While President Agostinho Neto has made reconciliation the keystone of his present foreign policy, there is no sign that he is ready to take a similar approach toward the main opposition group to his government inside Angola.
The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), led by Joras Savimbi and active in the far south, is still viewed as the main enemy of the Angolan people and little more than an extension of the South African military machine to be dealt with by force rather than political compromise.
So far, however, neither 19,000 Cuban soldiers and massive Soviet military assistance nor repeated army sweeps through remote areas of southern Angola heavily populated by UNITA has succeeded in wiping out this tribally based opposition movement.
Controversy persists in Western capitals whether it was principally Savimbi's fault that thousands of Cuban troops came to Angola just after independence in November 1975.The dispatch of such a large Cuban military contingent to Africa became a major obstacle to improved relations between Cuba and the United States as well as to American recognition of the Neto government.
Although Savimbi was aided by the Central Intelligence Agency during the civil war and power struggle after independence, President Neto says he now would like to establish ties with the United States.
He has rejected, however, both the American demand that the Cuban troops be sent home or a political settlement with UNITA be made as conditions for recognition.
Asked about the possibility of reconciliation between his government and UNITA, Neto told U.S. reporters accompanying Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) on his recent visit:
"UNITA is a group which is directed by South Africa and provided with its munitions and uniforms by South Africa. It was UNITA that brought the South Africans here when they invaded Angola. They are traitors to our country. So we cannot have reconciliation with traitors nor with fascit racists."
There is independent evidence to back up Neto's claim that South Africa, which sent several thousand troops to fight beside UNITA forces during the 1975-76 civil war, is still deeply involved in supporting Savimbi.
In late November, a British television crew arrived in South Africa after spending four months inside southern Angola and interviewing Savimbi there. It reported that his forces were getting most of their fuel, food, uniforms and arms from the South Africans, although other countries such as Iran and Morocco were also reportedly sending aid.
Savimbi told the British team that he had 12,000 men "fully trained and armed" plus another 8,000 to 10,000
This helps explain the deep bitterness between the Neto government and UNITA nearly two years after the formal end of the civil war. Furthermore, UNITA remains one of the main causes of Angola's present-day economic difficulties.
Savimbi's forces are conducting a low-level guerrilla war throughout the southern third of the country. They have disrupted trade between the food producing south and the north, prevented the Benguela Railroad between Zaire and the coastal port of Lobito from resuming operations and created a state of general insecurity throughout the south.
In early December, UNITA agents set off a bomb in Huambo, the main city in the south central highlands, killing 40 persons and injuring 120.
The much heralded reopening of the Benguela Railroad scheduled in midNovember as part of the reconciliation between Angola and neighboring Zaire has never taken place despite a formal ceremony, because UNITA guerrillas blew up several bridges along the line.
Neto's strategy toward UNITA seems to be to fight on until Savimbi is captured in hopes that this will provoke the collapse of the entire movement. This reportedly nearly happened three times this year.
In a speech on the Angolan independence day last month, Neto told of one narrow escape in which Savimbi was saved by the South Africans, who sent a military helicopter from Namibia March 28 to rescue him as government forces closed in on his hideout.
While attempts to capture or kill Savimbi continue, Neto is following a parallel foreign policy of cooperating with the Western powers and the United Nations in their joint plan for holding internationally supervised elections in Namibia.
Neto's personal intervention with the Namibian nationalist guerrilla Southwest Africa Peoples Organization is credited by Western capitals for having obliged SWAPO to accept reluctantly the initial Western plan for U.N.-supervised elections in Namibia.
The Angolan leader's objective, according to some Western analysts, is to get South Africa out of Namibia and thereby cut Savimbi and his forces off from what appears to be their main source of supplies. If this could be done, then UNITA would be isolated and slowly "dry up," according to these analysts.
If this analysis is correct, then whatever happens in Namibia over the next few months regarding the U.N. election plan for the South African-administered territory will have serious repercussions fo Savimbi and for the pospects for peace in this country.