The region now known as Angola was originally settled by hunter/gatherer Bushmen before coming under the control of Bantu states from the north.
The Portuguese arrived in the 15th Century and were to stay for the next four hundred years. A colony was founded around today’s capital, Luanda, in 1575. For a short period the Portuguese lost control of the area to Queen Jinga of the Kingdom of Ndongo from 1635 until they regained it in 1648.
For the Portuguese this was predominantly a trading base with slavery the key trade to the Americas and in particular Brazil.
The Portuguese continued their hold on the region until 1961 when having failed to respond to calls for independence they found themselves embroiled in a civil war. Three groups fought the Portuguese, all of whom were to become important players in the future of the country. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola or MPLA was founded in 1956, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola or FNLA was established in 1961 and it was followed by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola or UNITA in 1966.
A 1974 coup d’état in Portugal brought in a new regime in Lisbon and on 11th November 1975 Angola received its independence. Portugal handed over power to a coalition of the three groups under the Alvor Agreement. Agostinho Neto of the MPLA became the first president of the new independent state.
The peace was short lived with the parties falling out with each other and civil war ensued. The communist leaning MPLA gained control of Luanda and much of the country, but the right wing UNITA and more centrist FNLA, with the backing of the United States of America, Zaire and South Africa held much of the south and the east. Over the next few years Angola was to become a proxy battleground for the Cold War protagonists with Cuba and Russia on one side and the USA, South Africa and the West on the other.
The MPLA, with the backing of Cuban troops, eventually all but defeated UNITA and the FNLA and for a brief period it looked as though peace was restored. However, a low grade conflict flared back into war with the new Angolan Army or People’s Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) with the support of Cuban troops fighting battles which culminated in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale between 1987 and 1988.
There were no real winners, with the FAPLA troops being forced to retire to Cuito, but the South African backed UNITA unable to dislodge them. The stalemate resulted in the Tripartite Accord being signed in Lisbon on 22nd December 1988 between the Cubans, South Africans and Angolan government; the accord enforced the withdrawal of all Cuban and South African Defence Force troops from the country.
By 1991 the parties had agreed to the Bicesse Accords which laid out the process for multi-party elections to take place under United Nations supervision.
The first elections were not a success. José Eduardo dos Santos of the MPLA won with 49.57% of the vote, but Jonas Savimbi of UNITA took 40.7% of the vote, contested the results and went immediately back to war.
Another agreement, the Lusaka Protocol was signed on 20th November 1994 which allowed for the integration of UNITA into the government and armed forces. In 1995 fighting started once more, in 1997 a unity government was established and in 1998 fighting broke out again. By 1999 the Angolan armed forces were in a position to launch a major offensive against UNITA and they destroyed UNITA’s ability to fight a conventional war.
Savimbi and his troops resorted to guerrilla tactics and it was only in 2002 when Savimbi was killed on 22nd February that the war finally ended. The 13th March 2002 saw army operations suspended and a ceasefire was agreed with UNITA. On 4th April military commanders from both sides signed an addendum to the Lusaka Protocol and in August 2002 UNITA declared itself a political party and demobilized its military wing.
There has been no presidential election in Angola since José Eduardo dos Santos won in 1992. He has been the president of Angola since 10th September 1979 when Agostinho Neto died of cancer.
In the 1992 general election the MPLA won 129 of the 220 seats in the National Assembly, UNITA took 70 seats and the FNLA took five seats. The next election for the National Assembly didn’t happen until 2008 when the MPLA won 191 of 220 seats, UNITA won 16 seats and the FNLA won three seats. Two new parties also took seats but the country remains firmly in the hands of the MPLA.
A new constitution was agreed in 2010 which is largely the same as before but with one big difference; the President is now to be elected by the National Assembly (not the people) and will be the president of the party with the highest number of votes in the general election. The new constitution also gives the president greater powers.
The President is indirectly elected by the National Assembly to serve a five year term with a second consecutive term permitted.
The Parliament is a unicameral National Assembly with 220 seats. Its members are elected through a proportional vote to serve for four years.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Angola at joint 164th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 18 (where 100 is least corrupt).