About Angola

ABOUT

ANGOLA

WELCOME TO ANGOLA

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HISTORY

Angola is a country in southwestern Africa. The country’s name derives from the Kimbundu word for king. It was first settled by San hunter-gatherer societies before the northern domains came under the rule of Bantu states such as Kongo and Ndongo. From the 15th century, Portuguese colonists began trading, and a settlement was established at Luanda during the 16th century. Portugal annexed territories in the region which were ruled as a colony from 1655, and Angola was incorporated as an overseas province of Portugal in 1951. After the Angolan War of Independence which ended with an army mutiny and leftist coup in Lisbon, Angola’s independence was achieved on November 11, 1975 through the Alvor Agreement. After independence, Angola later entered a period of civil war that lasted up until 2002.

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The Portuguese colony of Angola was founded in 1575 with the arrival of Paulo Dias de Novais with a hundred families of colonists and four hundred soldiers. Its center at Luanda was granted the status of city in 1605.

The King of the Kongo soon converted to Christianity and adopted a similar political structure to the Europeans. He became a well-known figure in Europe, to the point of receiving missives from the Pope.

To the south of the Kingdom of the Kongo, around the river Kwanza, there were various important states. The most important of these was the Kingdom of Ndongo or Dongo, ruled by the ngolas. At the time of the arrival of the Portuguese, Ngola Kiluange was in power. By maintaining a policy of alliances with neighbouring states, he managed to hold out against the foreigners for several decades but was eventually beheaded in Luanda. Years later, the Ndongo rose to prominence again when Jinga Mbandi (Queen Jinga) took power. A wily politician, she kept the Portuguese in check with carefully prepared agreements. After undertaking various journeys she succeeded in 1635 in forming a grand coalition with the states of Matamba and Ndongo, Kongo, Kassanje, Dembos and Kissamas. At the head of this formidable alliance, she forced the Portuguese to retreat.

A 1974 coup d’état in Portugal established a military government led by President António de Spínola. The Spínola government agreed to give all of Portugal’s colonies independence, and handed power in Angola over to a coalition of the three largest nationalist movements, the MPLA, UNITA, and the FNLA, through the Alvor Agreement. The coalition quickly broke down, however, and the country descended into civil war. The MPLA gained control of the capital Luanda and much of the rest of the country. With the support of the United States, Zaïre and South Africa intervened militarily in favour of the FNLA and UNITA with the intention of taking Luanda before the declaration of independence. In response, Cuba intervened in favor of the MPLA. In the meantime the South Africans and UNITA had come as close as 200 km to the south of the capital, the FNLA and Zairean forces as far as Kifangondo, 30 km to the east.

With Cuban support, the MPLA held Luanda and declared independence on November 11, 1975, the day the Portuguese left the country. Agostinho Neto became the first president. FNLA and UNITA proclaimed their own short-lived republics (the Democratic Republic of Angola and the Social Democratic Republic of Angola) on November 24, 1975, for the zones they controlled with Holden Roberto and Jonas Savimbi as co-presidents (dissolved after January 30, 1976). By the end of January 1976 the MPLA army (FAPLA) and the Cubans had all but crushed FNLA, Zaireans and UNITA, and the South African forces withdrew.

On May 27, 1977, a coup attempt, including some former members of the MPLA government such as Nito Alves, led to retaliation by the government and Cuban forces, resulting in the execution of thousands, if not tens of thousands. Alves was tortured and killed. The movement is known as Fraccionismo.

The peace accord between the government and UNITA provided for the integration of former UNITA insurgents into the government and armed forces. However, in 1995, localized fighting resumed. A national unity government was installed in April 1997, but serious fighting resumed in late 1998 when Savimbi renewed the war for a second time, claiming that the MPLA was not fulfilling its obligations. The UN Security Council voted on August 28, 1997, to impose sanctions on UNITA. The Angolan military launched a massive offensive in 1999 that destroyed UNITA’s conventional capacity and recaptured all major cities previously held by Savimbi’s forces. Savimbi then declared that UNITA would return to guerrilla tactics, and much of the country remained in turmoil.

In August 2002, UNITA declared itself a political party and officially demobilised its armed forces. That same month, the United Nations Security Council replaced the United Nations Office in Angola with the United Nations Mission in Angola, a larger, non-military, political presence.

GOVERNMENT

Since the adoption of a new constitution in 2010, the politics of Angola takes place in a framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President of Angola is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the President, the government and parliament.

