Angola Accord

May 12, 1991

The Marxist president of Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and the U.S.-backed guerrilla leader, Jonas Savimbi, will take their quarrel from the bush and battlefield to elections, where both may lose to forces not yet in the field. The Angola accord, with a cease-fire to take effect this month, ends a horrible 16-year war that took some 300,000 lives and produced no winners.

Without 50,000 Cuban troops, 1,000 East German secret policemen and Soviet weapons and aid, the MPLA government of Mr. dos Santos would have fallen in a month. Without South African and U.S. aid, Mr. Savimbi would have been a purely local, tribally based insurrectionist of little account. Yet their accord was not easy. It flowed from U.S.-Soviet understandings of 1988, between the regimes of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev no less, to call off the worldwide wars of surrogates.

The accord followed the agreement of Cubans (Mr. Gorbachev's idea, not Fidel Castro's) to leave, and of South Africa to quit its aid to Mr. Savimbi's UNITA organization and to set Namibia free. But it followed so slowly. A year of tortuous negotiations studiously brokered by the Portuguese government, as the former colonial ruler of Angola, with U.S. and Soviet help, was needed to produce the belated agreement that had seemed inevitable since 1988.

A small U.N. force of 600 is called upon to monitor this agreement. The last Cubans are to go home before the elections promised for autumn of 1992, leaving Castro's Cuba isolated without a mercenary role or Communizing mission and perhaps without a Soviet angel. The last East Germans are to be gone before then. Foreign aid will be needed to find civilian occupations and training for the soldiers of both sides, a number put by Mr. Savimbi at 300,000, so that Angola may enjoy the fruits of peace with a merged army of only 50,000. None of this will be easy.

Angola is a gloriously rich country of oil -- Cuban soldiers protected American oil companies from U.S.-backed guerrillas -- and ten million people. A country made poor by human malevolence, the Cold War, Communist imperialism, South African trouble-making, and indigenous Angolan tribalism and gluttony for power. The Angola accord offers Angolans the chance to forge a glorious new age for their country. And it is a sign that worldwide benefits still flow from Mr. Gorbachev's sea change in Soviet foreign policy, long after the glow has left the domestic Soviet reforms for which the foreign policy changes were made.

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