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|Angolan Civil War|
|Part of the Cold War and the South African Border War|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Agostinho Neto|
José Eduardo dos Santos
| Jonas Savimbi †|
Balthazar Johannes Vorster
Pieter Willem Botha
| MPLA troops:|| UNITA militants:|
|Casualties and losses|
| Unknown|| Unknown|
|Over 500,000 civilians dead|
|Angolan Civil War|
|Part of the Cold War and the South African Border War|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Agostinho Neto|
José Eduardo dos Santos
| Jonas Savimbi †|
Balthazar Johannes Vorster
Pieter Willem Botha
| MPLA troops:|| UNITA militants:|
|Casualties and losses|
| Unknown|| Unknown|
|Over 500,000 civilians dead|
|Part of a series on the|
|History of Angola|
The Angolan Civil War was a major civil conflict in the African state of Angola, beginning in 1975 and continuing, with some interludes, until 2002. The war began immediately after Angola became independent from Portugal in November 1975. Prior to this, a decolonisation conflict, the Angolan War of Independence (1961–74), had taken place. The following civil war was essentially a power struggle between two former liberation movements, the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). At the same time, the war served as a surrogate battleground for the Cold War and large-scale direct and indirect international involvement by opposing powers such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, South Africa and the United States was a major feature of the conflict.
The MPLA and UNITA had different roots in the Angolan social fabric and mutually incompatible leaderships, despite their shared aim of ending colonial occupation. Although both had socialist leanings, for the purpose of mobilising international support they posed as "Marxist–Leninist" and "anti-communist", respectively. A third movement, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), having fought the MPLA alongside UNITA during the war for independence and the decolonization conflict, played almost no role in the Civil War. Additionally, the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), an association of separatist militant groups, fought for the independence of the province of Cabinda from Angola.
The 27-year war can be divided roughly into three periods of major fighting – from 1975 to 1991, 1992 to 1994, and from 1998 to 2002 – broken up by fragile periods of peace. By the time the MPLA finally achieved victory in 2002, more than 500,000 people had died and over one million had been internally displaced. The war devastated Angola's infrastructure, and severely damaged the nation's public administration, economic enterprises, and religious institutions.
The Angolan Civil War was notable due to the combination of Angola's violent internal dynamics and massive foreign intervention. The war became a Cold War struggle, as both the Soviet Union and the United States, along with their respective allies, provided significant military assistance to parties in the conflict. Moreover, the Angolan conflict became entangled with the Second Congo War in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as with the Namibian War of Independence.
Angola's three rebel movements had their roots in the anti-colonial movements of the 1950s. The MPLA was primarily an urban based movement in Luanda and its surrounding area. It was largely composed of Mbundu people. By contrast the other two major anti-colonial movements were rurally based groups, the FNLA and UNITA. The FNLA largely consisted of Bakongo people hailing from Northern Angola. UNITA, an offshoot of the FNLA, was mainly composed of Ovimbundu people from the Central highlands.
Since its formation in the 1950s, the MPLA's main social base has been among the Ambundu people and the multiracial intelligentsia of cities such as Luanda, Benguela and Huambo. During its anti-colonial struggle of 1962–74, the MPLA was supported by several African countries, as well as by the Soviet Union. In the decolonization conflict of 1974–75, Cuba became the MPLA's strongest ally, sending significant contingents of combat and support personnel to Angola. This support, as well as that of several other countries of the Eastern Bloc, e.g. Romania and East Germany, was maintained during the Civil War.
The FNLA formed parallel to the MPLA, and was initially devoted to defending the interests of the Bakongo people and supporting the restoration of the historical Kongo Empire. However, it rapidly developed into a nationalist movement, supported in its struggle against Portugal by the government of Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire. During the early 1960s, the FNLA was also supported by the People's Republic of China, but when UNITA was founded in the mid-1960s, China switched its support to this new movement, because the FNLA had shown little real activity. The United States refused to give the FNLA support during the movement's war against Portugal, which was a NATO ally of the U.S.; however, the FNLA did receive U.S. aid during the decolonization conflict and later during the Civil War.
UNITA's main social basis were the Ovimbundu of central Angola, who constituted about one third of the country's population, but the organisation also had roots among several less numerous peoples of eastern Angola. UNITA was founded in 1966 by Jonas Savimbi, who until then had been a prominent leader of the FNLA. During the anti-colonial war, UNITA received some support from the People's Republic of China. During the subsequent decolonization conflict, the United States decided to support UNITA, and considerably augmented their aid to UNITA during the Civil War. However, in the latter period, UNITA's main ally was the Republic of South Africa.
Angola, like most African countries, became constituted as a nation through colonial intervention. In Angola's case, its colonial power – Portugal – was present and active in the territory, in one way or another, for over four centuries.
The original population of this territory were dispersed Khoisan groups. These were absorbed or pushed southwards, where residual groups still exist, by a massive influx of Bantu people who came from the north and east. The Bantu influx began around 500 BC, and some continued their migrations inside the territory well into the 20th century. They established a number of major political units, of which the most important was the Kongo Empire whose centre was located in the northwest of what today is Angola, and which stretched northwards into the west of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the south and west of the contemporary Republic of Congo an even the southernmost part of Gabon. Also of historical importance were the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms to the south of the Kongo Empire, in the Ambundu area. Additionally, the Lunda Empire, in the south-east of the present day DRC, occupied a portion of what today is north-eastern Angola. In the south of the territory, and the north of present-day Namibia, lay the Kwanyama kingdom, along with minor realms on the central highlands. All these political units were a reflection of ethnic cleavages that slowly developed among the Bantu populations, and were instrumental in consolidating these cleavages and fostering the emergence of new and distinct social identities.
At the end of the 15th century, Portuguese settlers made contact with the Kongo Empire, maintaining a continuous presence in its territory and enjoying considerable cultural and religious influence thereafter. In 1575, Portugal established a settlement and fort called Saint Paul of Luanda on the coast south of the Kongo Empire, in an area inhabited by Ambundu people. Another fort, Benguela, was established on the coast further south, in a region inhabited by ancestors of the Ovimbundu people.
Neither of these Portuguese settlement efforts was launched for the purpose of territorial conquest. It is true that both gradually came to occupy and farm a broad area around their initial bridgeheads (in the case of Luanda, mostly along the lower Kwanza River). However, their main function was trade – overwhelmingly the slave trade. Slaves were bought from African intermediaries and sold to Brazil and the Caribbean. In addition, Benguela developed a commerce in ivory, wax, and honey, which they bought from Ovimbundu caravans which fetched these goods from among the Ganguela peoples in the eastern part of what is now Angola.
Nonetheless, the Portuguese presence on the Angolan coast remained limited for much of the colonial period. The degree of real colonial settlement was minor, and, with few exceptions, the Portuguese did not interfere by means other than commercial in the social and political dynamics of the native peoples. There was no real delimitation of territory; Angola, to all intents and purposes, did not yet exist.
In the 19th century, the Portuguese began a more serious program of advancing into the continental interior. However, their intention was less territorial occupation and more establishing a de facto overlordship which allowed them to establish commercial networks as well as a few settlements. In this context, they also moved further south along the coast, and founded the "third bridgehead" of Moçâmedes. In the course of this expansion, they entered into conflict with several of the African political units.
