This Day In History: November 11th
The southwestern African nation of Angola is home to a population of more than 30 million people. The country shares borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Namibia. After decades of colonial rule, Angola was granted independence from Portugal on November 11, 1975.
Prior to colonization, the territory was occupied by small and large kingdoms including the Kongo Kingdom. The Kongo Kingdom became the dominant entity in the region and established Mbanza Kongo as the capital during the 14th century. It wasn’t until 1483, that the natives would come in contact with the Portuguese.
The Kongo’s king converted to Christianity and also began allowing for literacy in Portuguese and European customs. By 1575, the Portuguese moved to create a settlement in Luanda after undergoing several missions in the region. Through a series of treaties and conquest over lesser kingdoms the Portuguese were able to gradually take control over the territory and establish the Colony of Angola.
With the Portuguese in control, enslaved individuals were a prime export in Angola. Exporting enslaved individuals became outlawed in Angola in 1836, but trade continued until the Brazilian market closed during the 1850s. The Portuguese soon began consolidation efforts to maintain colonial control over the region.
Portuguese control also led to an increase in conversions to Christianity, taxation on native Angolans, and forced labor despite the ban on slavery. The unfair treatment and conditions imposed on Angolans prompted resistance. Nationalist movements began and groups such as the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (1956), the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (1957) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (1966).
Although the three groups had a shared desire to achieve independence for Angola, that did not stop conflict from arising amongst them. The conflicts often led to armed confrontations and resulted in a lack of a unified front. Portuguese military forces withdrew from Angola but did not leave power in the hands of any group in particular. Portugal granted Angola independence on November 11, 1975.
The years following independence were filled with political instability. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) took control of Luanda and declared itself the official government while the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) set up a rival government in Huambo.
This sparked a Civil war that did not end until 2002. Jose Eduardo dos Santos of the MPLA established himself as Angola’s president in 1979 and held the position until 2017. Joao Lourenco became Angola’s new president the following year.