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UNITA leader, Savimbi gets reburial 17 years after death in Angola2 minutes read

Seventeen years on, it was time to heal the scars of past conflict

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UNITA leader, Savimbi gets reburial 17 years after death in Angola
Supporters give praise Jonas Savimbi, former leader Angola's rebel UNITA movement, at his reburial site in the village of Lopitanga, near the town of Andulo, in Bie Province in Angolaon May 31, 2019. - In what is being billed as a rare moment of national unity, the historic leader of Angola's rebel UNITA movement, Jonas Savimbi, will get a public funeral on June 1, ,2019, 17 years after he was killed in a shootout with government soldiers that spelt an end to a long civil war. 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 in Moxico, where has buried. (Photo by Rodger BOSCH / AFP)

Former leader of Angola’s rebel UNITA movement Jonas Savimbi will be reinterred Saturday, 17 years after he was killed in a shootout with government soldiers that spelt the end to the country’s long civil war.

Angola, a former Portuguese colony, became a Cold War battleground after independence in 1975 when the Marxist-Leninist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) seized control.

The United States lined up behind Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebels and the Soviet Union and its allies backed the MPLA.

“The remains have been returned to UNITA and the family,” Alcides Sakala Simoes, spokesman for UNITA, told AFP on Friday.

“There was a lot of emotion. It has been 17 years since the government was asked to give us the body. This is an important step for national reconciliation.”

“We are moved and relieved, we will be able to mourn,” Cheya Savimbi, his eldest son, said after the remains were handed over at a ceremony in Andulo about thirty kilometres (20 miles) from the village of Lopitanga where the funeral will be held.

At least half a million people died in the conflict for the vast, oil-rich southern African nation, which played out over more than a quarter of a century.

Early in 2002, soldiers pursued the 67-year-old Savimbi across the province of Moxico in central eastern Angola.

On February 22, his pursuers caught up with him. He fought back but, riddled with more than a dozen bullets, soon died.

His body was taken to the provincial capital Luena and hurriedly buried in a cemetery, with a cross of iron on the mound of red soil and the name “SAVIMBI Jonas” etched into the trunk of an acacia tree.

Swift ceasefire

After his death, rival sides swiftly moved towards a ceasefire in a conflict that had lasted 27 years.

This year, after long talks, the MPLA government agreed with UNITA and the Savimbi family to hold a funeral on Saturday in Lopitanga, in central Angola, where Savimbi’s father is buried.

The deal was unlocked after President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Savimbi’s sworn enemy, stepped down in 2017 and was replaced by his defence minister, Joao Lourenco.

“Seventeen years on, it was time further to heal the scars of past conflict and under a new head of state, Joao Lourenco, allowing this to happen is easier,” Alex Vines of the London-based think tank Chatham House told AFP.

Typically dressed in a green combat uniform, with a walking stick in his hand and a revolver on his hip, Savimbi led an army of more than 30,000 troops.

Backed for many years by apartheid South Africa, his forces were accused of atrocities and he himself was described as having carried out summary executions.

His remains were handed over after a dispute this week between government authorities and UNITA over how the procedure would be conducted.

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Politics

South African ruling party condemn racial discrimination in America

“It’s deplorable that almost 70 years since racial segregation was abolished in America, people of color are still routinely slaughtered for the color of their skin,” the ANC said.

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Syrian artists Aziz Asmar and Anis Hamdoun finish a mural depicting George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man who died while while being arrested and pinned to the ground by the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, in the town of Binnish in Syria's northwestern Idlib province on June 1, 2020. (Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP)

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has deplored rising racial discrimination in the United States, calling for “an amicable solution” to the current racial impasse.

“While we note the action taken by American authorities in charging one of the officers who was caught on camera kneeling on an unarmed (George) Floyd, it is equally concerning that incidents of police brutality against African American citizens are on the increase,” the party said in a statement available to Xinhua on Tuesday.

The cascade of recent cases involving police brutality against black Americans “has sharpened the focus on inescapable realities that American society places a perilously low value on black lives,” the ANC said.

The Black Lives Matter movement, formed in 2013, highlighted the scourge of racial killings in the U.S. by organizing marches and demonstrations in response to the killings of black men and women by the police, said the ANC.

“It’s deplorable that almost 70 years since racial segregation was abolished in America, people of color are still routinely slaughtered for the color of their skin,” the party said.

The ANC fought and defeated racial supremacy and will not be cowered to remain silent in the face of the lynching of black people wherever they manifest, the party said.

The ANC urged the South African government to engage with the American government through established diplomatic channels to diffuse racial tensions and build social cohesion among different races.

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Politics

Zimbabwe summons US envoy over ‘false’ George Floyd claims

“Zimbabwe is not and has never been an adversary of the United States of America,” Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo said.

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Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. AFP/Photo by Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto

Zimbabwe on Monday summoned the US ambassador, Brian Nichols over remarks by a senior American official accusing the southern African country of stirring anti-racism protests over the death of George Floyd.

Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo dismissed as “false and without factual foundation” the claims by US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien.

The United States has been rocked by days of protests after Floyd, an African-American, died while a white police officer knelt on his neck, ignoring complaints he could not breathe.

In a Sunday interview with ABC news, O’Brien referred to Zimbabwe and China as “foreign adversaries” using social media to stoke unrest and “sow discord”.

Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry spokesman James Manzou said US ambassador Brian Nichols had been summoned to explain O’Brien’s remarks, an AFP report said.

Moyo said the statements by Trump’s administration were damaging.

“Zimbabwe is not and has never been an adversary of the United States of America,” Moyo said. 

“I have informed the US ambassador that Mr. O’Brien’s allegations are false and without factual foundation whatsoever.”

Zimbabwe-US relations have been tense since Washington imposed sanctions against former president Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle in 2002 over rights abuses.

Those sanctions were extended in March of this year, with Washington citing current President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s failure to implement reforms as well as his violent crackdowns on opposition since he took power in 2017.

Government spokesman Nick Mangwana said Zimbabwe did not consider itself “America’s adversary”.

“We prefer having friends and allies to having unhelpful adversity with any other nation including the USA,” Mangwana tweeted late Sunday.

A senior Zimbabwean official quoted by the state-owned Herald newspaper also denied O’Brien’s accusations.

“Anyone who has seen the genesis of recent events, from the tragic death of Mr Floyd to the subsequent protests, will realise that any accusations of Zimbabwean involvement at any stage is farcical,” the unnamed official said.

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Health

Tunisia to reopen borders, airspace on June 27

Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.

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Tunisia's new Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh speaks during the government handover ceremony in Carthage on the eastern outskirts of the capital Tunis on February 28, 2020. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP)

Tunisian Prime Minister, Elyes Fakhfakh has announced that the country will reopen its land, air and sea borders from June 27.

He also said Tunisian nationals abroad will be repatriated from June 4.

Fakhfakh made the announcement after a meeting with the national commission to combat coronavirus on Monday.

Tunisia has reported 1,084 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, a Xinxua news agency report said.

The North African country has received support from various countries including China.

On April 16, China donated a batch of medical aid to Tunisia’s Ministry of National Defense, including facemasks, test kits and medical protective googles.

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