Territorial occupation only became a central concern for Portugal in the last decades of the 19th century, during the European powers' "Scramble for Africa", especially following the 1884 Berlin Conference. A number of military expeditions were organized as preconditions for obtaining territory which roughly corresponded to that of present-day Angola. However, as late as 1906 only about 6% of that territory was effectively occupied, and the military campaigns had to continue. By the mid-1920s, the limits of the territory were finally fixed, and the last "primary resistance" was quelled in the early 1940s. It is thus reasonable to talk of Angola as a defined territorial entity from this point onwards.
In 1961, the FNLA and the MPLA, based in neighbouring countries, began a guerrilla campaign against Portuguese rule on several fronts. The Portuguese Colonial War, which included the Angolan War of Independence, lasted until the Portuguese regime's overthrow in 1974 through a leftist military coup in Lisbon. When the timeline for independence became known, most of the roughly 500,000 ethnic Portuguese Angolans fled the territory during the weeks before or after that deadline. Portugal left behind a newly independent country whose population was mainly composed by Ambundu, Ovimbundu, and Bakongo peoples. The Portuguese that lived in Angola accounted for the majority of the skilled workers in public administration, agriculture, and industry; once they fled the country, the national economy began to sink into depression.
The South African government initially became involved in an effort to counter the Chinese presence in Angola, which was feared might escalate the conflict into a local theatre of the Cold War. In 1975, South African Prime Minister B.J. Vorster authorized Operation Savannah, which began as an effort to protect engineers constructing the dam at Calueque, after unruly UNITA soldiers took over; the dam project, paid for by South Africa, was felt to be at risk. The South African Defence Force (SADF) despatched an armoured task force to secure Calueque, and from this Operation Savannah escalated, there being no formal government in place and thus no clear lines of authority. The South Africans came to commit thousands of soldiers to the intervention, and ultimately clashed with Cuban forces assisting the MPLA.
After the Carnation Revolution in Lisbon and the end of the Angolan War of Independence, the parties of the conflict signed the Alvor Accords on January 15, 1975. In July 1975, the MPLA violently forced the FNLA out of Luanda, and UNITA voluntarily withdrew to its stronghold in the south. By August, the MPLA had control of 11 of the 15 provincial capitals, including Cabinda and Luanda. South Africa intervened on October 23, sending between 1,500 and 2,000 troops from Namibia into southern Angola in order to support the FNLA and UNITA. Zaire, in a bid to install a pro-Kinshasa government and thwart the MPLA's drive for power, deployed armored cars, paratroopers, and three infantry battalions to Angola in support of the FNLA. Within three weeks, South African and UNITA forces had captured five provincial capitals, including Novo Redondo and Benguela. In response to the South African intervention, Cuba sent 18,000 soldiers as part of a large-scale military intervention nicknamed Operation Carlota in support of the MPLA. Cuba had initially provided the MPLA with 230 military advisers prior to the South African intervention. The Cuban intervention proved decisive in repelling the South African-UNITA advance. The FNLA were likewise routed at the Battle of Quifangondo and forced to retreat towards Zaire. The defeat of the FNLA allowed the MPLA to consolidate power over the capital Luanda.
Agostinho Neto, the leader of the MPLA, declared the independence of the Portuguese Overseas Province of Angola as the People's Republic of Angola on November 11, 1975. UNITA declared Angolan independence as the Social Democratic Republic of Angola based in Huambo, and the FNLA declared the Democratic Republic of Angola based in Ambriz. FLEC, armed and backed by the French government, declared the independence of the Republic of Cabinda from Paris. The FNLA and UNITA forged an alliance on November 23, proclaiming their own coalition government based in Huambo with Holden Roberto and Jonas Savimbi as co-Presidents, and José Ndelé and Johnny Pinnock Eduardo as co-Prime Ministers.
In early November 1975, the South African government warned Savimbi and Roberto that the South African Defence Force (SADF) would soon end operations in Angola despite the failure of the coalition to capture Luanda and therefore secure international recognition for their government. Savimbi, desperate to avoid the withdrawal of South Africa, asked General Constand Viljoen to arrange a meeting for him with Prime Minister of South Africa John Vorster, who had been Savimbi's ally since October 1974. On the night of November 10, the day before the formal declaration of independence, Savimbi secretly flew to Pretoria to meet Vorster. In a reversal of policy, Vorster not only agreed to keep his troops in Angola through November, but also promised to withdraw the SADF only after the OAU meeting on December 9. The Soviets, well aware of South African activity in southern Angola, flew Cuban soldiers into Luanda the week before independence. While Cuban officers led the mission and provided the bulk of the troop force, 60 Soviet officers in the Congo joined the Cubans on November 12. The Soviet leadership expressly forbade the Cubans from intervening in Angola's civil war, focusing the mission on containing South Africa.
In 1975 and 1976 most foreign forces, with the exception of Cuba, withdrew. The last elements of the Portuguese military withdrew in 1975 and the South African military withdrew in February 1976. However, Cuba's troop force in Angola increased from 5,500 in December 1975 to 11,000 in February 1976. Sweden provided humanitarian assistance to both the SWAPO and the MPLA in the mid-1970s, and regularly raised the issue of UNITA in political discussions between the two movements.
President of the United States Gerald Ford approved covert aid to UNITA and the FNLA through Operation IA Feature on July 18, 1975, despite strong opposition from officials in the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Ford told William Colby, the Director of Central Intelligence, to establish the operation, providing an initial US$6 million. He granted an additional $8 million on July 27 and another $25 million in August.
Two days before the program's approval, Nathaniel Davis, the Assistant Secretary of State, told Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State, that he believed maintaining the secrecy of IA Feature would be impossible. Davis correctly predicted the Soviet Union would respond by increasing involvement in the Angolan conflict, leading to more violence and negative publicity for the United States. When Ford approved the program, Davis resigned. John Stockwell, the CIA's station chief in Angola, echoed Davis' criticism saying that success required the expansion of the program, but its size already exceeded what could be hidden from the public eye. Davis' deputy, former U.S. ambassador to Chile Edward Mulcahy, also opposed direct involvement. Mulcahy presented three options for U.S. policy towards Angola on May 13, 1975. Mulcahy believed the Ford administration could use diplomacy to campaign against foreign aid to the communist MPLA, refuse to take sides in factional fighting, or increase support for the FNLA and UNITA. He warned however that supporting UNITA would not sit well with Mobutu Sese Seko, the president of Zaire.
Dick Clark, a Democratic Senator from Iowa, discovered the operation during a fact-finding mission in Africa, but Seymour Hersh, a reporter for The New York Times, revealed IA Feature to the public on December 13, 1975. Clark proposed an amendment to the Arms Export Control Act, barring aid to private groups engaged in military or paramilitary operations in Angola. The Senate passed the bill, voting 54–22 on December 19, 1975, and the House of Representatives passed the bill, voting 323–99 on January 27, 1976. Ford signed the bill into law on February 9, 1976. Even after the Clark Amendment became law, then-Director of Central Intelligence, George H. W. Bush, refused to concede that all U.S. aid to Angola had ceased. According to foreign affairs analyst Jane Hunter, Israel stepped in as a proxy arms supplier for South Africa after the Clark Amendment took effect. Israel and South Africa established a longstanding military alliance, in which Israel provided weapons and training, as well as conducting joint military exercises.
The U.S. government vetoed Angolan entry into the United Nations on June 23, 1976. Zambia forbade UNITA from launching attacks from its territory on December 28, 1976 after Angola under MPLA rule became a member of the United Nations.
