Sunday, March 10, 2013


The Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974 in Portugal took the world by surprise and caught the liberation movements in its last African colonies unprepared. After smooth negotiations Mozambique's independence was granted on 25 June 1975, but Angolan control remained disputed between the three rival liberation movements: MPLA, FNLA and UNITA in Angola-proper and FLEC (Cabinda Independence Organisation) in Cabinda.
Until independence the liberation movements' priority lay in fighting the colonial power and they initially had no clear alliances. With the disappearance of Portugal as the their common foe, ethnic and ideological rivalries moved to the fore. Fighting between the three already broke out in November 1974, starting in Luanda and quickly spreading across all of Angola. The new leftist Portuguese government showed little interest in interfering but often favored the MPLA. The country soon fell apart into different spheres of influence, the FNLA taking hold of northern Angola and UNITA in the central south. The MPLA mostly held the coastline, the far south-east and, in November 1974 gained control of Cabinda. The disunity of the three main movements postponed the handing over of power. The Alvor Agreement, which the three and Portugal signed on 15 January, proved to be no solid foundation for the procedure. The transitional government the agreement provided for was equally composed of the three big liberation movements and Portugal. It was sworn in on 31 January 1975; independence day was set for 11 November 1975, the same day of the ceasefire. FLEC was not part of the deal because it fought for the independence of Cabinda, which the Portuguese had administratively joined as an exclave to Angola.
Fighting in Luanda (referred to as the "Second War of Liberation" by the MPLA) resumed hardly a day after the transitional government took office. FNLA troops flown in from Zaire, had been taking positions in Luanda since October 1974. The MPLA had followed later in smaller numbers. To that point the MPLA and UNITA "had given every sign of intending to honour the Alvor agreement". Encouraged by Mobutu and the US, the FNLA attacked the MPLA in the capital. By March the FNLA from northern Angola was driving on Luanda joined by units of the Zairian army which the US had encouraged Mobutu to provide. On 28 April the FNLA unleashed a second wave of violence and in early May, 200 Zairian troops crossed into northern Angola in its support.
The initially weaker MPLA retreated south but with supplies finally arriving from the Soviet Union then succeeded in driving the FNLA out of Luanda by 9 July. The FNLA took up positions east of Kifangondo at the eastern outskirts of the capital, from where it kept up its pressure, and eliminated all remaining MPLA presence in the northern provinces of Uige and Zaire.
The fighting was taken up throughout the whole country. The liberation movements attempted to seize key strategic points, most importantly the capital on the day of independence. In a meeting of the United States National Security Council (NSC) on 27 June 1975, US President Gerald Ford said that, in spite of planned elections, it was important to get "his man" in first, referring to then UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi being in control of Luanda before the elections. Arthur Schlesinger pointed out at the same meeting that the US "might wish to encourage the disintegration of Angola. Cabinda in the clutches of Mobutu would mean far greater security of the petroleum resources."

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