Mandela to Launch Angolan Peace Bid
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ President Nelson Mandela enters the thicket of African diplomacy Thursday by hosting talks on the Angolan civil war that has defied negotiations, elections and sanctions for 19 years.
In his first foreign peacemaking effort since coming to power in May, Mandela has invited Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and two other African leaders to Pretoria. The move was requested by the United Nations.
Mandela said Monday that he plans to meet within the coming week with Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. The eventual goal is to bring dos Santos and Savimbi to the same table.
Chances of immediate success seem slim. Seven months of U.N.-led peace talks in Lusaka, Zambia, have stalled and fighting continues in Angola.
The fighting began in 1975 on the eve of Angola’s independence from Portugal, pitting Savimbi’s Union for the Total Independence of Angola rebels against the then-Marxist government of dos Santos.
The fighting ended under a U.N.-brokered peace agreement that included holding free nationwide elections. Dos Santos’ party won more legislative seats than UNITA and dos Santos outpolled Savimbi for president. Savimbi rejected the election results and resumed fighting in the fall of 1992.
Savimbi has refused to leave Angola because of security concerns and may be especially unwilling to go to South Africa now that Mandela and his ANC are in power.
The ANC had supported dos Santos’ governemt while the old white-led Pretoria government had backed Savimbi.
But Mandela also represents a new African optimism, backed by world powers, following the relatively peaceful transition in South Africa.
The power-sharing arrangement Mandela negotiated with the former white-led government might be particularly attractive to Savimbi, who is demanding a key role in Angola’s post-war government.
F.W. de Klerk, the former white president defeated in South Africa’s April vote, is now one of two deputy presidents and his National Party has six seats in Mandela’s unity Cabinet.
″There is no doubt that the South African solution is ideal and should show many Africans how to best solve the social and political crises facing the continent,″ UNITA spokesman Jorge Valentim said last month of the proposed intervention by Mandela.
Mandela also offers international credibility - he shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk - and can likely deliver foreign support for rebuilding Angola.
On Wednesday, he stood smiling as Japan’s ambassador announced a $1.3 billion aid package for South Africa, the largest amount Japan has given in Africa.
Along with dos Santos, President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique were invited to Thursday’s meeting.
Zaire, which borders Angola, serves as a conduit for UNITA supplies and Mobutu would likely be a Savimbi surrogate at the talks. Mozambique, like Angola, is a former Portuguese colony that suffered a long civil war.
Angola’s war and accompanying disease and famine have killed 500,000 people and devastated the resource-rich southwest African nation.