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Angola ex-rebel chief Savimbi to be buried on Saturday: family

Wednesday May 29 2019

Unita rebel leader Jonas Savimbi

A file photo taken in 1996 in Abidjan shows Angolan Unita rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who was killed in battle on February 22, 2002 in the eastern Angolan town of Luena. PHOTO | ISSOUF SANOGO | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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LUANDA,

Angola's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Unita, said Wednesday it planned to go ahead with a public funeral this weekend for its ex-leader Jonas Savimbi after a dispute with the government over the handling of his remains.

Mr Savimbi, a charismatic, controversial warlord who fought Angola's socialist government in a 27-year civil war, was killed in a battle against the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government forces in February 2002.

His death paved the way for a peace deal bringing an end to one of Africa's longest and bloodiest conflicts, which erupted after independence from Portugal in 1975.

DIGNITY

Unita had long called for the MPLA, which has governed Angola since independence, to allow his body to be exhumed and given a "dignified" burial.

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After a meeting on Wednesday between Mr Savimbi's family and Unita, the party had "decided to maintain its programme" for the burial on Saturday, Unita spokesman Alcides Sakala Simoes told AFP.

"We are calling for calm," Simoes said, adding the burial would be an important moment to help in "the construction of a national reconciliation."

Mr Savimbi's son, Cheya Savimbi, confirmed the burial would take place on Saturday.

HANDOVER

After negotiations, the government had planned to hand over the remains of the former rebel chief on Tuesday to allow the body to be buried in his native village on Saturday.

But the remains were not handed over, sparking accusations from both sides.

The government said the family and the Unita delegation did not show up as arranged in Luena in Moxico provInce.

But the family delegation was waiting in Kuito, around 400 kilometres away (250 miles) where they said the meeting had been arranged.

NO CONFLICT

The government says the body was transported on Tuesday to Andulo, a village near where the Savimbi funeral was planned.

"We left the body in the military barracks" in Andulo, said Pedro Sebastiao, head of security for President Joao Lourenco, urging Unita to collect it as soon as possible.

The family said the government had changed the programme but said they did not want any "conflict" over the burial.