Today marks the 39th year of Angola’s independence, a day that many people thought would not come to light.
Since Angola’s independence from Portugal, Angola has gone through various trials and tribulations to become Africa’s political miracle. In order to appreciate the quote ‘political miracle’, it is key to be aware of the journey Angola took from being a region of Bantu migration to today’s second largest African oil producer. Engage with us as we look into important historical events that shaped Angola into what it is today.
Angola’s journey stems from the 1400’s,where established kingdoms were formed, from the Kingdom of Kongo and Ndongo. In the latter years of that century, Portuguese sailors infiltrated the land and the name Angola was formed based on the title of the Ndongo King, Ngola. After forts were established along the coastal region, Portuguese developed an interest in minerals and slaves, thus shipping Angolans to Brazil from Luanda as slaves in 1575.
By 1671, Portuguese control the Kingdom of Ndongo, much after the passing of their brave leader Queen Nzinga .The control was set against the occupation of the Dutch between 1641 and 1648. Their control resulted in an increase of slavery, slave trade and mineral exploitation. However by 1836 slave trade was abolished, but forced labour was later introduced in 1891.
The 1900’s were a momentous time for Angola, as the borders we now see today were settled in 1921, and more Portuguese emigrated into the country after the second world war. There were also a time of liberation, as Angola moved from being an African colony to a Portuguese province in 1951. Five years later, Movimento Popular da Libertação de Angola (MPLA) which translates to Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola is formed in a non-racial, and non tribal basis with an aim to end colonial rule and establish independence.
This brings us to the fateful times of 1961 where forced labour is finally abolished as a result of coffee plantation rebellions, killing the lives of 50 000 Angolans, and 1974, where the end of Portuguese colonial era occurred, and set independence for African colonies the following year. The Angolan government is formed by three nationalist movements, MPLA, FNLA, and UNITA.
Unable to come to a single agreement on goals, civil war broke out with each political regime being supported by different countries, enabling them with military aid. By this day in 1975, MPLA unilaterally proclaims the People’s republic of Angola with António Agostinho Neto as president.
Now that Angola moved into an independent state, the MPLA decided to move the country into a more stable direction through incorporating socialism and refuting Marxism-Leninism in 1991. This comes after the death of President Neto, and succession of José Eduardo dos Santos. Stability equates peace, and although the MPLA and UNITA could not agree on where the country should be headed, the civil war opened their eyes to understanding that peace can only take them forward.
Through the UN, a peace deal was signed between the two parties which enabled a multiparty constitution to be drafted. However, the feeling of nostalgic peace disappeared upon the election results of September 1992, when Santos and the MPLA won the multiparty national elections and UNITA rejected the results, and only 6 years later civil war erupted once again.
Amidst the civil war, Angola’s oil industry was booming, becoming a major oil producing state that extracted over a
million barrels a day in 2004. In the same year, government was able to expel over 300 000 illegal diamond miners and dealers in the country. Although the business as usual approach sounded good on paper, it was significant to ensure peace in the country. Such sentiments brought a peace deal to be signed with rebels in northern enclave of Cabinda in August 2006. Two years later, Angola hosted is first parliamentary elections in over 15 years. All in this time, President dos Santos is still in rule.
Accelerating to 2012, MPLA wins another victory in parliamentary elections, elections that the African Union deem as free and fair, although allegations from UNITA about the lack of transparency loomed over the elections. In this year, the government launched a 5 billion US Dollars sovereign wealth fund to channel the country’s oil into investment projects.
By last year, Angola’s economy grew by 5.1% and a GDP growth from non-oil energy sector: being agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and construction sectors. Although there is growth, there is need to address the unemployment rate; 26% of the population is unemployed with 36% living below the poverty line. However, economists in Africa predict that growth is projected to 8.8% in 2015 following public infrastructure to kick in.
Although the country stems from political instability, it stays Africa’s political miracle as slavery, forced labour and civil wars that tore that country apart are now bound with democratic practices, an economical growth and policies. Happy Independence Day Angola.