UNITA-Renovada leader steps down

Angola's former rebel group UNITA on Wednesday welcomed the resignation of Eugenio Manuvakola from the leadership of the UNITA-Renovada faction, saying his decision would pave the way for the reunification of the party.

Manuvakola's resignation came amid speculation that reconciliation talks between Renovada and UNITA's Management Commission had stalled because of differences over the composition of a new united leadership.

"There was no longer room for compromise. Instead of uniting the two wings of the party, the Management Commission is more interested in dismantling Renovada altogether. It seems as if I was no longer needed and so decided to resign," Manuvakola told IRIN.

The Luanda-based UNITA-Renovada was formed by Manuvakola in September 1998 along with other dissidents who had fallen out with UNITA's founder, Jonas Savimbi. The new group was recognised by the Angolan government as the interlocutors for the Lusaka Protocol, signed with the rebels in 1994.

However, since the 4 April ceasefire between UNITA and the government, the break-away group has found itself on the sidelines of the broader political changes happening in the country.

Said Manuvakola: "Since January the government has blocked UNITA-Renovada funds in order to secure the peace agreement. Yes, it is true that many Renovada cadres have switched sides but that is because I do not have the finances to pay those who work in the provincial and local organs of the party."

However, analysts said the former UNITA secretary-general's exit from the movement was timely considering his lack of support among the former soldiers who were in the bush.

Meanwhile, 33 former UNITA generals are to be integrated into the Angola's armed forces and police on Friday in the next step of the peace process.

"Although it has taken bit longer than we expected, it has been accomplished", said UNITA's information secretary, Marcial Dachala. He added that the integration of a total of 5,000 UNITA soldiers was initially set for 20 June, "but was postponed because of delays in selection and registration".

The other 80,000 troops, who have been living in 35 cantonment camps across the country together with about 300,000 of their family members, are to be demobilised and rejoin civilian life.