The Vietnam War tempered foreign involvement in Angola's civil war as neither the Soviet Union nor the United States wanted to be drawn into an internal conflict of highly debatable importance in terms of winning the Cold War. CBS Newscaster Walter Cronkite spread this message in his broadcasts to "try to play our small part in preventing that mistake this time." The Politburo engaged in heated debate over the extent to which the Soviet Union would support a continued offensive by the MPLA in February 1976. Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Premier Alexei Kosygin led a faction favoring less support for the MPLA and greater emphasis on preserving détente with the West. Leonid Brezhnev, the then head of the Soviet Union, won out against the dissident faction and the Soviet alliance with the MPLA continued even as Neto publicly reaffirmed its policy of non-alignment at the 15th anniversary of the First Revolt.
The MPLA government and Cuban troops had control over all southern cities by 1977, but roads in the south faced repeated UNITA attacks. Savimbi expressed his willingness for rapprochement with the MPLA and the formation of a unity, socialist government, but he insisted on Cuban withdrawal first. "The real enemy is Cuban colonialism," Savimbi told reporters, warning, "The Cubans have taken over the country, but sooner or later they will suffer their own Vietnam in Angola." MPLA and Cuban troops used flame throwers, bulldozers, and planes with napalm to destroy villages in a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) wide area along the Angola-Namibia border. Only women and children passed through this area, "Castro Corridor," because MPLA troops had shot all males ten years of age or older to prevent them from joining the UNITA. The napalm killed cattle to feed government troops and to retaliate against UNITA sympathizers. Angolans fled from their homeland; 10,000 going south to Namibia and 16,000 east to Zambia where they lived in refugee camps.
About 1,500 members of the Front for the National Liberation of the Congo (FNLC) invaded Shaba, Zaire, from eastern Angola on March 7, 1977. The FNLC wanted to overthrow Mobutu, and the MPLA government, suffering from Mobutu's support for the FNLA and UNITA, did not try to stop the invasion. The FNLC failed to capture Kolwezi, Zaire's economic heartland, but took Kasaji and Mutshatsha. Zairean troops were defeated without difficulty and the FNLC continued to advance. On April 2, Mobutu appealed to William Eteki of Cameroon, Chairman of the Organization of African Unity, for assistance. Eight days later, the French government responded to Mobutu's plea and airlifted 1,500 Moroccan troops into Kinshasa. This force worked in conjunction with the Zairean army, the FNLA and Egyptian pilots flying French Mirage fighter aircraft to beat back the FNLC. The counter-invasion force pushed the last of the militants, along with numerous refugees, into Angola and Zambia in April 1977.
Mobutu accused the MPLA, Cuban and Soviet governments of complicity in the war. While Neto did support the FNLC, the MPLA government's support came in response to Mobutu's continued support for Angola's anti-communists. The Carter Administration, unconvinced of Cuban involvement, responded by offering a meager $15 million-worth of non-military aid. American timidity during the war prompted a shift in Zaire's foreign policy towards greater engagement with France, which became Zaire's largest supplier of arms after the intervention. Neto and Mobutu signed a border agreement on July 22, 1977.
John Stockwell, the CIA's station chief in Angola, resigned after the invasion, explaining in the April 1977 The Washington Post article "Why I'm Leaving the CIA" that he had warned Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that continued American support for anti-government rebels in Angola could provoke a war with Zaire. He also said that covert Soviet involvement in Angola came after, and in response to, U.S. involvement.
The FNLC invaded Shaba again on May 11, 1978, capturing Kolwezi in two days. While the Carter Administration had accepted Cuba's insistence on its non-involvement in Shaba I, and therefore did not stand with Mobutu, the U.S. government now accused Castro of complicity. This time, when Mobutu appealed for foreign assistance, the U.S. government worked with the French and Belgian militaries to beat back the invasion, the first military cooperation between France and the United States since the Vietnam War. The French Foreign Legion took back Kolwezi after a seven-day battle and airlifted 2,250 European citizens to Belgium, but not before the FNLC massacred 80 Europeans and 200 Africans. In one instance, the FNLC killed 34 European civilians who had hidden in a room. The FNLC retreated to Zambia, vowing to return to Angola. The Zairean army then forcibly evicted civilians along Shaba's border with Angola. Mobutu, wanting to prevent any chance of another invasion, ordered his troops to shoot on sight.
U.S.-mediated negotiations between the MPLA and Zairean governments led to a peace accord in 1979 and an end to support for insurgencies in each other's respective countries. Zaire temporarily cut off support to the FLEC, the FNLA and UNITA, and Angola forbade further activity by the FNLC.
Neto's Interior Minister, Nito Alves, had successfully put down Daniel Chipenda's Eastern Revolt and the Active Revolt during Angola's War of Independence. Factionalism within the MPLA became a major challenge to Neto's power by late 1975 and he gave Alves the task of once again clamping down on dissent. Alves shut down the Cabral and Henda Committees while expanding his influence within the MPLA through his control of the nation's newspapers and state-run television. Alves visited the Soviet Union in October 1976. When he returned, Neto began taking steps to neutralize the threat he saw in the Nitistas, followers of Alves. Neto called a plenum meeting of the Central Committee of the MPLA. Neto formally designated the party Marxist-Leninist, abolished the Interior Ministry , the official branch of the MPLA used by the Nitistas, and established a Commission of Enquiry. Neto used the commission, officially created to examine and report factionalism, to target the Nitistas, and ordered the commission to issue a report of its findings in March 1977. Alves and Chief of Staff José Van-Dunem, his political ally, began planning a coup d'état against Neto.
Alves represented the MPLA at the 25th Soviet Communist Party Congress in February 1977 and may have then obtained support for the coup from the Soviet Union. Alves and Van-Dunem planned to arrest Neto on May 21 before he arrived at a meeting of the Central Committee and before the commission released its report. The MPLA changed the location of the meeting shortly before its scheduled start, throwing the plotters' plans into disarray, but Alves attended the meeting and faced the commission anyway. The commission released its report, accusing him of factionalism. Alves fought back, denouncing Neto for not aligning Angola with the Soviet Union. After twelve hours of debate, the party voted 26 to 6 to dismiss Alves and Van-Dunem from their positions.
Ten armored cars with the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) 8th Brigade broke into São Paulo prison at 4 a.m. on May 27, killing the prison warden and freeing more than 150 supporters, including 11 who had been arrested only a few days before. The brigade took control of the radio station in Luanda at 7 a.m. and announced their coup, calling themselves the MPLA Action Committee. The brigade asked citizens to show their support for the coup by demonstrating in front of the presidential palace. The Nitistas captured Bula and Dangereaux, generals loyal to Neto, but Neto had moved his base of operations from the palace to the Ministry of Defence in fear of such an uprising. Cuban troops retook the palace at Neto's request and marched to the radio station. After an hour of fighting, the Cubans succeeded and proceeded to the barracks of the 8th Brigade, recaptured by 1:30 p.m. While the Cuban force captured the palace and radio station, the Nitistas kidnapped seven leaders within the government and the military, shooting and killing six.
