Angola é um país da África Austral. A capital é Luanda. As principais religiões são crenças indígenas e Cristianismo (Catolicismo e Protestantismo). A língua nacional é o Português, e as línguas Bantu são amplamente faladas. Angola está a reconstruir o seu país após o fim de uma guerra civil de 27-anos em 2002. Os combates entre o Movimento Popular para a Libertação de Angola (MPLA), liderado por José Eduardo dos Santos, e a União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), liderada por Jonas Savimbi, seguiram a independência de Portugal em 1975. A paz parecia iminente em 1992, quando Angola realizou eleições nacionais, mas a luta aumentou novamente em 1996. Até 1,5 milhões de vidas podem ter sido perdidas - e 4 milhões de pessoas deslocadas - em 25-anos de luta. A morte de Savimbi em 2002 terminou a insurgência da UNITA e fortaleceu a manutenção do MPLA no poder. O Presidente Dos Santos realizou eleições legislativas em Setembro de 2008 e, apesar da promessa de realizar eleições presidenciais em 2009, ele desde então tem feito um contingenciamento das eleições presidenciais para 2012 sobre a elaboração de uma nova Constituição.
Angola, a former colony of Portugal, achieved independence in 1975. Before 1975 several hundred thousand Portuguese lived in Angola. They controlled the government, built cities like those in Portugal, and controlled the economy. When European countries were being forced to give up control of their African colonies, Portugal managed to retain its territories on the continent. But in 1961 guerrilla war broke out in northern Angola, and the independence movement began.
Hardly had freedom been won when fighting flared among rival Angolan groups. Foreign nations—including the United States, Cuba, China, and South Africa—became involved in the nation's civil war, which devastated the economy. Cease-fire accords were signed in 1991 and 1994, but they did not stop the fighting for long. Peace was not fully restored until 2002. Land mines made fields unsafe, but minerals provided a possible source of future prosperity.
Angola, on the western coast of Africa, encompasses a total area of 481,351 sq. mi. (1,246,700 sq. km.). It was Portugal's largest overseas province. On the north and northeast, it is bounded by the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the southeast by Zambia, and on the south by Namibia.
A low strip of land ranging from 20 to 100 mi. (32 to 160 km.) in width runs along the coast. Most of the interior of Angola consists of the Benguela highland, a vast plateau with altitudes averaging between 3,000 and 6,000 ft. (915 and 1,830 m.). The highest point in the country (8,596 ft.; 2,620 m.) is located in the Bié Plateau. The plateau gradually levels off in the north to the Congo River Basin, and in the south it meets the Kalahari Desert, which covers most of Southwest Africa.
In the north one province, called Cabinda, is separated from the rest of Angola by a narrow strip of land that belongs to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rivers. The interior plateau of Angola is drained in the north by the mighty Congo River, and in the south by the Okavango (known locally by its Portuguese name, Cubango), which forms part of the boundary between Angola and Namibia. The great Zambezi River, which travels about 1,600 mi. (2,575 km.) across Southern Africa before draining into the Indian Ocean, flows through the extreme eastern part of Angola.
Climate. The climate of Angola ranges from tropical in the Congo Basin of northern Angola to arid in the extreme south. Because of its altitude, the interior plateau has a temperate climate, with alternating rainy and dry seasons. The driest and coolest months in the country are June through September; the hottest and wettest are October through May. Rainfall averages as much as 60 in. (152 cm.) in the northeast, but decreases considerably in the south and southwest.
Cities. Situated along the Atlantic Ocean, Luanda, the capital, is the largest city in Angola. Founded by the Portuguese in 1575, it is one of the oldest European settlements in all of Africa south of the Sahara. Many of its buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries, when Luanda was the key point of the slave trade between Africa and Brazil.
Huambo (formerly called Nova Lisboa) is Angola's second-largest city, the cultural heartland of the Ovimbundu people, and the traditional agricultural center of the country. A 1993 battle for control of the city between government forces and National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) rebels devastated the city and led to an estimated 15,000 deaths; at least 5,000 of those killed were civilians.
Lobito and Benguela, twin port cities on the central coast, served as transshipment points for goods shipped along the Benguela Railroad from interior Angola, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The railroad was shut down by guerrilla attacks from 1975 to 1991, and again after the 1992 elections, but it has since reopened. During the civil war, the cities became home to many refugees from the central highlands. Other cities include Namibe (formerly Moçâmedes), Malange (Malanje), and Cabinda, the leading town in the Cabinda exclave.
Angola is a country of 19.6 million people. More than three-quarters of them belong to various Bantu groups. The Ovimbundu, the largest of the groups, occupy the somewhat densely populated center of the country. The Kimbundu, the second-largest group, live farther north. The Bakongo inhabit the most northerly areas near the borders of Congo (Brazzaville) and Congo (Kinshasa). The remainder of the population is made up of people of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry, and a small number of San and Khoikhoi. Almost the entire Portuguese population left the country at the time of independence and civil war.
The Ovimbundu are famous in Africa as traders, and they, of all the native population of Angola, have taken most readily to European culture. The Ovimbundu were the leading supporters of UNITA in its postindependence war against the government, but they also suffered violent UNITA attacks.
The Kimbundu, because of their closeness to Luanda, have also become largely Europeanized. Many have left their traditional homelands and moved to Luanda, where they hold jobs in many of the business establishments, government offices, and industries. But many Kimbundu who inhabit the rural interior still engage in subsistence farming.
The Bakongo can be found along the northern coastal region of Angola. These people are a branch of the large Kongo family that spills over several borders in Central Africa. The Bakongo of Angola are basically farmers who cultivate corn, sweet potatoes, peanuts (groundnuts), and beans. Fishing and hunting play an important part in their economy. The Bakongo also excel in sculpture and music. These people, more than any other group in Angola, were the most involved in the war for independence that began in 1961.
