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8 Interesting Things to Know About Angola’s Independence

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Independence Day

After a long war for independence, Angola became a sovereign nation on November 11, 1975. There were three different movements involved in the war. The Movimiento Popular de Liberación de Angola, (MPLA), the Front for the National Liberation of Angola (FLNA) and National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA)—all had different philosophies on how to run the nation but eventually sat down for a peace agreement in Jan. 1975. The Angolan War for Independence was a proxy war in the midst of the Cold War. The U.S. and South Africa backed UNITA and the Soviet Union and Cuba backed the MPLA. The peace treaty did not last long, however, and led to a civil war.

 

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Angola Under Portuguese Colonialism

The Portuguese began colonizing Angola in the 15th century for resources. Trade was a vital part of Portuguese exploitation.  When resources weren’t enough, the European nation began to enslave many of the inhabitants. However, many local African rulers confined the Portuguese to the area around Bissau. In the modern age, the Portuguese have returned back to the country, as opportunities in Portugal have become scarce.

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The Final Straw

In the 1930s, Portugal reestablished colonial dominance over the native people of Angola. When the Portuguese Colonial Act passed in June 1933, it placed the Portuguese settlers at the top of an unequal and unjust system. Many Portuguese colonies did not have a chance at independence until the 1970s. From 1655 -1960, Angola and the other colonies had provincial status that made them unable to create governments, trade, or have any relationships with foreign nations. Native Angolans under the colonial act had their culture suppressed, and in essence, the act created a form of segregation like that of Apartheid. This unjust law prompted people like Viriato da Cruz and others to form the Movement of Young Intellectuals that would preserve the indigenous people’s ways of life .

 

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The Call for Independence 

The Party of the United Struggle for Africans in Angola (PLUA) was created in 1953 and was the first political party to advocate Angolan independence from Portugal. This political party inspired others to follow suit. The Congolese-Angolan nationalists formed the Union of Peoples of Northern Angola in 1954 which fought for the independence of the Congolese kingdom. In addition, the Angolan Communist Party (PCA) was created in 1955 and the the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in 1956.

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Baixa de Cassanje Revolt

On Jan. 3, 1960, Angolan workers boycotted the Cotonang’s cotton fields where they worked. Their demands were simple. The workers wanted better conditions and decent wages. However, the Portuguese owners did not comply. The workers burned their identification cards and attacked Portuguese traders, leading to a full-on conflict with the Portuguese. The next day, towns and villages were burned down and bombed. There were hundreds of causalities from the conflict.

 

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War in the 1960s

Throughout the decade, the native people and the Portuguese had sporadic altercations. The biggest conflict happened March 15, when the the Union of Peoples of Angola (UPA) launched an attack that ended up killing up to 7,000 people. The UPA seized farms, government posts, and trade centers. Later on, the Front for the National Liberation of Angola (FLNA) and National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) were fighting each other and the Portuguese because of their contrasting ideologies.  The two groups had the same goal but the UNITA was better trained and organized. Jonas Savimbi founded the UNITA after leaving the FLNA in 1964 when he realized that the FLNA would not spread the war outside of the Congo.

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The Treaty of Jan. 1975

By the end of the war for Independence, the three fractions decided to stop fighting one another and create an agreement with the Portuguese government. The treaty of Jan. 1975 stopped the fighting. Between January and November, the different fractions withdrew many of their forces from opposing territories. An alliance of FNLA-UNITA-South African forces claimed many of the provinces within Angola by forcing out the Soviet Union and Cuban backed forces. However, ultimately Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) won and took control of the nation.

 

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António Agostinho Neto

On Nov. 11, 1975, Neto became the country’s first president. He was a strong believer in communism and an important literary figure in the nation. During the war for Independence, he was part of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He tried to get financial backing from the United States during the Kennedy Administration but the U.S. refused. He then enlisted the help of the Soviet Union, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. On Nov. 11, 1975, Angola became a free and sovereign nation.

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Written by PH

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