The Angolan Civil War (1975-2002): A Brief History

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Angolan Civil War (1975-2002): A Timeline of Events

1961
FNLA and MPLA begin a guerrilla campaign to overthrow Portuguese colonial rule.
25 April 1974
Portuguese colonial rule ends after a coup removes the government in Portugal
11 November 1975      
Angola attains official independence.
1975                           
South Africa’s Prime Minister JB Vorster authorises Operation Savannah, eventually resulting in the infiltration of several SADF forces and a clash between the South African government and Cuban forces.  
15 January 1975        
The Alvor Accord is signed by parties involved in the conflict.
July 1975                  
FNLA is forced out of Luanda by the MPLA, while UNITA voluntarily withdraws to the south of Angola where it is based. By August the MPLA controls 11 of 15 provincial capitals.
5 August 1975            
South African troops invade southern Angola with armoured vehicles and artillery, sweeping towards Luanda. 
23 October 1975        
South Africa deploys troops stationed in Namibia in support of the FNLA and UNITA. Additionally Zaire sends armoured cars, paratroopers and infantry battalions in support of the FNLA with the motive of ensuring a pro-Kinshasa government. Together with South Africa, UNITA manages to capture five provincial capitals. Major assistance by Cuban forces siding with the MPLA prevents the fall of Luanda to South Africa and UNITA. 
23 November 1975     
The FNLA and UNITA declare a coalition government based in Huambo, with Holden Roberto and Jonas Savimbi as co-presidents.
1976                           
Cuba assists in driving back South African-UNITA military forces, capturing Huambo and driving the FNLA into Zaire. 
March 1976                
South Africa withdraws due to a lack of support promised by the United States.  UNITA and the FNLA withdraw to the bush where they launch campaigns against the MPLA. 
1977                          
The MPLA repels an attempted coupby one of its prominent leaders and subsequently establishes itself firmly as a Marxist-Leninist party.
1979                           
A stalemate is reached, with UNITA being unable to drive back the MPLA from the provincial capitals, and the MPLA finding itself unable to crush its opposition. The death of MPLA leader Agostinho Neto results in Jose Eduardo dos Santos assuming the presidency.
12 May 1980              
South African troops infiltrate Cunene province.  The Angolan government blames South Africa for civilian casualties.
21 May 1980               
The SADF attacks Cuando-Cubango and the MPLA threatens military action.
7 June 1980                
SADF launches an invasion through Cunene and Cuando-Cubango.
1982                          
South Africa begins a series of secret talks with the MPLA providing for the withdrawal of South African and Namibian troops. 
1984                           
Secret talks come to fruition in the form of the Lusaka Accord.
1986                           
Support for UNITA is heavily increased by military assistance from the USA.  Additionally, support for the MPLA is also increased by the Soviet Union, Cuba and other Eastern bloc nations. 
1987                            
South Africa re-enters the struggle in support of UNITA and invades southern Angola, but fails in its attempt to capture Cuito Cuanavale. Negotiations with the USSR, the USA and Portugal lead to the conditional withdrawal of South African and Cuban troops from Angola in exchange for Namibian independence.
1988                            
Battle of Cuito Cuanavale.           
1989                            
Dos Santos and Savimbi agree to a ceasefire.  The ceasefire collapses shortly thereafter and guerrilla activities resume.
April 1991                    
The MPLA denounces Marxism-Leninism in favour of social democracy. 
31 May 1991                
A peace agreement is signed in Lisbon by dos Santos and Savimbi, resulting in a multiparty constitution.   
29 September 1992     
Angola holds its first free and fair elections.  Savimbi, who receives less votes than dos Santos,rejects the outcome of the elections, accusing the MPLA of fraud, resumes guerrilla warfare.
1993                           
UNITA is sanctioned by the UN, and the United States officially acknowledges the MPLA government.
26 September 1993  
The US issues Executive Order 12865, declaring a national emergency in Angola and invoking the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the United Nations Participation Act,prohibiting any form of US aid to Angola except through designated entry points, and forbids supply to UNITA.
1994                           
The MPLA government and UNITA sign the Lusaka Protocol peace accord in Zambia.
January 1995              
The MPLA, FNLA and UNITA agree to establish a joint transitional government.  In practice, however, the struggle for power continues. 
1995                           
UN peace-keepers arrive in Angola to ensure a peaceful transition government.
1996                          
Dos Santos and Savimbi agree to a unity government and the merging of troops into a national army.
April 1997                   
Savimbi declines his position in the unity government and does not attend the inauguration ceremony.
1998                           
Full-scale fighting resumes.
February 2002             
Subsequent to the death of Jonas Svimbi at the hands of the Angolan government, UNITA and the MPLA sign a ceasefire agreement.  

Last updated : 10-Nov-2015

This article was produced for South African History Online on 04-Feb-2015