The MPLA government arrested tens of thousands of suspected Nitistas from May to November and tried them in secret courts overseen by Defense Minister Iko Carreira. Those who were found guilty, including Van-Dunem, Jacobo "Immortal Monster" Caetano, the head of the 8th Brigade, and political commissar Eduardo Evaristo, were then shot and buried in secret graves. At least 18,000 followers (or alleged followers) of Nito Alves were estimated to have been killed by Cuban and MPLA troops in the aftermath over a period that lasted up to two years, with some estimates claiming as high as 70,000 dead. The coup attempt had a lasting effect on Angola's foreign relations. Alves had opposed Neto's foreign policy of non-alignment, evolutionary socialism, and multiracialism, favoring stronger relations with the Soviet Union, which he wanted to grant military bases in Angola. While Cuban soldiers actively helped Neto put down the coup, Alves and Neto both believed the Soviet Union supported Neto's ouster. Cuban Armed Forces Minister Raúl Castro sent an additional four thousand troops to prevent further dissension within the MPLA's ranks and met with Neto in August in a display of solidarity. In contrast, Neto's distrust of the Soviet leadership increased and relations with the USSR worsened. In December, the MPLA held its first party Congress and changed its name to the MPLA-Worker's Party (MPLA-PT). The Nitista coup took a toll on the MPLA's membership. In 1975, the MPLA reached 200,000 members. After the first party congress, that number decreased to 30,000.
The Soviets, trying to increase their influence in Luanda, began sending busts of Vladimir Lenin, a plane full of brochures with Leonid Brezhnev's speech at the February 1976 Party Congress, and two planes full of pamphlets denouncing Mao Zedong, to Angola. They sent so many busts that they ran out in the summer of 1976 and requested more from the CPSU Propaganda Department. Despite the best efforts of the Soviet propaganda machine and persistent lobbying by G. A. Zverev, the Soviet chargé d'affaires, Neto stood his ground, refusing to grant the permanent military bases the Soviets so desperately wanted in Angola. Neto allies like Defense Minister Iko Carreira and MPLA General Secretary Lúcio Lara also irked the Soviet leadership through their policies and personalities. With Alves out of the picture, the Soviet Union promoted Prime Minister Lopo do Nascimento, another 'internationalist', against Neto, a 'careerist,' for the MPLA's leadership. Neto moved swiftly to crush his adversary. The MPLA-PT's Central Committee met from December 6 to 9. The Committee concluded the meeting by firing Nascimento as both Prime Minister and as Secretary of the Politburo, the Director of National Television, and the Director of Jornal de Angola. Commander C. R. Dilolua resigned as Second Deputy Prime Minister and a member of the Politburo. Later that month the Committee abolished the positions of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Paving the way for dos Santos, Neto increased the ethnic composition of the MPLA-PT's political bureau as he replaced the hardline Old Guard with new blood. On July 5, 1979, Neto issued a decree requiring all citizens to serve in the military for three years upon reaching the age of 18. The MPLA gave a report to the UN claiming $293 million in property damage from South African attacks between 1976 and 1979, asking for compensation on August 3, 1979. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Cabinda, a Cabindan separatist rebel group, attacked a Cuban base near Tshiowa on August 11.
President Neto died from inoperable cancer in Moscow on September 10, 1979. The MPLA declared 45 days of mourning. The government held his funeral at the Palace of the People on September 17. Many foreign dignitaries, including Organization of African Unity President William R. Tolbert, Jr. of Liberia, attended. The Central Committee of the MPLA unanimously voted in favor of José Eduardo dos Santos as President. He was sworn in on September 21. Under dos Santos' leadership, Angolan troops crossed the border into Namibia for the first time on October 31, going into Kavango. The next day, the governments of Angola, Zambia, and Zaire signed a non-aggression pact.
In the 1980s, fighting spread outward from southeastern Angola, where most of the fighting had taken place in the 1970s, as the National Congolese Army (ANC) and SWAPO increased their activity. The South African government responded by sending troops back into Angola, intervening in the war from 1981 to 1987, prompting the Soviet Union to deliver massive amounts of military aid from 1981 to 1986. The USSR gave the MPLA more than US$2 billion in aid in 1984. In 1981, newly elected United States President Ronald Reagan's U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Chester Crocker, developed a linkage policy, tying Namibian independence to Cuban withdrawal and peace in Angola.
The South African military attacked insurgents in Cunene Province on May 12, 1980. The Angolan Ministry of Defense accused the South African government of wounding and killing civilians. Nine days later, the SADF attacked again, this time in Cuando-Cubango, and the MPLA threatened to respond militarily. The SADF launched a full-scale invasion of Angola through Cunene and Cuando-Cubango on June 7, destroying SWAPO's operational command headquarters on June 13, in what Prime Minister Pieter Willem Botha described as a "shock attack". The MPLA government arrested 120 Angolans who were planning to set off explosives in Luanda, on June 24, foiling a plot purportedly orchestrated by the South African government. Three days later, the United Nations Security Council convened at the behest of Angola's ambassador to the UN, E. de Figuerido, and condemned South Africa's incursions into Angola. President Mobutu of Zaire also sided with the MPLA. The MPLA government recorded 529 instances in which they claim South African forces violated Angola's territorial sovereignty between January and June 1980.
Cuba increased its troop force in Angola from 35,000 in 1982 to 40,000 in 1985. South African forces tried to capture Lubango, capital of Huíla province, in Operation Askari in December 1983. Also, in order to enhance MPLA's combat capacity, Romania sent 150 flight instructors and other aviation personnel, who contributed to the establishment of an Angolan Military Aviation School.
On June 2, 1985, American conservative activists held the Democratic International, a symbolic meeting of anti-Communist militants, at UNITA's headquarters in Jamba. Primarily funded by Rite Aid founder Lewis Lehrman and organized by anti-communist activists Jack Abramoff and Jack Wheeler, participants included Savimbi, Adolfo Calero, leader of the Nicaraguan Contras, Pa Kao Her, Hmong Laotian rebel leader, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, South African security forces, Abdurrahim Wardak, Afghan Mujahideen leader, Jack Wheeler, American conservative policy advocate, and many others. The Reagan administration, although unwilling to publicly support the meeting, privately expressed approval. The governments of Israel and South Africa supported the idea, but both respective countries were deemed inadvisable for hosting the conference.
The participants released a communiqué stating,
The United States House of Representatives voted 236 to 185 to repeal the Clark Amendment on July 11, 1985. The MPLA government began attacking UNITA later that month from Luena towards Cazombo along the Benguela Railway in a military operation named Congresso II, taking Cazombo on September 18. The MPLA government tried unsuccessfully to take UNITA's supply depot in Mavinga from Menongue. While the attack failed, very different interpretations of the attack emerged. UNITA claimed Portuguese-speaking Soviet officers led FAPLA troops while the government said UNITA relied on South African paratroopers to defeat the MPLA attack. The South African government admitted to fighting in the area, but said its troops fought SWAPO militants.
By 1986, Angola began to assume a more central role in the Cold War, with the Soviet Union, Cuba and other Eastern bloc nations enhancing support for the MPLA government, and American conservatives beginning to elevate their support for Savimbi's UNITA. Savimbi developed close relations with influential American conservatives, who saw Savimbi as a key ally in the U.S. effort to oppose and rollback Soviet-backed, non-democratic governments around the world. The conflict quickly escalated, with both Washington and Moscow seeing it as a critical strategic conflict in the Cold War.
The Soviet Union gave an additional $1 billion in aid to the MPLA government and Cuba sent an additional 2,000 troops to the 35,000-strong force in Angola to protect Chevron oil platforms in 1986. Savimbi had called Chevron's presence in Angola, already protected by Cuban troops, a "target" for UNITA in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine on January 31.
