A country in south-western Africa which, despite its wealth in mineral resources, has experienced great economic hardship as a result of almost perpetual civil war since independence.
Colonial rule (up to 1974)
Portuguese colonization began in the late sixteenth century, though the entire country was only brought under full control in 1885. Portuguese settlement began on a large scale only after World War I. In a country without a tradition of private property, any land that was not explicitly owned was taken over by Portugal and partly given to the settlers. Growing dissatisfaction with colonial exploitation led to a popular uprising in 1961, which was contained only three years later. Already by 1956 the first resistance movement had been formed, the MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertaçao de Angola, Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola). This was followed in 1962 by the foundation of the FNLA (Frente Nacional de Libertaçao de Angola, National Liberation Front of Angola), from which emerged a third movement led by Jonas Malheiro Savimbi (b. 1934, d. 2002) in 1966, the UNITA (União Nacional par a Independência Total de Angola, National Union for the Complete Independence of Angola). The mounting resistance to Portuguese rule did trigger some concessions from the colonial power, notably the abolition of forced labour for the indigenous population in 1962. At the same time, Portuguese attempts at integrating Angola into the ‘motherland’ through the introduction of Portuguese culture failed. After the end of military rule in Portugal in 1974, Angola was hastily released into independence in 1975.
Civil war (1975–2002)
There ensued a struggle for political dominance between the three competing guerrilla organizations, which was complicated by foreign interference. The MPLA was supported by Cuban troops and Soviet aid, whereas UNITA, operating in the south, was supported by the US and South Africa. The FNLA, operating in the north, was supported also by the US, as well as by neighbouring Congo. As a result of the civil war, and the exodus of the majority of the skilled labour force to Portugal, the economy collapsed in 1975. The MPLA soon gained the upper hand, and in February 1976 proclaimed a socialist People's Republic. Nevertheless, it remained unable to overcome the armed resistance of both the FNLA and UNITA. The situation was complicated by frequent attacks by South African troops against SWAPO bases in the south. Following the initial establishment of a planned economy, market forces were gradually introduced. Angola finally joined the third Lomé Convention in 1985, and in 1987 President Eduardo dos Santos announced economic reforms and the promotion of private property.
As it became clear that neither side could win in the civil war, on 22 December 1988 South Africa, Angola, and Cuba signed a peace treaty brokered by the UN. This stipulated withdrawal of the 50,000 Cuban troops and the South African troops from Angolan and neighbouring Namibian soil. On 2 May 1991, the MPLA and UNITA agreed to fuse their armed forces and hold of a general election in November 1992. UNITA refused to accept the outcome of these elections, which gave the MPLA an absolute majority, and in the resulting violence in 1993 over 30,000 people died. New elections were agreed in May 1994, and despite continued heavy fighting, on 20 November 1994 both parties signed a peace treaty. The fragile peace process that ensued was brought to an end by UNITA's refusal to hand over some of their territories to government control. The civil war that returned in 1998 led to over three million people being displaced from their homes. Bolstered by military spending that took up over 40 per cent of the budget, the government took control over most of Angola, while Savimbi's death in action in February 2002 weakened UNITA still further. UNITA disbanded officially in August, thus ending 27 years of Civil War.
Recent developments (Since 2002)
The onset of peace allowed the government to profit from growing exports in diamonds and crude oil. By 2006, Angola had advanced to become Africa's largest oil producer after Nigeria. Widespread corruption, however, prevented the majority of the population from experiencing the economic benefits of Angola's wealth in mineral resources.