This is an important book about the "dos" and "don'ts" of U.N. peacekeeping. Although South Africa agreed in December 1988 to remove its forces from Angola in exchange for a Cuban troop withdrawal, and the United States and the Soviet Union likewise agreed to end their military support for Angola's warring parties, the country's devastating civil war raged on until the signing of the Portuguese-brokered Bicesse Accords in May 1991. In February 1992, veteran U.N. undersecretary Anstee was named head of the U.N. Angola Verification Mission, a low-budget operation charged with a limited mandate: to observe and verify whether the multiparty election carried out under the terms of the Bicesse Accords was "free and fair." The situation was fraught with political, bureaucratic, and logistical difficulties, but nobody could argue after ploughing through this meticulously narrated account that Anstee did not give it her best shot. The cards in her hand were weak because of the ill-designed terms of the Bicesse Accords, the determination of UNITA'S Jonas Savimbi not to accept electoral defeat under any circumstances, and the loss of interest in Angola among key players on the U.N. Security Council following the Cold War. Thus, although the operation (the September 1992 election) was a success, the patient (Angola's people) went on dying through another season of blood while Anstee, defeated and blamed by some for the debacle, moved on. Thanks to Anstee's gifts as a raconteur, the book, despite its dismal subject, is a very enjoyable read.
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