Angola on Saturday prepared to bury unita leader, Jonas Savimbi, in his home village at a public funeral, an important sign for national reconciliation seventeen years after the end of a bloody civil war.
As early as Friday evening, hundreds of people accompanied his remains to the village of Lopitanga in the centre of the country, where they will be buried.
“For 17 years, we waited” for this funeral, said Isaias Samakuva, a former commander of the rebellion waged by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which has since transformed into a political party.
Jonas Savimbi, known as the “black rooster”, was killed on 22 February 2002 during a clash with the army near Luena, in the centre of the country. He was 67 years old.
The next day, soldiers buried him hurriedly in the city, after the national television broadcast images of his bullet-ridden body.
Less than two months later, a ceasefire ended 27 years of a conflict emblematic of the Cold War. The United States had long supported UNITA against the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
Savimbi’s reburial is the result long running negotiations with the Angolan authorities. His family and party officials have been courting Luanda to give the green light for a proper exhumation and burial in Lopitanga, in accordance with Jonas Savimbi’s wishes.
“He had always said he wanted to go home,” where his father is buried, explained one of his thirty children, Cheya Savimbi.
These funerals are “an important sign for national reconciliation,” said one of his brothers, Raphael.