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Country, southern Africa.

Its northernmost section of coastland, the Cabinda exclave, is separated from Angola proper by a narrow corridor of Congo territory. Area: 481,354 sq mi (1,246,700 sq km). Population (2006 est.): 12,127,000. Capital: Luanda. The population is made up of mostly Bantu-speaking peoples; the main ethnic groups are the Ovimbundu and the Mbundu. Languages: Portuguese (official), indigenous languages. Religions: Christianity (mostly Roman Catholic; also Protestant); also traditional beliefs. Currency: kwanza. The country contains several plateau regions, which separate it into three distinct drainage systems. One in the northeast drains into the Congo River basin, and another, in the southeastern sector, drains into the Zambezi system; the remaining drainage, westward into the Atlantic, provides most of Angola’s hydroelectric power. About half of the land area is forest; less than 10% is arable. With the exception of the development of the country’s substantial petroleum reserves, Angola’s economy has long been unable to take advantage of its natural resources because of the devastation caused by the protracted civil war. Angola is nominally a republic with one legislative house; its head of state and government is the president. An influx of Bantu-speaking peoples in the 1st millennium ad led to their dominance in the area by c. 1500. The most important Bantu kingdom was Kongo; south of Kongo was the Ndongo kingdom of the Mbundu people. Portuguese explorers arrived in the early 1480s and over time gradually extended their rule. Angola’s frontiers were largely determined by other European powers in the 19th century but not without strong resistance by the indigenous peoples. Resistance to colonial rule led to the outbreak of fighting in 1961, which led ultimately to independence in 1975. Rival factions continued fighting after independence. Although a peace accord was reached in 1994, forces led by Jonas M. Savimbi continued to resist government control until his death in 2002. A lasting peace accord was signed shortly thereafter, ending 27 years of civil war.

Angola made its Olympic debut at the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow.

Official name República de Angola (Republic of Angola)
Form of government unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house (National Assembly [2201])
Head of state and government President assisted by Prime Minister
Capital Luanda
Official language Portuguese
Official religion none
Monetary unit kwanza (AOA)
Population estimate (2008) 12,531,000
Total area (sq mi) 481,354
Total area (sq km) 1,246,700
1Excludes 3 unfilled seats reserved for Angolans living abroad.


country located in southwestern Africa. A large country, Angola takes in a broad variety of landscapes, including the semidesert Atlantic littoral bordering Namibia’s “Skeleton Coast,” the sparsely populated rainforest interior, the rugged highlands of the south, the Cabinda exclave in the north, and the densely settled towns and cities of the northern coast and north-central river valleys. The capital and commercial centre is Luanda, a large port city on the northern coast that blends Portuguese-style colonial landmarks with traditional African housing styles and modern industrial complexes.

Angola at the beginning of the 21st century was a country ravaged by war and the related effects of land mines and malnutrition, and it was often dependent on the international community for the basics of survival. It is a country that is nevertheless rich in natural resources, including precious gems, metals, and petroleum; indeed, it ranks among the highest of the oil-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It is the largest and wealthiest of the Portuguese-speaking African states, and Portuguese influences have been felt for some 500 years, although Angola acquired its present boundaries only in 1891. An anticolonial struggle that began in 1961 finally led to independence in 1975.

In We Must Return, a poem he wrote from prison in 1956, the Angolan poet Agostinho Neto, who was also the country’s first president, described Angola as “red with coffee / white with cotton / green with maize” and as “our land, our mother.” Unfortunately, Neto’s happiness with a “liberated Angola—Angola independent” did not last long, and a civil war that went on 27 years left much of the country in ruins. Beginning in 2002, however, with the ending of the war, Angola had more hope for a peaceful future than it had in the previous quarter century.

Angola is roughly square in shape, with a maximum width of about 800 miles (1,300 km), including the Cabinda exclave, which is located along the Atlantic coast just north of Angola’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Angola is bordered to the far northwest by the Republic of the Congo, to the north and northeast by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southeast by Zambia, to the south by Namibia, and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean.

From a narrow coastal plain, the land rises abruptly to the east in a series of escarpments to rugged highlands, which then slope down toward the centre of the continent. The coastal plain varies in width from about 125 miles (200 km) in the area south of Luanda to about 15 miles (25 km) near Benguela. The Bié Plateau to the east of Benguela forms a rough quadrilateral of land above the 5,000-foot (1,500-metre) mark, culminating at about 8,600 feet (2,600 metres) and covering about one-tenth of the country’s surface. The Malanje highlands in the north-central part of the country are less extensive and lower in elevation, while the Huíla plateau in the south is smaller still but rises steeply to an elevation of approximately 7,700 feet (2,300 metres). The almost featureless plateau that covers the eastern two-thirds of Angola gradually falls away to between 1,650 and 3,300 feet (500 and 1,000 metres) at the eastern border. The highest point in the country is Mount Moco, near the city of Huambo, which reaches an elevation of 8,596 feet (2,620 metres).

The Lunda Divide forms a watershed on the plateau, separating north- and south-flowing rivers. In the northeast, rivers such as the Cuango (Kwango) flow out of Angola into the mighty Congo River, which forms the boundary between Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the final 90 miles (145 km) of its course. The central part of the plateau is drained by the Cuanza (Kwanza), the largest river entirely within Angola’s frontiers, which is about 620 miles (1,000 km) in length. It runs for roughly half its length in a northerly direction before bending westward through a break in the escarpment between the Malanje highlands and the Bié Plateau, and it flows into the sea about 40 miles (65 km) south of Luanda. The southwestern part of the country is drained by the Cunene River (Kunene), which heads south before turning west and breaking through the escarpment at the Ruacana Falls, after which it marks the boundary between Angola and Namibia to the Atlantic Ocean. Some rivers in the southeast of the plateau flow into the Zambezi River, which itself crosses the Cazombo region in the far eastern extension of the country. Other rivers in this area feed the Okavango Swamps of northwestern Botswana. Small rivers in the south run into the internal drainage system of the Etosha Pan in Namibia, while others, often seasonal in nature, drain the steep western slopes of the escarpment.

The coastal plain consists of alluvia, chalk, and sand, underlain by oil-bearing formations over the northern two-thirds. Crystalline bedrock of Precambrian age (between about 540 million and 3.8 billion years old) emerges along the escarpment, and mineral deposits sometimes lie close to the surface. Considerable erosion has occurred in this area, and laterite formations are common. Most of the plateau in the eastern two-thirds of the country lies buried under deep deposits of infertile windblown Kalahari sands. The river gravels of the northeast contain diamonds, and rare kimberlite pipes occur in this area.

Angola has a tropical climate with a marked dry season. The climate is largely affected by the seasonal movements of the rain-bearing intertropical convergence zone, the northward flow of the cold Benguela Current off the coast, and elevation. Rainfall is the key determinant of climatic differentiation, and it decreases rapidly from north to south and in proximity to the coast. The Maiombe forest in the northern part of the Cabinda exclave receives the greatest amount of rainfall, about 70 inches (1,800 mm) per year, and Huambo, on the Bié Plateau, receives 57 inches (1,450 mm). In contrast, Luanda, on the dry coast, receives about 13 inches (330 mm), while the southernmost part of the coastal plain gets as little as 2 inches (50 mm). The rainy season lasts from September to May in the north and from December to March in the south. Droughts frequently afflict the country, especially in the south. Temperatures vary much less than rainfall, however, and generally decrease with distance from the Equator, proximity to the coast, and increasing elevation. The average annual temperature in Soyo, for example, at the mouth of the Congo, is 79 °F (26 °C), whereas in Huambo, on the Bié Plateau, it is 67 °F (19 °C).

