03 March 2002

An Approved Terrorist

John Maxwell

AN American journalist, Jerry Mildon, says that the toughest challenge in defending the Central Intelligence Agency is that bad as its failures have been, its successes have often been worse. I was reminded of that by the killing last week of Jonas Savimbi, for 26 years, America's Man In Angola.

Jonas Savimbi was an integral part of the American destabilisation of Central Africa. Following the CIA-sponsored murder of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1961, the Americans raised up and protected Joseph Mobutu who did for the Congo what King Leopold had begun 80 years before. Mobutu, in turn, was the main conduit for American money to his Angolan brother in law, Jonas Savimbi, enabling Savimbi over the years, to kill nearly a million people and to maim, disfigure, rape, burn and starve millions more of his countrymen.

Between those two, Mobutu and Savimbi, the cause of African unity and development was almost, but not entirely, derailed.

John Stockwell, who once headed the CIA operation in Angola, spoke to me in 1980 about how he had helped put together the CIA's plan for Angola, realising, before he was quite finished, the appalling error into which he had been led.

The Portuguese army mutinied in 1974, bringing democracy to Portugal and its colonies. For the last years of his life, the Portuguese dictator Salazar and Admiral Caetano, his heir, had been fighting a war to preserve Portugal's colonies against the increasingly successful anti-colonial movement.

Angola, on the west central coast of Africa, is a huge country, bigger than France, Germany and Spain put together. It is also enormously rich in minerals: oil, diamonds, gold are the major exports, but there are doubtless major discoveries to be made in a country which is still, largely un-prospected. Like its neighbour, the Congo, Angola at independence became the object of the west's economic lust. There were three independence movements at independence, the oldest, the socialist People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola being challenged by the FNLA of Holden Roberto and UNITA which split from the FNLA. UNITA stands for the Union for the Total Liberation of Angola, and UNITA means unity in Portuguese. Never has a movement been less appropriately named. During the final stages of the independence struggle, it was discovered that UNITA had an agreement with the Portuguese and spent most of its time fighting the other independence movements.

Jonas Savimbi was the grandson of a chief of the Ovimbundo, the largest nation in Angola, a chief who led an insurrection against the Portuguese early in the century. His grandson managed to get out of Angola to study in Portugal and Switzerland. He got a degree in social sciences. Later, he would claim to be Dr Savimbi.

Dr Kissinger intervenes

Returning to Angola, Savimbi joined the MPLA, but left quickly, because he was told he had to work his way up the ranks. He wanted a leadership position. After joining and leaving the FNLA in turn, he started UNITA, based on his tribe/nation -- the Ovimbundo.

As Angolan independence approached, US and South African interests found in Savimbi a man and a movement to support. Savimbi, hitherto known as a Maoist guerilla trained in China, suddenly became a staunch anti-communist and totally opposed to the MPLA.

Henry Kissinger funnelled $35 million to UNITA in 1975, and American aid continued to flow to this so-called freedom fighter as he battled the wicked socialists of the MPLA. In the process, Savimbi displayed an implacable taste for blood and butchery, burning women supposed to be witches, mining farms and attacking health clinics and schools, specifically targeting health workers and teachers, destroying water supplies, roads and public infrastructure in order to bring down the MPLA.

Had it not been for the intervention of Cuban troops in 1975, this bloodthirsty tyrant might now be the king of Angola. Despite a massive South African intervention and a movement by white mercenaries and Congolese troops, the Angolans and Cubans were able to defeat the enemies of the new state.

But, in the meantime, Savimbi had been mining the countryside, cutting off hundreds of thousands of hectares of productive land from farming, and converting the breadbasket of the country into an official zone of famine. Victims of the mines and malnourished children swamped the hospitals. Tens of thousands of children were kidnapped by UNITA and taken to areas controlled by Savimbi, to be impressed into the army or into slave labour in the diamond mines.

He became the darling of the most backward and racist elements of the western elite, fascinated by his cleverness and his linguistic skills. He spoke six European languages.

In 1986 President Reagan invited Savimbi to the White House and extolled him in a meeting in the Oval office. President Bush Sr was equally enchanted by the African "freedom-fighter". But Savimbi was even then weakening his own movement by killing or imprisoning some of his closest associates causing others to flee to the government side. Diamonds -- a ghoul's best friend

By 1991 the US had decided to cut its losses and tried to promote an agreement between Savimbi and MPLA. Both sides were required to disarm and demobilise. That was followed by a UN supervised election which the US expected Savimbi to win, since he represented the largest tribe in the country. The election went ahead, although Savimbi had not disarmed as agreed. Savimbi lost the election and immediately accused the government of stealing it. Almost immediately he began a new war and came close to toppling the government, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands more. Despite all this, the government continued to make overtures to Savimbi to come in from the cold. When the war began to turn against him, the government offered to make him vice-president. He actually signed a new peace accord in 1994, but never gave up his armed conflict nor his control of Ovimbundo areas. Savimbi was making himself rich, controlling the diamond mines and selling his blood-tainted spoil to western entrepreneurs. In 1998 the appearance of peace was abandoned and war broke out again.

There have been other Savimbis -- in Africa and elsewhere -- for as long as humanity has been around.

In the year 1526 AD, Affonso, Mani-Kongo (King of the Kongo) wrote the King John of Portugal as one Christian monarch to another. The Mani-Kongo complained that his Kingdom was being corrupted by the agents of King John. This was caused by the excessive freedom given to King John's agents who came to the Kongo "to set up shops with goods and many things which have been prohibited by us... in such an abundance" that they had effectively bought the loyalty of Affonso's vassals and subjects. Worse than that, "the merchants are taking every day our natives, sons of the lands and the sons of noblemen and vassals and our relatives, because the thieves and men of bad conscience grab them wishing to have the things and wares ... which they are so ambitious of; they grab them and get them to be sold; and so great is the corruption and licentiousness that our country is being completely depopulated, and Your Highness should not agree with this nor accept it in your service." Shades of Globalisation! It is the Savimbis of this world who allow Western apologists for slavery to say, with complete aplomb, that blacks were just as guilty in the slave trade because they sold each other.


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