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Capital - Luanda

Capital City: Luanda
Angola (country), formerly Portuguese West Africa, officially Republic of Angola, independent state in south-western Africa. Angola is bounded on the north and east by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire), on the east by Zambia, on the south by Namibia, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. A small exclave, Cabinda, is located some 30 km (about 20 mi) to the north and is bounded on the north by the Republic of the Congo, on the east and south by the DRC, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Angola has a coastline of about 1,600 km (about 990 mi) and a total area of 1,246,700 sq km (481,350 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Luanda. Angola can be divided into three major regions. They are, from west to east, the coastal plain, a transition zone, and a vast inland plateau. The low-lying coastal plain varies from about 50 to 150 km (about 30 to 90 mi) in width. The transition zone, which consists of a series of terraces or escarpments, is about 150 km (about 90 mi) wide in the north, but diminishes to about 30 km (about 20 mi) in the centre and south. To the east of this zone is the vast Angolan plateau, which covers approximately two-thirds of the country and has an average elevation of 1,000 to 1,520 m (3,300 to 5,000 ft). Higher elevations are reached in the mountains of the central section, which culminate in Mount (2,620 m/8,596 ft), the country’s highest point.

Most of Angola’s rivers rise in the central mountains. Of the many rivers that drain to the Atlantic Ocean, the Cuanza and Cunene are the most important. Other major streams include the Kwango River, which drains north to the Congo River system and the Kwando and Cubango Rivers, both of which drain generally southeast to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Angola has no sizable lakes. Angola has a tropical climate, with a dry season that lasts from September to April. The cool Benguela Current offshore moderates the temperatures of the coastal region and reduces the precipitation, especially in the south. Annual rainfall at Luanda is about 330 mm (about 13 in) and only 50 mm (about 2 in) at Namibe, which borders the Namib Desert. In the cooler central plateau, rainfall decreases from 1,500 mm (about 60 in) in the north to 750 mm (about 30 in) in the south.

Angola is rich in mineral resources, and further geological exploration is likely to add to the list of known mineral reserves. Among the most notable resources are petroleum, diamonds, iron ore, manganese, copper, uranium, phosphates, and salt. Vegetation varies with the climate. Thick tropical rain forests are found in the north and in the Cabinda exclave. To the south the rain forests give way to savannas, lands of mixed trees and grasses, which in turn grade into grasslands on the south and east. Palm trees are found on much of the coast, and sparse desert vegetation grows south of Namibe. Forests cover a total of 56 percent (2000) of the country’s total area. Wildlife is as diverse as the vegetation and includes many of the larger African mammals, such as elephants, rhinoceroses, giraffes, hippopotamuses, zebras, antelope, lions, and gorillas. Also found are crocodiles and various birds and insects.

The population of Angola is made up of more than 90 ethnic groups. Despite this diversity, five groups represent more than 90 percent of the population: Ovimbunda (37 percent); Mbundu (25 percent); Bakongo, or Kongo (15 percent); Lunda-Chokwe (8 percent); and Nganguela (6 percent). Before independence from Portugal was achieved in 1975, Angola had a community of approximately 400,000 Portuguese; more than 90 percent of these have since departed for Portugal.

Practically all that is known of the early history of Angola is that the Stone Age hunters and gatherers of the region were displaced by metalworking Bantu as early as the 7th century AD. The country was on the migration routes of peoples from the north and east, which resulted in considerable mixture of populations. Thus, the culture of the Lunda, on the Kasai River in the east, affected the Chokwe to the extent that they are now known as the Lunda-Chokwe; similarly, the Bakongo, at the time of their migration into northern Angola, put their stamp on the pre-existing local chiefdoms. When the Portuguese arrived in 1483, seeking the legendary kingdom of Prester John, as well as precious metals, they found the realm of the Bakongo well established. The ruler of the state welcomed the newcomers, and in 1491 Portuguese traders and missionaries bearing gifts were sent to the court of Manikongo , Nzinga Nkuwu, who converted to Christianity. Also converting was the succeeding manikongo, Afonso I, who also accepted Portuguese guidance in the administration of his realm. The Portuguese, however, were more interested in profit from a booming trade in slaves than in either missionary work or spreading European civilization. The slave traffic, aided by local chiefs, gradually undermined the authority of the manikongo, and 25 years after Afonso’s death the state succumbed to the onslaught of the Jaga, a fierce group of nomads from the east. The Portuguese, meanwhile, had extended their reach southward to the area around and south of present Luanda, over which they soon claimed colonial authority; it was the title of the local ruler, ngola, that became the name of the country. Portugal appointed royal governors who tried to impose their will on the population, but foreign rule was stubbornly resisted. Prolonged warfare ensued, while slave raids helped to keep the country in continuous turmoil. In addition, the Jaga overran the area after they had devastated the Bakongo, and in the middle of the 17th century, Luanda, founded by the Portuguese in 1575, was temporarily taken by the Dutch.

