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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Angolans celebrate peace deal
UNITA Chief of Staff Gen. Geraldo Abreu Kamorteiro (l) and Angolan armed forces chief Gen. Armando da Cruz Neto (r) sign agreement
The signing was described as a "historic moment"
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Angolan capital Luanda to celebrate Thursday's peace deal aimed at ending nearly 30 years of civil war.

The march, organised by the "Spontaneous Movement," a group close to President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, came as foreign governments welcomed the formal signing of the peace agreement between the government and Unita rebels.

Unita Chief of Staff Gen. Geraldo Abreu Kamorteiro (l) and Angolan armed forces chief Gen. Armando da Cruz Neto (r)  hug
The two signatories embraced at the ceremony
Previous peace efforts in Angola have failed, but the BBC's Justin Pearce in Luanda says most Angolans are optimistic that this latest plan will work.

Human rights campaigners told him however, that the ceasefire was only a first step which would not automatically lead to democracy, development and justice.

And an independent journalist working in Angola, Raphael Marcques, cautioned that some people, who had benefited financially from the war, had a vested interest in maintaining the political and military tension of the past.

The agreement opens the way to reconciliation among Angolans and general elections"

Jorge Sampaio, Portuguese president

Thousands of people, all dressed in white to symbolise peace, marched through the streets of Luanda dancing, drinking and celebrating the end of the war.

"Peace, a victory for all the Angolan people," some chanted.

A US State Department spokesman, Philip Reeker, said Washington now looked forward to the full completion of the agreement and further steps to promote national reconciliation.

He said the US was ready to assist in those efforts.

The agreement includes a promise by the two sides to abide by a 1994 peace accord, which collapsed almost four years ago.

'National rebirth'

The ceasefire followed the death of Unita leader Jonas Savimbi, who was killed by government troops six weeks ago.

It formally ends a civil war that has raged since Angola won independence from Portugal in 1975.

An estimated 4,000 people applaud at the signing ceremony
The Angolan president declared the war over

Russia's Foreign Ministry congratulated Angola on its "national rebirth" and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the cease-fire a "historic step forward".

"This agreement should be the start of a sustainable political process through negotiation and dialogue, and no longer through violence and intimidation," he said.

Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio said the accord "opens the way to reconciliation among Angolans and general elections".

Ibrahaim Gambari, special representative of the United Nations in Angola, said it was a historic moment and promised the UN would continue its support for Angola's peace plan.

Unita commitment

Unita chief of staff General Geraldo Abreu Kamorteiro and the head of Angola's armed forces, General Armando da Cruz Neto, signed the agreement in the Angolan parliament building.

On Friday, they began the work of demobilising Unita's 50,000 fighters and reintegrating many of them into the national security forces.

Angolan refugee children at transit centre
Millions have been displaced by the years of fighting

Some Angolans are encouraged by the fact that the process was conducted entirely by Angolans themselves, rather than by foreign mediators.

Others believe that Jonas Savimbi was the principal driving force behind the war and that with him now dead, the chances of peace are better than ever before.

Some observers say Unita's army has been all but destroyed in the last few months.

Unita fighters have been arriving in Luanda, saying that they deserted the rebel force because they had nothing to eat.

The BBC's Justin Pearce
"Ordinary people are optimistic"
Journalist Raphael Marcques
"Some Angolans have a vested interest in maintaining tension"
The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"Unita was once a massive uniformed army"
US Asst Sec. of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner
"There is a tremendous number of internally displaced people"
See also:

31 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola: One step from peace
02 Apr 02 | Africa
Angola rebels granted amnesty
31 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola moves closer to peace
27 Mar 02 | Africa
Angola rebels back truce talks
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
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