Angolan rebel leader Savimbi gets funeral after 17-years

Jonas Savimbi was killed in a battle against the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) forces on 22 February 2002. AFP/Walter Dhladhla

In what is being billed as a rare moment of national unity, the historic leader of Angola’s rebel UNITA movement, Jonas Savimbi, will get a public funeral on Saturday, 17 years after he was killed in a shootout with government soldiers that spelt an end to a long civil war.

“For 17 years, we have waited,” said Isaias Samakuva, today’s leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which has been transformed from a US-backed armed force into the main opposition political party.

UNITA’s official spokesman Alcides Sakala Simoes declared the funeral would be “an important moment… in the building of national reconciliation”.

The former Portuguese colony became a Cold War battleground after independence in 1975, once the Marxist-Leninist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) seized control.

The United States lined up behind Savimbi’s UNITA and the Soviet Union and its allies backed the MPLA.

Cuba deployed a large military force to counter troops from South Africa and Zaire.

At least half a million people died in the conflict for the vast, oil-rich southern African nation, which played out over more than a quarter of a century.

 Bloody death 

Early in 2002, a contingent of soldiers pursued the 67-year-old Savimbi across the vast province of Moxico in central eastern Angola.

On February 22, his pursuers caught up with him.

He fought back but, riddled with more than a dozen bullets, soon died.

His body was rushed to the provincial capital Luena and buried in the main cemetery, with a cross of iron on the mound of red soil and the name “SAVIMBI Jonas” etched into the trunk of an acacia tree.

In what is being billed as a rare moment of national unity, the historic leader of Angola’s rebel UNITA movement, Jonas Savimbi, will get a public funeral on Saturday, 17 years after he was killed in a shootout with government soldiers that spelt an end to a long civil war.

“For 17 years, we have waited,” said Isaias Samakuva, today’s leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which has been transformed from a US-backed armed force into the main opposition political party.

UNITA’s official spokesman Alcides Sakala Simoes declared the funeral would be “an important moment… in the building of national reconciliation”.

The former Portuguese colony became a Cold War battleground after independence in 1975, once the Marxist-Leninist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) seized control.

The United States lined up behind Savimbi’s UNITA and the Soviet Union and its allies backed the MPLA.

Cuba deployed a large military force to counter troops from South Africa and Zaire.

At least half a million people died in the conflict for the vast, oil-rich southern African nation, which played out over more than a quarter of a century.

 Bloody death 

Early in 2002, a contingent of soldiers pursued the 67-year-old Savimbi across the vast province of Moxico in central eastern Angola.

On February 22, his pursuers caught up with him.

He fought back but, riddled with more than a dozen bullets, soon died.

His body was rushed to the provincial capital Luena and buried in the main cemetery, with a cross of iron on the mound of red soil and the name “SAVIMBI Jonas” etched into the trunk of an acacia tree.

In what is being billed as a rare moment of national unity, the historic leader of Angola’s rebel UNITA movement, Jonas Savimbi, will get a public funeral on Saturday, 17 years after he was killed in a shootout with government soldiers that spelt an end to a long civil war.

“For 17 years, we have waited,” said Isaias Samakuva, today’s leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which has been transformed from a US-backed armed force into the main opposition political party.

UNITA’s official spokesman Alcides Sakala Simoes declared the funeral would be “an important moment… in the building of national reconciliation”.

The former Portuguese colony became a Cold War battleground after independence in 1975, once the Marxist-Leninist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) seized control.

The United States lined up behind Savimbi’s UNITA and the Soviet Union and its allies backed the MPLA.

Cuba deployed a large military force to counter troops from South Africa and Zaire.

At least half a million people died in the conflict for the vast, oil-rich southern African nation, which played out over more than a quarter of a century.

 Bloody death 

Early in 2002, a contingent of soldiers pursued the 67-year-old Savimbi across the vast province of Moxico in central eastern Angola.

On February 22, his pursuers caught up with him.

He fought back but, riddled with more than a dozen bullets, soon died.

His body was rushed to the provincial capital Luena and buried in the main cemetery, with a cross of iron on the mound of red soil and the name “SAVIMBI Jonas” etched into the trunk of an acacia tree.

 

 

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