LATEST NEWS - 23/3/99



After more than a month of fierce fighting, MPLA government troops have finally been beaten back to the outskirts of Kuito/Bié, thus effectively foiling the MPLA government's bid to capture the strategic UNITA stronghold of Andulo in central Angola.

The decisive battles were fought on March 12th. Government forces not only lost large numbers of men, but important sophisticated weaponry such as battle tanks and armoured assault vehicles, which were either destroyed or seized by UNITA forces. The defeat is already having devastating effect on the morale of government troops.

This is not surprising given the scale of the material and human losses suffered by invading government troops since the launching of the much-publicised offensive early in February. One has only to drive along Andulo/Vouga road to comprehend the real dimension of the battle. Dozens of corpses of dead MPLA soldiers still litter the edge of the road. One can hardly drive two kilometres without coming across the burnt out shell of an MPLA battle tank, armoured assault vehicle or military transport truck. In short, the route reminds one of a mass grave of armour.

In their flight to Bié and in a bid to stop the advance of pursuing UNITA troops following the March 12th battle, government troops blew up the Kune river bridge, less than ten kms from the municipality of Kunhinga, formerly Vouga. They then fled in panic to "Partido 13", a locality lying between Vouga and Kunje where they are still holed up.

With the blown up bridge already under reconstruction and expected to be completed within the next 72 hours, the situation is likely to change dramatically as UNITA forces expect to further tighten the noose around Kuito/Bié.

The resounding victory achieved by UNITA forces in the defence of Andulo has resulted in high morale among our forces. This is evident from the faces of the Commanders way down to the rank and file. The general feeling is that as long as MPLA troops continue to be in Bié, they will continue to harass Andulo hence the need to dislodge them once and for all. Despite the superiority in numbers and arsenal, enjoyed by government forces at the outstart of the offensive against Andulo, the morale factor played a decisive role in tilting the tide in UNITA's favour. On the contrary, the defeat has greatly dampened government troop morale. Some reports say government troops in-groups of between 12 and 15 are abandoning Kuito together with their families and heading for the neighbouring Huambo City, fearing the eventual fall of the city to UNITA forces. Foreigners residing in Bié City have practically all been evacuated.



All in all, one can safely assume that Eduardo dos Santos may well have met his Waterloo at Andulo.

As one UNITA officer at the Kunhinga frontline succinctly put it, "By thwarting the MPLA offensive against Andulo, we have not only defended Andulo, but Angola as a whole because Andulo is the symbol of freedom which all Angolans are yearning for." Ends.