Angolans Demand Peace Not Genocide
New peace movement launched
LUANDA - A new peace movement has been launched in Angola to condemn the "genocide" of the civil war and to demand negotiations between the government, UNITA rebels and FLEC separatists in the Cabinda enclave.(Publisher's note -- human lives can be trampled, but the human spirit still seeks peace. Here is a story of some people who refused to give up hope and have somehow found positive actions to take, to bring peace to Angola after 24 years of civil war.)
In what analysts describe as a breath of fresh air in the suffocating climate of war propaganda by all sides, a "peace manifesto" was signed earlier this month by a coalition of intellectuals, politicians and the church. It blames both the government and UNITA for prolonging and profiting from the decades-old conflict, and Angolan civil society for remaining silent.
"A level of exhaustion has been reached in Angola. Civil society is putting its head above the parapet in what is a significant act of courage," one political analyst said.
The peace manifesto insists there is no military solution to the Angolan conflict which has raged on and off since independence from Portugal in 1975. It calls for Angolan civil society, rather than the ineffective international community, to mediate a resolution to the war. The manifesto also demands that the government and UNITA "include in their military budgets the assistance to deprived people, instead of transferring the burden of their own war against the Angolan nation to the international community."
The peace movement aims to collect 10,000 signatures to present to the government, UNITA and FLEC, and international organizations concerned with peace in Angola. But its central demand of dialogue between the government and rebel groups has been rejected by the government in Luanda. The government argues that UNITA's repeated failure to honor past peace agreements - even accords over humanitarian corridors - proves that the movement and its leader Jonas Savimbi is committed only to winning power by force.
"I don't believe the government would ever agree to give any more chances to Savimbi," Bie provincial vice-governor Antonio Gonzalves said. "These people who are advocating talks don't really know what the reality of the people here is, a population who have felt in their own flesh the activities of Savimbi."
Gonzalves, who was detained and tortured by U.S.-supported UNITA at independence in 1975, and like so many Angolans, has lost family members in the war, acknowledged that one of the consequences of the conflict has been corruption by some officials on arms deals and the oil and diamond trade: "But the greater danger is that if Savimbi ever won power there would be no peace in Angola as he would seek to eliminate all opponents."
Paulo Juliao, editor of the independent 'Radio Eclesia' and a signatory to the peace manifesto said that "we also know that Savimbi has failed many times to keep his promises. But on the other hand we have the right to defend our lives and we don't want to defend our lives with arms."
He added: "The current situation is not a war, it's a genocide. It's the end of one generation of Angolans. The government's argument that they are defending peace through war is unacceptable unless the government can prove that it has exhausted all attempts at negotiations."
The road to peace is long but we can hope for the success of movements such as this new one in Angola. What is your opinion? Tell The Progress Report:
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