The executive branch of the government was composed of the President, the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers, composed of all ministers and vice ministers, met regularly to discuss policy issues. Governors of the 18 provinces were appointed by and served at the pleasure of the president. The Constitutional Law of 1992 established the broad outlines of government structure and the rights and duties of citizens. The legal system was based on Portuguese and customary law but was weak and fragmented. Courts operated in only 12 of more than 140 municipalities. A Supreme Court served as the appellate tribunal; a Constitutional Court with powers of judicial review was never constituted despite statutory authorization. In practice, power was more and more concentrated in the hands of the President who, supported by an ever-increasing staff, largely controlled parliament, government, and the judiciary.

CULTURE

The culture of Angola is influenced by the Portuguese. Portugal occupied the coastal enclave Luanda, and later also Benguela, since the 16th/17th centuries, and expanded into the territory of what is now Angola in the 19th/20th centuries, ruling it until 1975. Both countries share cultural aspects: language (Portuguese) and main religion (Roman Catholic Christianity). However, the Angolan culture is mostly native Bantu, which was mixed with Portuguese culture. The diverse ethnic communities with their own cultural traits, traditions and native languages or dialects include the Ovimbundu, Ambundu, Bakongo, Chokwe, Avambo and other peoples.

There are over 100 distinct ethnic groups and languages/dialects in Angola. Although Portuguese is the official language, for many black Angolans it is a second or even third language. The three dominant ethnic groups are the Ovimbundu, Mbundu (better called Ambundu, speaking Kimbundu) and the Bakongo. There are also small numbers of Mestiço (mixed African and European descent) and ethnic white Europeans as well.

The music of Angola has been shaped both by wider musical trends and by the political history of the country. while Angolan music has also influenced the music of the other Lusophone countries. In turn, the music of Angola was instrumental in creating and reinforcing angolanidade, the Angolan national identity.

The capital and largest city of Angola — Luanda — is home to a diverse group of styles including merengue, kilapanda, zouk, semba, kizomba and kuduro. Just off the coast of Luanda is Ilha do Cabo, home to an accordion and harmonica-based style of music called rebita.

In the 20th century, Angola was wracked by violence and political instability. Its musicians were oppressed by government forces, both during the period of Portuguese colonization and after independence.

ECONOMY

The Economy of Angola is one of the fastest-growing in the world, with reported annual average GDP growth of 11.1 percent. It is still recovering from 27 years of the civil war that plagued the country from its independence in 1975 to 2002. Since 2002, when the 27-year civil war ended, the nation has worked to repair and improve ravaged infrastructure and weakened political and social institutions. High international oil prices and rising oil production have contributed to the very strong economic growth since 1998.

President João Lourenço of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party, took power in September 2017, after winning 61.7% of the vote and an absolute majority of the legislature. Since then, the government has devalued the currency, tightened monetary policy, and resumed fiscal consolidation, as well as took the first steps to reform public utilities and fuels prices, reduce subsidies, and privatize or liquidate some state-owned companies. Two new laws that are essential to the competitiveness of the country have been approved: the private investment law and the antitrust law, which remove formal barriers to entry in the Angolan market.

Angola is moving gradually towards a more market-based, floating exchange rate regime with a nominal monetary anchor. The National Bank (BNA) promoted a large currency devaluation in the turn of the year, and has been promoting small monthly devaluations since then. It has eased currency controls, increased transparency in foreign exchange allocations through regular auctions and improved communication, in a move towards a more market-based and floating exchange rate regime. The local currency has devalued by 56.7% in relation to the US dollar from January to mid-2018.

Inflation decelerated to 20.2% in June 2018 as opposed to 26.3% in the end-2017, despite the currency devaluation.

External accounts are poised to improve on the back of higher oil prices and the exchange rate realignment. Angola external accounts went quickly from surplus to deficit due to the large drop in oil prices. The external deficit was reduced initially by currency control and import repression, but as the currency is devaluing and the oil prices are increasing, the real exchange overvaluation is being reduced.

Expenditures have been significantly reduced, but budget deficits were inevitable due to the even larger drop in revenues. Budget deficit decreased from 2014 (6.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 2015 (3.3% of GDP), but grew back again in 2016 and 2017, reaching 5.3% of GDP as a result of the slowdown in fiscal consolidation. Despite the increase in budget deficit, expenditures were substantially cut and maintained at low levels.

The largest expenditure cuts were to public investments and subsidies. For 2018, the budget foresees fiscal consolidation to rely on payroll and investment cuts. Both oil and non-oil revenues declined more acutely than expenditures and they are partially responsible for the slowdown in fiscal consolidation. Oil revenues went down from 23.8% of GDP in 2014 to 8.2% of GDP in 2016, but they have seen a small rebound in recent years and are expected to reach 10.1%of GDP in the 2018 budget.

