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National Union for Total Independence of Angola
The Uni„o Nacional para a IndependÍncia Total de Angola (UNITA) is an Angolan political faction. Until 2002, the group was largely a military force and had been fighting a civil war since 1975. From its foundation until his death, the group was dominated by its charismatic leader and founder, Jonas Savimbi.
The group was formed from the politicized split in the Angolan independence movement. The two original groups were the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA, founded 1957) and the socialist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA, founded 1956). In March 1966, Jonas Savimbi broke with the FNLA to form his own group, UNITA, initially based in Muangai but later in Jamba in the southeast portion of the country. Its leadership was drawn from the majority Ovimbundu tribal group and its policies were Maoist, aimed at rural rights and recognized ethnic divisions. It was the most 'African' of the groups and was also considered the most radical. Whatever its politics, UNITA guerillas proved themselves especially effective before and after independence.
After the Portuguese withdrawal in 1974-75 the groups splintered, creating civil war. MPLA leader Agostinho Neto became prime minister. Backed by Cuban and Soviet money, weapons and troops, the MPLA broke the FNLA and forced them into exile. UNITA was nearly destroyed in November 1975, but it survived and set up a second government in Huambo. UNITA was hard-pressed but recovered with South African aid from 1975 and then U.S. support during the 1980s. The MPLA was strongest in the cities, the coastal region and the strategic oil-fields. UNITA controlled much of the highlands interior, notably the Biť plateau.
In the late 1980s, Savimbi was influenced heavily by military and political guidance from American conservatives, including The Heritage Foundation's Michael Johns, who helped elevate Savimbi's stature in Washington and facilitated the transfer of American weapons to his war. Johns and other American conservatives met regularly with Savimbi in his clandestine military camps in southern Angola. Savimbi drew the praise of former President Ronald Reagan, who hailed him as a freedom fighter and spoke of Savimbi winning a victory that "electrifies the world."
Fighting continued until 1989, when, with UNITA advancing militarily, Cuba withdrew its support and 50,000 troops from the MPLA. A ceasefire was negotiated and the MPLA leader Josť Eduardo dos Santos and Central Committee rejected its Marxist past and proposed democracy.
Following the 1991 Bicesse Accord, signed in Lisbon, there were United Nations-brokered elections between Savimbi and dos Santos in 1992. Failing to win an overall majority and questioning the election's legitimacy, UNITA returned to armed conflict, this time establishing a base in Huambo. The U.N. implemented an embargo against UNITA, and the U.S, government finally recognized the MPLA government. After failed talks in 1993, another agreement, the Lusaka Protocol, was implemented in 1994 to form a government of national unity. In 1995, U.N. peacekeepers arrived. UNITA again broke away from this agreement in 1998, but an MPLA offensive in 1999 destroyed UNITA as a conventional force. UNITA then returned to guerilla tactics.
The conflict ended only after the death of Savimbi in an ambush in February 2002, after which UNITA agreed a ceasefire with the government in April 2002. Under an amnesty agreement, UNITA soldiers and their families, about 350,000 people, were gathered in 33 demobilisation camps under the Program For Social and Productive Reintegration of Demobilizeds and War Displaced People. In August, UNITA officially gave up its armed wing, effectively ending the civil war.
Savimbi was apparently succeeded by Antonio Dembo, who died shortly after Savimbi. As of June 2003 UNITA has not yet chosen a new leader. The interim leader, secretary-general, and also a candidate, is General Paulo Lukamba; his opponents are Dinho Chingunji and Isaias Samakuva. After election Isaias Samakuva won and it is today the new president elected of UNITA.
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