The first European power to arrive in black Africa is now the last to depart. The April 1974 coup in Lisbon, one of those rare instances in history when a change in government reverses a vital national policy, has led to the end of centuries of Portuguese colonization. Such a rapid shift in policy, resulting in the promise of independence for Mozambique on June 25 and Angola on November II of this year, was bound to fundamentally change the character of African politics. This decolonization in the south, together with the Ethiopian revolution, the new power of the oil-producing states, and the tragedy of the Sahel drought in the north, have made 1974-75 a historic time for Africa.

Angola is the last and certainly the most difficult territory for Portugal to leave. Since 1483, when Diogo Cao first came to the mouth of the gigantic river he called "Zaïre," Portugal has prided itself on maintaining this valuable territory, 14 times the size of the metropole itself and nearly twice as large as Texas. Besides these strong historical ties to Portugal, there are several factors which make Angola's transition to independence important, difficult, and as we shall see, potentially explosive.


Angola is a rich and relatively unexploited country. Indeed few territories have become independent with such wealth in mineral resources and such promise of a booming economy. Oil, diamonds, and iron ore have been found in abundance and no one can say what else exists in the land that has been minimally prospected. Because of its mineral wealth, Angola may well become one of the richest countries in Africa. Unprocessed primary products account for 80 percent of total exports, including a substantial agricultural output (raw cotton, fish meal, bananas, and wood are exported and Angola is the world's fourth-largest coffee producer).

With such natural resources, it is not surprising that the economy is booming. Since 1966, Angola's real growth rate has been over six percent and its total exports grew 37 percent during 1973, resulting in an increase in the balance of trade of an astounding 83 percent. Statistics for 1974 will be even brighter, as the surplus in the balance of trade for the first quarter of 1974 almost equaled that of the entire previous year, with exports shooting up 184 percent over the first quarter of 1973. While the economy has slowed down somewhat since last summer as a result of the political uncertainty, it should pick up when a stable government becomes established. With a GNP of $1.5 billion in 1973, Angola appears to be in a period of sustained economic growth over the long run.

Angola is unique among former African colonies in the relatively large size of its white population and the lack of training of its black population. Of the 6.2 million Angolans, approximately 350,000 are white, making it the largest white population in sub-Saharan Africa besides South Africa.

Partly because of Portuguese government incentives, many new settlers have come to the area since the early sixties. Between 1960 and 1967, Angola's expatriate population increased at four times the rate of the population as a whole. Most of these immigrants were peasants, unskilled and semi-skilled workers, and Portuguese soldiers urged to remain after their tour of duty. Thus Angola is unique not only in its large numbers of whites, but also in that over half of them are in the lower economic strata. It is only in Angola that one sees white and black farmers working adjoining plots of land and only in Luanda, unique among African capitals, that one sees predominantly white domestics, construction workers, and manual laborers. Members of this white working class generally consider themselves Angolan rather than Portuguese and hope to remain after independence. They have established themselves and are earning an adequate living, perhaps slightly better than their brothers in Portugal. Besides, they have nowhere else to go, since the dire economic situation in Portugal does not invite them back and a lack of capital prevents their migrating to South Africa or other African countries to establish some type of business.

A minority of Angolan whites are the more classic colonial settlers-businessmen, plantation owners or managers, and administrators. This group actually controls the Angolan economy and most of the local administration, although some blacks do have high jobs in the civil service, the traditional ladder for black advancement.

This small black representation in the Angolan modern sector reflects Portugal's long neglect of educational and social services in its colonies. Angola's literacy rate is a pitiful ten to 15 percent; among blacks it is below ten percent and among whites only slightly lower than Portugal's itself, or 60 percent. As dismal as they are, these statistics are brighter than those of 14 years ago. At that time, Portugal began a major educational push which came as a result of the 1961 revolt in the north, which indicated that more was needed to pacify the population, and of the failure of the assimilado policy, which by that time had deemed only one percent of the black population sufficiently educated and "civilized" to qualify for Portuguese citizenship.

At present, primary school education is supposedly compulsory, although only a percentage of black children attend school. Less than 15 percent of primary school children continue on to secondary school, and the University of Angola serves middle- and upper-class Portuguese almost exclusively-less than ten percent of the 1,500 students are either black or mulatto. In addition, few Angolan blacks have had the opportunity to study abroad.

The disparity between white and black economic and educational levels is bound to create problems for independent, black-run Angola. The new political leaders will want to open up economic opportunities to the 90 percent of the black population still engaged in subsistence farming, and the obvious channel will be through the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs now held by whites. This situation differs from that in Mozambique and most other former African colonies, where foreigners performed mainly professional and highly skilled jobs out of the reach of most blacks at the time of independence.


Angola presents innumerable problems for the Portuguese and great uncertainty for the future because of its competing liberation groups. Unlike the situation in Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, the Portuguese cannot simply turn over Angola to any one group. At the time of the April coup, there were three Angolan liberation movements and one of these, the MPLA, had been split into three factions.

The Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola (MPLA) was founded in 1956, partly by members of the Angolan and Portuguese Communist Party. It was able to attract a small following, mostly among urban intellectuals, until expelled from Luanda in March 1959. The movement went to Conakry, then to Kinshasa, and finally settled in Brazzaville, where it has remained ever since.

In 1962, the MPLA selected a new president, Dr. Antonio Agostinho Neto, revolutionary poet, medical doctor, and outspoken radical arrested several times by the Portuguese. He soon traveled to the United States to seek support, but because of his Communist background, was unsuccessful. Through the years, he has relied almost entirely upon Russian assistance, supplemented by a little money from Algeria.

