In Angola, rebels claim to have captured a southern border town as they step up their anti-government campaign.
In Angola, rebels claim to have captured a southern border town as they step up their anti-government campaign. The guerrilla attack followed news last month (May) that the two pro-Western rebel groups - the Front for the National Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA) - had joined forces. The ruling Marxist Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) claims it is unaffected by continued guerrilla activities. But a Visnews cameraman who visited an undisclosed location in the Angolan bush found ample evidence of the rebels' weapons strength and high morale.
SYNOPSIS: Doctor Jonas Savimbi's UNITA forces have been living in the bush since 1966 - fighting first against Portuguese colonial rule, then against the MPLA which claimed victory at the end of the civil war in 1976. Estimate of UNITA's strength vary but Doctor Savimbi is thought to have some 12,000 men. In the past, Savimbi has admitted the difficulty in finding enough arms for all his soldiers. But ambushes on government forces have helped to provide large hauls of weapons. The South African government has also reportedly sent supplies to the guerrillas.
Doctor Savimbi, accompanied here by Samuel Chiwale... chief of UNITA's armed forces wing (FALA)...lives in the bush with his troops. The Swiss-educated Savimbi is now 43. He claims that his 13 years of bush fighting have won UNITA control of nearby two-thirds of Angola - despite the presence of a large number of Cuban troops supporting the MPLA government.
The guerrillas claim that UNITA's formation of common front with the FNLA gives the rebels full control of Angola's rural areas, which are vital to its economy. A spokesman for the common front said last month that the alliance would allow the two organisations - which were once civil war rivals - to swop training skills and to make a serious bid to dislodge the Cuban forces. He said the front planned to move to coffee plantations in the north and to join anti-government guerrillas in the north-west province Cabinda.
Many families of the UNITA forces five with them in the bush - including Dr. Savimbi's own wife and family.
Morale is said to be very good, boosted by the performances of patriotic songs, and the declamation of heroic poems on UNITA's struggle.
No-one knows how long these families will have to stay in Angola's bush - though UNITA claims the common front will meet the MPLA and the Cubans in a major confrontation very soon. According to South African radio reports, UNITA captured the southern border town of Calais on May 19 after a fierce two-hour battle with government troops. A month earlier, the rebels claimed to have captured another border town, Cuangar. And on May 26, two bombs exploded in the Angolan capital of Luanda - allegedly the work of the rebels. The bombs, which killed one and injured 12, were the first reported rebel bomb attacks since November last year.