Portuguese is the official language of Angola. But Bantu languages, chiefly Ovimbundu and Kumbundu, are spoken by most Angolans.
Religion. Just over half of the people of Angola practice Christianity, both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The remainder of the people hold indigenous beliefs. Many of the traditional Bantu religions have lost most of their force in their pure form. But some practices combining Christianity and certain aspects of the traditional religions are widespread.
Education. Until independence, Angola's educational system was based on that of Portugal. Many elementary schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church. Today education is free and officially compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 15. A much higher percentage of boys are enrolled in school than girls. More children in the cities attend school than in rural areas. More than 80 percent of males over the age of 15 can write and write but just over 50 percent of girls. Agostinho Neto University, in Luanda, was founded in 1963.
Before the 1970s, Angola's economy was largely sustained by a single crop—coffee. Coffee is still an important crop and some of it is exported. But since 1973 crude oil has been the country's chief export. In fact, Angola is one of sub-Saharan Africa's leading oil producers. In the 21st century high international prices for oil have helped to fuel Angola's economic growth. Most petroleum deposits are located offshore along the Atlantic coast, principally off the exclave of Cabinda. The country also has excellent hydroelectric potential.
Oil production and related activities contribute about 85 percent of Angola's gross domestic product. (GDP is the total of all goods and services produced by a country over a period of time, typically one year.) Diamonds, a traditional Angolan product, are mined in huge complex in the northeast. Diamond exports contribute around 5 percent of GDP.
Petroleum refining is the leading industry. The country also produces iron ore, phosphates, feldspar, bauxite, uranium, and gold. Other industrial activities include food processing, including fish, tobacco products, sugar, textiles and ship repair.
Agriculture contributes a small amount to GDP. But it employs about 85 percent of Angola's labor force. Most farmers raise food crops for their own consumption or for the local market. The chief subsistence crops are cassava, maize, sweet potatoes, and bananas.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Bantu peoples of Central Africa moved southward, occupying lands sparsely populated by Khoikhoi and San. The Bantu established several important kingdoms in the area that includes present-day Angola. The three major kingdoms were Luba, Lunda, and the great Kongo Kingdom. In the 16th century, central Angola was invaded by the Jagas, a fierce, warlike people who settled in the highland region and gradually were assimilated into the larger population of Kimbundu and Ovimbundu peoples.
The first European to reach Angola was Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão, who sighted the mouth of the Congo River in 1482. He later explored inland and came into contact with the manikongo ( "kings of the Kongo" ). Later, these kings were converted to Christianity, and the Kongo became a vassal state of the Portuguese king. From the 16th to the 19th century, the Portuguese in Angola remained in fortified coastal ports.
In the mid-19th century, the English became interested in expanding their African empire. Fearing the loss of their foothold in Africa, the Portuguese began to explore and conquer the interior of Angola. In 1891, a treaty with the British set Angola's present boundaries, and by 1918, the last interior regions were brought under Portuguese control. After World War II, Angola became an overseas province of Portugal. Cabinda was a separate dependency of Portugal.
In 1961, armed revolts against Portuguese rule broke out in northern Angola. Portugal sent troops to fight the insurgents, and instituted economic and political reforms, but the fighting continued. In 1974, a group of military officers overthrew the government of Portugal. The new leaders in Lisbon granted Angola its independence, to become effective late in 1975. An interim body including representatives of the three Angolan liberation groups was formed to govern the country. As independence neared, rivalry among these groups led to civil war. When the Portuguese withdrew in November 1975, one of these groups, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), seized power with the aid of Soviet arms and Cuban troops before elections could be held. (At that time MPLA forces also annexed Cabinda to Angola.) The MPLA leader, António Agostinho Neto, became president of the Marxist government. Upon Neto's death in 1979, he was succeeded by José Eduardo dos Santos.
Civil war continued between the MPLA and UNITA, led by Jonas Savimbi and supported by the United States and South Africa. In a December 1988 accord, Angola, Cuba, and South Africa agreed to a timetable for the withdrawal of Cuban forces, the ending of South African support for UNITA, and independence for neighboring Namibia (gained in 1990).
The last Cuban troops left Angola in May 1991. The MPLA abandoned Marxism-Leninism soon after, and the MPLA and UNITA signed a peace accord calling for a UN-monitored cease-fire. In multiparty elections held in 1992, the MPLA captured a legislative majority. Dos Santos won 49.6 percent of the presidential vote versus Savimbi's 40.1 percent. Savimbi rejected the results, and some 200,000 Angolans died in renewed fighting before a new peace accord was signed in 1994.
Dos Santos then became president of a transitional government of national unity, but UNITA restarted the civil war. Savimbi was killed by government soldiers on February 22, 2002, and the government and UNITA signed a cease-fire accord in April. But reconciliation was hampered by a famine induced by drought and war. Moreover, fighting continued in oil-rich Cabinda, where the government sought to suppress a long-running separatist revolt.
The first legislative elections in 16 years were held in Angola in September 2008. The ruling MPLA won overwhelmingly. The legislature approved a new constitution in January 2010. President Dos Santos would be able to serve two more five-year terms, beginning in 2012. Direct presidential elections, long promised but never held, were abolished. In the future, the leader of the party winning a legislative majority will automatically become president. The post of prime minister was also abolished. It was replaced by a vice president appointed by the president. In the legislative elections of September 2012, the MPLA won again, with nearly 72 percent of the vote.
Norman A. Bailey
The City University of New York