Dr. Neto is the most leftist of the liberation leaders, favoring state control over the means of production and close ties with the Soviet Union. Being a doctor and an intellectual, Neto has been able to attract many educated blacks, white leftists, and mulattoes. Although his following includes city-dwellers of Luanda, Lobito, and Nova Lisboa, the majority of his support rests on ethnic identity, as is true of all three liberation movements. Neto is an Mbundu, a group which constitutes slightly over one-fourth of the black population and occupies the center of Angola inland from Luanda.

The MPLA has suffered from incessant internal conflicts throughout its history. After the April coup, which made the chance of governing an independent Angola a real possibility rather than a far-fetched dream, the movement split into three. Led by Joacquim Pinto de Andrade, a group of 70 intellectuals and high MPLA officials publicly accused Neto of "presidentialism" and dictatorial rule before withdrawing their support. More serious was the rebellion of Daniel Julio Chipenda, Neto's military commander in Zambia and eastern Angola. During the most recent MPLA conference in Lusaka in August 1974, Chipenda and Andrade accused Neto of ignoring his troops in the field while traveling luxuriously around the world. When they demanded a complete accounting of MPLA finances, Neto walked out and took his loyal delegates with him, leaving the others free to elect Chipenda as the new MPLA president.

This split, coming when Portugal was prepared for independence talks, greatly upset a group of African presidents. Meeting in Brazzaville one month later, the presidents of Zambia, Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), Zaïre, and Tanzania forced the three factions back together, at least on paper. Neto, Chipenda, and Andrade had tried to reconcile their differences earlier, but failed. Neto was once again leaving town when the African presidents ordered him to return from the airport and negotiate. An elaborate document was then prepared, naming Neto president and the other two vice presidents, and creating two councils with a complex voting procedure to determine major policies. Like all forced agreements, however, this elaborate plan was soon ignored, and Neto and Chipenda, both claiming to be MPLA president, subsequently expelled each other from the movement.

These divisions eventually proved irreconcilable, with Chipenda publicly accusing Neto, whom he calls a "pathological case," of using Nazi tactics, killing his top commanders, and being a valet of the Soviet Union. Neto was able to keep the upper hand, however, due in part to help from the Portuguese. When his position plummeted because of internal divisions, the Portuguese continued to keep him afloat. They refused to recognize other factions and always considered Neto the MPLA president and sole spokesman. While officially claiming to be neutral, the Portuguese used the government-controlled radio in Angola to favor Neto and his extreme leftist ideological statements. This favoritism stems from the fact that the Portuguese have long considered Neto the most powerful and intelligent liberation leader, from the similarity of their own leftist ideology and that of Neto, and from close personal ties, particularly between Neto and his former classmate Mario Soares, Socialist leader and present Portuguese Foreign Minister. In any case, Neto is now firmly in control of the main MPLA organization, having represented the group at the Mombasa preparatory talks with the other two major liberation groups and the Alvor summit talks with the Portuguese. Given these circumstances, it was hardly surprising that in mid-February Chipenda cast his lot with the second major liberation group, the Frente Nacional de Libertacao de Angola (FNLA).

The oldest of the three movements and the most active militarily, the FNLA fortunately is less complicated than the MPLA, as it has always been led by Holden Alvaro Roberto. The movement has its roots in tribal organizations advocating the revival of the Kongo Kingdom. Roberto, himself a Bakongo, has lived his life in Kinshasa, Zaïre, spending only the first two years in Angola proper. Roberto's group began the war of liberation with the March 1961 revolt that eventually left 400 Portuguese and as many as 40,000 Africans dead. In March 1962, Roberto named members of other tribes, including an Ovimbundu, Jonas Savimbi, to leadership positions in his government-in-exile. This attempt to enlarge his ethnic base failed, however, and present FNLA support rests almost entirely on the Bakongo tribe, now estimated at about 20 percent of the black Angolan population, including from 750,000 to one million Angolan Bakongos now living in Zaïre. The FNLA controls northern Angola by popular support and sheer military power since it has the strongest army of the liberation movements.

Being more pragmatic than ideological, Roberto has scraped together support from every conceivable source-political backing and financial help from the United States in the early sixties, medical supplies from the World Council of Churches and WHO in the early seventies, and finally arms from Rumania and advisers and equipment from China in 1974. Throughout the years, however, most of the outside aid has come from Zaïre, in terms of money, military camps, advisers, arms, and complete political backing. Even with his recent alliance with Rumania and China, Roberto is still considered the most Western-oriented of the three liberation leaders.

The third group, Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA), began as an offshoot of FNLA. In 1964 Jonas Savimbi quit his post as Foreign Minister in the government-in-exile and accused Roberto of "flagrant tribalism" and of getting support from "American imperialists." It seems that Savimbi then tried to join MPLA but was refused membership. In any case, he set out on his own and in 1966 founded UNITA, only to be expelled from his base in Lusaka the following year for damaging the Benguela Railroad, Zambia's link to the west coast. Savimbi then lived in Cairo until mid-1968 when his group reentered eastern Angola, becoming the first liberation movement to operate entirely from within the country. The Portuguese permitted them to do so because they considered UNITA preferable to the other two movements then fighting in the area, and because they constituted no military threat themselves since they had few troops.

Since 1968, Savimbi, who holds a political science degree from the University of Lausanne, has ardently practiced the Maoist tactic of launching a revolution in the rural areas by raising political consciousness among the peasants. He has consolidated his support among the Ovimbundu, the largest linguistic-ethnic group in Angola (with about 33 percent of the black population and most of those living in the south). While able to get some equipment from China in the early years, Savimbi has existed with little outside support and proudly claims that 80 percent of his arms are stolen or captured.

