Angolan Civil War

The Angolan Civil War (Portuguese: Guerra Civil Angolana) was a civil war in Angola, beginning in 1975 and continuing, with interludes, until 2002. The war began immediately after Angola became independent from Portugal in November 1975. It was a power struggle between two former anti-colonial guerrilla movements, the communist People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the anti-communist National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

Angolan Civil War
Part of the Cold War (until 1991) and the First & Second Congo War (from 1996)

Map of the Angolan Civil War during the 1970s
Date11 November 1975 – 4 April 2002
(26 years, 4 months, 3 weeks and 3 days)

MPLA victory

  • Creation 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 continues
Material support:
Material support:

Material support:
Commanders and leaders
Agostinho Neto 
José Eduardo dos Santos
Iko Carreira
Kundi Paihama
João Lourenço
António Franca
Lúcio Lara
Cuba Fidel Castro
Cuba Antonio Batlle
Cuba Abelardo Colomé Ibarra
Cuba Arnaldo Ochoa
Cuba Raul Arguello 
East Germany Erich Honecker
Soviet Union Vasily Petrov
Soviet Union Valentin Varennikov
Socialist Republic of Romania Aurel Niculescu
Namibia Sam Nujoma
Jonas Savimbi 
Jeremias Chitunda 
António Dembo 
Paulo Lukamba Gato
Demosthenes Chilingutila
Alberto Vinama
Kafundanga Chingunji
Arlindo Pena Ben-Ben
Holden Roberto
Daniel Chipenda (1975)
South Africa B. J. Vorster (1975–1978)
South Africa P. W. Botha (1978–1989)
Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko (1975)
Luis Ranque Franque
Henrique N'zita Tiago
Rodrigues Mingas

MPLA troops:

Cuba Cuban troops:

  • 36,000 with 400 tanks (1976)[26]
  • 35,000–37,000 (1982)[24]
  • 60,000 (1988)[24]
  • 337,033[27]–380,000[28] total (supported by 1,000 tanks, 600 armored vehicles and 1,600 artillery pieces)[29]

East Germany East German troops:

  • 3,500 paratroopers[30]

Soviet Union Soviet troops:

  • Altogether 11,000

Socialist Republic of Romania Romanian troops:

Brazil Brazilian troops:

  • Classified with tens of aircraft (1999)[18]

UNITA militants:

  • 65,000 (1990, highest)[32]

FNLA militants:

  • 22,000 (1975)[33]
  • 4,000–7,000 (1976)[34]

Union of South Africa South African troops:

  • 20,000 (1975–1976)[35]
  • 6,000 (1987–1988)[35]
Casualties and losses
Cuba 2,016–5,000 dead[36]
Soviet Union 54 killed[37]
Czech Republic 1 dead[38]
South Africa 2,365[39]–2,500 dead[40] (including South African Border War deaths)
500,000–800,000 killed and 4 million displaced[41][42]
Nearly 70,000 Angolans became amputees as a result of land mines[43]

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 Angolan War of 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.[44] With the assistance of Cuban soldiers and Soviet support, the MPLA managed to win the initial phase of conventional fighting, oust the FNLA from Luanda, and become the de facto Angolan government.[45] The FNLA disintegrated, but the U.S.- and South Africa-backed UNITA continued its irregular warfare against the MPLA government from its base in the east and south of the country.

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, between 500,000 and 800,000 people had died and over one million had been internally displaced.[42][41] 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 the exceptional degree of foreign military and political involvement. The war is widely considered a Cold War proxy conflict, as the Soviet Union and the United States, with their respective allies Cuba and South Africa, assisted the opposing factions.[46] The conflict became closely intertwined with the Second Congo War in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo and the South African Border War. Land mines still litter the countryside and contribute to the ongoing civilian casualties.[42]

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