On December 22, 1988, after eight years of negotiations, Angola, Cuba, and South Africa concluded a regional accord that provided for the removal of Cuban troops from Angola. In a series of talks mediated by the United States, the three parties agreed to link Namibian independence from South African rule to a staged withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. Both processes were to begin in 1989. Cuban troops were to move north of the fifteenth parallel, away from the Namibian border, by August 1, 1989. All Cuban troops were to be withdrawn from Angolan territory by July 1, 1991.
The December 1988 regional accords did not attempt to resolve the ongoing conflict between Angolan forces and UNITA. Rather, it addressed the 1978 UN Security Council Resolution 435, which called for South African withdrawal and free elections in Namibia and prohibited further South African incursions into Angola. The United States promised continued support for UNITA until a negotiated truce and power-sharing arrangement were accomplished.
The December 1988 regional accords created a joint commission of representatives from Angola, Cuba, South Africa, the United States, and the Soviet Union to resolve conflicts that threatened to disrupt its implementation. However, immediate responsibility for the accord lay primarily with the UN, which still required an enabling resolution by the Security Council, a funding resolution by the General Assembly, and a concrete logistical plan for member states to establish and maintain a Namibian peacekeeping force as part of the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) called for by Resolution 435.
Angola's participation in the regional accords was pragmatic. The accords promised overall gains, but not without costs. They entailed the eventual loss of Cuban military support for the MPLAPT but countered this with the possible benefits of improved relations with South Africa--primarily an end to South Africansupported insurgency. The accords also suggested possible benefits from improved regional trade, membership in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and loans for development purposes. President dos Santos intended to reduce Angola's share of the cost of the Cuban presence, to reduce social tensions in areas where Cuban military units were stationed, and to weaken UNITA's argument that the MPLA-PT had allowed an occupation force to install itself in Angola. The MPLA-PT also hoped to gain a friendly SWAPO government in neighboring Namibia and an end to sanctuary for UNITA forces in Namibian territory. (This goal was complicated by the fact that Ovambo populations in southern Angola and Namibia provided the core of SWAPO, and, at the same time, many Ovambo people supported UNITA.)
As the first Cuban troops planned to withdraw from Angola, most parties to the accords still feared that it might fail. Angolan leaders worried that the UNITA insurgency would intensify in the face of the Cuban withdrawal; that UNITA leaders might find new sources of external assistance, possibly channeled through Zaire; and that South African incursions into Angola might recur on the grounds that ANC or SWAPO bases remained active in southern Angola. South African negotiators expressed the fear that the Cuban troop withdrawal, which could not be accurately verified, might not be complete; that Cuban troops might move into Zambia or other neighboring states, only to return to Angola in response to UNITA activity; or that SWAPO activity in Namibia might prompt new South African assaults on Namibian and Angolan territory. SWAPO negotiators, in turn, feared that South Africa or some of Namibia's 70,000 whites might block the elections guaranteed by UN Resolution 435, possibly bringing South African forces back into Namibia and scuttling the entire accords. These and other apprehensions were evident in late 1988, but substantial hope remained that all regional leaders supported the peace process and would work toward its implementation.
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