UNITA has grown dramatically from "12 people with knives" in 1966 and 1968, to a small group in the wilderness one year ago, to a full-fledged popular movement today. Some of this success is due to Savimbi's political acumen in creating a centrist, moderate movement between the Marxist MPLA and the conservative FNLA. While professing socialism and protection of peasants from bourgeois exploitation, Savimbi is not an ideologue and is thus more politically flexible than Neto. Unlike Roberto, he relies on virtually no outside assistance, which enables him to maneuver with few restrictions. Finally, Savimbi has won the respect and confidence of African leaders and journalists more easily than either Roberto, considered by many to be of average caliber, or Neto, considered very bright but ruthless and obstinate. Savimbi is gaining in popularity and would certainly receive the most votes in any free election today, primarily because he has the largest ethnic base of support. UNITA is beginning to be freed from its past financial woes by contributions from white Angolan businessmen, especially in the south.

A transition to independence is difficult enough where the liberation forces are divided into three groups; its prospects become downright foreboding in light of the particularly virulent hostility and conflict among all three groups in recent years. Each of the liberation movements had its own problems fighting the Portuguese, and they also spent much of their time fighting each other. After the 1961 revolt, which largely depopulated northern Angola, the FNLA could no longer conduct an effective guerrilla war, which depends on local popular support and protection for success. The MPLA, with its headquarters in Brazzaville, had problems getting into battle, primarily since Zaïre forbade MPLA troops from crossing its territory to fight in northern Angola. Neighboring Cabinda, the MPLA's major battleground, had its own liberation movement which actively opposed the MPLA, and eastern Angola, the only other place to fight, was far away and barren of trees, villagers, and Portuguese soldiers. UNITA lacked arms, money, and trained fighters; moreover, if too diligent in making war, it could always be expelled by the Portuguese and left homeless since the group was already barred from Lusaka, Brazzaville, and Kinshasa.

Because of these difficulties, the war against Portugal sputtered on through the years with little real activity. In all of 1973, for example, the Portuguese lost only 81 soldiers, of whom not more than 15 were actually shot in combat, the rest falling victim to ground mines. Nevertheless, while losing the occasional skirmishes, the liberation armies did contribute decisively to winning the war. By forcing Portugal to maintain a 50 to 60-thousand-man army for 14 years in Angola alone, they helped create enough resentment to bring on the coup.

Even though only occasionally encountering Portuguese, the liberation movements did, however, actively confront each other, both militarily and politically. Fighting took place in northern Angola from 1962 to 1966, when the MPLA prevented the FNLA from extending control into the Mbundu area close to Luanda, and continued on some scale until the coup. Battles again developed between the two groups in the east from 1966 to early 1974 when the FNLA and MPLA effectively dissipated each others' forces. UNITA was engaged in this conflict as well, fighting both the FNLA to its north, and MPLA to its south.

Despite their common goal of removing Portugal from Angola, the groups never managed to cooperate politically. In October 1961, the two liberation groups then in existence, both with headquarters in Kinshasa, discussed consolidation until Roberto balked, saying that there was too great a Communist influence in the MPLA. In August 1962, Neto and Roberto again discussed merging but these talks ended within two days. The first of their many cooperation agreements was signed in October 1966 and then quickly ignored. In December 1973, President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaïre attempted a diplomatic coup by uniting the groups, but this soon was nullified since Neto trusted neither Roberto nor Mobutu and dared not move into Kinshasa as the agreement specified. In July 1974, the groups again signed an agreement in Bukavu, Zaïre, stating that they would cooperate fully and present a united front to the Portuguese. Yet within a few weeks the accord was ignored by all parties. Its chief architect, President Mobutu, then openly violated it by escorting an FNLA official to a secret meeting with General Spinola to unilaterally present the FNLA position.

Growing international pressure and Portuguese impatience to establish a transitional government led to the recent cooperation agreements. Savimbi paved the way in late 1974 by agreeing separately with FNLA and MPLA to "put an end to all hostilities and propaganda" and present a united front in negotiations with Portugal. Finally the MPLA and FNLA signed the most recent of their bilateral accords during the preparatory talks in Mombasa, Kenya, in January 1975. How long such cooperation agreements stay in effect of course remains to be seen.

Initially outside these three movements was Angola's fourth-largest ethnic group, the white settlers. The Portuguese have refused to recognize any white movement since the April coup, stating that the three existing liberation groups must represent all Angolans. This policy brought initial resentment from whites, many of whom had actively opposed the liberation movements, and for a time there was fear of a white revolt, perhaps a Rhodesian-type UDI. In the spring and summer of 1974, conditions were ripe for such a revolt: whites feared either a radical future government or civil war; the Portuguese Army could not be counted upon to oppose white settlers, which it had refused to do in Mozambique months earlier; and there were no liberation armies in the country which could resist a revolt. Despite the fear, no revolt materialized and aside from minor incidents in Luanda in September and October, the white settlers have remained unexpectedly passive.

Several factors help explain their political restraint. Immediately after the coup, many whites were relieved that the old dictatorship was gone but may not have realized the changes that would result. More importantly, they were totally unorganized and politically inexperienced. The white population-ranging from top business executives and administrators to common laborers and illiterate peasants-was simply too socially and economically stratified to form a single interest group. Besides, even if the desire was there, they had little knowledge of how to organize themselves effectively. Angola was always controlled from Lisbon and there were no opportunities for local political involvement or experience. In short, when the whites had a chance to take power, there was no organization or leadership to spearhead the movement. The two white groups which have arisen since then, the so-called Christian Democrats and Frente de Unidade Angolana (FUA), have little following and are either dispersed or politically inconsequential. (This lack of political experience contrasts sharply with the situation in Rhodesia where the whites were highly organized and actually running their own affairs for 32 years before UDI in 1965.) Since the majority of Angolan whites are of the working class, perhaps they feel less immediately threatened by independence; having no investments, they may think they have little to lose from a change in government at least until the time when their jobs may be in jeopardy. Finally, it is also contended that the tolerant Portuguese racial attitudes throughout the centuries may have removed some of the emotional fright of whites living under black leadership, so prevalent in other African colonial situations.

