Angola is one of the most extensive and populous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and its economy is one of the most fast-developing ones of the entire continent. In fact, according to recent statistics and economic hypotheses, Angola’s total GDP will increase by more than 31% in only five years (2022-2027). The principal sources that make this intense economic development possible are Angola’s high amount of natural resource reserves, especially diamonds, petroleum, and gas.
Despite the economic growth and potential, two factors are crucial to show that this economic growth has not been accompanied not only by a real improvement in living conditions but also by a real democratic transition. If we consider the first aspect, nowadays, a considerable segment of the Angolan population lives below the poverty line. In addition, the Human Development Index (HDI) in Angola is 0.581 (2019), listing the country at 148th place out of 191 in the HDI global ranking. These data reveal the critical situation of the Angolan economy and are the result of massive differences within the country, especially between the capital city, Angola, remaining one of the wealthiest cities in Africa, and the rural areas, characterised by huge poverty.
The second aspect may be the most important to have a complete overview of the current situation in Angola. The contemporary history of Angola has been characterised by two important events: the Independence War from 1961 to 1975 and the Civil war from 1975 to 2002. Angola was a former Portuguese colony, and in 1961 some armed groups within the country started a rebellion against the colonial troops. However, this rebellion resulted in a proper war, deemed unequal because of the vast gap between the two fighting fronts. On one side, there were Portuguese troops with modern armaments and a stable strategy; on the other side, the rebel movements in Angola were less equipped than the Portuguese troops but also less organised, due to the high division between the principal groups and the lack of general coordination. The conflict lasted for more or less fifteen years and ended on 11th November 1975, thanks to the withdrawal of Portuguese troops. This outcome, more than a proper victory of the Angolan revolutionary movements, has been related to a factor completely external to Angolan history: the Carnation Revolution. This revolution started in Portugal on 25thApril 1975 and led to the fall of the corporatist dictatorship of Salazar: the fall of Salazar caused the direct collapse of the previous Portuguese political system, including also the Portuguese empire. This was the principal reason for the Portuguese troops’ withdrawal from Angola and other African colonies.
In reality, the retirement of the Portuguese troops from Angola did not leave the terrain for a peaceful institutionalization of the newly independent Angolan state. During the Independence war, three different rebels group acquired more power: the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), guided by Agostinho Neto, the National Front for Liberation of Angola (FNLA), guided by Holden Roberto and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), controlled by Jonas Savimbi. Even if fighting for the same aim, these three revolutionary groups were too different, not only concerning their geographical influence but also their political ideology. Regarding the first aspect, every rebel group employed its influence over a determined country region. Regarding the second aspect, every armed group was linked to a particular political ideology. For example, while the MPLA laid its foundations for Marxism-Leninism, the FLNA was linked to nationalism ideology, and the UNITA had an anti-communist outlook.
This solid political desalination between the three principal armed groups has obstructed Angola’s independence process. In fact, in the summer of 1975, Agostino Neto and MPLA troops took power with force, conquering the capital city of Luanda and starting a bloody conflict with other revolutionary groups within the territory of Angola. The Angolan Civil war lasted for many years and was characterised by continuing clashes between the MPLA and UNITA troops. During this civil war, there were also some interferences from foreign countries, who supported the two groups. The principal external actors involved in the Angolan Civil War have been Cuba, supporting the MPLA, and South Africa, supporting the UNITA.
The civil war lasted until 2002 when a peace agreement was signed. The end of the Civil War permitted Angola’s economic and social recovery. Angolan authorities after 2002, mainly under the MPLA political party, tried to leave behind a bloody conflict that lasted for twenty-seven years and caused a number of total fatalities between 500.000 and 1.000.000. However, the burden of such a conflict still characterises the actual situation in Angola, which still suffers many social and political problems such as political instability, lack of democracy and right of law, terrorism, and diffused poverty. According to Freedom House, one of the most important think-thank doing research about the democracy level in the world, Angola is a not-free country, with a total score of 30 out of 100. Two variables are used by Freedom House to define the democratic level of a country: political rights and civil liberties. Regarding political rights, Angola currently does not provide fair elections, and political pluralism is somewhat absent; moreover, the Angolan government does not operate with openness and transparency criteria, and corruption is highly embedded in all aspects of politics and administration. Regarding civic liberties, individual freedom and individual rights are not respected: independent media does not exist, the freedom of religion and belief is not considered, and the rule of law is not guaranteed, primarily due to the lack of independence of the judiciary system.
A cura di Antonio Tummolo