Angolan Civil War

Angolan Civil War
Part of the Cold War (until 1991)
LocationAngola.svg
Date11 November 1975 – 4 April 2002
(26 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 3 days)
Location
Result

MPLA victory by 1992.

  • Creation, then collapse, of the People's Republic of Angola
  • Withdrawal of all foreign forces in 1989.
  • Transition towards a multiparty political system in 1991/92.
  • Dissolution of the armed forces of the FNLA.
  • Participation of UNITA and FNLA, as political parties, in the new political system, from 1991/92 onwards.
  • Jonas Savimbi, leader of UNITA, killed in 2002; UNITA abandoned armed struggle and participated in electoral politics.
  • Resistance of FLEC continued to this day
Belligerents
MPLA
SWAPO
 Cuba (1975–91)
Executive Outcomes (1993-95)[1]
UNITA
FNLA (1975–77)
FLEC
 South Africa (1975–89)
Commanders and leaders
Agostinho Neto (1975–1979)
José Eduardo dos Santos
Lúcio Lara
Iko Carreira
António Franca
Cuba Fidel Castro
Soviet Union Vasily Petrov
Soviet Union Valentin Varennikov
Sam Nujoma
Jonas Savimbi 
Demosthenes Chilingutila
Alberto Vinama
Holden Roberto
Luiz Ranque Franque
South Africa Balthazar Johannes Vorster (1975–1978)
South Africa Pieter Willem Botha (1978–1989)
Strength

MPLA troops:

Cuba Cuban troops:

  • 35,000–37,000 (1982)[11]
  • 60,000 (1988)[11]

Soviet Union Soviet troops:

  • Altogether 11,000 (1975 to 1991)[13]

UNITA militants:

  • 65,000 (1990, highest)[14]

FNLA militants:

  • 22,000 (1975)[15]
  • 4,000–7,000 (1976)[16]

Union of South Africa South African troops:

  • 20,000 (1976)
Casualties and losses

Unknown
Cuba 2,016–5,000 dead[17]
15,000 total[18]

Soviet Union 54 killed[19]

Unknown
Unknown

Union of South Africa 7,038 dead (whole Border War figure)[20]
Over 500,000 civilians dead

The Angolan Civil War (Portuguese: Guerra civil angolana) was a civil conflict in Angola, beginning in 1975 and continuing, with interludes, until 2002. The war began immediately after Angola became independent from Portugal in November 1975. The war was 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). The war was used as a surrogate battleground for the Cold War by rival states such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, South Africa and the United States.[21]

The MPLA and UNITA had different roots in Angolan society and mutually incompatible leaderships, despite their shared aim of ending colonial rule. A third movement, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), having fought the MPLA with UNITA during the war for independence, 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 – with fragile periods of peace. By the time the MPLA 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 public administration, the economy 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 the Soviet Union and the United States, with their allies, provided military assistance to parties in the conflict. The conflict became closely intertwined with the Second Congo War in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo and the South African Border War.

Outline of main combatants

Angola's three rebel movements had their roots in the anti-colonial movements of the 1950s.[21] The MPLA was primarily an urban based movement in Luanda and its surrounding area.[21] It was largely composed of Mbundu people. By contrast the other two major anti-colonial movements the FNLA and UNITA, were rurally based groups.[21] 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.[21]

MPLA

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.[22] During its anti-colonial struggle of 1962–74, the MPLA was supported by several African countries, as well as by the Soviet Union. 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. Yugoslavia provided financial military support for the MPLA, including $14 million in 1977, as well as Yugoslav security personnel in the country and diplomatic training for Angolans in Belgrade.[23] The United States Ambassador to Yugoslavia wrote of the Yugoslav relationship with the MPLA, and remarked, "Tito clearly enjoys his role as patriarch of guerrilla liberation struggle." Agostinho Neto, MPLA's leader during the civil war, declared in 1977 that Yugoslav aid was constant and firm, and described the help as extraordinary.[24] According to a November, 1978 special communique, Portuguese troops were among the 20,000 MPLA troops that participated in a major offensive in central and southern Angola.[25]

FNLA

The FNLA formed parallel to the MPLA,[26] 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 civil war.

UNITA

UNITA's main social basis were the Ovimbundu of central Angola, who constituted about one third of the country's population, but the organization 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. With the onset of the civil war, the United States decided to support UNITA and considerably augmented their aid to UNITA in the decades that followed. However, in the latter period, UNITA's main ally was the Republic of South Africa.[27][28]

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