Rather than actively rebelling, many whites have left Angola, though the exodus is nowhere near as great as that from Mozambique. Portuguese authorities estimate that some 40,000 whites left in 1974. However, the majority of these represent the temporary departures of dependents, with the breadwinner commonly sending his family to Portugal until a new government is well established.

The whites remaining are mostly waiting and hoping that the transition to independence is rapid and peaceful. Some are joining the liberation movements, in much the same pattern as blacks. Thus white agricultural workers in the south are aligned with UNITA, big mineral and coffee producers in the north with FNLA, and urban proletarians, professionals, and intellectuals with MPLA. The Portuguese policy of limiting whites to political participation in one of the three groups will probably be beneficial in the long run. It encourages them to join a group which has a real opportunity of governing the country, prohibits them from forming a separate, racial organization, and acts as a moderating influence within the movements themselves as it encourages these to appeal to white supporters.


The last factor complicating Angola's transition to independence is the secessionist movement of Cabinda, the small enclave now part of Angola though geographically separated from it. The Cabindan issue is important in itself, due to the vast oil reserves of the area, and its disposition is symbolic in terms of the territorial integrity of Angola proper.

With a population of under 80,000, Cabinda is a tiny area of only 7,000 square kilometers (or slightly larger than Delaware), lodged between the Congo and Zaïre. Portugal was originally interested in the hardwood forests and drew up the 1885 Treaty of Simulambuco, which stipulated that the enclave came under Portuguese protection and that any change in its status would have to be made with the consultation of the Cabindan people. In the 1950s Salazar violated this provision by integrating Cabinda into Angola for administrative purposes and declaring the territories together an integral part of Portugal.

The issue was relatively unimportant until oil was discovered offshore from Cabinda in 1966. The reserves found were quite large, and the future looks brighter still as the drilling increases yearly. During 1974, Cabinda produced a daily average of 150,000 barrels of oil; on an annual basis at 1974 oil prices, this would be worth about $430 million to a local government. This makes the small area quite valuable for an independent Angola, the Cabindans themselves (who could receive over $5,000 per capita annually from oil proceeds alone) or the neighboring states of the Congo or Zaïre.

Cabindan leaders consider themselves ethnically and culturally distinct from Angolans, with whom they have been administratively associated less than 20 years. Consequently they formed their own liberation movement, Front pour la Libération de l'Enclave de Cabinda (FLEC), to advocate separation from Angola and their own independence. FLEC has petitioned for an OAU or U.N.-run referendum to decide the issue. Meanwhile, of course, it has raised its own army of a thousand soldiers, over half of whom served in the Portuguese Army and thus are fairly well trained. This FLEC army, supported largely by President Mobutu and often stationed in Zaïre, has been sporadically fighting MPLA troops in Cabinda for years, with the most recent incidents occurring last November.

Portuguese authorities were quite open to FLEC's position until recently, and the Congo and Zaïre have tacitly supported the movement, each by allowing a faction of FLEC to operate in its capital with financial backing. This has been done in spite of "total support" for their respective allied liberation movements, MPLA and FNLA, which vigorously oppose Cabindan independence. In the Mombasa agreement, the first and practically only principle agreed on by all three liberation leaders was to "safeguard the territorial integrity of Angola" by retaining Cabinda as "an integral and inalienable part of Angolan territory," language that was reiterated with Portuguese concurrence in the summit accords of January 15, 1975.

As with every element in the Angolan puzzle, the Cabinda piece is complex, since the small enclave could hardly remain totally independent for long. If it were not firmly part of an independent Angola, the temptation of the half-billion-dollar piece of real estate would eventually prove too great for Zaïre or the Congo.

Besides being economically important in itself, Cabinda is considered by the liberation leaders as a symbol of Angolan unity. Secessionist movements can never be ruled out in black Africa, where ethnic attachments are still quite strong. The situation is particularly serious in Angola, which has three major ethnic groups occupying different areas of the country, each now politically represented by a liberation movement. Rather than three national liberation movements, Angola actually has three regional and basically ethnic movements hoping to take over the entire nation. Should any one movement not succeed, it could well attempt to take its part of the country and secede. The transportation system of Angola proves most conducive since road and rail lines run almost exclusively east-west, from inland to the sea, typical of colonial transportation systems in Africa. There is only one main road and no railway going north-south across the Cuanza River, which divides the Angolan population. UNITA could conceivably separate the south from the north simply by destroying the main bridge across the river and blocking the airports and coastal ports, thereby creating a defensively secure and economically viable area with considerable agricultural and mineral resources. A movement such as FNLA could separate the north from the south, especially with Mobutu's military backing, and could survive well on receipts from diamonds, coffee, and mineral resources. Accordingly, there is real danger, publicly expressed by Savimbi, that if Cabinda goes, it "would spark separatist movements elsewhere in Angola."


As a result of these four factors-Angola's mineral wealth and booming economic prospects, a large but unorganized white population, deep conflicts within and among the three liberation movements, and the possibility of Cabindan separation and other secessionist movements-Angola at this point is an open and inviting area for outside influences. Neighboring African states are particularly interested in developments there, which are bound to affect their futures. While Angola is economically independent, having both valuable exports and the means of transporting them, the same cannot be said of its neighbors, Zaïre and Zambia, which depend on Angola's transportation network. Cabinda's neighboring states, Zaïre and the Congo, obviously have a very keen interest in the future of that precious territory. Various world powers have been involved in the Angolan situation as well.