In Washington, Savimbi forged close relationships with influential conservatives, including Michael Johns (the Heritage Foundation's foreign policy analyst and a key Savimbi advocate), Grover Norquist (President of Americans for Tax Reform and a Savimbi economic advisor), and others, who played critical roles in elevating escalated U.S. covert aid to Savimbi's UNITA and visited with Savimbi in his Jamba, Angola headquarters to provide the Angolan rebel leader with military, political and other guidance in his war against the MPLA government. With enhanced U.S. support, the war quickly escalated, both in terms of the intensity of the conflict and also in its perception as a key conflict in the overall Cold War.
In addition to escalating its military support for UNITA, the Reagan administration and its conservative allies also worked to expand recognition of Savimbi as a key U.S. ally in an important Cold War struggle. In January 1986, Reagan invited Savimbi to meet with him at the White House. Following the meeting, Reagan spoke of UNITA winning a victory that "electrifies the world" at the White House in January 1986. Two months later, Reagan announced the delivery of Stinger surface-to-air missiles as part of the $25 million in aid UNITA received from the U.S. government. Jeremias Chitunda, UNITA's representative to the U.S., became the Vice President of UNITA in August 1986 at the sixth party congress. Fidel Castro made Crocker's proposal, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Angola and Namibia, a prerequisite to Cuban withdrawal from Angola on September 10.
UNITA forces attacked Camabatela in Cuanza Norte province on February 8, 1986. ANGOP alleged UNITA massacred civilians in Damba in Uíge Province later that month, on February 26. The South African government agreed to Crocker's terms in principle on March 8. Savimbi proposed a truce regarding the Benguela railway on March 26, saying MPLA trains could pass through as long as an international inspection group monitored trains to prevent their use for counter-insurgency activity. The government did not respond. In April 1987 Fidel Castro sent Cuba's Fiftieth Brigade to southern Angola, increasing the number of Cuban troops from 12,000 to 15,000. The MPLA and American governments began negotiating in June 1987.
UNITA and South African forces attacked the MPLA's base at Cuito Cuanavale in Cuando Cubango province from January 13 to March 23, 1988, in the second largest battle in the history of Africa, after the Battle of El Alamein, the largest in sub-Saharan Africa since World War II. Cuito Cuanavale's importance came not from its size or its wealth but its location. South African Defense Forces maintained an overwatch on the city using new, G5 artillery pieces. Both sides claimed victory in the ensuing Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.
With that manoeuvre, Fidel Castro claimed that he increased the cost to South Africa of continuing to fight in Angola and placed Cuba in its most aggressive combat position of the war, arguing that he was preparing to leave Angola with his opponents on the defensive. According to the Cubans, the political, economical and technical cost to South Africa of maintaining its presence in Angolan proved too much. Conversely, the South Africans believe they indicated their resolve to the superpowers by preparing a nuclear test that ultimately forced the Cubans into a settlement.
Cuban troops were alleged to have used nerve gas against UNITA troops during the civil war. Belgian criminal toxologist Dr. Aubin Heyndrickx, studied alleged evidence, including samples of war-gas "identification kits" found after the battle at Cuito Cuanavale, claimed that "there is no doubt anymore that the Cubans were using nerve gases against the troops of Mr. Jonas Savimbi."
The Cuban government joined negotiations on January 28, 1988, and all three parties held a round of negotiations on March 9. The South African government joined negotiations on May 3 and the parties met in June and August in New York and Geneva. All parties agreed to a ceasefire on August 8. Representatives from the governments of Angola, Cuba, and South Africa signed the New York Accords, granting independence to Namibia and ending the direct involvement of foreign troops in the civil war, in New York City on December 22, 1988. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 626 later that day, creating the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM), a peacekeeping force. UNAVEM troops began arriving in Angola in January 1989.
As the Angolan Civil War began to take on a diplomatic component, in addition to a military one, two key Savimbi allies, The Conservative Caucus' Howard Phillips and the Heritage Foundation's Michael Johns visited Savimbi in Angola, where they sought to persuade Savimbi to come to the United States in the spring of 1989 to help the Conservative Caucus, the Heritage Foundation and other conservatives in making the case for continued U.S. aid to UNITA.
President Mobutu invited 18 African leaders, Savimbi, and dos Santos to his palace in Gbadolite in June 1989 for negotiations. Savimbi and dos Santos met for the first time and agreed to the Gbadolite Declaration, a ceasefire, on June 22, paving the way for a future peace agreement. President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia said a few days after the declaration that Savimbi had agreed to leave Angola and go into exile, a claim Mobutu, Savimbi, and the U.S. government disputed. Dos Santos agreed with Kaunda's interpretation of the negotiations, saying Savimbi had agreed to temporarily leave the country.
On August 23, dos Santos complained that the U.S. and South African governments continued to fund UNITA, warning such activity endangered the already fragile ceasefire. The next day Savimbi announced UNITA would no longer abide by the ceasefire, citing Kaunda's insistence that Savimbi leave the country and UNITA disband. The MPLA government responded to Savimbi's statement by moving troops from Cuito Cuanavale, under MPLA control, to UNITA-occupied Mavinga. The ceasefire broke down with dos Santos and the U.S. government blaming each other for the resumption in armed conflict.
Political changes abroad and military victories at home allowed the government to transition from a nominally communist state to a nominally democratic one. Namibia's declaration of independence, internationally recognized on April 1, eliminated the southwestern front of combat as South African forces withdrew to the east. The MPLA abolished the one-party system in June and rejected Marxist-Leninism at the MPLA's third Congress in December, formally changing the party's name from the MPLA-PT to the MPLA. The National Assembly passed law 12/91 in May 1991, coinciding with the withdrawal of the last Cuban troops, defining Angola as a "democratic state based on the rule of law" with a multi-party system. Observers met such changes with skepticism. American journalist Karl Maier wrote: "In the New Angola ideology is being replaced by the bottom line, as security and selling expertise in weaponry have become a very profitable business. With its wealth in oil and diamonds, Angola is like a big swollen carcass and the vultures are swirling overhead. Savimbi's former allies are switching sides, lured by the aroma of hard currency."
Government troops wounded Savimbi in battles in January and February 1990, but not enough to restrict his mobility He went to Washington, D.C. in December and met with President George H. W. Bush again, the fourth of five trips he made to the United States. Savimbi paid Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly, a lobbying firm based in Washington, D.C., $5 million to lobby the Federal government for aid, portray UNITA favorably in Western media, and acquire support among politicians in Washington. Savimbi was highly successful in this endeavour.
Senators Larry Smith and Dante Fascell, a senior member of the firm, worked with the Cuban American National Foundation, Representative Claude Pepper of Florida, Neal Blair's Free the Eagle, and Howard Phillips' Conservative Caucus to repeal the Clark Amendment in 1985. From the amendment's repeal in 1985 to 1992 the U.S. government gave Savimbi $60 million per year, a total of $420 million. A sizable amount of the aid went to Savimbi's personal expenses. Black, Manafort filed foreign lobbying records with the U.S. Justice Department showing Savimbi's expenses during his U.S. visits. During his December 1990 visit he spent $136,424 at the Park Hyatt hotel and $2,705 in tips. He spent almost $473,000 in October 1991 during his week-long visit to Washington and Manhattan. He spent $98,022 in hotel bills, at the Park Hyatt, $26,709 in limousine rides in Washington and another $5,293 in Manhattan. Paul Manafort, a partner in the firm, charged Savimbi $19,300 in consulting and additional $1,712 in expenses. He also bought $1,143 worth of "survival kits" from Motorola. When questioned in an interview in 1990 about human rights abuses under Savimbi, Black said, "Now when you're in a war, trying to manage a war, when the enemy... is no more than a couple of hours away from you at any given time, you might not run your territory according to New Hampshire town meeting rules."
