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Angola (04/03)


For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.


Republic of Angola (Republica de Angola)

Area: 1,246,700 sq. km. (481,400 sq. mi), about twice the size of Texas.
Cities: Capital--Luanda (pop. 3.8 million); Huambo (750,000); Benguela (600,000).
Terrain: A narrow, dry coastal strip extending from Luanda to Namibia; well-watered agricultural highlands; savanna in the far east and south; and rain forest in the north and Cabinda.
Climate: Tropical and tropical highland.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Angolan(s).
Population (July 2002 est.): 10,533,547.
Annual population growth rate (2002 est.): 2.0%.
Ethnic groups: Ovimbundu 37%, Kimbundu 25%, Bakongo 13%, mixed racial 2%, European 1%.
Religions (2001 official est.): Roman Catholic 68%, various Protestant 20%; indigenous beliefs, 12%.
Languages: Portuguese (official), Ovimbundu, Kimbundu, Bakongo, and others.
Education: Years compulsory--8. Enrollment--primary school, 42%; secondary, 20%, and post-secondary, 3%. Literacy (total population over 15 that can read and write, 1998 est.)--42% (male 56%, female 28%).
Health (2001 est.): Life expectancy--total population 42 years. Infant mortality rate (2001 est.)--193.72/1,000.
Work force (1997 est. 5 million): Agriculture--85%; industry and commerce--15%; services--6%.

Type: Republic.
Independence: November 11, 1975. Government based on ordinances, decrees, and decisions issued by a president and his ministers or through legislation produced by the National Assembly and approved by the president.
Branches: Executive--Elected president (chief of state), appointed prime minister, and 29 appointed civilian ministers.
Legislative--Elected National Assembly (233 seats).
Judicial--Supreme Court (a Constitutional Court, provided for in the 1992 constitution, has never been established).
Administrative subdivisions: Province, municipality, commune.
Political parties: 123 with legal status; in 1992, 12 won seats in the National Assembly. Pro-government--Peoples' Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Opposition--National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), Social Renewal Party (PRS), National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), Party for Democratic Progress - Angola National Alliance (PDP-ANA), Democratic Renewal Party (PRD), Party of the Alliance of Youth, Workers, and Peasants (PAJOCA), Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), Democratic Alliance (AD), Angolan Democratic Forum (FDA), and the Angolan National Democratic Party (PNDA).
Suffrage: Universal age 18 and over.

Flag: Angola flag

GDP (2001 est. using purchasing power parity): $13.3 billion.
GDP (2001 est. using Atlas method): $6.7 billion.
Annual real GDP growth rate (2001 est.): 3.2%.
Per capita GDP (2001 est. using purchasing power parity): $1,550.
Per capita GDP (2001 est. using Atlas method): $500.
Avg. inflation rate (2000 est.): 116%.
Natural resources: Petroleum, diamonds, iron ore, phosphates, bauxite, uranium, gold, granite, copper, feldspar.
Agriculture: Products--Bananas, sugarcane, coffee, sisal, corn, cotton, manioc, tobacco, vegetables, plantains; livestock; forest products; fisheries products.
Industry: Types--petroleum drilling and refining, mining, cement, basic metal products, fish processing; food processing, brewing, tobacco products, sugar refining, textiles.
Trade: Exports (2001 est.)--$6.7 billion: crude oil (89%), diamonds, refined petroleum products, coffee, gas, sisal, fish and fisheries products, timber, cotton. Major markets (2001 est.)--U.S. 49%, EU, China, South Korea. Imports (2001 est.)--$3.3 billion, machinery, electrical equipment, vehicles and spare parts, medicines, food, textiles, military goods. Major sources--EU (39%), South Korea, U.S., South Africa, Brazil.

Angola is located on the South Atlantic Coast of West 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 is divided into an arid coastal strip stretching from Namibia to Luanda; a wet, interior highland; a dry savanna in the interior south and southeast; and rain forest in the north and in Cabinda. The Zambezi River and several tributaries of the Congo River have their sources in Angola. The coastal strip is tempered by the cool Benguela current, resulting in a climate similar to coastal Peru or Baja California. There is a short rainy season lasting from February to April. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are mild. The interior highlands have a mild climate with a rainy season from November through April followed by a cool dry season from May to October. Elevations generally range from 3,000 to 6,000 feet. The far north and Cabinda enjoy rain throughout much of the year.