Recently MPLA president Neto said, "After we are freed from Portuguese colonialism, we must be liberated from that of our neighbors and brothers." He was referring primarily to President Mobutu, who is the most heavily involved and strongest outside influence on Angola today. This is only natural since Zaïre has a large stake in Angolan affairs. Their 1,500-mile common border divides various important tribal groups, most notably the Bakongo. Because of past conflicts in the area, there are refugees on both sides, as many as one million Angolans now in Zaïre and four thousand rebel Katanga troops in Angola. The Benguela Railroad in Angola serves as a vital outlet for copper, Zaïre's main export, which accounts for three-fourths of that nation's foreign exchange earnings. Even under Portuguese rule when Mobutu was fully supporting the liberation movements, he continued to send almost 40 percent of the copper through Angola, a figure which would certainly increase if political conditions were favorable. A friendly Angola could supply much-needed foodstuffs to Zaïre and, on the other hand, an independent Cabinda somehow associated with Zaïre would be most welcome, as indicated by Mobutu's large participation in the training and equipping of the FLEC army. Finally, Mobutu has invested a great deal in Holden Roberto over the last nine years, an investment he would not like to see wasted.

Politically, Mobutu needs a peaceful Angolan border to give him time to mold a new Zaïrian political system based on glorification of the leader (immodestly called Mobutism). Border conflicts could disrupt this grand scheme, his top domestic priority. Internationally, Angola presents Mobutu with his first genuine opportunity for diplomatic grandeur, something he has sought in vain during extensive past travels. Longing to create an image as leader of the continent, Mobutu has played a highly visible role in the Angolan situation, engineering several aborted agreements such as the 1973 unification of MPLA and FNLA, and the Bukavu and Brazzaville agreements.

Leaving the role of peacemaker for that of advocate, Mobutu has championed Roberto on every possible occasion. Ignoring his own Bukavu agreement, he met with General Spinola and an FNLA representative in September. To weaken Neto, Roberto's chief opponent, Mobutu encouraged the Chipenda revolt (some say with great financial incentives) and he continues to refer to Chipenda as "MPLA President elected at the Lusaka Conference." Mobutu tried unsuccessfully to convince Foreign Minister Soares, during the latter's various trips to Kinshasa, to deal with Chipenda and not with Neto. In short, Zaïre's stakes are high in the Angolan transition, and Mobutu will do everything possible to assure that it ends in Roberto's success.

Zambia's participation has been more even-handed than Zaïre's, but its interests in the area are no less great. Zambia's 600-mile border with Angola is not too important since the area is practically barren of people and known resources. Far more crucial is Angola's transportation network, a lifeline to the sea for Zambia. Since the closing of the Rhodesian border two years ago and the recent problems of Tanzanian restrictions on the use of its roads, Zambia must now rely on the Benguela Railroad to transport well over half its copper, Zambia's only important export. So vital is this link that President Kaunda had to expel Savimbi for endangering Zambia's use of the railroad in 1967. As a result of the impending Portuguese departure and the Tanzanian restrictions, Zambia has already petitioned Angola to transport over two-thirds of its copper, which would make it almost totally economically dependent upon Angola in the future.

Politically, Zambia has been neutral, supporting all the liberation movements and at various times allowing MPLA/Neto, MPLA/Chipenda, and UNITA troops to operate from its borders. Throughout the war and especially since the coup, Kaunda has stressed peace and unity, which is in keeping with his philosophy of African Humanism and his desire for leadership among the new African states. Above all, Kaunda would like a peaceful transition to Angolan independence which would minimize delays on the railroad and eliminate present labor problems in the Lobito harbor resulting from political uncertainty and unrest.

Congo (Brazzaville) has long been involved with the liberation movements out of both ideological and economic considerations. It would welcome a Soviet Marxist ally such as Neto in the area and is certainly eager to get its hands on Cabinda, which would mean far more to the economically poor Congo than to the minerally wealthy Zaïre.

Finally, South Africa has a stake in Angola because of the Angolan-Namibian (Southwest African) border and economic investments. A hostile government in Luanda would certainly increase the guerrilla activity in Namibia. South Africa has investments in Angola, including the large Cunene hydroelectric scheme on the Angolan-Namibian border and private interests in Angolan diamonds, minerals, and the Benguela Railroad.

As vitally interested in Angolan affairs as they are, these African states will continue to use political influence to guide future events. The Congo and Zaïre will push for the MPLA and FNLA, respectively, in Angola and for their own FLEC factions in the case of Cabindan independence. Zambia, on the other hand, wants any political ambiguity resolved quickly and peacefully, not really caring who wins just as long as the railroad runs on time. In addition to its political influence, Zaïre and Zaïre alone of these countries has the option of military intervention, should it feel the need.

More indirect but still important in Angolan affairs is the influence of the United States, China, and Russia. In December, Chipenda said he expected the great powers to influence the outcome in Angola. Apparently Mobutu shares this view since he planned a December trip to Moscow to discourage further Russian assistance to Neto.

The United States first became involved in the liberation movement in the early sixties by supporting Holden Roberto on a covert basis. Since the Kennedy Administration, however, the United States has been publicly neutral toward all liberation movements, and American officials deny rumors, now very prevalent in Luanda, of heavy continuing CIA support for the FNLA. The main U.S. interests in Angola are political-to encourage a friendly government in a large and potentially powerful African country-and economic-to preserve American business interests. Particularly important are the interests of Gulf Oil, the fourth-largest oil company in the United States, which has exclusive rights over Cabindan oil. In terms of trade, the United States is the principal importer of Angolan goods, even ahead of Portugal, and the third-largest exporter to Angola. Congress has recently indicated positive U.S. interest by voting foreign aid for both Portugal and its former territories in Africa.