Non-oil revenues went down, despite tax policy and administration measures to improve tax collection, reflecting the economic slowdown. Non-oil revenues declined from 9.1% of GDP in 2014 to 6.8%of GDP in 2017, but a small increase to 7.3% of GDP is expected in the 2018 budget.

GEOGRAPHY

Geographic coordinates: 12°30′S 18°30′E

Angola is located on the western Atlantic Coast of southern Africa between Namibia and the Republic of the Congo. It also is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia to the east. The country consists of a sparsely watered and somewhat sterile coastal plain extending inland for a distance varying from 50 to 160 km (31 to 99 mi). Slightly inland and parallel to the coast is a belt of hills and mountains and behind those a large plateau.

Angola consists of four principle regions: an arid coastal lowland, hills and mountains that rise inland, a vast plain known as the high plateau (planalto), and rain forest.

The mostly flat coastal plain stretches inland for 30 to 100 miles into a belt of rolling hills and a series of scattered mountains.

The highest point of the country, Morro de Moco, peaks at 8,592 ft (2,620 m), and is located in the Ahaggar Mountains. Conversely, the lowest point of the country is the Atlantic Ocean (0 m).

Angola’s elevated high plateau rises 4,000 to 6,000 ft. (1,200 to 1,800 m), lies to the east of the hills and mountains and dominates Angola’s terrain.

The Zambezi River and several tributaries of the Congo River flow through Angola. Additional rivers of importance include the Cubango, Cuando and Cuango.

Also of note are the Kalandula Falls located on the Lucala River. At 344 ft. (105 m) the Kalandula are one of the largest waterfalls in Africa based on volume.

The Northern Angolan province of Cabinda is separated from the mainland by a narrow strip of land belonging to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

CLIMATE

Angola is a large African country in the southern hemisphere, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and its climate is tempered, by a cool sea current along the coast, and by altitude in the plateau which is found in the interior. The result is a sub-tropical climate almost everywhere, with a cool and dry season from May to August (called Cacimbo), and a hot and rainy season, which runs from mid-September to April in the north-east, from mid-October to April in the centre, from November to March in the south, and from February to April in Luanda, while it’s almost non-existent on the southern coastline (which, therefore, is desert).

The cool sea current that flows along the coast, the Benguela Current, makes the climate mild and dry, at least in the central and southern part; in the southernmost stretch of the coast the climate is even desert. In inland areas, the rains are generally more abundant than on the coast, but even here they are more abundant in the centre and north, because of the greater proximity to the equator.

DEMOGRAPHICS

According to 2014 census data, Angola had a population of 25,789,024 inhabitants in 2014. Ethnically, there are three main groups, each speaking a Bantu language: the Ovimbundu who represent 37% of the population, the Ambundu with 25%, and the Bakongo 13%. Other numerically important groups include the closely interrelated Chokwe and Lunda, the Ganguela and Nyaneka-Khumbi (in both cases classification terms that stand for a variety of small groups), the Ovambo, the Herero, the Xindonga and scattered residual groups of San. In addition, mixed race (European and African) people amount to about 2%, with a small (1%) population of whites, mainly ethnically Portuguese.

As a former overseas territory of Portugal until 1975, Angola possesses a Portuguese population of over 200,000, a number that has been growing from 2000 onwards, because of Angola’s growing demand for qualified human resources. Besides the Portuguese, significant numbers of people from other European and from diverse Latin American countries (especially Brazil) can be found. From the 2000s, many Chinese have settled and started up small businesses, while at least as many have come as workers for large enterprises (construction or other). Observers claim that the Chinese community in Angola might include as many as 300,000 persons at the end of 2010, but reliable statistics are not at this stage available.

The largest religious denomination is Catholicism, to which adheres about half the population. Roughly 26% are followers of traditional forms of Protestantism (Congregationals, Methodists, Baptista, Lutherans, Reformed), but over the last decades there has in addition been a growth of Pentecostal communities and African Initiated Churches. In 2006, one out of 221 people were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Blacks from Mali, Nigeria and Senegal are mostly Sunnite Muslims, but do not make up more than 1 – 2% of the population. By now few Angolans retain African traditional religions following different ethnic faiths.

PRESIDENTS

The President of the Republic of Angola (Presidente da República de Angola in Portuguese) is both head of state and head of government in Angola. According to the constitution adopted in 2010, the post of Prime Minister is abolished; executive authority belongs to the President who has also a degree of legislative powers, as he can govern by decree.

In January 2010 the National Assembly approved a new constitution, according to which the leader of the party with the most seats in the Assembly would become president, rather than a public vote taking place. The new constitution also limits a president to serving two terms, and abolished the post of Prime Minister and introduced instead the post of vice-president.