President dos Santos met with Savimbi in Lisbon, Portugal and signed the Bicesse Accords, the first of three major peace agreements, on May 31, 1991, with the mediation of the Portuguese government. The accords laid out a transition to multi-party democracy under the supervision of the United Nations' UNAVEM II mission, with a presidential election to be held within a year. The agreement attempted to demobilize the 152,000 active fighters and integrate the remaining government troops and UNITA rebels into a 50,000-strong Angolan Armed Forces (FAA). The FAA would consist of a national army with 40,000 troops, navy with 6,000, and air force with 4,000. While UNITA largely did not disarm, the FAA complied with the accord and demobilized, leaving the government disadvantaged.
Angola held the first round of its 1992 presidential election on September 29–30. Dos Santos officially received 49.57% of the vote and Savimbi won 40.6%. As no candidate received 50% or more of the vote, election law dictated a second round of voting between the top two contenders. Savimbi, along with eight opposition parties and many other election observers, said the election had been neither free nor fair. An official observer wrote that there was little UN supervision, that 500,000 UNITA voters were disenfranchised and that there were 100 clandestine polling stations. Savimbi sent Jeremias Chitunda, Vice President of UNITA, to Luanda to negotiate the terms of the second round. The election process broke down on October 31, when government troops in Luanda attacked UNITA. Civilians, using guns they had received from police a few days earlier, conducted house-by-house raids with the Rapid Intervention Police, killing and detaining hundreds of UNITA supporters. The government took civilians in trucks to the Camama cemetery and Morro da Luz ravine, shot them, and buried them in mass graves. Assailants attacked Chitunda's convoy on November 2, pulling him out of his car and shooting him and two others in their faces. The MPLA massacred over ten thousand UNITA and FNLA voters nationwide in a few days in what was known as the Halloween Massacre. Savimbi said the election had neither been free nor fair and refused to participate in the second round. He then proceeded to resume armed struggle against the MPLA.
Then, in a series of stunning victories, UNITA regained control over Caxito, Huambo, M'banza Kongo, Ndalatando, and Uíge, provincial capitals it had not held since 1976, and moved against Kuito, Luena, and Malange. Although the U.S. and South African governments had stopped aiding UNITA, supplies continued to come from Mobutu in Zaire. UNITA tried to wrest control of Cabinda from the MPLA in January 1993. Edward DeJarnette, Head of the U.S. Liaison Office in Angola for the Clinton Administration, warned Savimbi that, if UNITA hindered or halted Cabinda's production, the U.S. would end its support for UNITA. On January 9, UNITA began a 55-day battle over Huambo, the War of the Cities. Hundreds of thousands fled and 10,000 were killed before UNITA gained control on March 7. The government engaged in an ethnic cleansing of Bakongo, and, to a lesser extent Ovimbundu, in multiple cities, most notably Luanda, on January 22 in the Bloody Friday massacre. UNITA and government representatives met five days later in Ethiopia, but negotiations failed to restore the peace. The United Nations Security Council sanctioned UNITA through Resolution 864 on September 15, 1993, prohibiting the sale of weapons or fuel to UNITA. Perhaps the clearest shift in U.S. foreign policy emerged when President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12865 on September 23, labeling UNITA a "continuing threat to the foreign policy objectives of the U.S." By August 1993, UNITA had gained control over 70% of Angola, but the government's military successes in 1994 forced UNITA to sue for peace. By November 1994, the government had taken control of 60% of the country. Savimbi called the situation UNITA's "deepest crisis" since its creation. It is estimate that perhaps 120,000 people were killed in the first eighteen months following the 1992 election, nearly half the number of casualties of the previous sixteen years of war. Both sides of the conflict continued to commit widespread and systematic violations of the laws of war with UNITA in particular guilty of indiscriminate shelling of besieged cities resulting in large death toll to civilians. The MPLA government forces used air power in indiscriminate fashion also resulting in high civilian deaths. The Lusaka Protocol of 1994 reaffirmed the Bicesse Accords.
Savimbi, unwilling to personally sign an accord, had former UNITA Secretary General Eugenio Manuvakola represent UNITA in his place. Manuvakola and Angolan Foreign Minister Venancio de Moura signed the Lusaka Protocol in Lusaka, Zambia on October 31, 1994, agreeing to integrate and disarm UNITA. Both sides signed a ceasefire as part of the protocol on November 20. Under the agreement the government and UNITA would cease fire and demobilize. 5,500 UNITA members, including 180 militants, would join the Angolan national police, 1,200 UNITA members, including 40 militants, would join the rapid reaction police force, and UNITA generals would become officers in the Angolan Armed Forces. Foreign mercenaries would return to their home countries and all parties would stop acquiring foreign arms. The agreement gave UNITA politicians homes and a headquarters. The government agreed to appoint UNITA members to head the Mines, Commerce, Health, and Tourism ministries, in addition to seven deputy ministers, ambassadors, the governorships of Uige, Lunda Sul, and Cuando Cubango, deputy governors, municipal administrators, deputy administrators, and commune administrators. The government would release all prisoners and give amnesty to all militants involved in the civil war. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and South African President Nelson Mandela met in Lusaka on November 15, 1994 to boost support symbolically for the protocol. Mugabe and Mandela both said they would be willing to meet with Savimbi and Mandela asked him to come to South Africa, but Savimbi did not come. The agreement created a joint commission, consisting of officials from the Angolan government, UNITA, and the UN with the governments of Portugal, the United States, and Russia observing, to oversee its implementation. Violations of the protocol's provisions would be discussed and reviewed by the commission. The protocol's provisions, integrating UNITA into the military, a ceasefire, and a coalition government, were similar to those of the Alvor Agreement that granted Angola independence from Portugal in 1975. Many of the same environmental problems, mutual distrust between UNITA and the MPLA, loose international oversight, the importation of foreign arms, and an overemphasis on maintaining the balance of power, led to the collapse of the protocol.
In January 1995, U.S. President Clinton sent Paul Hare, his envoy to Angola, to support the Lusaka Protocol and impress the importance of the ceasefire onto the Angolan government and UNITA, both in need of outside assistance. The United Nations agreed to send a peacekeeping force on February 8. Savimbi met with South African President Mandela in May. Shortly after, on June 18, the MPLA offered Savimbi the position of Vice President under dos Santos with another Vice President chosen from the MPLA. Savimbi told Mandela he felt ready to "serve in any capacity which will aid my nation," but he did not accept the proposal until August 12. The United States Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency's Angola operations and analysis expanded in an effort to halt weapons shipments, a violation of the protocol, with limited success. The Angolan government bought six Mil Mi-17 from Ukraine in 1995. The government bought L-39 attack aircraft from the Czech Republic in 1998 along with ammunition and uniforms from Zimbabwe Defence Industries and ammunition and weapons from Ukraine in 1998 and 1999. U.S. monitoring significantly dropped off in 1997 as events in Zaire, the Congo and then Liberia occupied more of the U.S. government's attention. UNITA purchased more than 20 FROG-7 scuds and three FOX 7 missiles from the North Korean government in 1999.
The UN extended its mandate on February 8, 1996. In March, Savimbi and dos Santos formally agreed to form a coalition government. The government deported 2,000 West African and Lebanese Angolans in Operation Cancer Two, in August 1996, on the grounds that dangerous minorities were responsible for the rising crime rate. In 1996 the Angolan government bought military equipment from India, two Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters and three Sukhoi Su-17 from Kazakhstan in December, and helicopters from Slovakia in March.