The Chinese, having no economic interests in Angola, seem motivated by ideological and political concerns. They were obviously attracted to the Angolan war of liberation, truly a textbook case of small, black guerrilla units fighting a colonial and imperialistic white power, and until recently seem to have been more taken by the idea than by any one leader or movement. In 1968, they welcomed Savimbi to Peking and subsequently gave him some small support. Just last year, according to Savimbi, the Chinese implied that they could give him additional help, but he apparently refused the offer. In 1971 Chinese leaders welcomed Neto who, because of his reliance on Soviet backing and ideology, went away empty-handed. Then in December 1973, they greeted Roberto, who had received minor Chinese assistance ten years earlier. The Chinese finally decided to back one of the movements seriously and promised the FNLA over a hundred guerrilla warfare specialists and a reported 450 tons of military equipment, both to enter Kinshasa beginning last June.

It seems that by backing Roberto, the most Western-leaning of the leaders, the Chinese decided to sacrifice some ideological purity for political payoffs, or perhaps they merely wanted to oppose the Russians' protegé and simply chose the strongest alternative, even though it meant aligning with the U.S. favorite. In any case, the Chinese stand to gain politically by expanding their influence in Africa, to which they give over half their foreign assistance. In particular, they seek greater support in West Africa at present, after years of assistance to the Asia-facing east coast. Two years ago they planted a firm foothold in the area by greatly impressing Mobutu on his first trip to China and subsequently sending him over a hundred agricultural advisers and teams of doctors, providing a reported $100-million interest-free loan, and even promising to build in Kinshasa an exact replica of Peking's Cultural Palace.

The Russians, as always, are a bit more direct and obvious in their policy than the Chinese. The Soviet Union has backed the MPLA and Neto from the beginning in order to win another ideological and political ally in the area, hopefully one a bit stronger than Congo (Brazzaville). The Russians, however, seem less interested in the Angolan intrigues than the Chinese. In 1971 and 1972, they seemed to decrease their support for the MPLA, apparently thinking that the movement was internally divided, militarily feeble, and unable ever to dislodge the Portuguese from Angola.

Despite great-power interest and historical involvement in Angola, the present situation is unlikely to bring about a confrontation. Times have changed since the showdown days of the Congo crisis and no sufficient military, political, or economic incentive exists to warrant large-scale intervention. Only the Chinese have military advisers in the area, and they are extremely unlikely to become involved in any fighting. The Angolan situation could present great-power difficulties only if either China or Russia massively steps up assistance to its ally and the other then reacts. While the situation would become tense, the liberation forces, rather than the great powers themselves, would remain the chief actors.


In a situation as complex as that of present-day Angola, it might seem foolhardy to predict any future course of events. One year ago, no one could have imagined Portugal voluntarily leaving Angola at any time within the century, and six months ago few considered Savimbi an important leader. Nevertheless, the historical facts along with the general flow of recent events do point to certain apparent and some less obvious conclusions.

First and perhaps most apparent, the transitional government, which will rule Angola until November 11 of this year, will be more occupied with internal conflicts than with effective administration. The Alvor accords signed by the three liberation leaders and Portuguese officials on January 15 provide for each of the four parties to run aspects of the government and enable each to keep a check on the others. The plan calls for the Portuguese High Commissioner to guarantee observance of the accords, help direct foreign policy, and participate in promulgating laws. There is a three-man Presidential Collegium, with one representative from each liberation movement, which provides a rather unique rotating presidency and votes by two-thirds majority rule on major issues involving the ministries and the promulgation of laws. Control of the 12 ministries is evenly divided among the four parties-Portugal and the three groups.

While the new governmental structure seems overly complicated, it does force two of the three liberation leaders to agree before any major action is taken1 and gives Portuguese authorities important powers as well. The weakest point in the scheme is the division of the ministries, which will create innumerable conflicts. The MPLA seems to have received the choicest picks with the Ministries of Information, Planning and Finance, and Justice, hence controlling the radio stations, finances, and court system. FNLA did not do so well, receiving only one important ministry, Interior, which includes some enforcement officials and local authorities in the interior. UNITA received only one major ministry as well, that of Labor and Social Security, which deals with workers throughout the country. Conflicts are likely to arise over the use of these positions to further the individual liberation movements, and accusations will undoubtedly be made that the radio is biased toward MPLA, enforcement officials are furthering FNLA interests, and labor officials are more interested in political support for UNITA than just wage settlements.

The main task of the transitional government, besides running the administration for ten months, is to assure elections for a constituent assembly. These elections will be held before October 31 and candidates can only be nominated by the three liberation groups. While they are specific on these points, the public accords neglect to mention what the constituent assembly actually does after being elected, particularly what its relationship is to the choosing of a head of state. It may be that the assembly will write the new constitution which includes a procedure for electing a president, or more probably it will select the president directly. The accords are seriously deficient in not making this clear since one of the most vital elements in any governmental structure is the procedure for choosing its leaders.

It now seems that this matter will be decided and the leadership crisis resolved, directly or indirectly, by internal military power. Neither MPLA nor FNLA will lose the struggle for leadership in Angola graciously and both cannot win. The only possible resolution now appears to be military victory by one or the other, either alone or aligned with UNITA. Hence Angola seems to be heading for a difficult period of large-scale fighting and civil war.

