Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Honor Among Kidnappers

September 26th, 2012 · No Comments


Because it happened during the frenetic final throes of the Cold War, the 1983 abduction of 66 Czechoslovaks by Angolan rebels didn’t get much coverage on these shores. Were a similar event to occur today, though, it would receive immense attention, primarily because of the kidnappers’ rough tactics: In addition to taking children as well as adults, they also forced their captives to march over 800 miles through the bush.

Yet when it came time for the rebels to negotiate the hostages’ release, they were surprisingly honorable—or, perhaps more accurately, true to their stated aims. A Czechoslovak diplomat recalls his dialogue with rebel leader Jonas Savimbi thusly:

Savimbi demanded 300,000 dollars to cover food and board for the year they were holding our men captive. I told him that we could discuss that option, but that in that case we would announce that we had paid a ransom for our captured citizens, and that at that moment UNITA could change from a national liberation movement into a pack of bandits who had kidnapped our citizens for ransom. Savimbi thought about that and said, “Fine, I’ll free them unconditionally, I only ask that none of them return to our country for the duration of the conflict.”

I very much doubt that any current insurgency would be shy about accepting cash for hostages. The revolutionary goal posts have moved quite a bit since the early eighties, toward a more cynical end of the field.

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