The international community helped install a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation in April 1997, but UNITA did not allow the regional MPLA government to take up residence in 60 cities. The UN Security Council voted on August 28, 1997, to impose sanctions on UNITA through Resolution 1127, prohibiting UNITA leaders from traveling abroad, closing UNITA's embassies abroad, and making UNITA-controlled areas a no-fly zone. The Security Council expanded the sanctions through Resolution 1173 on June 12, 1998, requiring government certification for the purchase of Angolan diamonds and freezing UNITA's bank accounts.
The UN spent $1.6 billion from 1994 to 1998 in maintaining a peacekeeping force. The Angolan military attacked UNITA forces in the Central Highlands on December 4, 1998, the day before the MPLA's fourth Congress. Dos Santos told the delegates the next day that he believed war to be the only way to ultimately achieve peace, rejected the Lusaka Protocol, and asked MONUA to leave. In February 1999, the Security Council withdrew the last MONUA personnel. In late 1998, several UNITA commanders, dissatisfied with Savimbi's leadership, formed UNITA Renovada, a breakaway militant group. Thousands more deserted UNITA in 1999 and 2000.
The Angolan military launched Operation Restore, a massive offensive, in September 1999, recapturing N'harea, Mungo and Andulo and Bailundo, the site of Savimbi's headquarters just one year before. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1268 on October 15, instructing United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to update the Security Council to the situation in Angola every three months. Dos Santos offered an amnesty to UNITA militants on November 11. By December, Chief of Staff General João de Matos said the Angolan Armed Forces had destroyed 80% of UNITA's militant wing and captured 15,000 tons of military equipment. Following the dissolution of the coalition government, Savimbi retreated to his historical base in Moxico and prepared for battle.
UNITA's ability to mine diamonds and sell them abroad provided funding for the war to continue even as the movement's support in the Western world and among the local populace withered away. De Beers and Endiama, a state-owned diamond-mining monopoly, signed a contract allowing De Beers to handle Angola's diamond exports in 1990. According to the United Nation's Fowler Report, Joe De Deker, a former stockholder in De Beers, worked with the government of Zaire to supply military equipment to UNITA from 1993 to 1997. De Deker's brother, Ronnie, allegedly flew from South Africa to Angola, directing weapons originating in Eastern Europe. In return, UNITA gave Ronnie bushels of diamonds worth $6 million. De Deker sent the diamonds to De Beer's buying office in Antwerp, Belgium. De Beers openly acknowledges spending $500 million on legal and illegal Angolan diamonds in 1992 alone. The United Nations estimates Angolans made between three and four billion dollars through the diamond trade between 1992 and 1998. The UN also estimates that out of that sum, UNITA made at least $3.72 billion, or 93% of all diamond sales, despite international sanctions.
Executive Outcomes (EO), a private military company, played a major role in turning the tide for the MPLA, with one U.S. defense expert calling the EO the "best fifty or sixty million dollars the Angolan government ever spent." Heritage Oil and Gas, and allegedly De Beers, hired EO to protect their operations in Angola. Executive Outcomes trained up to 5,000 troops and 30 combat pilots in camps in Lunda Sul, Cabo Ledo, and Dondo.
The territory of Cabinda is north of Angola proper, separated by a strip of territory 60 km (37.3 mi) long in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Portuguese Constitution of 1933 designated Angola and Cabinda as overseas provinces. The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) formed in 1963 during the broader war for independence from Portugal. Contrary to the organization's name, Cabinda is an exclave, not an enclave. FLEC later split into the Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) and Renewal (FLEC-Renovada). Several other, smaller FLEC factions later broke away from these movements, but FLEC-R remained the most prominent because of its size and its tactics. FLEC-R members cut off the ears and noses of government officials and their supporters, similar to the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone in the 1990s. Despite Cabinda's relatively small size, foreign powers and the nationalist movements coveted the territory for its vast reserves of petroleum, the principal export of Angola then and now.
In the war for independence, the primary ethnic division of assimilados versus indigenos peoples masked the inter-ethnic conflict between the various native tribes, a division that emerged in the early 1970s. The Union of Peoples of Angola, the predecessor to the FNLA, only controlled 15% of Angola's territory during the independence war, excluding MPLA-controlled Cabinda. The People's Republic of China openly backed UNITA upon independence despite the mutual support from its adversary South Africa and UNITA's pro-Western tilt. The PRC's support for Savimbi came in 1965, a year after he left the FNLA. China saw Holden Roberto and the FNLA as the stooge of the West and the MPLA as the Soviet Union's proxy. With the Sino-Soviet split, South Africa presented the least odious of allies to the PRC.
Throughout the 1990s, Cabindan rebels kidnapped and ransomed off foreign oil workers to in turn finance further attacks against the national government. FLEC militants stopped buses, forcing Chevron Oil workers out, and setting fire to the buses on March 27 and April 23, 1992. A large-scale battle took place between FLEC and police in Malongo on May 14 in which 25 mortar rounds accidentally hit a nearby Chevron compound. The government, fearing the loss of their prime source of revenue, began to negotiate with representatives from Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda-Renewal (FLEC-R), Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC), and the Democratic Front of Cabinda (FDC) in 1995. Patronage and bribery failed to assuage the anger of FLEC-R and FLEC-FAC and negotiations ended. In February 1997, FLEC-FAC kidnapped two Inwangsa SDN-timber company employees, killing one and releasing the other after receiving a $400,000 ransom. FLEC-FLAC kidnapped eleven people in April 1998, nine Angolans and two Portuguese, released for a $500,000 ransom. FLEC-R kidnapped five Byansol-oil engineering employees, two Frenchman, two Portuguese, and an Angolan, in March 1999. While militants released the Angolan, the government complicated the situation by promising the rebel leadership $12.5 million for the hostages. When António Bento Bembe, the President of FLEC-R, showed up, the Angolan army arrested him and his bodyguards. The Angolan army later forcibly freed the other hostages on July 7. By the end of the year the government had arrested the leadership of all three rebel organizations.
Illicit arms trading characterized much of the later years of the Angolan Civil War, as each side tried to gain the upper hand by buying arms from Eastern Europe and Russia. Israel continued in its role as a proxy arms dealer for the United States. On September 21, 2000, a Russian freighter delivered 500 tons of Ukrainian 7.62 mm ammunition to Simportex, a division of the Angolan government, with the help of a shipping agent in London. The ship's captain declared his cargo "fragile" to minimize inspection. The next day, the MPLA began attacking UNITA, winning victories in several battles from September 22 to 25. The government gained control over military bases and diamond mines in Lunda Norte and Lunda Sul, hurting Savimbi's ability to pay his troops.
Angola agreed to trade oil to Slovakia in return for arms, buying six Sukhoi Su-17 attack aircraft on April 3, 2000. The Spanish government in the Canary Islands prevented a Ukrainian freighter from delivering 636 tons of military equipment to Angola on February 24, 2001. The captain of the ship had inaccurately reported his cargo, falsely claiming the ship carried automobile parts. The Angolan government admitted Simportex had purchased arms from Rosvooruzhenie, the Russian state-owned arms company, and acknowledged the captain might have violated Spanish law by misreporting his cargo, a common practice in arms smuggling to Angola.
