Jonas Savimbi was the founder and leader of the Angolan guerrilla organization UNITA, and the man the most responsible for making his country, without exaggeration, the worst hellhole on the planet.

Savimbi's grandfather was a chief of the Ovimbundu, Angola's largest tribe. He had led a rebellion against the Portuguese in 1902 lost the chieftainship as the price of his failure. Grandson Jonas, born in 1934, took up his struggle, first under the auspices of the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), but in 1966 he broke off and formed his own National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

The Portuguese left in 1975, but Savimbi decided he did not like the new Marxist government led by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), so the war of liberation turned into a civil war. Also feeling left out, FNLA allied with UNITA against the MPLA, but it was disastrously defeated in an attack on the capital Luanda and its remnants were absorbed into UNITA. During the Cold War, Cuba and the Soviets supplied the government while South Africa and the United States backed Savimbi's UNITA, so the war dragged on through the decades.

The collapse of the Soviet Union broke the detente, and Angola held general elections in 1992. Sure of victory, Savimbi participated but lost, so he cried foul and the civil war continued. Lacking outside support, Savimbi's tactics became more and more brutal: he planted millions of land mines, extorted and robbed money from civilians and controlled the illegal diamond trade. After 1997, sanctions started to cut into the diamond business as well, and UNITA was in dire straits.

On February 22, 2002, Savimbi was finally captured and shot by government troops. His bullet-riddled body was showcased on national TV, and people celebrated in the streets of Luanda. It is still far for clear whether the civil war will actually end, as the corrupt government has its own reasons for keeping the war going, but now there is at least some hope.

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