Plant and animal life
Until the late 19th century, parts of Angola were covered with dense rainforest, mainly in the northern part of the Cabinda exclave, the western edge of the Malanje highlands, the northwestern corner of the Bié Plateau, and along some rivers in the northeast. Much of this forest has been greatly diminished by agriculture and logging, and now most of Angola’s surface is covered with different kinds of savanna (grasslands with scattered trees), ranging from savanna-forest mosaic in the north to thorn scrub in parts of the south. Natural or man-made fires occur frequently in savanna vegetation, and tree species are thus usually resistant to fire. True desert is confined to the Namib in the far southwest, which extends north from Namibia and is the home of a unique plant, the tumboa (Weltwitschia mirabilis), which has a deep taproot and two broad, flat leaves about 10 feet (3 metres) long that lie along the desert floor.

The fauna is typical of the savanna lands of Africa. Carnivores include leopards, lions, and hyenas, while the plant-eating animals are represented chiefly by elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, gnu (wildebeests) and various other antelopes, and monkeys. Angola is rich in bird species and has a wide variety of reptiles, including crocodiles. The numerous insects include mosquitoes and tsetse flies, both serious pests that carry disease. There are about a dozen national parks and nature reserves, notably Iona National Park in the southeast corner of the country and Quicama National Park just south of Luanda, but checks on hunting largely broke down with the spread of civil war. The giant sable antelope (Hippotragus niger variani), found in the south, is particularly vulnerable. Other endangered populations include the gorillas and chimpanzees of the Maiombe forest, the black rhinoceros, and the Angolan giraffe. Marine life is particularly rich along the southern coast, because the cold Benguela Current provides nutrients for many temperate-water species.

Ethnic and linguistic composition
Apart from a few Europeans and isolated bands of Northern Khoisan speakers such as the !Kung (a San group) in the remote southeast, all Angolans speak Bantu languages of the Niger-Congo language family, which dominates western, central, and southern Africa. The largest ethnolinguistic group is the Ovimbundu, who speak Umbundu and who account for about one-fourth of the population. They inhabit the Bié Plateau, having migrated to Benguela and Lobito and areas along the Benguela Railway to the west and east, and live in fairly large numbers in Luanda. The next-largest ethnic group is the Mbundu (Kimbundu), who speak Kimbundu and who also make up about one-fourth of the population. They dominate the capital city and the Malanje highlands and are well represented in most coastal towns. The Kongo (Bakongo, Esikongo)—in the far north, including the city of Luanda and parts of the countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo—speak Kikongo and account for about one-sixth of the population. Lunda, Chokwe, and Ngangela peoples live scattered through the thinly populated eastern part of the country, spilling over into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia. The Ovambo (also known as Ambo) and Herero peoples in the southwest also live in Namibia, while the closely related Nyaneka-Nkhumbi peoples inhabit only Angola.

The use of the Portuguese language by indigenous Angolan groups dates back hundreds of years; in the Kongo kingdom, some were able to speak and read Portuguese as early as 1491. Beginning in the 1920s, Portuguese colonial policies sought to make Portuguese the only language spoken in Angola; these attempts met with limited success. Portuguese is often the only language spoken in Luanda and in much of the interior extending beyond the city and in other parts of the country; in some areas, however, indigenous languages are used in daily life. Because Portuguese developed as the lingua franca of the country and became the language of the present political leadership, those who did not speak Portuguese were effectively excluded from the political process. Since independence the government has recognized the major African languages, including six that were designated as official languages for educational instruction. However, widespread use of African languages in educational instruction never occurred, and the government continued to employ Portuguese for education, written documents, and official usage. In the years since the end of the civil war, there has been a renewed effort to develop a cohesive national language policy that preserves the country’s indigenous languages and associated cultural histories; these efforts include providing language instruction in schools and offering civic materials in indigenous languages. Other languages spoken in Angola include English and Afrikaans, which are sometimes spoken in the south and east, especially by people who have resided in Namibia and Zambia as workers or refugees, and French and, to a lesser extent, Lingala, which are often understood among the Kongo in the north. Kikongo ya leta, a Creole based on Kikongo, is also spoken in the north.

Angola’s population is overwhelmingly Christian. About three-fifths of the population is Roman Catholic, about one-sixth is Protestant, and the remainder adhere to traditional beliefs or other religions.

The current religious makeup of Angola has its roots in the country’s history. In precolonial times, Angolans of various groups followed broadly similar religious traditions that revolved around venerating ancestors and worshipping territorially oriented deities under a creator high god (often known as Nzambi or Suku). That religious system continues in some form in many places today. The Portuguese introduced Christianity into the Kongo kingdom in the 15th century; since the mid-16th century, most Kongo have regarded themselves as Christians, although their practice has often mixed Christian and traditional beliefs. When the colony of Angola was established in 1575, the Portuguese continued to spread Christianity in the regions inland of Luanda and in the surrounding areas.

In the late 19th century, Protestant missionaries entered Angola and made numerous converts among both the Roman Catholic population and those who still followed traditional religions. Baptists operated in the north, Methodists in the Kimbundu-speaking regions, and Congregationalists in areas of Ovimbundu settlement and in the east. The Protestants were especially effective in the Ovimbundu area, despite the efforts of the Portuguese colonial government, which reinforced and subsidized Catholic missionary activities, sometimes harassed Protestants, and served the many Catholic settlers from Portugal who went to Angola. Since the mid-1950s, African Independent Churches, especially Our Lord Jesus Christ Church in the World (Tocoist church), have evangelized from bases mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the 1970s the church opposed Angola’s Marxist government and was subsequently banned briefly in the late 1980s.

Nationalist leaders were especially drawn from the Protestant sections of the population, but, when the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola; MPLA) came to power in 1975, its policy as leader of a Marxist-Leninist state was antireligious. Religious organizations were denounced, Roman Catholics for their collaboration with the colonial state and Baptists and Congregationalists for their role in the leadership of the rival National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola; UNITA) and the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de a Libertação de Angola; FNLA). The Methodist Church, however, from which many MPLA leaders were drawn, was more favourably treated. Religious institutions, hospitals, and newspapers were taken over by the state, though sometimes they were actually run by the religious organizations.

Since the formal abandonment of Marxism and as part of an attempt at national reconciliation, the government has become more tolerant of religious organizations. Formal religious organizations now operate openly again, although there are restraints imposed by official distrust.

Settlement patterns
The rural population is largely concentrated in the highlands and along watercourses running off the highlands. The Bié Plateau alone contains about half the total rural population. In the north and centre of the country, people live in villages, whereas in the south, where cattle keeping is important, there is a tradition of dispersed settlement and transhumance in search of pastures. A few !Kung live as nomads in remote areas of the far south. The decades of warfare affected settlement patterns, resulting in an increase in the size of village settlements. Settlement patterns have also been affected by forced labour; a form of this practice existed in the precolonial period, was continued by the Portuguese, and was evident in the manner in which both government and rival armies acquired soldiers during the civil war.

