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After the Cease-fire, Movies of Other Wars

September 3, 1991

LUENA, Angola (AP) _ The hottest show in this eastern Angolan town is at the World Lutheran Federation office.

Samuel Rodriques, a Cape Verdean who runs the church’s aid mission, thinks he has the only VCR in Luena.

Since the May 31 cease-fire between government forces and U.S.-backed rebels, video cassettes flown in by U.N. aid workers have become big hits with officers from both sides of the civil war.

An army captain cheered Sylvester Stallone through the mayhem of ″First Blood″ and gasped at a British documentary on the Gulf War. The veteran of Angola’s 16-year conflict seemed awestruck.

Maj. Geraldo Abreu dropped by with a delegation of rebel officers to enjoy a beer and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A young pilot for TAG, the state airline, said Angolans love war movies.

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A pilot from Arkhangel on the Soviet arctic coast was a long way from home, red-faced and unhappy.

″This is a nation of thieves,″ he growled as soldiers caught two men trying to steal sacks of rice and maize from the hold of his giant Aeroflot transport plane.

The government charters planes from the Soviet state airline to fly food aid to isolated towns.

Soviet pilots don’t trust the cease-fire. Moscow backed the Angolan government with arms and funds from the time the war began in 1975, after independence from Portugal.

They approach Luena at high altitude on their twice-daily runs in case the U.S.-supported rebels decide to fire Stinger missiles, then spiral down steeply, releasing flares to deflect heat-seeking rockets.

This Soviet crew agreed to carry some passengers in the aircraft’s hold on the return flight to Luanda, the capital. As word spread that some might be left behind, a fairly orderly line deteriorated into a free-for-all.

The pilot and crew hauled in a young couple with a baby, then pulled up the ladder, leaving all but a lucky few on the runway.

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HUAMBO - Angola’s second-largest city, on the central plateau, suffered greatly in the war.

At Alto Bomba medical center, the International Red Cross fits some of the victims with artificial limbs.

From 1980 to 1990, the clinic provided artificial legs to 6,313 people. Forty-four percent were civilians and 72 percent had stepped on mines.

Outside the clinic, a one-legged instructor organized races for young men with new, plastic limbs.

Inside, men, women and children negotiated an obstacle course, hobbling up ramps and over bars. Some of the women had babies tied on their backs with traditional, multicolored wraps.

International agencies say Angola, population about 9 million, has the world’s largest proportion of amputees. The government estimates 80,000 soldiers and civilians lost limbs in the war.

Clearing mines is the most urgent postwar task. Despite close cooperation between the government and rebels, the work seems endless.

″You have to remember that, in Europe, they’re still finding mines left over from World War II,″ said Pedro Sebastiao of the government parachute regiment. ″Think how long it will take here.″

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LUMBALA-N’GUIMBO - The whole town turned out in July to greet the first U.N. flight, from rebel officers at attention on the clay airstrip to dancing, singing villagers, clad in rags, waving photos of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.

This small community on the scrubland straddling Angola’s eastern frontier with Zambia, once a Portuguese colonial trading post, has been controlled by Savimbi’s guerrillas since 1982.

Stone buildings left by the Portuguese are in ruins. The poverty-stricken residents live in huts of wood and straw.

A U.N. team arrived in July as part of a project to assess the aid needs of people in rebel-held areas of eastern Moxico province.

In his underground bunker, the local rebel commander, known as Capt. Roberto, listed the needs: clothing, blankets, meat, milk, medicine, salt, tools, seed, vegetables, corn, soya, fertilizers.

All the town had from outside were the photographs of of Savimbi, a U.N. aid worker said.

Another mission of the U.N. team was to assess whether runways in the region could accommodate large transport planes.

The one at Lumbala-N’guimbo was ″a great strip,″ said the U.N. pilot, a veteran of the U.S. Special Services in Southeast Asia. ″It was either built by Americans or to American specifications.″

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