At present the military situation is indeed tense, with five separate armies operating within Angola, each with its own arms, troops, commanders, and goals. According to Portuguese authorities (who provided all the following statistics, valid for January 1, 1975), the FNLA (before Chipenda's move to join them) had a total of 21,000 troops, 9,000 inside Angola, including about 500 in Luanda, and 12,000 undergoing training in Zaïre. While the caliber of these troops and their equipment has improved somewhat with recent Rumanian and Chinese aid, it is still rather low. The disposition of Chipenda's 2,000 troops in eastern Angola and Zambia, which were reportedly of low morale and thinking of deserting to Neto before their leader moved to join Roberto, is somewhat uncertain, although they are now at least nominally under the umbrella of the FNLA. MPLA has a total of about 10,000 troops, 1,500 in Cabinda, 2,500 in eastern Angola, 300 around Luanda, and some 5,700 undergoing training in the Congo, Zambia, and Angola. Man for man, the MPLA soldier is the best trained, equipped and led, as many have come directly from the Portuguese Army. The MPLA may increase its present strength by recruiting the well-trained 4,000 Katanga ex-gendarmes now living in Angola, as reports indicate is being discussed. UNITA has 8,000 troops, up considerably from its seven to eight hundred in April but still not a powerful force, especially since over half are undergoing training now and their equipment is old. The FNLA is therefore the strongest militarily and best located strategically, being directly north of Luanda. Yet with its large number of new recruits and generally lower caliber soldier, FNLA may not be predominant, at least at this point. Finally, the Portuguese Army has 30,000 troops, only half its April strength due to demobilization of its black and white Angolan soldiers.

In addition to existing troop strength, the liberation movements are presently besieged with new recruits throughout the country, young men not wanting to miss any future action, and they are frantically training and arming these additional troops.

The negotiators at Alvor tried to defuse this tense situation by consolidating the separate liberation armies. The parties had serious difficulties agreeing and the meeting almost broke up over the issue. However, it was finally decided that by September each liberation group would supply 8,000 troops and Portugal 24,000 troops to a new Angolan army of 48,000 total strength. Military affairs and the police would be directed jointly by the Portuguese High Commissioner, three liberation representatives, and six military commanders. Liberation troops not in the new army are specifically allowed to remain in place, which in effect allows them to retain control over their areas.

How well these plans actually work depends upon the cooperation and trust among liberation groups and the moderating influence of the Portuguese Army. Neither element particularly inspires confidence or is likely to prove sufficient to prevent conflicts from arising. Given the years of active fighting among the three movements, it seems most dubious that such hostility will suddenly disappear overnight, especially since the outcome now determines the leadership of Angola whereas before it meant relatively little. Even if the three groups do consolidate their armies as prescribed, it remains to be seen whether they will surrender troop control to the unified command or retain it within their own command, and what they will actually do with their additional troops, those not to be included in the new army.

The Portuguese Army is unlikely to save the situation either, as its soldiers seem unwilling to fight. During the disturbances in the black neighborhoods of Luanda last summer, when over 100 persons were killed, Portuguese soldiers generally resisted getting involved. Soon after Portugal signed ceasefire agreements with UNITA in June and FNLA and MPLA in October, the liberation armies entered Angola and began to patrol the black areas of the major cities. By the year's end, the Portuguese Army had completely surrendered control of these areas to the three other armies, apparently following the wishes of its soldiers and fearing cries of colonialism and repression should they be forced to take action. The Portuguese soldiers would certainly be more reluctant to risk their lives trying to moderate fighting between liberation armies than to reestablish order in the black sections of Luanda. As mentioned previously, the army may prove equally undependable in actions against white settlers. Besides, precisely at the most crucial time, one month before independence as the new leadership is being chosen, Portugal is to begin withdrawing its troops from Angola. The Alvor accords provide for Portuguese troop withdrawals to begin in October 1975 and end in February 1976.

Not to be totally pessimistic, the leadership crisis may be resolved with little actual fighting. Instead the victory may be won by military threats and a predominance of force by any one group or alignment of two groups. This is fairly unlikely, however, since neither FNLA nor MPLA would appear to be so accommodating.

Outside powers are likely to continue or even increase their support, but are unlikely to intervene militarily. As stated, the great powers have no compelling reason to become deeply involved and the African nations, except Zaïre, have no real capacity for doing so. Even Mobutu would not risk OAU and general African opposition in an overt move, which in any case would bolster Roberto's enemies, determined to chase out the new colonialists. At the extreme, he could only intervene covertly by enlisting Zaïrian Bakongo troops into the FNLA, but even this is improbable unless the battle is raging with the unfriendly Neto on the verge of total victory. In any case, Mobutu would probably deny such intervention and an outsider would find it almost impossible to disprove him.

While the whites are unlikely to take unilateral action, they certainly could be expected to react violently in case of military or political attack. Their chance for a separate armed rebellion has passed, and their fate is now tied to that of the liberation movements. Should there be real civil war, threatening their lives and property, the already well-armed white community would respond by fighting and leaving in haste. Those staying would ask for Portuguese military support, which would pose innumerable problems for the Lisbon government. Even though it would feel morally bound to protect its former citizens and extensive Portuguese business interests in Angola, the government would have both logistical problems recruiting enough soldiers who would actually fight and a real political crisis since the Armed Forces Movement, which controls the army and government, is very determined to stop foreign conflicts and leave Angola quickly.

The whites may also react to political threats of expulsion. At this point, many feel caught between the Portuguese government, which would like them to stay in Angola in order to avoid the political and economic adjustments a mass repatriation would cause, and some of the liberation groups (particularly the FNLA), which would like those of the working class to leave for good, thereby releasing their jobs to blacks. Apparently the status of white settlers was a difficult issue at Alvor, where a compromise was reached providing that the citizenship of Portuguese domiciled but not born in Angola would be specially studied. Such study could well conclude that this large group, mostly manual laborers and farmers coming since the 1960s, does not qualify for Angolan citizenship, causing the settlers to react, many by fighting.