At the end of the colonial period, more than four-fifths of the population was rural, a figure that had declined to about three-fifths by the early 21st century. Continuous warfare and the resultant migration increased the population of Luanda to more than two million by the mid-1990s; conversely, many towns in the east and on the Bié Plateau were destroyed. Farther south along the coastal plain, the historic town of Benguela and the port and industrial centre of Lobito are traditional rivals, while Namibe is the port for the south and the country’s largest fishing centre. Other important northern cities are Malanje, at the eastern end of the Luanda Railway, and the coastal oil towns of Cabinda and Soyo. Inland, M’banza Congo is the historic capital of the Kongo kingdom. Huambo, on the Bié Plateau, is surrounded by a scattering of smaller towns, while Lubango dominates the Huíla highlands.

Demographic trends
Angola has never been densely populated, and the export of at least five million slaves between 1500 and 1850 kept the population from growing at a greater rate. At the beginning of the 21st century, the country’s population density was well below the average for Southern Africa, with vast areas in the semidesert coastal strip and the eastern two-thirds of the country almost empty.

During the civil war (1975–2002), it is estimated that warfare killed about a half million people; famine and disease, exacerbated by the conflict, are estimated to have killed an additional half million people as well. However, the population growth rate remained high during this time and later increased after the end of the war. Angola’s birth rate is among the highest in the world; however, so too is the country’s infant mortality rate. Life expectancy is similar to the average for Southern Africa but is among the lowest in the world, and Angola’s population is predominantly young.

It is estimated that about half a million people fled abroad during the anticolonial war (1961–75), mainly Kongo escaping to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and some Chokwe, Lunda, and Ngangela fleeing to Zambia. There was a renewed outflow of refugees in 1975, with the departure of more than 300,000 Portuguese and an unknown number of Africans. The vagaries of warfare have affected both the number of Angolans living outside the country and their situation within the country. Refugee populations both inside and outside Angola have grown during times of war—such as in the mid- to late 1980s, after the elections of 1992, and from 1998 until the end of the civil war in 2002—and such disruptions have also increased internal migrations to cities, especially Luanda.

The Portuguese government regarded Angola as its overseas crown jewel during the colonial period. It made the colony a target of ambitious settlement schemes and encouraged investment in the economy. As a result of these efforts, the Angolan economy was growing rapidly by the 1970s, with commodities such as coffee, sisal, diamonds, and petroleum the leading exports. Some light industry also developed in the major towns. But this growth was unbalanced, most of the profits being concentrated in the hands of a small settler class, with the majority of the population relegated to forced-labour projects or compelled to sell agricultural goods at artificially low prices to marketing boards. The resultant inequality of income and opportunity played a significant role in the development of the nationalist movements.

There was a large exodus of skilled Portuguese workers at national independence in 1975, and, because the colonial state had failed to adequately develop local educational systems and job opportunities, few Angolans were available to take their place. The loss of capital and skills had an immediate negative impact on economic development. In addition, the new government sought to impose socialist development on a Soviet and Cuban model that included a high degree of state participation in the economy, such as collective and state-run agricultural enterprises. Foreign capital was often nationalized, and exchange rates were set artificially high.

The economy was further crippled by a postindependence civil war, which displaced much of the population, ruined physical plants, and disrupted transportation much more than had the earlier guerrilla war. The combination of economic reorganization and warfare caused a virtual economic collapse, which has scarcely abated since then. In the late 1980s, for example, defense spending constituted almost half of the total budget, while the annual rate of inflation exceeded 900 percent in 1994 and more than 2,500 percent the following year. Food production reached such low levels that food was either imported or provided by foreign aid and humanitarian sources, as famine or near-famine conditions prevailed in much of the country from the mid-1980s until after the end of the civil war in 2002. Other agricultural exports such as coffee effectively ceased to be produced until after the end of the war. Only the petroleum industry, which was not nationalized or regulated and was protected from warfare, managed to produce regular income. The petroleum industry, however, still employs few local people and invests little in the Angolan economy, with most of the royalties going to the state. Diamonds also provided a substantial income, especially to the UNITA forces that controlled many of the diamond mines during the war.

Although economic reforms beginning in 1988 eliminated many of the failed socialist experiments, and foreign interests were allowed to invest capital more freely, the war consistently discouraged such investment and hampered the rebuilding of basic infrastructure in most of the country. However, the Angolan government has focused on reconstruction since the end of the war in 2002. The overall state of the economy has improved since then as well, largely owing to the income generated from the country’s petroleum industry.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Colonial policies favoured the growth of large Portuguese-owned estates producing export crops and discouraged production of any but subsistence crops on the small holdings of the majority of the rural population. Rural people were subjected to various schemes of forced and contract labour to provide workers for the estates. Only about 3 percent of the land area was under cultivation, with less than 1 percent irrigated. Coffee was of greatest importance, with production concentrated in the Malanje highlands and along the northwestern margins of the Bié Plateau near the centre of the country. Prior to independence, Angola supplied almost one-fifth of world coffee production, with an annual output of more than 200,000 tons in the early 1970s. Cotton, sisal, and corn (maize) were also important cash crops, while cassava (manioc), millet, sorghum, and rice were grown as subsistence crops, and livestock such as goats, pigs, and chickens were also kept for subsistence.

Estates were nationalized after independence, and the creation of state farms followed. The contract-labour system was replaced by a similar system of forced labour, called voluntary brigades. The ensuing civil war, however, prevented the implementation of a state-run estate system, and agricultural production faltered. Cooperatives replaced marketing boards for the small holders and proved to be just as inequitable, and the flight of Portuguese petty traders broke the distribution system. The transport network deteriorated; insecurity spread throughout the country; the overvaluation of the currency acted as an increasingly heavy de facto tax on exports; and the collapse of manufacturing removed all incentives to sell agricultural commodities to the towns. As a result, the urban population came to depend on imported food.

Fertile agricultural land is limited to a few favoured locations in the highlands and river valleys, and less than one-tenth of the land area is thought to be arable. The combination of poor soils and insufficient rainfall over most of Angola is a severe limitation to crop growing, although the country does contain both temperate and tropical climates. However, the country’s agricultural potential remains underutilized outside the Bié Plateau, the coastal oases, and the Ovambo floodplain on the Namibian border. Although pastoralism is inhibited by infestations of tsetse flies, poor pastures, and the lack of surface water in the Namib zone, the southwestern quarter of the country has favourable conditions. The main subsistence crop is cassava. Commercial food crops such as coffee and sugar are again being grown; the production of palm oil and tobacco increased in the 1990s; and even cotton production has increased slightly. The greatest impediment to agriculture, whether subsistence or commercial, however, is the number of land mines that were buried throughout the countryside during years of conflict.

Prior to independence, timber extraction from natural forests was concentrated in Maiombe in the Cabinda exclave and in Luso on the eastern stretch of the Benguela Railway. Large eucalyptus plantations along the western stretches of the Benguela Railway provided firewood for the steam locomotives and fed the paper-pulp plant near Benguela. Timber exports ceased at independence, and available resources came to be used primarily for fuel. Timber resources remain significant, however, as nearly one-fifth of the country is forested. The Maiombe forest in the north of the Cabinda exclave contains the most-valuable commercial species, notably white tola (Balsamiferum harms) and limba (Terminalia superba). There are also stands of commercial timber along the rivers of the southeast, especially mussibi (Guibourtia coleosperma).