UNITA carried out several attacks against civilians in May 2001 in a show of strength. UNITA militants attacked Caxito on May 7, killing 100 people and kidnapping 60 children and two adults. UNITA then attacked Baia-do-Cuio, followed by an attack on Golungo Alto, a city 200 kilometres (124 mi) east of Luanda, a few days later. The militants advanced on Golungo Alto at 2:00 pm on May 21, staying until 9:00 pm on May 22 when the Angolan military retook the town. They looted local businesses, taking food and alcoholic beverages before singing drunkenly in the streets. More than 700 villagers trekked 60 kilometres (37 mi) from Golungo Alto to Ndalatando, the provincial capital of Cuanza Norte, without injury. According to an aid official in Ndalatando, the Angolan military prohibited media coverage of the incident, so the details of the attack are unknown. Joffre Justino, UNITA's spokesman in Portugal, said UNITA only attacked Gungo Alto to demonstrate the government's military inferiority and the need to cut a deal. Four days later UNITA released the children to a Catholic mission in Camabatela, a city 200 kilometres (124 mi) from where UNITA kidnapped them. The national organization said the abduction violated their policy towards the treatment of civilians. In a letter to the bishops of Angola, Jonas Savimbi asked the Catholic Church to act as an intermediary between UNITA and the government in negotiations. The attacks took their toll on Angola's economy. At the end of May 2001, De Beers, the international diamond mining company, suspended its operations in Angola, ostensibly on the grounds that negotiations with the national government reached an impasse.
Militants of unknown affiliation fired rockets at United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) planes on June 8 near Luena and again near Kuito a few days later. As the first plane, a Boeing 727, approached Luena someone shot a missile at the aircraft, damaging one engine but not critically as the three-man crew landed successfully. The plane's altitude, 5,000 metres (16,404 ft), most likely prevented the assailant from identifying his target. As the citizens of Luena had enough food to last them several weeks, the UNFWP temporarily suspended their flights. When the flights began again a few days later, militants shot at a plane flying to Kuito, the first attack targeting UN workers since 1999. The UNWFP again suspended food aid flights throughout the country. While he did not claim responsibility for the attack, UNITA spokesman Justino said the planes carried weapons and soldiers rather than food, making them acceptable targets. UNITA and the Angolan government both said the international community needed to pressure the other side into returning to the negotiating table. Despite the looming humanitarian crisis, neither side guaranteed UNWFP planes safety. Kuito, which had relied on international aid, only had enough food to feed their population of 200,000. The UNFWP had to fly in all aid to Kuito and the rest of the Central Highlands because militants ambushed trucks. Further complicating the situation, potholes in the Kuito airport strip slowed aid deliveries. Overall chaos reduced the amount of available oil to the point at which the UN had to import its jet fuel.
Government troops captured and destroyed UNITA's Epongoloko base in Benguela province and Mufumbo base in Cuanza Sul in October 2001. The Slovak government sold fighter jets to the Angolan government in 2001 in violation of the European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.
Government troops killed Jonas Savimbi on February 22, 2002, in Moxico province. UNITA Vice President António Dembo took over, but died from diabetes 12 days later on March 3, and Secretary-General Paulo Lukamba became UNITA's leader. After Savimbi's death, the government came to a crossroads over how to proceed. After initially indicating the counter-insurgency might continue, the government announced it would halt all military operations on March 13. Military commanders for UNITA and the MPLA met in Cassamba and agreed to a cease-fire. However, Carlos Morgado, UNITA's spokesman in Portugal, said the UNITA's Portugal wing had been under the impression General Kamorteiro, the UNITA general who agreed to the ceasefire, had been captured more than a week earlier. Morgado did say that he had not heard from Angola since Savimbi's death. The military commanders signed a Memorandum of Understanding as an addendum to the Lusaka Protocol in Luena on April 4, with Santos and Lukambo observing.
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1404 on April 18, extending the monitoring mechanism of sanctions by six months. Resolutions 1412 and 1432, passed on May 17 and August 15 respectively, suspended the UN travel ban on UNITA officials for 90 days each, finally abolishing the ban through Resolution 1439 on October 18. UNAVEM III, extended an additional two months by Resolution 1439, ended on December 19.
UNITA's new leadership declared the rebel group a political party and officially demobilized its armed forces in August 2002. That same month, the United Nations Security Council replaced the United Nations Office in Angola with the United Nations Mission in Angola, a larger, non-military, political presence.
The civil war spawned a disastrous humanitarian crisis in Angola, internally displacing 4.28 million people – one-third of Angola's total population. The United Nations estimated in 2003 that 80% of Angolans lacked access to basic medical care, 60% lacked access to water, and 30% of Angolan children would die before the age of five, with an overall national life expectancy of less than 40 years of age.
The government spent $187 million settling internally displaced persons (IDPs) between April 4, 2002, and 2004, after which the World Bank gave $33 million to continue the settling process. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that fighting in 2002 displaced 98,000 people between January 1 and February 28 alone. IDPs comprised 75% of all landmine victims. The IDPs, unacquainted with their surroundings, frequently and predominantly fell victim to these weapons. Militant forces laid approximately 15 million landmines by 2002. The HALO Trust began demining Angola in 1994, and had destroyed 30,000 landmines by July 2007. 1,100 Angolans and seven foreign workers are employed by the HALO Trust in Angola, with demining operations expected to finish by 2014.
Human Rights Watch estimates UNITA and the government employed more than 6,000 and 3,000 child soldiers respectively, some forcibly impressed, during the war. Additionally, human rights analysts found that between 5,000 and 8,000 underage girls were married to UNITA militants. Some girls were ordered to go and forage for food to provide for the troops – the girls were denied food if they did not bring back enough to satisfy their commander. After victories, UNITA commanders would be rewarded with women, who were often then sexually abused. The Angolan government and UN agencies identified 190 child soldiers in the Angolan army, and had relocated 70 of them by November 2002, but the government continued to knowingly employ other underage soldiers.
In John Milius's 1984 film Red Dawn, Bella, one of the Cuban officers who takes part in a joint Cuban-Soviet invasion of the United States, is said to have fought in the conflicts in Angola, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
Jack Abramoff wrote and co-produced the film Red Scorpion with his brother Robert in 1989. In the film, Dolph Lundgren plays Nikolai, a Soviet agent sent to assassinate an African revolutionary in a fictional country modeled on Angola. The South African government financed the film through the International Freedom Foundation, a front-group chaired by Abramoff, as part of its efforts to undermine international sympathy for the African National Congress. While working in Hollywood, Abramoff was convicted for fraud and other offenses that he had committed during his concurrent career as a lobbyist.
The war provides a more comedic background story in the South African comedy The Gods Must Be Crazy 2 inasmuch as a Cuban and an Angolan soldier repeatedly try to take each other prisoner, but ultimately part on (more or less) amicable terms.
The 2004 film The Hero, produced by Fernando Vendrell and directed by Zézé Gamboa, depicts the life of average Angolans in the aftermath of the civil war. The film follows the lives of three individuals: Vitório, a war veteran crippled by a landmine who returns to Luanda; Manu, a young boy searching for his soldier father; and Joana, a teacher who mentors the boy and begins a love affair with Vitório. The Hero won the 2005 Sundance World Dramatic Cinema Jury Grand Prize. A joint Angolan, Portuguese, and French production, The Hero was filmed entirely in Angola.
The character of Danny Archer in the 2006 film Blood Diamond, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, discusses on several occasions his service within the SADF during its intervention in the Angolan Civil War. As the film unfolds, it is revealed that he is a white Rhodesian orphan who ran away to South Africa only to be conscripted into the infamous 32 Battalion, with whom he saw combat in Angola around 1987.
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