Angola has three main ethnic groups, each speaking a Bantu language: Ovimbundu 37%, Kimbundu 25%, and Bakongo, 13%. Other groups include Chokwe (or Lunda), Ganguela, Nhaneca-Humbe, Ambo, Herero, and Xindunga. In addition, mixed racial (European and Africa) people amount to about 2%, with a small (1%) population of whites, mainly ethnically Portuguese. Portuguese make up the largest non-Angolan population, with at least 30,000 (though many native-born Angolans can claim Portuguese nationality under Portuguese law). Portuguese is both the official and predominant language.

In 1482, when the Portuguese first landed in what is now northern Angola, they encountered the Kingdom of the Congo, which stretched from modern Gabon in the north to the Kwanza River in the south. Mbanza Congo, the capital, had a population of 50,000 people. South of this Kingdom were various important states, of which the Kingdom of Ndongo, ruled by the Ngola (King), was most significant. Modern Angola derives its name from the king of Ndongo. The Portuguese gradually took control of the coastal strip throughout the 16th century by a series of treaties and wars. The Dutch occupied Luanda from 1641-48, providing a boost for anti-Portuguese states. In 1648, Brazilian-based Portuguese forces re-took Luanda and initiated a process of military conquest of the Congo and Ndongo states that ended with Portuguese victory in 1671. Full Portuguese administrative control of the interior did not occur until the beginning of the 20th century.

Portugal's primary interest in Angola quickly turned to slavery. The slaving system began early in the 16th century with the purchase from African chiefs of people to work on sugar plantations in Sao Tome, Principe, and Brazil. Many scholars agree that by the 19th century, Angola was the largest source of slaves not only for Brazil, but for the Americas, including the United States. By the end of the 19th century, a massive forced labor system had replaced formal slavery and would continue until outlawed in 1961. It was this forced labor that provided the basis for development of a plantation economy and, by the mid-20th century, a major mining sector. Forced labor combined with British financing to construct three railroads from the coast to the interior, the most important of which was the transcontinental Benguela railroad that linked the port of Lobito with the copper zones of the Belgian Congo and what is now Zambia.

Colonial economic development did not translate into social development for native Angolans. The Portuguese regime encouraged white immigration, especially after 1950, which intensified racial antagonisms. As decolonization progressed elsewhere in Africa, Portugal, under the Salazar and Caetano dictatorships, rejected independence and treated its African colonies as overseas provinces. Consequently, three independence movements emerged: the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), with a base among Kimbundu and the mixed-race intelligentsia of Luanda, and links to communist parties in Portugal and the East Bloc; the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), with an ethnic base in the Bakongo region of the north and links to the United States and the Mobutu regime in Kinshasa; and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), led by Jonas Malheiro Savimbi with an ethnic and regional base in the Ovimbundu heartland in the center of the country.

From the early 1960s, elements of these movements fought against the Portuguese. A 1974 coup d'etat in Portugal established a military government that promptly ceased the war and agreed to hand over power to a coalition of the three movements. The coalition quickly broke down and turned into a civil war. By late 1975, Cuban forces had intervened on behalf of the MPLA and South African troops for UNITA, effectively internationalizing the Angolan conflict. In control of Luanda and the coastal strip (and increasingly lucrative oil fields), the MPLA declared independence on November 11, 1975, the day the Portuguese abandoned the capital. Augustinho Neto became the first president, followed by Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 1979.

