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Rebel Followers Say UNITA Chief Tortured And Killed Opponents

March 12, 1989

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Former followers of Angolan rebel chief Jonas Savimbi on Saturday alleged the chief ordered the torture and killing of dissidents in his ranks, but a Savimbi spokesman denied the allegations.

Alcides Sakala, a spokesman in Lisbon for the U.S.- and South African- backed rebel group UNITA, contended the Soviet-supported Angolan government is waging a campaign to discredit the rebels.

Sakala also denied a report in The New York Times that Tito Chingunji, UNITA’s former Washington representative, was being held against his will in the rebels’ southern stronghold of Jamba in the former Portuguese colony.

He said Chingunji remained the second-ranking official in UNITA, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.

In London, Independent Television News’ ″The World This Week″ broadcast on Saturday an interview with a young man indentified as Chingunji’s nephew, Dinho Chingunji, a UNITA-funded student in London who had asked for asylum in Britain.

″I believe Savimbi killed six members of my family including my father and grandparents, has also been responsible for the killing of several UNITA prominent members and also been responsible for the burning and killing of young children,″ Chingunji said.

He spelled out the separate cases which he said occurred over a period of 20 years. He said he had been told by relatives recently that Savimbi was behind the killings.

Sousa Jamba, described as a young UNITA writer in London and the brother of Savimbi’s education secretary, said Savimbi was eliminating any rivals to his leadership.

″He feels he’s destined to rule Angola,″ said Jamba.

He reported a 1983 incident that he said was witnessed by his family, in which Jamba residents were gathered around a bonfire and a family was doused with gasoline and burned for witchcraft.

He said one woman tried to escape and Savimbi drew his pistol and tried to shoot her.

The New York Times, in a report from London Saturday, quoted former UNITA supporters as saying Savimbi ordered the torture and killing of rebel dissidents.

The Times said witnesses told the human rights organization Amnesty International that Savimbi had opponents accused of being witches and then burned in bonfires at public rallies.

Sakala said the accusation was false and contended three Angolan students who told the newspaper of the killings ran a front organization for the Angolan government, aimed to spread reports of splits within the rebel group.

UNITA has been fighting the Marxist-oriented Angolan government since shortly after the country’s independence from Portugal in 1975.

The rebels reject the U.S.-brokered peace accords signed in New York in December between Angola, South Africa and Cuba, and have vowed to continue fighting until the government of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos agrees to negotiate with them.

Some 50,000 Cuban troops supporting the Angolan government have begun to leave Angola as part of the agreement.

Update hourly