Owing to the beneficial effects of the cold Benguela Current, Angola has some of the richest fishing grounds in Africa, especially along the far southern coast. Sticklebacks, sardines, mackerel, catfish, mullet, and tuna are abundant, as are crabs, lobsters, and prawns. Before independence, about 700 vessels were active in fishing, employing some 13,000 people; by the early 1980s fewer than one-seventh were operational, because most of the vessels had been owned by Portuguese nationals who sailed them away at independence in 1975. Namibe was the centre of this fishing industry, which stretched from Luanda in the north to the Bay of Tigres in the far south. The great majority of the catch was processed in modern factories (which either were destroyed or ceased operating after independence) and exported to Western markets frozen, canned, or as fish meal, while a local and African regional market was supplied through more-traditional fish drying and curing techniques. Foreign boats overfished the region, and production has declined precipitously since the 1970s.

Resources and power
Angola’s resources are considerable in comparison with those of most African countries. There are large reserves of petroleum and natural gas, concentrated in the maritime zones off the Cabinda exclave and the Congo River estuary. Production is largely concentrated off the coast of Cabinda, although there is some onshore production near Soyo and Luanda, and prospecting extends as far south as Kuanza Sul. The quality of the crude oil is generally good, with a low sulfur content.

Petroleum was first discovered in 1955. Angola has become one of the largest exporters of petroleum in sub-Saharan Africa, and production has nearly tripled since independence. Because Angola was not a member of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) until 2007, for many years the country was not subject to any restrictive quotas on its exports. Angola has also benefited from a combination of favourable geologic conditions, a high rate of exploration success, and relatively low operating costs. Natural gas has been found both associated and unassociated with petroleum, but about half of this has been burned off and the rest injected back into oil wells. A state company was set up in 1977 to engage in joint ventures and production-sharing agreements, while management of the oil business was left largely in foreign hands.

Alluvial diamonds occur widely over the northeastern quarter of the country, with a high proportion of gem-quality stones, and there are several kimberlite pipe formations that may be mined. Before independence, Angola was the fourth largest diamond exporter in the world in terms of value, but since that time output has fluctuated. The National Diamond Enterprise of Angola, a parastatal company, is responsible for approving diamond concessions, and it also licenses buyers. In 1992–94 most Angolan diamonds on the market were mined and smuggled from regions controlled by UNITA. The Angolan government gained control of this area in mid-1994 and tried to halt the activities of thousands of illegal diamond prospectors. UNITA retook some diamond regions in the mid- to late 1990s and controlled them until early 2002, when UNITA’s leader, Jonas Savimbi, was killed.

There are large reserves of iron ore in the southwestern part of the country, but they are of low grade. Other minerals—copper, manganese, gold, phosphates, uranium, feldspar, and platinum—are known to exist in commercial quantities in Angola, especially in the area of the escarpment.

Angola’s hydroelectric potential is one of the largest in Africa. Most electricity comes from dams on the Cuanza, Cunene, Catumbela, and Dande rivers, at points where they breach the escarpment to reach the coastal plain. Nonetheless, a large share of the country’s total generating facilities remained out of use into the early part of the 21st century because of attacks by UNITA, although repair, renovation, and new construction of such facilities began after the civil war ended in 2002.

Manufacturing had expanded rapidly prior to independence, but it was severely disrupted after 1975. Nationalization and the loss of skilled labour hit the manufacturing sector especially hard. Industries in Angola produce construction materials, refined petroleum and equipment for the petroleum industry, processed food, textiles, and electrical goods. Output declined severely during the quarter century after independence because of the continuing threat of warfare, raw material shortages, and disruptions of power and the transportation infrastructure. In the 1990s Angola attempted to counteract these problems by privatizing many businesses and industries and by introducing a new foreign investment code. The construction industry saw an increase of activity after the end of the civil war, as reconstruction was a priority of the government.

The National Bank of Angola, which issues Angola’s currency, the kwanza, acts as the central bank. Banks were nationalized after independence, but in 1985 foreign banks reentered the country, and in 1995 the government allowed the formation of private banks. Most savings are held in informal banking structures outside the cumbersome state system. Foreign investment is highly concentrated in oil, diamonds, and fishing, but it is beginning to spread more widely through the economy as liberalization proceeds and nationalized assets are returned to the private sector.

Hydrocarbons account for the largest proportion of exports; more than half goes to the United States and China, where low-sulfur crude oil is sought by refineries. The economy is thus highly vulnerable to shifts in the price of oil. A small quantity of diamonds are also exported. Imports come mainly from South Korea, Portugal, and the United States. Angola imports consumer goods and capital goods and some transport equipment. It generally has a positive balance of trade.

Although Angola has rural beauty and the economic resources to develop a thriving tourist industry, the long-term civil war prevented the development of this sector. Nevertheless, the country does have a national tourist agency, and some 40,000 tourists entered Angola annually in the late 1990s; in the years following the end of the civil war, that number increased dramatically.

Labour and taxation
Several trade unions operate in Angola. Women form the majority of the rural workforce, and as such they have been disproportionately affected by the numerous land mines found throughout the country. Several national women’s organizations exist, and women are theoretically guaranteed equal rights, but, in reality, they are still often discriminated against. Many women, especially rural women, belong to the Organization of Angolan Women, which was founded in the 1960s and has established literacy and social programs. National revenue is derived from taxes on income and on petroleum.

Transportation and telecommunications
Angola achieved independence with an excellent transport network for an African country so large and thinly populated, in part because of Portuguese military imperatives after 1961. But this sector of the infrastructure has suffered more than any other from the effects of war and the lack of maintenance. A rehabilitation plan, backed by foreign aid, was launched in the last decade of the 20th century. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, other rehabilitation and reconstruction plans have also been initiated to improve the country’s transportation infrastructure.

A grid of roads links the major geographic centres of economic activity, although only about one-fourth of these roads are paved. Numerous bridges were destroyed during the civil war, and travel on the roads generally was possible only in convoys with armed escorts. In 1997 a state agency responsible for road construction and maintenance estimated that four-fifths of the roads and bridges needed repair. Another challenge was the lack of spare parts available to repair the country’s limited number of motor vehicles. Both of these issues began to see some improvement after the war ended, although in the case of road repair, the progress was slow moving.

The Benguela Railway is the longest of the country’s railways, extending from Lobito on the coast to the Congolese frontier. Owned partly by foreign interests, it once provided sea access for landlocked Zambia and transported minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on which the railway’s profitability depended; but, after the start of the civil war, it did not function east of Huambo and often was completely out of use. The Luanda Railway, which was nationalized in 1918, depended on coffee and cotton for its traffic. The Namibe Railway, which has been owned by the state from the outset, depended on the shipment of iron ore. Both railways have functioned only episodically since independence, owing to disruptions from the civil war. Since the end of the war, sections of all three railways have undergone repairs and some have reopened for use; construction has also been initiated on new railway lines.

Lobito is the finest and best-equipped port in the country, but it has been underutilized since corn exports from the Bié Plateau and mineral traffic from the Republic of the Congo ceased, with traffic reduced to about one-fifth of preindependence levels. Although Luanda has a good harbour, it has been poorly managed and by the end of the 20th century handled less than half the cargo it did before 1975. Following the end of the civil war in 2002, renovation began on Luanda’s port facilities. Since the cessation of iron ore shipments, Namibe’s activity has been based essentially on its role as the country’s major fishing port. Cabinda is the major port for loading petroleum shipments; Malongo and Soyo have also grown in importance with the oil boom, although they have much poorer natural harbours. The lower Congo River is used by seagoing vessels up to Nóqui on the Congolese frontier, and small craft ply the lower Cuanza River for about 140 miles (225 km).