Civil war between UNITA and the MPLA continued until 1989. For much of this time, UNITA controlled vast swaths of the interior and was backed by U.S. resources and South African troops. Similarly, tens of thousands of Cuban troops remained in support of the MPLA, often fighting South Africans on the front lines. A U.S.-brokered agreement resulted in withdrawal of foreign troops in 1989 and led to the Bicesse Accord in 1991, which spelled out an electoral process for a democratic Angola under the supervision of the United Nations. When UNITA's Jonas Savimbi failed to win the first round of the presidential election in 1992 (he won 40% to dos Santos's 49%, which meant a runoff), he called the election fraudulent and returned to war. Another peace accord was brokered in Lusaka, Zambia, and signed in 1994. This agreement, too, collapsed in 1998 when Savimbi renewed the war for a second time, claiming 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, which destroyed UNITA's conventional capacity and recaptured all major cities previously held by Savimbi's forces. Savimbi then declared a return to guerrilla tactics, which continued until his death in combat in February 2002.

On April 4, 2002, the Angolan Government and UNITA signed the Luena Memorandum of Understanding, which formalized the de facto cease-fire that prevailed following Savimbi's death. In accordance with the MOU, UNITA recommitted to the peace framework in the 1994 Lusaka Protocol, returned all remaining territory to Angolan Government control, quartered all military personnel in predetermined locations, and relinquished all arms. In August 2002, UNITA demobilized all military personnel and in September 2002, together with the government, reconstituted the UN-sponsored Joint Commission to resolve all outstanding political issues under the Lusaka Protocol. On November 21, 2002, UNITA and the government declared all outstanding issues resolved and the Lusaka Protocol fully implemented. UN Security Council sanctions on UNITA were lifted on December 9, 2002. National elections are projected for 2004 or 2005. In the interim, both sides will need to focus on national reconciliation and the resettlement/reintegration of over 4 million Angolans displaced by the decades of conflict.

Angola is governed by a president assisted by a prime minister and 29 cabinet ministers, all appointed by him. The central government administers the country through 18 provinces, whose governors are appointed by the president. The National Assembly has 230 members elected in 1992 (three seats for Angolans living abroad have never been filled). They represent parties whose weight is determined by a formula that takes into account national tickets and provincial voting. The ruling MPLA controls 57% of the seats.

Principal Government Officials
President--Jose Eduardo dos Santos
Prime Minister--Fernando da Piedad Dias dos Santos "Nando"
Deputy Prime Minister--Aguinaldo Jaime
Minister of External Affairs--Joao Bernardo de Miranda
Minister of the Interior--Osvaldo de Jesus Serr� Van D�nem
Minister of Finance--Jos� Pedro de Morais
Minister of Defense--Kundi Paihama
Minister of Petroleum--Desid�rio da Gra�a Ver�ssimo da Costa
Minister of Planning--Ana Dias Louren�o
Ambassador to the United States--Josefina Perpetua Pitra Diakite

Angola maintains an embassy in the United States at 2100-2108 - 16th St., NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-785-1156, fax 202-785-1258, web:

Angola changed from a one-party Marxist-Leninist system ruled by the MPLA to a nominal multiparty democracy following the 1992 elections. President dos Santos won the first round election with more than 49% of the vote to Jonas Savimbi's 40%. A runoff never has taken place. The democratic transition was stalled due to the resumption of the civil war but should accelerate with the full implementation of the Lusaka Protocol.

Currently, political power is concentrated in the presidency. The executive branch of the government is composed of the president, the prime minister, and the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers, composed of all government ministers and vice ministers, meets regularly to discuss policy issues. Governors of the 18 provinces are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the president. The Constitutional Law of 1992 establishes the broad outlines of government structure and delineates the rights and duties of citizens. The legal system is based on Portuguese and customary law but is weak and fragmented. Courts operate in only 12 of more than 140 municipalities. A Supreme Court serves as the appellate tribunal; a Constitutional Court with powers of judicial review has never been constituted despite statutory authorization.

The 27-year long civil war has ravaged the country's political and social institutions. The government estimates that an estimated 4.1 million people were internally displaced by the civil war. As of January 2003, 1.8 million had returned to their communities. Resettlement of the remaining internally displaced, the return of 450,000 refugees from neighboring countries, and the reintegration of more than 300,000 former UNITA soldiers and their family members pose significant challenges. Daily conditions of life throughout the country and specifically in Luanda (population approximately 4 million) mirror the collapse of administrative infrastructure as well as many social institutions. Government support for social institutions is inadequate. Hospitals are without medicines or basic equipment, schools are without books, and public employees often lack the basic supplies for their day-to-day work.

