Little is known about the early history of the land now known as Angola. It is believed that the area was inhabited by people living a Neolithic lifestyle until the arrival of the Bantu in the first millennium CE who brought with them iron making technology. Over hundreds of years the Bantu established themselves in the area. By the thirteenth century the Kingdom of Kongo was in existence covering much of modern day northern Angola, Cabinda, the Republic of the Congo and western Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Kingdom of Kongo had a developed agricultural base as well as mineral wealth. The history of Angola took a new turn after the arrival of the Portuguese in 1483 in their search for gold. They brought with them firearms and other technologies which the King of Kongo was more than happy to trade for ivory, minerals and slaves with the Portuguese finding slaves easier to trade and export to the Portuguese colony in Brazil than their original objective of gold.
South of the Kingdom of Kongo which covered modern day northern Angola was the Kingdom of Ndongo which is believed to have been a separate kingdom subordinate to Kongo itself. Ndono was ruled by a king, 'Ngola' from which Angola takes its name. Over the years, and with numerous setbacks not least because of the Dutch, British and French, the Portuguese established trading posts in Ndono and a fortified Luanda in 1587. Their conquests saw them proclaim a colony in Angola which was to last for four hundred years, though, in truth they did not exercise any actual administrative control over areas outside the coast until the twentieth century. And the basis for this colony was slavery. In fact, until the slave trade was abolished in 1836 it is estimated that Portugal sent over a million Angolans to Brazil fuelling resentment at the incomers that fed the later clamour for independence. During this period the Portuguese built railroads, ports together with towns and cities.
From 1885 as part of the Scramble for Africa, Portugal consolidated its hold over the country which saw ongoing local resistance, particularly to enforced labour which had technically replaced slavery. The colonisation of the country saw little in the way of social development for native Angolans. In 1920 Angola became a colony with its own administration, however in 1952 Angola's status was changed from a colony to an overseas province and the influx of white Portuguese during this period fanned the flames of racial tension. Whilst across Africa there were growing calls for independence, the Portuguese rejected these outright not least because Portugal itself was ruled by dictators. Over the next fifteen years three rival guerrilla emerged intent on independence for Angola, the Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA), the Frente Nacional de Libertacao de Angola (FNLA) and the Movimento Popular de Libertaccao de Angola (MPLA). These groups were not just fighting for independence, they were also at war with each other, and, following the collapse of the Portuguese regime in Lisbon in 1974, the Portuguese granted Angola independence the following year without handing power to a succeeding government, they merely abandoned Angola in the middle of a civil war.
The Bicesse Accord in 1991 was brokered to provide a path for democratic elections in Angola however when UNITA's Jonas Savimbi lost the election he deemed it fraudulent and returned to war. A further peace accord was signed in 1994 in Lusaka however this also failed. A massive military surge in 1999 by the Angolan military then decimated UNITA's forces however, even then, Savimbi continued guerrilla tactics until his death in 2002, a year that saw a de-facto cease fire and the end of the civil war that had seen the country broke down into factions leaving one and a half million dead, millions more displaced and the economy and the country's infrastructure shattered. The short video documentary (below) explores the recent history of Angola during that troubled time.
Angola History: Volunteer in Angola
Angola History: Angola Refugees
Angola History: Child Sponsor Angola
Angola History: Angola Profile
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