Air travel
Travel by air was the only safe means of transport during the civil war, and the network of airfields left by the Portuguese has been intensively used. The national airline (Linhas Aéreas de Angola; TAAG) travels to Africa, Europe, South America, and the Caribbean, while air-cargo services are the main focus of Transafrik International. There is an international airport in Luanda, and several domestic airports are located throughout the country.

Like other parts of the country’s infrastructure, the telephone system was badly damaged by war. In the late 1990s, domestic and foreign investment repaired and expanded Angola’s communications infrastructure. The state monopoly on telecommunications ended in 2001, the same year a new cellular communications system became operational in the country. Mobile cellular phones have existed in Angola since the mid-1990s, and use has skyrocketed. Broadband Internet service has been available in Angola since 2003, although access is extremely limited beyond the city of Luanda.

Government and society
Constitutional framework
Portugal granted independence to Angola on Nov. 11, 1975, without establishing a new government. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola; MPLA), led by Agostinho Neto and based in Luanda, took power, an act that was internationally, though not universally, recognized. The constitution of 1975 established a one-party state headed by a president who was also chairman of the MPLA, which declared itself a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party in 1977. The positions of prime minister and deputy prime minister were abolished in 1978, with a prime minister not appointed again until 1991; a National People’s Assembly was created in 1980. President Neto died in Moscow in 1979 and was replaced by the minister of planning, José Eduardo dos Santos. Early in 1990 the government proposed separating the offices of chairman of the party and president of state, a division already mandated by the constitution.

A new constitution, essentially an extensively amended version of the 1975 document, was promulgated in 1992. Prepared with the acquiescence of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola; UNITA), it provides for a multiparty system. Under the terms of the constitution, the president, elected for a five-year term, is the head of state and government. The prime minister is appointed by the president, as are the members of the Council of Ministers. Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly, whose members are elected to four-year terms. The new constitution abolished the death penalty and emphasized the rights of the people.

Local government and justice
Angola is divided into 18 provinces, each of which is headed by a governor appointed by the central government. Provinces are further divided into councils, communes, circles, neighbourhoods, and villages.

The judiciary consists of municipal and provincial courts, with the highest body being the Supreme Court. Operations of lower courts were disrupted by the civil war, and, in the years immediately following the end of the war, the majority of municipal courts were still not functioning.

Political process
The major parties in Angola are the MPLA, UNITA, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de a Libertação de Angola; FNLA), the Liberal Democratic Party, and the Social Renewal Party. The FNLA was one of three groups that fought for the independence of Angola beginning in the 1960s. Its leader, Holden Roberto, left Angola after 1975 and did not return until 1991. Until 1992 the MPLA was the only legal political party in the country. Multiparty elections in that year gave seats in the National Assembly to representatives from 12 political parties, including UNITA. In the early 21st century, women made up about 15 percent of the National Assembly. They have served as ministers in the Angolan government, and a woman has also held the office of vice president of the Supreme Court.

The Organization of Angolan Women came under the control of the MPLA in the late 1970s but still maintained some degree of independence. It served as an outlet for female participation in society, because MPLA membership was overwhelmingly male. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola–Youth Movement served as a conduit to party membership in the late 1970s.

Angola’s military, the Armed Forces of Angola (Forças Armadas de Angolanas; FAA), includes the army, navy, and air force. The army is by far the largest segment of the FAA, with the navy and air force maintaining far fewer troops. The FAA was created by a 1991 agreement between the Angolan government and UNITA and was to draw equally from existing government forces (largely the armed branch of MPLA) and those of UNITA; the agreement has been abrogated and resumed several times since then. Following the end of the civil war, more than 5,000 UNITA forces were integrated into the FAA.

Health and welfare
The Portuguese made a major effort to win over African Angolans after 1961 by expanding health and welfare programs, as they had done with education. The MPLA government came to power with even more ambitious schemes, but initial successes were followed by an almost complete collapse of services, especially in the rural areas, owing to the long-term civil war. Many doctors and other medical personnel fled abroad. Those who stayed were reluctant to work in remote and dangerous parts of the country, although traditional doctors remained in most parts of Angola. After the end of the war, the government was faced with the arduous challenge of rebuilding the health care infrastructure and attracting health care workers. Medicines and other medical supplies remain in short supply. Malaria, diarrheal diseases, and severe malnutrition—sometimes bordering on starvation—are rife, and cholera epidemics, owing to unsanitary conditions, frequently occur. Although AIDS is present in Angola, the country has a lower prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS than many African countries, which is attributed to the many years of warfare that kept the Angolan population somewhat isolated.

Urban housing, social conditions, and the health situation in Luanda have declined because of the flood of refugees from the countryside, a situation that did not immediately abate in the years following the end of the war. Unemployment, inflation, acute shortages of water, empty shops, and the collapse of public transport have all contributed to the plight of the poor, while the political and bureaucratic elite have benefited from a network of special shops, good housing, and other advantages financed from the proceeds of the oil economy.

Settlements called musseques house the urban poor in Luanda and other large towns. They became crowded with hundreds of thousands of refugees during the 1980s and ’90s. In the years immediately following the end of the civil war, conditions in the musseques remained poor, especially from a health perspective. Even though residents of musseques made tremendous efforts to keep their immediate living areas clean, mountains of garbage could be found beyond personal living areas because of the sheer amount of refuse generated by the overcrowded housing conditions and inadequate trash disposal efforts of the government; such unsanitary conditions contribute to frequent outbreaks of cholera.

Rural villages tend to be small in size. Housing is generally kept clean and is often constructed of adobe or brick and roofed with sheet metal. More-traditional construction techniques are still known to some, but for the most part, fewer homes are made with the traditional wattle and daub walls and thatched roofs. There is virtually no electricity in smaller rural villages, and most towns only have it intermittently. Running water is also intermittent or unavailable in many areas.

Portuguese colonial policy did not favour education for the ordinary African citizens of Angola. Until 1961, when a revised education program was enacted by the colonial administration, most education was left to religious institutions—with the Roman Catholic Church focusing on the Portuguese settlers and a small number of Africans, while Protestants were most active among the African population. After independence, the MPLA’s policy of primary education for all tripled primary school enrollment between 1976 and 1979, although this declined by half during the 1980s. Owing to the many years of civil war, conditions in schools declined dramatically, with an acute shortage of teachers and a lack of even the most basic teaching materials. However, enrollment in secondary schools and in Agostinho Neto University (1963) expanded continuously after 1975. These institutions suffered less than primary schools from political insecurity and conflict. But there was also a severe lack of teachers and teaching materials at these schools, and most faculties in the university were closed for long periods because of alleged political agitation. During this time, it is estimated that recruitment into the armed forces of the MPLA and UNITA had a greater impact than Angola’s school system on the spread of literacy, the increased use of Portuguese, and the acquisition of technical skills. Many Angolans trained abroad, especially in Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Angola’s government continues to provide free education, which is compulsory for eight years. Primary education, beginning at age seven, continues for four years. Secondary education comprises two cycles; beginning at age 11, students complete a four-year cycle, which can then be followed by a three-year cycle. In addition to Agostinho Neto University, higher education in Angola is provided by such institutions as the Catholic University of Angola (1997) and Jean Piaget University of Angola (1998).