The president has announced the government's intention to hold elections as soon as conditions permit, likely in late 2004 or early 2005. These elections would be the first since 1992 and would serve to elect both a new president and a new National Assembly.

Angola has a fast-growing economy largely due to a major oil boom, but it also ranks in the bottom 10 of almost every socioeconomic indicator. Aside from the oil sector and diamonds, it is in economic disarray because of 27 years of nearly continuous warfare, corruption, and economic mismanagement. Despite abundant natural resources, output per capita remains among the world's lowest. Subsistence agriculture and dependence on humanitarian food assistance sustain the large majority of the population.

By contrast, the rapidly expanding petroleum industry now producing up to 900,000 barrels per day (bpd), behind only Nigeria in Africa, accounts for 51.7% of GNP, 89% of exports, and 90% of government revenues. Oil production remains largely offshore and has few linkages with other sectors of the economy. Block Zero, located in the enclave of Cabinda, currently provides the majority of Angola's crude oil production.

ChevronTexaco, through its subsidiary Cabinda Gulf Oil Company, is the operator with a 39.2% share. SONANGOL (the Angolan state oil company), TotalFinaElf, and ENI-Agip are partners in the concession. ChevronTexaco also operates Angola's first producing deepwater section, Block 14, which started pumping in January 2000. Production from these Cabinda fields will be eclipsed by deepwater production further south in the Kwanza Basin scheduled to come on-line by 2007. TotalFinaElf brought the first of these deepwater blocks on-line with production from its Block 17 concession beginning in February 2002. Additional significant discoveries have been made in deepwater Blocks 15, 18, and 24, in which ExxonMobil, BP, Statoil, Norsk Hydro, and Agip have major interests. Exploration is ongoing in recently awarded ultra deep water concessions and in deep water and shallow concessions in the Namibe Basin. BP made the first significant ultra-deep water find in its Block 31 concession in 2002. TotalFinaElf operates Angola's one refinery (in Luanda) as a joint venture with SONANGOL; plans for a second refinery in Lobito are moving forward. ChevronTexaco and Sonangol are exploring the feasibility of a liquefied natural gas plant at Soyo. The United States purchases more than half of Angola's petroleum production, by far the largest importer. Exports to Asian countries, particularly China, have grown rapidly in recent years.

Diamonds make up most of Angola's remaining exports. Despite increased corporate ownership of diamond fields, much production is currently in the hands of smallscale prospectors, often operating illegally. The government is making an increased effort to register and license these prospectors. Legal sales of rough diamonds may occur only through the government's diamond-buying parastatal, although many producers continue to try and bypass the system to obtain higher prices. The government has established an export certification scheme consistent with the "Kimberley Process" to identify legitimate production and sales. Other mineral resources, including, gold remain largely undeveloped.

In the last decade of the colonial period, Angola was a major African food exporter. Because of severe wartime conditions, including extensive laying of landmines throughout the countryside, agricultural activities have been brought to a near standstill, and the country is now forced to import most of its food. Some efforts at agricultural recovery have gone forward, notably in fisheries, but most of the country's vast potential remains untapped. Coffee production, though a fraction of its pre-1975 level, is sufficient for domestic needs and some exports.

An economic reform effort was launched in 1998 but has been only marginally successful in addressing persistent fiscal mismanagement and corruption. In April 2000, Angola started an International Monetary Fund (IMF) Staff-Monitored Program (SMP). The program formally lapsed in June 2001 over IMF concerns about lack of adequate Angolan progress in key areas. However, the Government of Angola did succeed in unifying exchange rates and has raised fuel, electricity, and water rates. Efforts to initiate a new IMF program are ongoing but are contingent on progress in budget transparency and accountability. The Commercial Code, telecommunications law, land tenure law, and Foreign Investment Code are outdated. Revisions are in progress. A privatization effort, prepared with World Bank assistance, has begun with the BCI bank.