Cabinda's fate depends on what happens in Angola proper-the more the fighting there, the greater its chance of independence. In a relatively peaceful transition, the new government with its consolidated army will have the military force and certainly the determination to retain Cabinda. This is especially true since the summit accords commit Portugal and the High Commissioner in Luanda to preserving Cabinda as an integral part of Angola. If large-scale fighting breaks out in Angola, however, the MPLA would have to withdraw its troops from Cabinda to go for the larger prize in Luanda, and the Portuguese might do likewise to minimize the conflict in the main territory. Although Cabinda might then become independent, it would not be aligned with the Congo. President Mobutu would never allow the valuable territory on his border to markedly strengthen his one-time foe across the river, and he has a great deal to say in the matter as the FLEC army's biggest contributor. More probable is an independent Cabinda initially coming under Zaïrian protection, as it was under Portuguese protection for centuries, with closer ties and perhaps even integration coming later.

To postulate the last and most tentative prediction, it seems likely that Roberto and Savimbi together will initially take power, with one of the two victorious in the long run. While the MPLA currently has the most trained professionals to actually run the new government, its leadership under Neto has faltered. Neto has not been able to control his own internal conflicts, in part because he is a hardline Marxist who insists upon ideological purity in the movement. In this period of Angola's development, a less rigid leader who knows and appreciates the art of reconciliation and compromise would be more successful. In the long run as well, Angola needs someone to weld the various tribal, economic, and racial interests of the huge and diverse country in an imaginative rather than doctrinaire way. In addition, the rise of Neto would create serious political problems with neighboring Zaïre, which neither country could well afford at this point.

It is inconceivable that Neto and Roberto could work together for long. One must give way to the other, as cooperation between them appears impossible on personal, ethnic, political, and ideological grounds. The two leaders have been involved in too many personal and military battles, and each one's ethnic base is sufficiently narrow, particularly Roberto's, to arouse deep distrust. Their political support, both in Africa and from the great powers, pulls them apart, Neto with Russia and Congo (Brazzaville) and Roberto with their rivals, China and Zaïre. Savimbi and Neto would have an easier time cooperating but again the ideological differences remain, as seen in Neto's refusal to accept Savimbi in the MPLA years ago.

The Roberto-Savimbi alliance would be an obvious one. The two worked together for years, Savimbi as Roberto's Foreign Minister in the government-in-exile, indicating no serious ideological differences. Recently Savimbi has hinted at such an accord, publicly saying that Roberto now appreciates Angola's needs and if he had been as open-minded years ago, Savimbi would never have left him. The alliance would combine the strongest military power, FNLA, with the strongest popular movement, UNITA, as well as the Bakongo north and Ovimbundu south. (Chipenda, incidentally, is on friendly terms with Savimbi as well as Roberto.) Problems with this might arise over the control of Luanda, in the heart of MPLA territory. One possible solution would be to move the capital, at least temporarily, to Nova Lisboa, more centrally located in the country and long thought to be the future capital, as the name indicates.

African alliances, such as that predicted for Roberto and Savimbi, have a tendency of lasting just so long. Eventually one or the other must take total control but this may be some time off, thus fortunately not calling for a prediction at this point. It should be mentioned, however, that if Roberto eventually wins, he could prove more independent than many people now expect. Although certainly indebted to Mobutu, his success has been more the result of long Zaïrian support than of any new and special relationship with Mobutu. Historically it has always been in Zaïrian interests to fully support Roberto, as did Lumumba, Kasavubu and Adoula before 1965. Roberto would certainly be friendly to Zaïre but might not be under Mobutu's firm control.

There is always the possibility that the future Angolan leader will be none of the present contenders. The situation here may replicate that of 1952 Egypt or Algeria at independence in 1962; in each case, military or political unknowns rose to the top within two to three years. In the short run such a switch seems unlikely unless there is total chaos in the country for an extended period of time. Still the three leaders have not yet been tested in terms of effective political leadership on a large scale. No one is sure if they can make the transition from guerrilla fighters-mainly involved with condemning colonialism and imperialism, raising foreign support, and directing troops in small guerrilla operations-to truly national leaders-contending with powerful ethnic groups in other regions of the country, white businessmen, manual laborers, foreign investors and economically reliant neighboring states. The new Angolan leadership must also be able to rapidly develop the long-neglected black rural population, over 90 percent illiterate, and improve the social and health facilities of the country.

Whatever the outcome in Angola, it will certainly be unique because the various elements of the situation are themselves unique. In a way, it is unfortunate that, after centuries of delay, decolonization in such a complex setting had to be so rapid, taking place in less than 19 months from the coup to total independence. If only Portugal had sensed and followed the flow of history in the fifties and sixties, there would have been every possibility of an easy transition to a multiracial and well-developed independent Angola. However, this was not to be and the Portuguese must now hastily depart with all too little preparation and all too great a danger of serious conflict and civil war.


The story of Angolan independence has just begun, but the story of Portuguese decolonization is nearly over, bringing in its wake drastic changes in southern Africa and vibrations throughout the continent. With the decolonization of Angola on the west coast and particularly of Mozambique on the east, the white-ruled states have lost their border guards and been jolted into a realization that major adjustments are now needed. Rhodesia has already released black nationalist leaders in return for a ceasefire on its borders and has agreed to consultations on eventual black majority rule. South Africa is curtailing its police support to Rhodesia and is actively considering eventual independence for Namibia and easing its domestic apartheid policy in return for a ceasefire on its borders and establishment of normal diplomatic relations with black African states. It may take years to implement these steps and the specific proposals may change drastically, but at least the points are being actively discussed and even negotiated now, something totally inconceivable just one year ago.

The winds of change have indeed swept through southern Africa. If Angola can make the transition to independence without devastating civil war and total chaos, its economically strong and truly multiracial society could well lead the harmonious development of a one-time racially ugly and troubled area of the world.


1 For some reason, the three liberation leaders decided in Alvor that none of them would officially participate in the transitional government. Thus while still presidents of their respective liberation movements-still very much in existence as separate groups-Neto, Roberto, and Savimbi have no official positions in Angola.

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