Almost three decades of civil war have taken a toll on Angola’s educational system. In the early 21st century, some four-fifths of all schools in the country were thought to be deserted or destroyed, and the vast majority of Angolan children were not able to attend classes. Since the end of the conflict in 2002, an effort has been made to construct more schools and increase the training and number of teachers in the country.

Angola’s literacy rate is lower than that of most neighbouring countries, despite dramatic improvement during the last quarter of the 20th century. At independence, less than one-fifth of the adult population was literate, but by 1990 the rate had more than doubled. In the early 21st century, about three-fifths of the population was literate.

Cultural life
Cultural milieu
Precolonial culture in Angola was broadly similar from one end of the country to another, albeit with local variations and some differences stemming from the many, though mostly related, languages spoken in the area. A common traditional culture is still noticeable in Angola.

Portuguese contact beginning in the late 15th century produced an overlay of European culture that was accepted to varying degrees in much of the northwestern part of the country. The Portuguese settled at Luanda in 1575 and established the core of colonial Angola in the area approximately 90 miles (150 km) inland from Luanda. By the mid-17th century a mixture of Mbundu and Portuguese culture had emerged in the region, and in 18th-century Luanda, Kimbundu (the language of the Mbundu) predominated as the language of the elite; even Portuguese of considerable stature who resided locally spoke Kimbundu, often in preference to Portuguese. In the 19th century the Luanda elite embraced both Kimbundu and Portuguese culture and language and valued their blended nature, and the eventual cessation of Kimbundu as the language of the elite did not occur until after 1910. In contrast, a class of mixed origin (including government officials, the assimilated African and mulatto population, and, later, the settlers that moved to the country after 1945) that was strongly Portuguese in language and cultural expression developed after 1850 with the Portuguese conquest of the rest of Angola and with the programs of assimilation that were begun in 1910 and intensified after 1926. This predominantly Portuguese culture coexisted with a less-assimilated rural population that harkened back to the mixed culture of earlier times (especially in the Kongo areas) or to the traditional cultures (in those regions brought under Portuguese control after 1850). Protestant missionaries introduced North American and British influences; they were anxious to promote significant cultural change—including the introduction of many Western norms under the guise of modernization—as well as religious conversion, although they preferred to teach in indigenous languages.

After independence the propaganda of the emerging nationalist movements placed a greater value on the purely African culture, but, because of the colonial policy of assimilation, most educated Angolans were more Portuguese than African in their general cultural orientation. This created considerable cultural conflict and had political implications as well, because those who were assimilated were generally the educational and political leaders. Although rigorous censorship ceased in the 1990s, both the cultural ambiguity of many in the government and the desire to discourage the “tribalism” that endured initially made Angola, in spite of official positions, less supportive of cultural expressions that were not Portuguese based. However, this began to change in the first decade of the 21st century, as the government appeared to be somewhat more accommodating.

Daily life
The mixture of Portuguese and African culture has made urban Angola, especially the Luanda region, more like a Latin American than an African country. Its nightclubs, restaurants, and annual Carnival might seem at home in Brazil had not war and security measures made this sort of social life difficult. Nevertheless, the country has much to celebrate in its cuisine, festivals, and artistic traditions.

As in much of sub-Saharan Africa, palm oil is an indispensable part of many Angolan dishes, and a number of dishes emphasize the Angolan population’s love of seafood. The feast of Nganja, usually celebrated in April, is a harvest festival during which children roast corn. The Futungo market, near Luanda, provides craftsmen with a place to sell their handicrafts.

The arts
Wood, clay, copper, reeds, ivory, shells, and the human body are the main media for Angolan decorative arts. The wooden sculptures of the Chokwe people, the carved ivories of Cabinda, and the elaborate hairstyles of the Nyaneka and Nkhumbi peoples are especially famous. A number of modern artists and graphic designers work with both African and Western motifs in the general realm of modern African art. Music and dancing play a central role in cultural life, with the drum as the basic instrument; there is also a rich oral literature. Since independence various government research agencies have tried to collect ethnographic material and to do archaeological studies, but their work has been sporadic and limited by the war.

Western influences, which tend to predominate in the towns, have increasingly overshadowed traditional culture. During the 19th century, a dynamic group of educated Africans emerged in Angolan towns. These individuals wrote newspaper articles, histories, novels, and poems in Portuguese and also explored Mbundu folklore and ethnography. The right-wing dictatorship in Portugal drove much of this literary activity underground after 1926 but failed to destroy it altogether. Although the leader of the MPLA at independence, Agostinho Neto, was renowned throughout the Portuguese-speaking world for his poetry, his government too curtailed artistic freedom, implementing a rigorous system of censorship. Additional artistic outlets emerged by the mid-1990s with the rise of a national television service and the beginnings of a national film industry.

Angola has many traditional instruments, including the ngoma, a bongo drum, and the mpwita, a drum originally found in Kongo. Also noteworthy are the mpungu, a trumpet, and the Luandan hungu, equivalent to the mbulumbumba of southwestern Angola, both types of gourd-resonated musical bow. These stringed instruments traveled with slaves to Brazil, where they developed into the berimbau.

Contemporary music in Angola combines the African influences in the music of the Caribbean, the United States, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the Latin influences of Cuba and Brazil. Angola’s poverty and civil unrest have provided few opportunities for professional musicians, especially because the Ministry of Culture has exerted much control over commercial music production since independence; despite this, musical expression has flourished in informal sectors.

Cultural institutions
An ambitious program to expand museums, libraries, and archives, initiated in the postindependence era, has borne little fruit. A National Institute for Cultural Heritage does exist in Luanda, but material from other local museums was either looted or removed to Luanda during the course of the war. The National Historical Archive, also in Luanda, houses material dating to the 17th century. The Kongo Kingdom Museum in M’banza Congo is home to many cultural artifacts. Many other fine collections built up in colonial times were destroyed, dispersed, or made unavailable to the public. Following the end of the civil war in 2002, the government and private organizations began the process of renovating or rebuilding cultural institutions damaged in the war.

Sports and recreation
Sports are largely dominated by football (soccer), which is a national passion and is played by people of every social stratum. Some Angolans have become players of distinction, but they tend to compete professionally in Portugal or elsewhere in Europe, where there are more opportunities. In 2006 Angola was one of four sub-Saharan African countries that participated in the World Cup finals. Basketball is growing in popularity in Angola, especially owing to the influence of foreign armed forces fighting on Angolan soil. The sport is played by people of all ages and both sexes, and, because of government support, the men’s national team has done well at African championships and participated in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Media and publishing
The press was nationalized in 1976; several newspapers and periodicals are published, mainly in Luanda. The state-run radio station broadcasts in Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, Chokwe, Kikongo, Kimbundu, and Umbundu, as well as a few other African languages. The television station, founded in 1975, is also state-controlled. Although the constitution provides for freedom of the press, it is not always enforced, and some journalists have practiced self-censorship.

This discussion mainly focuses on Angola since the late 15th century. For a treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see Southern Africa.

Early Angola
Most of the modern population of Angola developed from the agricultural cultures that appeared there from about 1000 to 500 bc, which by the first centuries ad were also working iron. These people probably spoke the ancestral versions of Angola’s present languages. Complex societies also may have been established at that time, and by 1500 several large kingdoms occupied the territory of Angola. Of these, Kongo, situated in the northern part of the country, south of the Congo River, was the largest and most centralized. Ndongo, with its centre in the highlands between the Cuanza (Kwanza) and the Lukala rivers, was an important rival. Other states, such as the kingdom of Benguela on the Bié Plateau, are less well known. Smaller states, including Bailundu, Ciyaka, and Kwanhama, were scattered between the larger kingdoms, sometimes remaining independent, sometimes falling under control of the larger kingdoms. The Chokwe, although they did not have a centralized government, established an important cultural centre in the northeastern part of the country.

