War Stays (1991–1992)
At the same time as the military development in Angola towards the end of the 1980s, and the end of the Cold War, there was a political development in the MPLA. At the 1990 Congress, the ruling party declared Marxism-Leninism its ideological basis and decided to allow more parties. An important part of this political development was the negotiations that led in 1991 to President Eduardo dos Santos and UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi signing the so-called Bicesse agreement. Negotiations were initiated in the wake of Namibia’s independence, following the initiative of the Soviet Union and the United States, with Portugal as the broker.
The agreement laid the foundation for the legalization of UNITA as a party, the holding of multi-party elections within 18 months, the full demobilization of UNITA’s forces under UN supervision (UNAVEM II) and the establishment of an integrated, party-independent national defense.
The first round of elections in the fall of 1992 was carried out according to plan. MPLA got 53.7 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections; UNITA gained 34.1 percent. A large number of other parties participated, including FNLA, which with its 2.4 per cent became the third largest party. In the first round of the presidential election, MPLA’s dos Santos got 49.6 percent of the vote, against 40.1 percent for UNITA’s Jonas Savimbi. Since no one got a pure majority, a second round of elections would decide, but this was never carried out. UNITA did not accept the election result, and the fighting started all over again.
The Second Stage of the Civil War (1992–2002)
Following the October 1992 elections, UNITA withdrew from Luanda and established its headquarters in Huambo, the country’s second largest city. Soon UNITA took control of most of the country. The fighting in 1993 and 1994 led to major civilian casualties, a humanitarian disaster and the destruction of cities, especially inland.
The war of the 1980s was clearly marked by the Cold War, but also by the apartheid regime in South Africa’s attempt to destabilize neighboring countries in the north. The war of the 1990s did not have the same international character, but was often referred to as a resource war, since the large natural resources in the country could finance the warring parties. MPLA and the government had access to revenues from the country’s growing oil production, while UNITA had revenue from diamonds from inland.
UNITA gradually became more isolated, and diamond revenue was nowhere near the government’s oil revenues. South Africa and the United States both established diplomatic relations with the Government of Angola, and the UN Security Council approved a ban on the sale of weapons and petroleum products to UNITA. The UN sanctions led Savimbi to accept international mediation in 1994, which in November led to the signing of the so-called Lusaka agreement between the Angolan government and UNITA, with a ceasefire and subsequent peace treaty, signed on 20 November 1994. This was to be monitored by the UN ( UNAVEM III). A new unity government was to be formed, with the participation of UNITA.
None of the parties tried very hard to implement the agreement. A “no peace, not war” situation persisted until April 1997, when the unifying government was finally sworn in, and UNITA representatives appointed governors in three provinces. Savimbi never took up the post offered to him as Vice President, and did not trust UNITA’s government members.
In 1998, the fighting action once again intensified. From then on, dos Santos was not interested in negotiations. The government succeeded in running UNITA from scandal to scandal. Savimbi was eventually killed by government forces in a remote location in Moxico province, far east of the country on February 22, 2002.
The 27-year civil war was formally declared closed in April 2002. Nearly 100,000 UNITA soldiers with families gathered in camps and granted amnesty. In June 2003, Isaias Samakuva was elected new leader of UNITA, now formally transformed into a political party.
Although the civil war in Angola was formally over through the peace treaty with UNITA, there were still fighting operations in the Cabinda Exclave, where the government launched an offensive against the separatists in the FLEC guerrilla. In this province, occasional armed fighting continued for years to come, and continued in 2017.
The consequences of the Civil War
Angola has been strongly characterized by almost continuous war for over 40 years (1961–2002). It is estimated that around 1.5 million people were killed as a result of the war, which led to major devastation and financial losses. By the end of the war, around 4 million Angolans – a third of the population – had been internally displaced, and a further 1.5 million had fled the country.
All parties to the war were guilty of abuses against the civilian population, which for several periods were also hit by drought and hunger. An important dimension of the social crisis in the wake of the war was the widespread use of land mines, but the problem was largely minimized during the first decade after the war. Clearing mines is an area for Norwegian aid efforts in Angola, run by Norwegian People’s Aid. The Norwegian Refugee Council and Norwegian Church Aid have also made significant efforts in the country after the war.