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Angola

History

History


Early migrations and political units

Khoi and San hunter-gatherers are the earliest known modern human inhabitants of the area. They were largely absorbed or replaced by Bantu peoples during the Bantu migrations, though small numbers remain in parts of southern Angola to the present day. The Bantu came from the north, probably from somewhere near the present-day Republic of Cameroon.

During this time, the Bantu established a number of political units ("kingdoms", "empires") in most parts of what today is Angola. The best known of these is the Kingdom of the Kongo that had its centre in the northwest of contemporary Angola, but included important regions in the west of present-day Democratic Republic and Republic of Congo and in southern Gabon. It established trade routes with other trading cities and civilisations up and down the coast of southwestern and West Africa and even with the Great Zimbabwe Mutapa Empire, but engaged in little or no transoceanic trade. To its south lay the Kingdom of Ndongo, from which the area of the later Portuguese colony was sometimes known as Dongo.


Portuguese colonization

The region now known as Angola was reached by the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão in 1484. The year before, the Portuguese had established relations with the Kingdom of Kongo, which stretched at the time from modern Gabon in the north to the Kwanza River in the south. The Portuguese established their primary early trading post at Soyo, which is now the northernmost city in Angola apart from the Cabinda enclave. Paulo Dias de Novais founded São Paulo de Loanda (Luanda) in 1575 with a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers. Benguela was fortified in 1587 and elevated to a township in 1617.

The Portuguese established several other settlements, forts, and trading posts along the Angolan coast, principally trading in Angolan slaves for Brazilian plantations. Local slave dealers provided a large number of slaves for the Portuguese Empire, usually sold in exchange for manufactured goods from Europe. This part of the Atlantic slave trade continued until after Brazil's independence in the 1820s.

Despite Portugal's nominal claims, as late as the 19th century, their control over the interior country of Angola was minimal. In the 16th century Portugal gained control of the coast through a series of treaties and wars. Life for European colonists was difficult and progress slow. Iliffe notes that "Portuguese records of Angola from the 16th century show that a great famine occurred on average every seventy years; accompanied by epidemic disease, it might kill one-third or one-half of the population, destroying the demographic growth of a generation and forcing colonists back into the river valleys".

Amid the Portuguese Restoration War, the Dutch occupied Luanda in 1641, using alliances with local peoples against Portuguese holdings elsewhere. A fleet under Salvador de Sá retook Luanda for Portugal in 1648; reconquest of the rest of the territory was completed by 1650. New treaties with Kongo were signed in 1649; others with Njinga's Kingdom of Matamba and Ndongo followed in 1656. The conquest of Pungo Andongo in 1671 was the last major Portuguese expansion from Luanda, as attempts to invade Kongo in 1670 and Matamba in 1681 failed. Portugal also expanded inward from Benguela, but until the late 19th century the inroads from Luanda and Benguela were very limited. Portugal had neither the intention nor the means to carry out a large scale territorial occupation and colonization.

Development of the hinterland began after the Berlin Conference in 1885 fixed the colony's borders, and British and Portuguese investment fostered mining, railways, and agriculture based on various forced-labour and voluntary labour systems.  Full Portuguese administrative control of the hinterland did not establish itself until the beginning of the 20th century. Portugal had a minimalist presence in Angola for nearly five hundred years, and early calls for independence provoked little reaction amongst the population who had no social identity related to the territory as a whole. More overtly political and "nationalist" organisations first appeared in the 1950s and began to make demands for self-determination, especially in international forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement.

The Portuguese régime, meanwhile, refused to accede to the demands for independence, provoking an armed conflict that started in 1961 when freedom fighters attacked both white and black civilians in cross-border operations in northeastern Angola. The war came to be known as the Colonial War. In this struggle, the principal protagonists included the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), founded in 1956, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola(FNLA), which appeared in 1961, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola(UNITA), founded in 1966. After many years of conflict that weakened all of the insurgent parties, Angola gained its independence on 11 November 1975, after the 1974 coup d'état in Lisbon, Portugal, which overthrew the Portuguese régime headed by Marcelo Caetano.

Portugal's new revolutionary leaders began in 1974 a process of political change at home and accepted independence for its former colonies abroad. In Angola a fight for dominance broke out immediately between the three nationalist movements. The events prompted a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens, creating up to 300 000 destitute Portuguese refugees—the retornados. The new Portuguese government tried to mediate an understanding between the three competing movements, and succeeded in getting them to agree, on paper, to form a common government. But in the end none of the African parties respected the commitments they had made, and military force resolved the issue.


Independence and civil war

After it gained independence in November 1975, Angola experienced a devastating civil war which lasted several decades (with some interludes). It claimed millions of lives and produced many refugees; it didn't end until 2002.

Following negotiations held in Portugal, itself experiencing severe social and political turmoil and uncertainty due to the April 1974 revolution, Angola's three main guerrilla groups agreed to establish a transitional government in January 1975. Within two months, however, the FNLA, MPLA and UNITA had started fighting each other and the country began splitting into zones controlled by rival armed political groups. The MPLA gained control of the capital Luanda and much of the rest of the country. With the support of the United States, Zaïre and South Africa intervened militarily in favour of the FNLA and UNITA with the intention of taking Luanda before the declaration of independence. In response, Cuba intervened in favor of the MPLA (see: Cuba in Angola), which became a flash point for the Cold War.

With Cuban support, the MPLA held Luanda and declared independence on 11 November 1975, with Agostinho Neto becoming the first president, though the civil war continued. At this time, most of the half-million Portuguese who lived in Angola – and who had accounted for the majority of the skilled workers in public administration, agriculture, industries and trade – fled the country, leaving its once prosperous and growing economy in a state of bankruptcy.

For most of 1975–1990, the MPLA organised and maintained a socialist régime. In 1990, when the Cold War ended, MPLA abandoned its ties to the Marxist–Leninist ideology and declared social democracy to be its official ideology, going on to win the 1992 general election. However, eight opposition parties rejected the elections as rigged, sparking the Halloween massacre.


Ceasefire with UNITA

On 22 March 2002, Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA, was killed in combat with government troops. The two sides reached a cease-fire shortly afterwards. UNITA gave up its armed wing and assumed the role of major opposition party, although in the knowledge that under the present regime a legitimate democratic election was impossible. Although the political situation of the country began to stabilize, regular democratic processes were not established until the elections in Angola in 2008 and 2012 and the adoption of a new Constitution of Angola in 2010, all of which strengthened the prevailing Dominant-party system. MPLA head officials continue e.g. to be given senior positions in top-level companies or other fields, although a few outstanding UNITA figures are given some of the economic as well as the military share.

Angola has a serious humanitarian crisis, the result of the prolonged war, the abundance of minefields, the continued political, and to a much lesser degree, military activities in favour of the independence of the northern exclave of Cabinda, carried out in the context of the protracted Cabinda Conflict by the Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda, (FLEC), but most of all, the depradation of the country's rich mineral resources by the régime. While most of the internally displaced have now settled around the capital, in the so-called musseques, the general situation for Angolans remains desperate.

Drought, in 2016, is the worst global food crisis in Southern Africa for 25 years. Drought affects 1.4 million people across seven of Angola’s 18 provinces. Food prices have risen and acute malnutrition rates have doubled, with more than 95,000 children being affected. Food insecurity is expected to worsen from July to the end of the year.

 

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Angola - Travel guide

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