units, UNITA managed to keep broadcasting continually.

Unita Secretary for Information (in Portuguese): "Total commitment to the terms of the Lusaka protocol" (0' 55")
After the far from dignified disarmament and demobilisation of the Fala (Unita armed forces), which represented a sacrifice beyond measure, the transformation of Vorgan into a non-partisan radio station within this country's legal framework, is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most painful contribution that Unita can give to the consolidation of peace in Angola.

The voice of Unita is moving from shortwave - audible throughout the country and beyond - to an FM frequency likely to be heard only by residents of the capital.

The team sent to establish the new station are all former Vorgan journalists. But, since they will now be broadcasting under government control, there is no choice but to moderate the tone of their output.

The new radio is expected to begin broadcasts in a few weeks' time

Press freedom

"The government has a monopoly on television and will soon have the only radio station to reach the entire country when Voice of the Resistance of the Black Cockerel ... is replaced by the limited range of FM Radio Awakening," said a commentary on Unita's website.

"The government-owned Jornal de Angola is the only daily newspaper. The democratisation of the media is critical if democracy is to sink deep roots in Angola and national reconciliation is to take hold," it added.

For a radio reportedly set up with South African and United States backing, as the voice of an armed resistance movement, such a call might seem incongruous.

But fears for press freedom in post-war Angola have also been voiced by others, including non-governmental organizations and the US State Department.

There have been reports of journalists being harassed, and in some cases killed.

Unita leader Jonas Savimbi himself says his failure to return to the Angolan capital is because he fears for his personal safety there.

Such fears, whether real or exaggerated, are part of the lingering mistrust between the two sides in the peace process.

Cautious hope

Nevertheless, the UN has welcomed the latest moves as positive and representing "forward movement." The day after the proclaimed midnight deadline, the radio remained unheard.

If Voice of the Black Cockerel radio has, as announced, really disappeared once and for all from Angola's airwaves, it will mark the end of an era of wartime broadcasting and a step on the road to peace.

The prospect is viewed with cautious hope by UN Spokesman Juan-Carlos Brandt, who says the UN will wait to see whether Unita has stopped the broadcasts.

"So far as this particular issue is concerned, we will believe it when we don't hear it," he said.

BBC Monitoring (, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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