Early migrations and political units
The oldest known contemporary human residents of the region are Khoi and San hunter-gatherers. During the Bantu migrations, they were mainly absorbed or replaced by Bantu peoples, but a small number of them survive in areas of southern Angola to this day. The Bantu arrived from the north, most likely from someplace around the Republic of Cameroon.
During this period, the Bantu formed a number of governmental entities (“kingdoms,” “empires”) across much of what is now Angola. The most well-known of them was the Kingdom of the Kongo, which had its center in the northwest of modern Angola but encompassed significant areas in the west of the current Democratic Republic of the Congo and in southern Gabon. It developed trade lines with other trading towns and civilisations around the coasts of southwestern and West Africa, as well as with the Great Zimbabwe Mutapa Empire, although it participated in little or no transoceanic commerce. To the south was the Kingdom of Ndongo, from whence the subsequent Portuguese colony was often referred to as Dongo.
In 1484, the Portuguese adventurer Diogo Co arrived in what is now Angola. The Portuguese had established ties with the Kingdom of Kongo the year before, which extended from current Gabon in the north to the Kwanza River in the south at the time. Apart from the Cabinda enclave, the Portuguese built their main early trade station at Soyo, which is today Angola’s northernmost metropolis. In 1575, Paulo Dias de Novais established So Paulo de Loanda (Luanda) with a hundred families of immigrants and 400 troops. Benguela was fortified in 1587 and raised to the status of township in 1617.
Along the Angolan coast, the Portuguese built numerous additional towns, forts, and trading stations, mostly to trade Angolan slaves for Brazilian farms. Local slave traders supplied the Portuguese Empire with a significant number of slaves, who were typically sold in return for manufactured commodities from Europe. This segment of the Atlantic slave trade lasted until the 1820s, when Brazil gained freedom.
Despite Portugal’s formal claims, its authority over Angola’s interior remained limited as late as the nineteenth century. Portugal acquired control of the coast in the 16th century via a series of treaties and battles. Life was tough and development was sluggish for European colonists. According to Iliffe, “Portuguese records of Angola from the 16th century show that a great famine occurred on average every seventy years; accompanied by epidemic disease, it might kill one-third or one-half of the population, destroying a generation’s demographic growth and forcing colonists back into the river valleys.”
In the midst of the Portuguese Restoration War, the Dutch seized Luanda in 1641, relying on partnerships with locals to counter Portuguese possessions elsewhere. In 1648, a navy led by Salvador de Sá retook Luanda for Portugal; the remainder of the province was reclaimed by 1650. New treaties were made with Kongo in 1649, and others with Njinga’s Kingdom of Matamba and Ndongo in 1656. The capture of Pungo Andongo in 1671 was the final significant Portuguese advance from Luanda, since efforts to attack Kongo in 1670 and Matamba in 1681 were both unsuccessful. Portugal also moved inward from Benguela, although advances from Luanda and Benguela were relatively restricted until the late nineteenth century. Portugal had neither the desire nor the resources to engage in large-scale territorial occupation and colonization.
After the Berlin Conference in 1885 established the colony’s boundaries, British and Portuguese investment encouraged mining, railroads, and agriculture based on different forced-labor and volunteer labor regimes. Full Portuguese governmental authority of the hinterland did not emerge until the early twentieth century. For almost 500 years, Portugal had a limited presence in Angola, and early demands for independence elicited little response from a people that had little social identification with the region as a whole. In the 1950s, more openly political and “nationalist” organizations started to express demands for self-determination, particularly in international venues such as the Non-Aligned Movement.
Meanwhile, the Portuguese regime refused to give in to the calls for independence, sparking an armed confrontation in northeastern Angola in 1961, when freedom fighters assaulted both white and black people in cross-border operations. The conflict became known as the Colonial War. The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), established in 1956, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), founded in 1961, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), created in 1966, were the main actors in this fight. After years of warfare that weakened all insurgent groups, Angola achieved independence on November 11, 1975, after the 1974 coup d’état in Lisbon, Portugal, which toppled the Portuguese regime led by Marcelo Caetano.
In 1974, Portugal’s new revolutionary authorities started a process of domestic political reform and recognized independence for its former colonies overseas. The three nationalist groups in Angola soon clashed for supremacy. The events triggered a major flight of Portuguese people, resulting in the creation of up to 300,000 impoverished Portuguese exiles known as retornados. The new Portuguese government attempted to negotiate an agreement between the three rival groups, and was successful in persuading them to agree to establish a single government on paper. However, none of the African parties followed through on their promises, and the matter was settled by military action.
Independence and civil war
Angola had a terrible civil war that lasted many decades after gaining independence in November 1975. (with some interludes). It claimed millions of lives and created a large number of refugees; it lasted until 2002.
Following talks in Portugal, which was undergoing significant social and political upheaval and uncertainty as a result of the April 1974 revolution, Angola’s three major guerrilla organizations decided in January 1975 to form a transitional government. However, within two months, the FNLA, MPLA, and UNITA began battling one other, and the nation began to divide into zones controlled by opposing armed political organizations. The MPLA seized control of the nation’s capital, Luanda, as well as most of the rest of the country. With the backing of the US, Zare and South Africa engaged militarily in support of the FNLA and UNITA, with the goal of seizing Luanda before the proclamation of independence. In response, Cuba intervened in support of the MPLA (see: Cuba in Angola), causing a Cold War flashpoint.
The MPLA controlled Luanda and proclaimed independence on November 11, 1975, with Agostinho Neto becoming the first president, but the civil war continued. At this point, the bulk of Angola’s half-million Portuguese residents – who had accounted for the majority of skilled employees in public administration, agriculture, industries, and commerce – had left the nation, leaving the country’s formerly wealthy and expanding economy in a condition of insolvency.
The MPLA organized and maintained a socialist regime throughout the majority of 1975–1990. When the Cold War ended in 1990, the MPLA abandoned its Marxist–Leninist doctrine and proclaimed social democracy its official philosophy, going on to win the 1992 general election. However, eight opposition parties declared the elections to be rigged, resulting in the Halloween bloodbath.
Ceasefire with UNITA
Jonas Savimbi, the commander of UNITA, was killed in battle with government forces on March 22, 2002. Soon after, the two sides agreed to a cease-fire. UNITA renounced its armed branch and accepted the role of main opposition party, despite the fact that a genuine democratic election was impossible under the current government. Although the country’s political situation started to improve, formal democratic procedures were not created until the elections in Angola in 2008 and 2012, as well as the passage of a new Angolan Constitution in 2010, both of which reinforced the country’s dominant-party system. Although a few exceptional UNITA figures are granted part of the economic as well as military share, MPLA head officials continue to be awarded prominent posts in top-level businesses or other areas.
Angola is in the grip of a severe humanitarian crisis as a result of the prolonged war, the abundance of minefields, the continued political and, to a lesser extent, military activities in support of the independence of the northern exclave of Cabinda carried out in the context of the protracted Cabinda Conflict by the Frente para a Libertaço do Enclave de Cabinda, (FLEC), and, most importantly, the depravation. While the majority of the internally displaced have already settled in the capital’s so-called musseques, Angolans’ overall condition remains dire.
The 2016 drought is Southern Africa’s greatest global food catastrophe in 25 years. Drought has affected 1.4 million people in seven of Angola’s 18 regions. Food costs have increased, and acute malnutrition rates have more than doubled, affecting almost 95,000 children. From July until the end of the year, food insecurity is projected to increase.