State Officials to Talk to Angolan Rebles About Allegations
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department said Monday it could not confirm allegations that Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi ordered the torture and killing of dissidents, but it has raised the issue with the U.S.-backed guerrillas.
Spokesmen for Savimbi’s group, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, have denied committing any human rights abuses. They contend the allegations are part of a campaign of lies sponsored by the Angolan government.
Charles Redman, the State Department spokesman, said officials are ″always concerned whenever allegations of this kind are made. ... We have raised the allegations with UNITA, which has emphatically denied them.″
Redman said the department did not have any independent confirmation of the allegations, which have been made by several of Savimbi’s former supporters.
Tho allegations have come in interviews with The New York Times, Britain’s Independent Television News, and with Jonathan Kwitny who produces ″The Kwitny Report,″ which is to be aired this week on public television.
Eduardo Chingunji, a nephew of Tito Chingunji, UNITA’s former representative in Washington, contended his uncle was being held in the UNITA stronghold of Jamba.
He also said he believed Savimbi had killed six members of Chingunji’s family.
Sousa Jamba, described as a writer in London, told Kwitny that ″anyone who is against Dr. Jonas Savimbi goes straight to jail.″ The interviews were conducted outside Angola.
Savimbi opponents had been accused of being witches and then burned in bonfires at public rallies, according to the dissidents.
The allegations have also raised concern in Congress, which provides secret aid to UNITA. The amount of aid is estimated to be as much as $30 million this year, according to a congressional source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Rep. Howard Wolpe, D-Mich., chairman of the House Africa subcommittee and an opponent of assistance to UNITA, has already voiced concern about human rights in Angola’s civil war, including the use of land mines that maim civilians.
The recent allegations are sure to fan the debate over assistance to UNITA. President Bush has said he will not abandon the guerrillas, who control much of the southern part of the African nation and have been fighting the Soviet- bcked Angolan government since 1975.
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said he believed the allegations were ″communist disinformation.″ Burton, who traveled to Angola in February, said he saw Tito Chingunji at a breakfast and the man did not seem under distress. ″Everybody was smiling and happy except they had been involved in a major battle,″ Burton said.
Asked if the allegations could lead to a cut-off of aid to Savimbi, Burton said, ″I don’t think in the short run it will , but when you start undermining the credibility of a leader like Dr. Savimbi, it portends problems for the future.″
The rebels have rejected the U.S.-brokered peace accords signed in New York in December between Angola, South Africa and Cuba, and have vowed to continue fighting until the government of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos agrees to negotiate with them.