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About The War In Angola
 
Operation Merlyn, 1989: The Nine Days War

Operation Merlyn Operation Displace came to an end in southeast Angola near Cuito Cuanavale on 30 August 1988. The South African holding force withdrew to SWA safely and unhindered by FAPLA and Cuban forces. UNITA was left to fend for themselves in Angola without the support of the SADF. The final withdrawal of all South African forces from Angola had been completed. 10 SA Division was disbanded by the SADF and SWATF on 1 September 1988 and the citizen forces were demobilized and returned home. This formality followed on the successful implementation of the ceasefire and the peace settlement agreed to between South Africa, Cuba and Angola on 22 August 1988. South African involvement in Angola was finally at an end and peace seemed to be in sight. But SWAPO did not agree… They had been left out of the discussions and were not even part of the Joint Military Monitoring Commission (JMMC) that had been set up at Ruacana on 16 August 1988.

And they were going to do something about that...!

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Progressive Sequence of Events
1. On 22 December 1988, at the United Nations (UN) in New York City, the South African, Cuban and Angolan government representatives met to sign the New York Accords better known as the Tripartite Accords[1]. This represented the end of twelve rounds of negotiations between three parties which had started on 3 May 1988, chaired by the American representative Chester Crocker and attended by officials from the Soviet Union.

[1] See the Tripartite Agreement in the UN Documents section.
2. The end of twelve rounds of negotiations saw an agreement that linked the implementation of United Nations Council Resolution 435[2] with the withdrawal of all Cuban soldiers from Angola.The agreement saw the initial withdrawal of 3000 Cuban soldiers followed by movement of troops further north in Angola, then staggered withdrawals from Angola resulting in all troops gone by 1 July 1991.

[2] See United Nations Council Resolution 435 in the UN Documents section.
a. The date for the implementation of UN Resolution 435 was 1 April 1989.
b. The agreement did not, however, end the conflict between the two Angolan adversaries in the Angolan Civil War, the MPLA and UNITA. United Nations verification of the Cuban withdrawal and the creation of a Joint Monitoring Commission were also agreed to.
3. The UN created a timetable of actions over seven months required by all parties leading up to 1 April and beyond:
a. SADF forces were to be reduced to 12000 men in six weeks before 1 April and confined to two bases in SWA/Namibia before being reduced to 1500 men twelve weeks later.
b. SWATF and the area-forces were to be demobilised and their arms and ammunition placed under guard.
c. PLAN forces were also to remain confined to their bases from the 1 April.
d. Law and order would remain with SWA Police with UNTAG international police members monitoring their impartiality.
e. UNTAG's military component was only set to arrive at the end April beginning of May and they would monitor both the SADF and PLAN.
4. By 14 March 1989, the UN Secretary-General had sent letters to the South African's and SWAPO proposing that on 1 April at 04h00, a ceasefire and the end of cross-border movements into and out of Namibia, would come into being.
a. The Secretary General's proposal was agreed to by SWAPO on 18 March and 21 March by the South African government.

De Cuéllar, Javier Pérez
5th Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1 January 1982 to 31 December 1991
5. Events that occurred on 31 March 1989
a. On 31 March, the night before the implementation of UN Resolution 435, Marti Ahtisaari, the UN Special Representative to UNTAG, arrived in Windhoek and a dinner was held that night by the South African Administrator for SWA, Louis Pienaar. Present were SWA officials, South African government ministers, United Nations officials and the commander of United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG).

Ahtisaari, Martti
UN Commissioner for Namibia from 1977 and a major contributor when Namibia achieved independence in 1989-90; former President of Finland from 1994 - 2000

Pienaar, Louis
Last Administrator General of South-West Africa (AG) from 1 July 1985 to 21 March 1990, before the Republic of Nambia became independent
b. The South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha informed Marti Ahtisaari that South African Military Intelligence had been monitoring the presence of 500-700 PLAN soldiers north of the South West African (SWA) border and that 150 PLAN insurgents had already crossed the border contrary to the New York Agreement of 1988, which stipulated that PLAN remain in Angola, north of the 16th parallel. The PLAN insurgents were said to be heavily armed and in uniform.

Botha, Roelof Frederik "Pik"
 South African Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1974 until 1977; Ambassador to the United States from 1975 until 1977, Minister of Foreign Affairs from April 1977 to 1994
c. Marti Ahtisaari did not believe SWAPO would violate the treaty and therefore did not believe Pik Botha's briefing, but still informed the UN Secretary-General of the allegations.
d. On the night of 31 March / 1 April, approximately a thousand PLAN insurgents were stationed just north of the border. They carried personal weapons and heavy arms in the form of SAM-7's, mortars and RPG-7's and infiltrated at a number of places over 300 km apart. Some entered near Ruacana and other around Ombalantu eventually widening to a 300 km front.

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Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET
Images from 'Grensoorlog' series, produced by Linda de Jager, reproduced with kind permission from MNET

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