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Angola -- Independence, Civil War, and Today
One of the major stages where the Cold War played out, Angola has remained war-torn into the 21st Century. The many factions, sides, and supporters get confusing very quickly. Here is an outline of major events, people, and issues -- in normal, human language, no crazy academic talk here -- to help you get a basic understanding of what has been going on.
Events Leading up to Revolution
- Portuguese moved into Angola while looking for routes to India and China
- Many of the soldiers, traders, and settlers took Angolan wives, creating a race of Afro-Portuguese. Resulting race became the prominent class in Angola
- Afro-Portuguese defended middle-man position by balancing natives and Europeans.
- Portuguese and the natives started a huge slave trade within Angola. More than 12 million forcibly shipped to America (Angolans selling their own people)
- Late 19th century, Afro-Portuguese threatened by presence of British in their interior
- Portugal exiled the poor Portuguese to Angola and gave them the good jobs and the money. As a result, less than 40% of Angolans had any income
Some Direct Reasons for War
- End Cuban military presence in Angola, fix tension between Cubans and Angolans.
- To keep the oil flow and income going through Angola.
- To give Angola its independence from Portugal.
Important Events in the Revolution
- Africa split up by Europe, Angola given to Portugal. Angolans worked to fight Portugal’s presence in 1880s to 1970.
- February 1961 members of MPLA, led by Antonio Neto, attacked Sao Paulo fortress and police headquarters in Luanda (the key port city in Angola).
- At the same time, series of attacks in northern Angola against Portuguese coffee growers. Led by the organization UPNA.
- 1960s -1974: Three main movements (MPLA, UNITA, FNLA) fought against Portuguese and each other with no clear results.
- In 1974 a rebellion against President Getano brought General Spinola into power.
- 1975 power shifted from conservative Spinola to younger, more left-oriented, USSR-educated officers (open doors for Angolan independence).
Jonas Malheiro Savimbi
- Born 1934, attended school in Angola, continued education in Europe.
- Joined the UPA/FNLA, fought for liberation from Portugal
- Signed a UN peace agreement to be presidential candidate in elections
- Rejected results of elections, reunited UNITA, and resumed civil war
- Supported heavily by the United States, but were some big problems when it came to diamond trade due to his corruption.
Role of the USA and USSR
- Neither of them started revolution; already problems in Angola long before Cold War
- US and USSR fueled problems in Angola: took sides and gave aid
- The Soviet Union:
o Backed the MPLA
o Had educated all Angolans of higher education, thus instilling Soviet ideas
- The United States:
o Used CIA to support National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA)
o Several hundred million dollars overall
o Ultimately of no use to well-being of Angolans
o Congress passed act to ban aid to Angola (expired in 1986)
- First War with UNITA
o May 1991
o Signed deal promising to end hostilities
o Promised ceasefire within a month, demobilize forces
o Planned UN-monitored election to stabilize government
o But the time constraints were too strict, not enough time for total ceasefire
o Fighting continued
- Second War with UNITA
o November 1994
o More relaxed/flexible negotiations, no rushing this time
o UN gave $1 billion and several thousand peacekeepers
o UNITA disbanded into a political party (no longer military force)
o Fighting continued despite all these attempts
o Angolan forces wanted a form of socialism
o Push those ideas back to their roots: USSR
- Unsuccessful, no one “won”
o Fighting has continued
o Neither US nor USSR fully implemented/endorsed its ideology
o Angolans lost people, resources, etc, never gained freedom
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Justified American Intervention?
- Traditionalist: Yes
o Soviets should have no influence in Africa
o Needed to get their ideas away from impressionable people
o Concerned for interests of America’s future security
o Needed to protect Angolans from being subjected to communism
- Revisionist: No
o US mixed up in irrelevant affairs
o Just trying to “beat” USSR in endorsing ideology
o No real care for the people of Angola or their well-being