Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan guerrilla leader, said yesterday he had assured the Reagan administration that he would cooperate in the effort to bring about the independence of Namibia from South Africa.
Specifically, Savimbi said he was receptive to the stationing of U.N. troops in the areas of Angola he controls, the southeast. The presence of a U.N. force along the border between Angola and Namibia is a key element in proposals for a Namibian settlement. South Africa continues to govern Namibia despite a U.N. resolution that its mandate to do so is invalid.
Savimbi also said his cooperation in the Namibian matter was not conditioned on any effort by the United States to secure the removal of Cuban troops from Angola. He said he was hopeful, however, that once the Namibian question was out of the way, the United States would take up the Cuban troop issue with the Angolan government, which is engaged in a civil war with Savimbi's forces.
Savimbi is the leader of the Angolan faction called UNITA, which stands for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.
For five years, Savimbi's forces have been fighting troops of the regular government--the Popular Front for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA)--and the Cuban forces that are in Angola at the request of that socialist government.
A Namibian settlement, Savimbi said, should remove the excuse for the presence of Cuban troops in Angola. The Angolan government claims the Cubans are required to fend off South African troops who frequently raid Angola in pursuit of guerrillas active in the Namibian independence movement. If Namibian independence can be achieved, Savimbi said, the Angolan government will have to find a new rationale for the continued presence of the Cubans.
Savimbi is in the United States at the invitation of Freedom House, a private foundation in New York. While his visit is unofficial, he has had three meetings with Chester Crocker, assistant secretary of state for African affairs. These meetings, Savimbi said, have been important for giving legitimacy to UNITA as a "serious political force" in Angola and encouraging other countries to continue their support of UNITA.
In the mid-1970s during the guerrilla war against Portuguese rule of Angola, Savimbi had backing from the American government. After the MPLA came to power in 1976 with Cuban and Soviet support, American aid to Savimbi was cut off by an act of Congress known as the Clark Amendment. The Reagan administration has asked Congress to repeal that amendment. The Senate has complied, but the House has not.
Savimbi said he was not lobbying for repeal of the amendment and did not raise that issue with Crocker.