Angola: UN envoy commends country for choosing peace over 'path of death'

Angola: UN envoy commends country for choosing peace over 'path of death'

As Angola's Government and the UNITA rebel group signed a ceasefire agreement today, a top United Nations envoy commended them for choosing to abandon "the path of death" and to explore instead the avenues of peace and reconciliation.

"The enemies of peace will continue to detract your efforts to peace and in difficult times they will tempt you to resort to strategies that for a long time have locked you up in violence and confrontation," Ibrahim Gambari, the Special Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa, said this morning in Luanda at the signing ceremony between the Angolan Armed Forces and UNITA, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.

"On behalf of the United Nations I plead for continued magnanimity, for forward-looking approach to issues, for patience, and for mutual tolerance so that we can make the dreams of millions of Angolans a lasting reality," Mr. Gambari said.

The ceremony was attended by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the diplomatic corps, representatives of all political parties, representatives of the Catholic Church and of civil society organizations.

In his message, Mr. Gambari noted that 27 years of war had reduced Angola to one of the world's poorest nations, despite its immense mineral wealth. "There can be no excuse for faltering," he said, adding that there should be "no more missteps" in achieving peace and development.

Mr. Gambari warned, however, that nothing would be achieved if the country's "terrible humanitarian challenges" were not tackled immediately. "The United Nations will continue to work with Angolan authorities and support the parties to consolidate peace, democracy and good governance," he pledged, calling also on the international community "to give peace in Angola a chance by showing patience and demonstrating generosity."

In an exclusive interview yesterday with Africa Recovery, a quarterly magazine published by the UN Department of Public Information, Mr. Gambari said that his two principal tasks in Angola were "first, to find out exactly what is happening, and second to be available to the government and the other stakeholders on what is [the UN] role now as a mediator in the peace process."

Although the Lusaka agreement remained the sole basis for a final settlement to the conflict, he said, the political and military circumstances in Angola have changed dramatically. "When Lusaka was signed, UNITA controlled large chunks of territory with conventional forces." But as a result of government offensives, "that is no longer the case and there has to be an adjustment [in negotiations] to take account of the relative positions of the two sides militarily and politically."