Friday, April 20, 2007


Jonas Malheiro Savimbi 1934 -2002

Jonas Malheiro Savimbi was a rebel leader in Angola who founded the UNITA movement in 1966, and ultimately proved a central figure in 20th century cold war politics. With support from the governments of the USA, South Africa, Israel, and Several African leaders Savimbi spent much of his life battling Angola's Marxist-inspired government, which was supported by weapons and military advisors from the Soviet Union, Cuba and Nicaragua.

According to Eric Margolis a foreign correspondent and defense analyst “Jonas Savimbi was far more than just an American ‘asset’ fighting the communists. He was a highly intelligent, well-educated man who studied medicine and philosophy in Europe, then Maoism and guerilla warfare in China Savimbi was the only African leader I have ever known who was on time. He insisted his subordinates, aides, and soldiers observe punctuality, the lack of which is one of modern Africa’s scourges. Savimbi was certainly an African tribal autocrat, in spite of his claims to favor democracy, but he was also determined to build a free market economy in Angola and develop its riches. Studies have shown that Angola alone, if properly governed and farmed, could feed all of black Africa. Bad, corrupt government, not bad luck, colonialism or slavery, is what has kept Africa in poverty and misery.”

Savimbi remains an important figure in Angolan and Cold War history, viewed by some as a "freedom fighter." The Angolan government and others saw him as a dangerous war-monger and terrorist who perpetuated a lengthy armed conflict, with long-lasting, detrimental effects on Angolan society.
An Unidentified person Captured by UNITA troops 1980

Under military pressure from UNITA, the Angolan government negotiated a cease-fire with Savimbi, and Savimbi ran for president in the national elections of 1992. Though foreign monitors claimed the elections to be fair, he questioned the legitimacy of the election when he lost, and resumed fighting, mostly with foreign funds, one of his largest sources of money being the De Beers Corporation, which bought between $500 and $800 million worth of illegally mined diamonds from the UNITA controlled diamond mines in 1992-1993. In 1994, UNITA signed a new peace accord, but Savimbi declined the vice-presidency that was offered to him and again renewed fighting in 1998.

After surviving more than a dozen assassination attempts, isolated by his allies Savimbi was killed on February 22, 2002, in a battle with Angolan government troops--and, reportedly, South African mercenaries and Israeli special forces along riverbanks in the province of Moxico, his birthplace. In the firefight, Savimbi sustained 15 machine gun bullets to his head, upper body and legs.

Jonas Savimbi by Eric Margolis a foreign correspondent and defense analyst/columnist

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