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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 21:31 GMT
Luanda celebrates Savimbi's death
Corpse of Jonas Savimbi
The government said Savimbi was Angola's Bin Laden
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By Justin Pearce
Angola correspondent

Raucous celebrations in Luanda's poor neighbourhoods greeted the first reports of the death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.

Red flares - presumably supplied by the military - lit up the sky over districts where electric light is a rarity.

Jornal de Angola front page
Some Luanda residents could not believe Savimbi was dead
People took to the road in cars and minibuses which travelled in procession, sounding their horns as people leant out of the windows, chanting and shouting.

They were joined by military trucks with gleeful-looking soldiers riding on the back.

The police appealed for "calm and serenity" - a call which summed up the atmosphere in the city centre, uncannily quiet compared with the outlying districts.

It was hard to take in that this city had just been told of the death of a man whom its government has regularly been comparing to Osama Bin Laden over the last few months.


Cars intermittently hooted, the occasional small band of people walked around singing - but no more than that.

Some were initially sceptical about the veracity of the reports of Jonas Savimbi's death - the consequence of decades of a war in which neither party has showed much respect for the truth.

He wanted war, war all the time. It was always like that. It was all he aimed for

Luanda man

"Jonas Savimbi is dead? How are you going to prove this?" asked one man, before pictures of the bullet-ridden body were shown for all to see.

The man said he regretted Mr Sawimbi's death.

"He was the only real opposition leader, the only one who could really challenge the MPLA."

But for most people, even if they were not out dancing and singing on the streets, Savimbi has become a symbol of Angola's long conflict, and for that reason they did not have many regrets.

"He wanted war, war all the time. It was always like that. It was all he aimed for," said another man.

"Peace will come now - because Savimbi was one of the principal players in the rebellion."

The BBC's Jim Fish
"Angola became the world's forgotten conflict"
Angolan Embassy spokesman Armando Francisco
"He was killed in a gun battle"
Africa analyst Anthony Goldman
"It was said he was the greatest obstacle to peace in Angola"
See also:

26 May 01 | Africa
Rebels free children in Angola
22 May 01 | Africa
Unita attack east of Luanda
11 May 01 | Africa
Angolan children relive raid
21 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
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