JOAO LOURENCO

Joao Lourenco’s early politics were mainly confined within the MPLA as an officer responsible for keeping guerrilla soldiers’ morale high. Following his appointment as Governor of Moxico Province in 1984, he continued to rise through the ranks of the ruling party. He also served as the provincial commissioner of Moxico Province for the MPLA, president of the Regional Military Council of the 3rd Military Political Region, First Secretary of MPLA and Provincial Commissioner of Benguela Province. He was the MPLA’s Secretary for Information from 1992 to 1997 and President of the MPLA Parliamentary Group in the National Assembly from 1993 to 1998.

At a party congress, he was elected as Secretary-General of the MPLA on 12 December 1998. His election was said to be linked to the favour of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and it was thought that Lourenço could potentially succeed the long-ruling dos Santos at some point.

Lourenço was First Vice-President of the National Assembly from 2003 to 2014. He was appointed as Minister of Defense in April 2014, and he was designated as Vice-President of the MPLA in August 2016. In September 2018 he became the Chairman of the MPLA, replacing José Eduardo dos Santos.

In December 2016 the MPLA designated Lourenço as the party’s top candidate in the 2017 legislative election.

Since his time in office, Lourenco has been praised for his fight against corruption, even the toughest critics of Angola’s government say that in just more than a year, President Joao Lourenco has accomplished more to stop corruption than any previous Angolan administration.

Apart from his native language and Portuguese, he speaks fluent Russian, Spanish, and English.

JOSÉ EDUARDO DOS SANTOS

President José Eduardo dos Santos also known as the architecture of peacve in Angola, was born in a Luanda shanty town in 1942, the son of a bricklayer. He joined the MPLA (Movi­mento Popular de Libertação de Angola) in 1961 and worked under illegal conditions in Luanda.

He resolved with a group of his friends to leave Angola to undergo training with the movement, which had been driven into exile after the Luanda Uprising of 4 February 1961. He spent six years in the Soviet Union where he graduated as a petroleum engineer. He then underwent further military training and became, on returning to Angola, the head of the MPLA’s communications machinery, which coordinated links with all the move­ment’s battlefronts.

After independence, he became Angola’s first foreign minister, later becoming the first vice-premier and gaining experience in the day-to-day running of government. In December 1978, he became Minister of Planning in the Government. Dos Santos is the current President of Angola, serving in this position since 1979.

In 1975, his party faced a civil war with the rebel groups the National Union for the Total Indepen­dence of Angola (Unita) and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA). Being Angola’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, he played a key role in obtaining diplomatic recognition for the MPLA Government from 1975 to 1976.

Dos Santos is an honorary member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. He played an important role in ensuring continued Angolan support for the liberation movement during the struggle for freedom. Angola hosted Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) camps and fought side-by-side with MK soldiers against the South African apartheid security forces.

He is exceptional for his contribution to the fight against apartheid and the support of liberation movements in southern Africa.

After the death of Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto, on 10 September 1979, José Eduardo dos Santos was elected president of the MPLA on 20 September 1979, and he took office as President of Angola, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on 21 September. He was also elected as President of the People’s Assembly on 9 November 1980.

AGOSTINHO NETO

Agostinho Neto, in full António Agostinho Neto, (born Sept. 17, 1922, Icolo e Bengo, Angola—died Sept. 10, 1979, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.), poet, physician, and first president of the People’s Republic of Angola.

Neto first became known in 1948, when he published a volume of poems in Luanda and joined a national cultural movement that was aimed at “rediscovering” indigenous Angolan culture (similar to the Negritude movement of the French-speaking African countries). His first of many arrests for political activities came shortly thereafter in Lisbon, where he had gone to study medicine.

Neto returned home as a doctor in 1959 but was arrested in the presence of his patients in June 1960 because of his militant opposition to the colonial authorities. When his patients protested his arrest, the police opened fire, killing some and injuring 200. Neto spent the next two years in detention in Cape Verde and in Portugal, where he produced a new volume of verse. In 1962 he managed to escape to Morocco, where he joined the Angolan liberation movement in exile. At the end of 1962 he was elected president of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA).

When in 1975 Angola became independent, it was divided among its three warring independence movements. The MPLA forces, however, with Cuban help, held the central part of the country, including the capital, and Neto, a Marxist, was proclaimed president.

Neto was widely recognized as a gifted poet. His work was published in a number of Portuguese and Angolan reviews and was included in Mário de Andrade’s Antologia da Poesia Negra de Expressão Portuguesa (1958).