Jonas Savimbi , in full Jonas Malheiro Savimbi (born August 3, 1934, Portuguese Angola—died February 22, 2002, near Lucusse, Angola), Angolan politician, the leader of a long-continuing guerrilla insurgency against the postindependence government of Angola.
The son of a railroad stationmaster, Savimbi was educated in mission schools and won a scholarship to study abroad. He studied medicine at the University of Lisbon in Portugal and then obtained a doctorate in political science at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1965. In 1961 Savimbi joined the Angolan independence leader Holden Roberto’s Popular Union of Angola (UPA), the rival of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He broke with the UPA’s leader in 1966 and formed the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which fought against Portuguese colonial rule.
Savimbi was the only Angolan guerrilla leader who continued fighting within Angola until the nation reached independence from Portugal in 1975; by this time he had expanded his initially small band of supporters into a guerrilla army numbering in the thousands. UNITA was based in southeastern Angola and relied for its support on the Ovimbundu people, the largest ethnic group in the country. At various times, Savimbi obtained support from China, South Africa, and the United States as a counter to the Marxist, Soviet-supported MPLA, which controlled the central government. Savimbi continued to wage a disruptive guerrilla war against the MPLA throughout the 1970s and ’80s. In 1991 he signed a peace agreement with the MPLA-led Angolan government that halted the civil war and resulted in free, multiparty national elections in 1992. After losing these elections, Savimbi and UNITA resumed their military struggle for control of the country, with UNITA dominating most of the countryside. Talks were held again, leading to the Lusaka Accord of 1994: hostilities were to cease and forces were to be disengaged. José Eduardo dos Santos, president of Angola, offered