Angola: Don't Simplify History, Says Savimbi's Biographer

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interview

I met Jonas Savimbi on a number of occasions, in Paris, in Abidjan and in Unita-controlled territory in Angola for the last time in 1994. I was discussing with a fellow journalist who also interviewed him who said it is rare in Africa that people really wish someone dead, or gone, good riddance. But Savimbi had become a pest, a troublemaker, a plague, he said, a man who threw it all away...

I think that's right. I think, in the end, Savimbi was his own worst enemy. Savimbi defeated himself.

The person who gave me the crucial insight into Savimbi was his one-time foreign secretary, a good and noble man by any standards, Tito Chingunji.

Who was killed by Savimbi...

Tito was Savimbi's foreign secretary. And I was very close to Tito.

He was a very popular, handsome, brilliant young man and some say a potential rival to Savimbi for the leadership of Unita...

And my closest African friend, a very dear friend and a good man by any standards. But Tito, long before the 1992 elections, told me what was really going on inside Unita, the extent of the killings and the barbarity of the killings. And he predicted to me his own death.

For many years, I campaigned through Amnesty International and other bodies to try to save Tito's life, but I couldn't go public, because Tito had given me this information confidentially. If I had gone public with it, he would have been executed immediately.

Why didn't men like Tito Chingunji, who was eventually assassinated by Jonas Savimbi, jump ship? He was his foreign secretary, he was always all over the world, trumpeting Unita and promoting its cause...

It's a very good question. But you've got to remember that most of Tito's family was held hostage by Savimbi at his headquarters and in prisons in Angola against Tito continuing to do a brilliant diplomatic job in the outside world.

And, in fact, his family urged him not to come back. They said never mind us. But Tito told me 'no, you know I can't desert my family. I'm going to go back and one day I might not return. And if I don't return, you will know the time has come to do something'.

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