11. Portuguese Angola (1951-1975)


Pre-Crisis Phase (June 11, 1951-February 2, 1961):  On June 11, 1951, the Portuguese parliament approved a law granting provincial status to all Portuguese colonies, including Portuguese Angola (which became the Province of Angola).  The Party of the United Struggle for Africans in Angola (Partido da Luta Unida dos Africanos de Angola – PLUA) was established in 1953.  The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola  (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola – MPLA) was established by Antonio Agostinho Neto in opposition to the Portuguese government on December 10, 1956. The Union of Angolan Peoples (União das Populações de Angola – UPA), originally known as the Union of Peoples of Northern Angola (União das Populações do Norte de Angola – UPNA), was established by Holden Roberto in opposition to the Portuguese government in Leopoldville (Kinshasa), Congo on July 14, 1958.  Government police arrested MPLA leader Antonio Agostinho Neto on June 8, 1960, and some 30 supporters were killed during subsequent protests in Catete (Icolo e Bengo).  Mario de Andrade became acting MPLA president during Antonio Neto’s imprisonment from 1960 to 1962.

Crisis Phase (February 3, 1961-March 14, 1961):  Angola peasants led by Antonio Mariano and Kula-Xingu revolted in eastern Malanje Province on February 3-4, 1961, resulting in the deaths of as many as 7,000 individuals.  MPLA militants attacked a police station, government buildings, and the Sao Paulo prison in Luanda on February 4, 1961, resulting in the deaths of seven Portuguese policemen and 40 militants.

Conflict Phase (March 15, 1961-June 17, 1974):  Some 5,000 Union of Angolan Peoples (União das Populações de Angola – UPA) militants launched a rebellion against the Portuguese government in northern Angola on March 15, 1961.  Beginning on March 18, 1961, the Portuguese government deployed some 50,000 troops to suppress the rebellion.  On June 6, 1961, the UN Security Council called on the Portuguese government “to desist forthwith from repressive measures” against the Angolan people.  Government troops captured the UPA’s last stronghold at Pedra Verde on September 20, 1961.  Some 27,000 individuals were killed, and some 400,000 individuals (mostly ethnic Bakongo) fled as refugees to Congo-Kinshasa.  UPA militants captured and killed 21 MPLA militants near Ferreira on October 9, 1961.  On March 28, 1962, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) was established with the merger of the UPA and the Democratic Party of Angola (Partido Democratico de Angola – PDA).  Holden Roberto, leader of the FNLA, established the Revolutionary Government of Angola in Exile (Governo Revolucionario de Angola no Exilio – GRAE) in Congo-Kinshasa on April 5, 1962.  Israel provided military assistance to the FNLA from 1963 to 1969.  The Organization of African Union (OAU) provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the GRAE in 1963.  The Chinese government provided military assistance to the FNLA beginning in December 1964.  MPLA set up its headquarters in Congo-Brazzaville in 1964.  The government of Congo-Kinshasa provided military bases to the FNLA and MPLA.  The Algerian government provided arms and training to the MPLA, and the government of Zambia provided a military base for the MPLA. The government of the Soviet Union provided some $54 million in military assistance to the MPLA from 1961 to 1975.  The Cuban government agreed to provide military assistance to the MPLA on January 5, 1965.  The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola – UNITA) was established by Jonas Savimbi, the former foreign minister of the GRAE, on March 13, 1966.  The Chinese government provided military assistance to UNITA.  The governments of South Africa, Germany, France, Britain, and the U.S. provided military assistance to the Portuguese government.  The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided $32 million in covert military assistance to anti-MPLA groups in 1975. Each of the three major liberation movements ( UNITA, MPLA, FNLA) was largely supported by one of three major ethnic groups within the territory: Ovimbundu, the Mbundu, and Bakongo. The UN General Assembly called for the imposition of UN Security Council mandatory sanctions against the Portuguese government on November 17, 1967. The FNLA and MPLA established the Supreme Council for the Liberation of Angola (SCLA) on December 3, 1972.  Representatives of the Portuguese government and UNITA signed a ceasefire agreement on June 17, 1974. Some 55,000 individuals, including some 4,000 Portuguese government soldiers, were killed during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (June 18, 1974-November 11, 1975): On July 27, 1974, General Spinola announced that Portugal would be willing to grant independence to Angola. Representatives of the Portuguese government and rebel groups signed the Alvor Agreement on January 15, 1975. Angola formally attained its independence from Portugal on November 11, 1975.

[Sources: Arnold et al., 1991, 10-14; Butterworth, 1976, 299-302; Degenhardt, 1988, 8-12; Donelan and Grieve, 1973, 210-214; Jessup, 1998, 27-28; Keesing’s Record of World Events, April 8-15, 1967; Langer, 1972, 1273; Tillema, 1991, 115-118; Weisburd, 1997, 77-79.]


Selected  Bibliography

Durch, William J. 1978. “The Cuban Military in Africa and the Middle East: From Algeria to Angola.” Studies in Comparative Communism 11 (Spring/Summer): 34-74.

Ebinger, Charles K. 1976. “External Intervention in Internal War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Angolan Civil War.” Orbis 20 (Fall): 669-699.

El-Khawas, Mohamed A. 1977. “South Africa and the Angola Conflict.” Africa Today 24 (April-June): 35-46.

George, Edward. 2005. The Cuban Intervention in Angola, 1965-1991. London and New York: Frank Cass.

Hallett, Robin. 1978. “The South African Intervention in Angola 1975-1976.” African Affairs 77 (July): 347-386.

Valenta, Jiri. 1978. “The Soviet-Cuban Intervention in Angola, 1975.” Studies in Comparative Communism 11 (Spring/Summer): 3-33.

Vanneman, Peter and Martin James. 1976. “The Soviet Intervention in Angola: Intentions and Implications.” Strategic Review 4 (Summer): 92-103.

Wheeler, Douglas L. 1969. “The Portuguese Army in Angola,” The Journal of Modern African Studies,” vol. 7 (3), pp. 425-439.

Whitaker, Paul M. 1970. “The Revolutions of ‘Portuguese’ Africa,” The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 8 (1), pp. 15-35.