The Kongo kingdom and the coming of the Portuguese
The Kongo kingdom, the most powerful state to develop in the region, emerged in the 14th century as the Kongo people moved southward from the Congo River region into northern Angola. There they established Mbanza Kongo as their capital. Portuguese navigators reached Kongo, in the northwest, in 1483 and entered into diplomatic relations with the kingdom after that. Moreover, Kongo’s king converted to Christianity, and his son Mvemba a Nzinga took the Christian name of Afonso I, establishing the religion permanently in the country, along with literacy in Portuguese and European customs. Disputes over control of trade, particularly regarding slaves from Kongo and its neighbours, led the Portuguese to look for new allies, especially the Ndongo kingdom. After undertaking several missions there, the Portuguese established a colony at Luanda in 1575. Subsequent wars with Ndongo, particularly after 1617, brought the Portuguese significantly more territory, despite the resistance of Queen Njinga Mbande of Ndongo and Matamba. Portuguese expansion was largely over by 1670, and further conflict involved attempts to redirect or tax trade.

Slaves were Angola’s major export, and Portugal was actively involved in their acquisition, more so from the late 17th century. People were also enslaved through inter-African conflicts, such as the civil wars in Kongo after 1665, and conflicts that occurred during the rise of the great Lunda empire after 1750, in the Dembos region between Kongo and Matamba, and on the Bié Plateau. Population losses were considerable, and the demography was badly distorted; censuses from the late 18th century show that there were twice as many adult females as males.

The expansion of the slave trade was but one of several factors that played a role in the rise and fall of the region’s kingdoms. Beset by civil wars, Kongo entered into a steep decline in the 17th century. The Loango kingdom flourished north of the Congo estuary until it was decentralized by the late 18th century. The Ndongo kingdom in the Malanje highlands reached its height in the late 16th century but was destroyed when the Portuguese pushed inland in the 17th century and was replaced by the Kasanje kingdom in the Cuango (Kwango) River valley.

Colonial transition, 1820s–1910
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the port of Cabinda was a major entrepôt, where slaves were an important commodity. The export of slaves was banned in Angola in 1836, but the trade did not end until the Brazilian market was closed in the early 1850s. Slavery itself was legally abolished in the Portuguese empire in 1875, but it continued in thinly disguised forms until 1911 and in many cases into the 1960s. Slaves were exported to the coffee and cocoa plantations of São Tomé from the 1860s and were used in Angola to produce coffee, cotton, sugar, and fish. But from the 1850s, exports came to be dominated by products hunted or collected by Africans, first ivory and wax and later wild rubber. These changes came about as the industrial revolution reorganized the world economy, and items such as cloth and metal goods were now available for import and at less expense than in the past. Africans responded to this by ceasing local production of these goods and instead paying for the imported versions with commodity exports of peanuts and wild products such as honey, animal skins, ivory, and eventually rubber.

The slave trade had primarily been a state business and did not greatly affect the local communities from an economic standpoint. In contrast, this new trade involved the whole population: hundreds of thousands of people were employed in the transport and production of these commodities, and their increasing wealth, involvement in the international economy, and interest in commercial policies led to many problems for both indigenous and colonial governments. The Ovimbundu turned from slave raiding to long-distance trade, and their caravans penetrated as far east as the East African coast. The Chokwe were expert hunters of elephants and collectors of wax and rubber, and they used their accumulated firearms to overthrow the Lunda empire in the 1880s. The Kasanje kingdom collapsed when illicit slave trading undermined the king’s central slave market and newly enriched commoners demanded a stronger voice in government.

Angolans closer to the coast were more affected by the slow expansion of Portuguese colonialism and by the loss of land to settlers. Cotton and sugar were grown from the 1840s on oasis plantations along the coastal strip, and immigrants from the Algarve built up the fishing industry. Spontaneously occurring stands of coffee led the Portuguese to carve out plantations in the Malanje highlands beginning in the 1830s, and work on the railway from Luanda to Malanje commenced in 1885. Construction began in 1902 on the Benguela Railway, which was intended to serve the Katanga mines in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Portuguese small farmers were settled in the Huíla highlands from the 1880s to counterbalance an influx of Boer trekkers from South Africa, and the southern railway was begun in 1905. In the Maiombe forest of the far north, plantations of cacao and oil palms were laid out in the 1900s.

Angola’s borders, including those for Cabinda (an exclave located in the country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo), had been finally determined by negotiations in Europe in 1891, but the Portuguese focused exclusively on administering areas with plantations and railways and introduced systematic taxation of Africans only in 1906. Many positions in the colonial administration were held by Angolan Creoles, who were initially accepted as full Portuguese citizens. The spread of British and American Protestant missions from the 1870s was countered by government-subsidized French Roman Catholic missions.

From colonial conquest to independence, 1910–75
The proclamation of the Republic of Portugal in Lisbon in late 1910, followed in 1926 by the creation of the authoritarian New State (Estado Novo), marked the advent of modern Portuguese colonialism. The authorities stamped out slavery and undertook the systematic conquest of Angola. By 1920 all but the remote southeast of the colony was firmly under Portuguese control. Kingdoms were abolished, and the Portuguese worked directly through chiefs, headmen, and African policemen. Conversions to Christianity increased, and by 1940 there were about a million Christians in Angola, some three-fourths of them Roman Catholics. Angolan “natives” were taxed and subjected to forced labour and forced cultivation, with a stringent set of tests imposed on the few nonwhite “assimilated persons” who applied to be exempted from these impositions. Increasingly, Portuguese immigrants replaced Creoles in the administration. This trend continued, forcing Creoles into positions with lower pay and prestige and ultimately leading to the growth of Creole-led nationalism.

Angola’s economy was modernized and bound to that of Portugal by a system of protective tariffs. A network of dirt roads was built, and the Benguela Railway was completed to the boundary of the Belgian Congo in 1928. Lorries (trucks) and fixed stores replaced trading caravans. Coffee, sugar, palm products, and sisal came mainly from the estate sector, and corn (maize) and cattle from smallholders. The cultivation of cotton for Portuguese textile mills was imposed by force. Alluvial diamond mining dominated the northeast from 1912; the fishing industry expanded; and import-substitution industries were started.

After the independence of the Belgian Congo in 1960, a major revolt rocked northern Angola in 1961; it was followed by a long guerrilla war. Land alienation and forced labour sparked rebellion in the coffee zone, while in the Cuango valley the peasants rose against forced cotton cultivation. An attack on the prison in Luanda was led by frustrated Creoles. To contain the revolt, the Portuguese deployed large numbers of troops, set up strategic hamlets (forced settlements of rural Angolans), and, by encouraging Portuguese peasants to immigrate to Angola, raised the European population to about 330,000 by 1974. At the same time, they tried to improve relations with Africans by abolishing forced cultivation, forced labour, and the stringent tests to gain assimilated status. They also improved education, health, and social welfare services and protected peasants from land alienation. The economy entered into a period of sustained boom, marked by rapid industrialization and the growth of oil production, and the standard of living rose for both urban workers and rural producers.

