Southern African country Angola has hardly known anything else than war since its independence in 1975. Rebel urge for power produced 25 years of warfare.

Angola was a Portuguese settlement (established at Luanda) from 1575. Portugal used the area as a slave pool for its lucrative colony in Brazil and did not make serious attempts to settle inland Angola until the late 1900's. The coloniser did occasionally benefit from the discovery of precious gemstones and metals.

The Portuguese backward form of colonialist rule was caused by the relative underdevelopment of Portugal itself. The lack of economic and industrial stability affected its inclination to develop its African colony. Around 1900 fewer than 10,000 Portuguese resided in Angola.

After World War II African opposition to colonial rule caused recurrent spontaneous clashes between various African communities and colonial administration. Early 1961 serious confrontations were directed at European plantation owners. The Portuguese had created a small, educated elite in the cities, providing members for the later Marxist guerrilla movement MPLA. Also battling the colonisers were the FNLA, led by Angolans who had fled the country for northern neighbour Congo. Some of their people soon left the ‘foreign’ movement to start UNITA, which leaned mainly on farmers in central and south Angola.

The mutual differences (especially between city and countryside) seemed superficial while the revolting against the Portuguese oppressor. The three groups signed a lovely treaty in January 1975, but already before independence on November 11, 1975, the factions were clashing.

The new state immediately reflected the Cold War frontiers. FNLA and UNITA were supported by the West and white South Africa, while the Soviet Union and Cuba backed the leftist MPLA president Agostinho Neto. The battle in the marxist-leninist country went on for years, with the FNLA being swiftly wiped out. Thanks to the war, hardly any square meter in the countryside is safe nowadays because of the millions of landmines.

Two consecutive peace treaties were signed and shattered. The United Nations instigated the agreement of May 1991 between MPLA and UNITA, but the latter could not except the outcome of the resulting elections (Neto’s successor José Edoardo dos Santos won little over 50 percent of the votes), causing its leader Dr. Jonas Savimbi to renew his guerrilla. The United Nations efforts resulted in another treaty in 1994. Dos Santos would become president, while Savimbi was offered the vice presidency. The UNITA leader indeed arrived in capital Luanda but distrust apparently was too substantial: he immediately returned to the ‘safe’ countryside.

While many elderly Angolans concluded that the country was better off even during the harsh Portuguese administration, the situation then suddenly changed. UNITA leader Savimbi was shot and killed by the government army on February 22, 2002. The already weakened rebel army had to accept another peace offer, which still survives today.

Three decades of civil war brought about an estimated number of 1.5 million casualties. Four out of ten Angolans live in refugees’ camps, with many of them mentally and physically injured. Currently, Angola has 12 million inhabitants, one third of them living in the safe but economically devastated capital Luanda.

Eu sou daquela terra
Que é cheia de crianças
Que de idade ainda tenra
Já são cheias de más lembranças

I come from that country
Full of children
So young
And yet full of bad memories

Eu sou daquela terra de gente generosa
Mas que de tanto esperar
Já tem a esperança idosa
Eu sou ainda daquela terra
Onde se acredita e guarda a esperança
De que depois da tempestade vem a bonança

I come from that country of generous people
But because of all the waiting
They saw their hope becoming aged
I come from that country
Where faith and hope are cherished
Of tempests followed by the calm

Mas eu sou ainda daquela terra
Que hoje é só ruína
Mas que tambem sabe
Que a guerra não é nossa sina

I come from that country
Which is nothing but ruins today
But which also knows
That war is not its destiny

Mas eu sou daquela terra
Que mesmo em ruínas gosto dela
É como mãe já velha e acabada
Que deve ser mais amada

I come from that country
That I even love in ruins
Like an old mother near the end
Needing more love

Teta Nlandu (Angolan singer)

An*go"la (#), n. [A corruption of Angora.]

A fabric made from the wool of the Angora goat.

 

© Webster 1913.

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