Subject: AFP: Annan's visit to East Timor -- a very personal pilgrimage

Agence France Presse February 13, 2000, Sunday

Kofi Annan's visit to East Timor -- a very personal pilgrimage Ian Timberlake

DILI, Feb 13

On his way to the freshly painted former governor's office here next week, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will probably pass the burned out remains of a shop once run by a man named Akoni.

The little store that sold cheap cold beer, canned tuna fish and other simple goods in the central Colmera business district is still a mess of broken glass and twisted metal.

"I feel if he sees for himself, it's better," said Akoni, 36, who uses one name.

He spoke to AFP as he sat in another part of town beside a pile of garbage in an empty lot. His house once stood there. Now nothing remains of it but a concrete slab.

Akoni's home and business were destroyed like so many others' in this territory during September's militia violence backed by the Indonesian armed forces.

The violence followed East Timor's overwhelming vote for independence from Indonesia in a ballot which Annan had spent months negotiating and preparing for.

Now he will see for himself this half-island of tropical beauty and mist-covered mountains where hundreds died in the violent end to Indonesia's 24-year occupation of the former Portuguese colony.

East Timor has been under UN administration since October 25.

"He wants to see first hand the situation. He has been personally closely involved in the negotiations that led to the popular consultation and now he comes to see for himself," said Manoel de Almeida e Silva, spokesman for the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

Annan arrives February 17 after a visit to Indonesia. During his one day in the Timorese capital Dili, he is expected to meet UNTAET head Sergio Viera de Mello, Nobel peace laureate Bishop Carlos Belo, and other East Timorese leaders including Xanana Gusmao, president of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT).

He is also likely to visit East Timorese refugees in Indonesian West Timor, and address the people of Dili outside the former governor's office.

"He very much wants that," De Almeida e Silva said, "because he feels so close to the Timor case. He played such an important role in getting this going."

An agreement reached last May 5 between the United Nations, Indonesia and Portugal paved the way for the August 30 ballot and put Jakarta in charge of security ahead of the vote.

David Ximenes, a senior CNRT official, says Annan accepted Indonesia's guarantees of security, and he should now be questioning the Indonesians responsible for their failure to live up to those guarantees.

"I want Mr Kofi Annan to consider it all - not only the murders, the crisis after the ballot, but all of the history since 1975," Ximenes said.

He wants those responsible for abuses to be put on trial.

But De Almeida e Silva said it is up to the UN's General Assembly and Security Council to decide whether an international tribunal is formed to examine what happened in East Timor.

Akoni sees no point in getting angry over what has happened. "We're starting from nothing. No problem," he says.

He thinks Annan's visit might help, even though it is just for a day.

"All the UNTAET people have a good purpose," he said.

Annan will speak to the residents of Dili outside the grand white arches of the ocean front former governor's office, which received a shiny coat of paint with blue UN trim.

Dili residents have cleaned up the debris from other destroyed buildings, but serious reconstruction has not yet begun.

"For me, it is quite advantageous for him to come to our country to see what Indonesia has done, the level of destruction," said Ximenes.

He told AFP he hopes Annan's visit can speed up disbursement of international funds to help smooth the reconstruction process in this territory of close to 800,000 people.

If he had some money, said Akoni, he would like to rebuild his house. He is living with his wife and three young children in one room at a friend's home.

Sometimes he returns to the site of his former house to sit quietly near a water buffalo he bought. When it is ready, he will kill it and sell the meat.

"I already killed two," he said.

The meat is not as enjoyable as beef, he said, laughing, but there are no more likes and dislikes -- just the need to eat.


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