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UNITA leader gave life for faith

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted March 11, 2002

Jonas SavimbiThere is an autographed picture on the credenza behind my desk that I am often asked about. Some people think it is a picture of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Others have asked if the picture is of one of the broadcast personalities who have become popular in recent years. I am always pleased to tell those who inquire that the picture is of Jonas Savimbi, leader of the freedom forces in Angola. I might now call him Saint Savimbi since he was martyred for his faith by the Communist forces in that country.

My colleague, Dr. Charles Moser, the former head of the Slavic Languages Department at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., had the idea of compiling a book that featured all of the freedom fighter movements then active around the world. One of the most prominent chapters of the book dealt with UNITA, Dr. Savimbi's movement for the total freedom and independence of the Angolan people. The book was later used in the fight that then Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole waged to lift the sanctions on Angola that had been imposed during the Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by a liberal Congress.

Dole was successful in lifting sanctions and, as a result, President Ronald Reagan began to channel aid to UNITA. That was one of the minor factors which helped lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviets found themselves on the defensive all over the world as a result of the Reagan policy. They couldn't handle it anymore.

I had the privilege of getting to know Dr. Savimbi from meeting him on a number of occasions. He came to one of our Coalitions for America meetings.

Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus hosted him on a number of occasions and was kind enough to grant me some time to talk with Dr. Savimbi privately. The Heritage Foundation had a private dinner for Dr. Savimbi in the late 1980's and whoever did the seating arrangements put me on one side of Savimbi and Henry Kissinger of the other side of him. It was one of the more fascinating evenings I have ever spent in my political life.

He was a thoroughly principled Christian man. Time and again he could have taken the easy way out and could have lived in comfort and ease in nations which offered him refuge in exchange for his giving up the fight for freedom in Angola. Time and again his answer was always the same. He wanted to be with his people.

The reason his picture is displayed in my office is precisely because unlike many so called freedom fighters – such as those who claimed to lead forces in Central America but who really lived a life of luxury in Miami – he lived as his people lived.

Despite massive fraud in the 1992 elections run by the MPLA, Savimbi did not continue the war because he supposedly lost the race. He continued to fight for freedom because right after the election the MPLA engaged in ethnic cleansing and murdered more than 50,000 Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. Savimbi has been carrying on the conflict in order to provide a place of refuge for those remaining Christians who have fled the brutality of the Marxist MPLA.

The MPLA has kept Angola poor, despite being an oil producing state, by robbing the treasury. Savimbi, by controlling certain diamond mines, was able to keep his people reasonably well housed and fed.

Now that he has been shot 15 times, and there is no obvious successor for the UNITA movement, the Christians who have been harbored by Savimbi and Company all these years must fear for their lives. In that part of Angola it appears we will have another Sudan.

President Bush disappointed many of his supporters by meeting with the President of Angola and the head of the MPLA just two days after Savimbi was shot. Whatever was said at the meeting was not entirely disclosed. One hopes that President Bush warned the President of Angola to keep his hands off of the Christian refugees, which UNITA has taken care of. The USA needs oil and Angola produces it. But if that country behaves like the murderous thugs they are, we can always get our oil somewhere else.

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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