Practically no European settlement was attempted during this time, owing to the much greater profits to be made in the slave trade; by 1845 there were still only 1800 Europeans in all of Angola. The slave trade went on almost uninterrupted throughout the 19th century. By the end of that time an estimated 3 million people had been taken and sold off across the Atlantic to North and South America. Portugal did not gain full control over the country’s interior until the early 20th century. After that it was governed under the so-called regime do indigenato, an invidious system of economic exploitation, educational neglect, and political repression that remained in force until 1961. In 1951 Angola’s official status was changed from colony to overseas province; soon after, a policy of accelerated European settlement was adopted, the futile attempt of the colonial power to stave off the inevitable.

During the 1950s a nationalist movement grew rapidly, and in 1961 a guerrilla war against the Portuguese was initiated. The nationalists, however, were split into three rival groups: the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de Libertao de Angola, or FNLA), the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertao de Angola, or MPLA), and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unio Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola, or UNITA). All three had armed forces in the field, but none made much headway until the revolution in Portugal in April 1974 (see Portugal: History). After that, the whole Portuguese colonial empire began to fall apart. The new Lisbon regime agreed to a transfer of power, and on November 11, 1975, Angola became independent. Two governments claimed to represent the new nation, one formed by the MPLA in Luanda, the other by UNITA and FNLA in Huambo. The ensuing civil war assumed international overtones: The MPLA was armed by the USSR and aided by Cuban troops, while some Western powers and South Africa allied themselves with the FNLA/UNITA coalition and its leader, Jonas Savimbi. By early 1976 the MPLA had gained the upper hand, and its government, with MPLA leader Agostinho Neto as president, was gradually recognized throughout the world. Neto died in 1979, and leadership of the nation was assumed by Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Although the FNLA surrendered to the government in 1984, UNITA continued to wage guerrilla warfare against the MPLA, supported militarily by South Africa and the United States. South Africa was also battling the Angolan government over control of Namibia. In August 1988 a peace agreement was reached between Angola, South Africa, and Cuba that granted independence to Namibia and ended Cuban and South African military involvement in the Angolan civil war. The U.S. government continued to send aid to UNITA, but also pushed forward diplomatic efforts to end the conflict. In March 1991 the two sides signed a peace accord providing for a cease-fire and the legalization of all political parties by May. President dos Santos called for multiparty elections to be held in September 1992, and a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force maintained order. Tensions and small skirmishes arose just before the election, however. When the MPLA emerged with the majority of seats in parliament (129 of 220) and dos Santos received 49.6 percent of the vote, Savimbi rejected the results as fraudulent, refused to participate in the runoff election, and resumed the war at an even deadlier level. In 1993 the United States and other foreign powers officially ended their support of the warring factions. Daily relief flights by the UN World Food Program were required to avert mass starvation throughout the country, as most of Angola’s resources went toward weapons and other war costs. By the end of 1994 an estimated 3.6 million Angolans were war refugees, and 500,000 people had been killed.

In November 1994 UNITA leaders and government representatives signed a peace accord in Lusaka, Zambia, that became known as the Lusaka Protocol. In May 1995 a UN mediator succeeded in bringing dos Santos and Savimbi to Lusaka to meet face to face. There they signed the accord, which called for a cease-fire, the demobilization and integration into the Angolan army of UNITA troops, and the creation of a coalition government. The UN undertook the task of enforcing the agreement, the third since war broke out in 1975, by agreeing to send 7,000 peacekeeping troops to Angola in 1995. The demobilization of UNITA troops progressed slowly.
In May 1996 the government and UNITA agreed to merge their armies and create a unified government. After numerous delays, a unified government was inaugurated in April 1997, with dos Santos remaining as president and UNITA becoming the largest opposition group in parliament. However, Savimbi, who was to assume the official position of leader of the opposition, refused to venture to Luanda, citing a lack of security. By June tension rose again, as the government criticized Savimbi for not complying with the terms of the Lusaka Protocol. In mid-1997 only a small percentage of UNITA forces had integrated into the government’s army, and the remaining UNITA forces had reportedly begun mobilizing again in the north. Fighting between government and UNITA armies resumed in 1998, displacing hundreds of thousands of Angolans. In early 1999 the UN terminated its peacekeeping mission in Angola, criticizing both Savimbi and dos Santos for lack of commitment to the peace process. Fighting continued until early 2002, when Savimbi was killed in an ambush by government troops. The government subsequently suspended military operations and entered into peace talks with the remaining UNITA leadership. In April 2002, just weeks after Savimbi’s death the two sides signed a peace agreement, pledging to work together to demobilize UNITA’s tens of thousands of fighters.

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