The armed struggle continued, but the anticolonial guerrillas were seriously weakened by dissension. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola; MPLA) was founded in 1956 with the help of the clandestine Portuguese Communist Party, and from 1962 it was led by Agostinho Neto. It was popular in Luanda and among some rural Mbundu, drawing foreign support from the Soviet Union. Initially based in the Republic of the Congo, the MPLA moved to Zambia in 1965. The National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola; FNLA), founded in 1957 under another name and led by Holden Roberto, drew its support from the Kongo and some rural Mbundu. Based in Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo; called Zaire from 1971 to 1997), the FNLA obtained aid from the United States and China. In 1966 Jonas Savimbi set up a third movement, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola; UNITA), with a predominantly Ovimbundu leadership and with some support from the Chokwe and Ovambo (Ambo). UNITA enjoyed little official foreign backing (although China provided some aid) and lacked a secure foreign base because Zambia leaned toward the MPLA. The divisions between and within these three movements, which at times degenerated into armed conflict, allowed the Portuguese to gain the upper hand by the early 1970s. When a military coup in Portugal overthrew that country’s dictatorship in April 1974, all three guerrilla movements had been almost entirely expelled from Angolan soil.

Independence and civil war
The three liberation movements proved unable to constitute a united front after the Portuguese coup. The FNLA’s internal support had dwindled to a few Kongo groups, but it had strong links with the regime in Zaire and was well armed; it thus made a bid to seize Luanda by force. The MPLA, with growing backing from the Portuguese Communist Party, Cuba, and the Soviet Union, defeated this onslaught and then turned on UNITA, chasing its representatives out of Luanda. UNITA was militarily the weakest movement, but it had the greatest potential electoral support, given the predominance of the Ovimbundu within the population, and it thus held out most strongly for elections. But the Portuguese army was tired of war and refused to impose peace and supervise elections. The Portuguese therefore withdrew from Angola in November 1975 without formally handing power to any movement, and nearly all the European settlers fled the country.

The MPLA, in control of the capital city, declared itself the government of independent Angola and managed to win recognition from many African countries. UNITA and the FNLA set up a rival government in Huambo and called on South African forces to eject the MPLA from Luanda. Cuba poured in troops to defend the MPLA, pushed the internationally isolated South Africans out of Angola, and gained control of all the provincial capitals. The Cuban expeditionary force, which eventually numbered some 40,000 to 50,000 soldiers, remained in Angola to pacify the country and ward off South African attacks. In 1977 the MPLA crushed an attempted coup by one of its leaders and, after a thorough purge, turned itself officially into a Marxist-Leninist party, adding Partido Trabalhista (Party of Labour) to their name (MPLA-PT). The transformation of the economy along communist lines was pursued, with disastrous results. The major exception was the oil industry, which, managed by foreign companies, grew rapidly enough to enable Angola to stave off economic and military collapse. President Neto died in 1979 and was succeeded by the former minister of planning, José Eduardo dos Santos.

The FNLA withered away in exile, but UNITA reorganized itself with foreign backing as an effective guerrilla force. South Africa became a strong supporter in hopes that UNITA could counter the guerrilla campaigns of the South West Africa People’s Organization into Namibia, actions supported by the MPLA-PT. In 1985 UNITA began receiving military aid from the United States, and its campaigns became more effective. When the MPLA-PT launched several large campaigns against UNITA in 1987, using armour and aircraft, South African forces returned to the region, and a military stalemate resulted as fighting engulfed the country. But late in 1988 the South Africans promised to grant independence to Namibia and to cease supporting UNITA, while the Cubans agreed to withdraw their expeditionary force from Angola by mid-1991. The MPLA-PT’s initial response to the South African withdrawal was to try to capture the airfield at Mavinga, from which it would be able to launch an attack against UNITA’s headquarters. The failure of this costly campaign and the increasingly effective UNITA attacks on oil installations forced the MPLA-PT to adopt a more conciliatory posture. In June 1989 a historic meeting between Santos and Savimbi during negotiations brokered by Zaire produced a cease-fire, although it did not last; but with communist regimes collapsing in eastern Europe, the MPLA-PT lost its support and began negotiating more seriously. In mid-1990 the MPLA-PT abandoned the one-party state and produced a new constitution that included elections and participation by all, including UNITA. They also abandoned their strict Marxist-Leninist stance and dropped the words Partido Trabalhista (PT) from their name. Elections were held in 1992 under United Nations supervision; Dos Santos was elected president, and the MPLA gained a majority in the parliament, but UNITA made a strong showing, especially on the Bié Plateau. Charging election fraud, UNITA renewed the civil war, while its delegates in Luanda were massacred in a popular uprising that many believe had government backing.

The exclave of Cabinda became another focus of attention for postindependence government. Although this region is situated geographically within the country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Portugal gained control of it at the end of the 19th century. Cabinda was specifically made a part of Angola in 1975, but the Angolan government had to contend with independence movements there until the late 1980s. The region is particularly valuable because a significant amount of Angola’s oil is found there.

At the end of 1992, UNITA controlled approximately two-thirds of the country, including valuable diamond mines that were used to pay for the continuing costs of the war. Fighting raged throughout 1993 as the government gradually regained territory and won greater support abroad; both South Africa and the United States recognized the government of Angola in 1993, as did the United Kingdom by ending an arms embargo that had existed since 1975. Meanwhile, international pressure mounted on the two sides to reach a peaceful solution. Sanctions against UNITA were imposed by the UN in September 1993 after it disregarded a cease-fire it had accepted earlier, but it appeared that UNITA could continue the war for some time with its vast stockpile of weapons. Eventually, an agreement called the Lusaka Accord was signed by the government and UNITA on Nov. 20, 1994. The agreement allowed UNITA to be reintegrated into the government, provided fighting ceased on that date. Although minor fighting between the two groups continued, dos Santos and Savimbi met several times over the next three years to resolve issues relating to the final form of the combined government. In August 1996 Savimbi finally agreed to accept the title of “leader of the opposition,” but he declined to attend a ceremony in April 1997 at which UNITA delegates formally joined the government. Relations between the two groups were further complicated that year by the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNITA supported the crumbling Zairean regime because the group had been able to transport its diamonds through the country, while the Angolan government supported the victorious rebels led by Laurent Kabila.

Angola in the 21st century
By the beginning of the 21st century, hostilities between the government and UNITA had resumed, and the UNITA delegates had been expelled from the government. With the killing of Savimbi by government forces in February 2002, talks began again between the UNITA leadership and the government, finally culminating in a peace agreement in April. Although the country breathed a collective sigh of relief with the end of 27 years of civil war, the Angolan government was faced with the daunting challenge of rebuilding the country’s physical and social welfare infrastructure, much of which was completely destroyed. In the early 21st century, there were repeated outbreaks of illness, such as cholera, due to poor sanitary conditions; there was also an epidemic of hemorrhagic fever caused by the deadly Marburg virus in 2005. It was estimated that the civil war had displaced more than four million people, and hundreds of thousands of Angolan refugees still needed to be resettled in the country. The resumption of agricultural production was also a challenge, further complicated by the thousands of land mines that were strewn haphazardly throughout the country during the conflict. The Angolan government also had to address the long-standing issue of separatist groups in oil-rich Cabinda and their demands for independence, which intensified in 2004. When the government and the main separatist group reached a peace agreement in 2006, Angolans looked to the future, hopeful that peace had finally come.

William Gervase Clarence-Smith
John Kelly Thornton



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