Angola is the third-largest trading partner of the United States in Sub-Saharan Africa, largely because of its petroleum exports. About 7% of U.S. non-OPEC oil imports are from Angola, a share which should continue to increase. By the same token, U.S. companies account for more than half the investment in Angola, with Chevron-Texaco leading the way. The U.S. exports to Angola industrial goods and services--such as oilfield equipment, mining equipment, chemicals, aircraft, and food.

The Angolan Armed Forces, known by its Portuguese acronym FAA, are headed by a Chief of Staff who reports to the civilian Minister of Defense. There are three services--the army, navy, and air force. Total manpower is about 140,000. The army is by far the largest of the services with about 130,000 personnel. The navy numbers about 3,000 and operates several small patrol craft and barges. Air Force personnel total about 7,000; its equipment includes Russian-manufactured fighters and transport planes. The "Casa Militar," or presidential guard, answers directly to the Office of the President and is separate from FAA command and control structures.

From 1975 to 1989, Angola was aligned with the Soviet Union and Cuba. Since then, it has focused on improving relationships with Western countries, cultivating links with other Portuguese-speaking countries, and asserting its own national interests in Central Africa through military and diplomatic intervention. In 1993, it established formal diplomatic relations with the United States. It has entered the Southern African Development Community as a vehicle for improving ties with its largely anglophone neighbors to the south. In 1997, Zimbabwe and Namibia joined Angola in its military intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Angolan troops fought in support of the Joseph Kabila government. It also has intervened in the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) to support the existing government in that country.

Multilaterally, Angola has promoted the revival of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) as a forum for cultural exchange and a means of expanding ties with Portugal and Brazil in particular. The government fully cooperated with the UN Mission in Angola (UNMA), scheduled to conclude in mid-February, during the peace process. Angola also worked closely with the UNSC in the implementation of UNITA sanctions. Angola began a 2-year term on the Security Council in January 2003.

The United States established formal diplomatic relations with the Government of Angola in 1993. Before 1989, U.S.-Angolan relations were defined by the Cold War. The United States supported Jonas Savimbi's UNITA against the pro-Soviet and pro-Cuban MPLA government in Luanda. Since 1992, the bilateral relationship has steadily improved.

The U.S. Mission in Angola consists of four agencies--The Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Defense, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, a variety of federal agencies maintain relationships with the Angolan Government through ongoing projects, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Energy. In FY 2002, mission programs amounted to roughly $137 million: a $99,611,400-USAID program, of which $85,587,000 went to humanitarian assistance (including food aid) while the rest went to agriculture, health, and democracy and governance; $28,700,000 in Department of Agriculture 416B products; a $2.8 million State Department demining program; a $300,000 State Department Human Rights and Democracy Fund grant to support the independent media; $3.5 million in State Department Economic Support Funds for democratic development; $70,000 in small arms destruction assistance from the State Department; $2,350,000 in State Department refugee assistance; and $122,000 in State Department small projects funds. New projects in FY 2003 will include support for democratic development from USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives and increased HIV/AIDS surveillance, treatment, and prevention programs through CDC.

At the same time, the energy-based U.S. trading relationship continues to expand and spark other ties. One offshoot has been the development of a Sister City relationship between Lafayette, La., and Cabinda. The Catholic University of Luanda has close links with a number of American institutions and has received support from Citizens' Energy of Boston. SONANGOL has a longstanding program of educating its professionals in U.S. universities, complimenting ChevronTexaco's policy of U.S. training for its own growing pool of Angolan professionals. Long before oil was discovered, American missionary efforts from the early 19th century established several Protestant churches in the interior, which also provided much of the schooling that was available in rural colonial Angola; those historical links now are being revived with exchanges in both directions.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Christopher Dell
Deputy Chief of Mission--Don Gatto
USAID Director--Robert Hellyer
Defense Attache--LTC Kelly Langdorf, USA

The U.S. Embassy is located at Luanda (E), Rua Houari Boumedienne No. 32, Miramar, Luanda, Angola. International mail: Caixa Postal 6484, Luanda, Angola; Pouch: Department of State, 2550 Luanda Place, Washington, DC 20521-2550; telephone: (244)(2)445-481, 447-028; fax: (244)(2)446-924, 447-813

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