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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Ovimbundu in Angola

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Date(s) Item
1954 Holden Roberto founded the first independence movement whose goal was to reunify the Bakongo people who were spread over three countries as a result of colonization. This goal was modified in 1958 to a nationalist orientation. The UPA (Union of Angolan People) became the FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola) in 1962. FNLA was a significant actor in the struggle for independence for Angola.
1956 The MPLA was founded by combining many illegal independence groups. The MPLA called for the repeal of repressive laws, nationalization of certain industries, redistribution of land.
1961 - 1975 Fight for independence involving the FNLA, MPLA, and UNITA against the Portuguese waged.
Mar 1961 FLNA (then the Union of Angolan Peoples) launched an attack on the Portuguese, but they crushed the peasant attack. As a result, as many as 400,000 Bakongo fled into neighboring Zaire. This marked the beginning of war of independence. The FLNA was joined by the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) in the liberation struggle. MPLA drew support from intellectuals of all ethnic groups and the Mbunda living in and around Luanda. It was led by Agostinho Neto.
1963 Jonas Savimbi broke away from the FNLA to form his own resistance movement UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola). UNITA draws support largely from the Ovimbundu ethnic group.
1975 War of independence ended. Most Portuguese fled. The MPLA declared all other political parties illegal and began to use its military power to suppress the other two factions. Because of assistance from the Cubans and the Soviet Union, the MPLA was able to quickly consolidate power. UNITA leader Savimbi also announced an independent Angola and attempted to establish a government, but the MPLA forces soon defeated UNITA.
1976 The MPLA (marxist government) defeated the other resistance groups and Neto became president. In November, the OAU recognized the MPLA as the legal government of Angola.
1979 Neto died, Jose Eduardo dos Santos became president.
1979 - 1984 Each fighting faction drew support from outside nations. The MPLA was traditionally supported by the Soviet Union and Cuba. The FNLA was supported early on by the U.S., Zaire, China and North Korea. UNITA drew support from Tanzania, Zambia and China and later from the U.S. By the late 1970s, the FNLA became a secondary actor, forming a coalition with UNITA, and the conflict moved away from the traditional homelands of the Bakongo in the north to the central and southern areas of the country. During the 1980s and 1990s, the main fighting has occurred between UNITA and the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA).
1984 Attempt at a peaceful solution to the conflict became the Lusaka accord. This accord tied the Namibian independence from South Africa to the removal of Cuban troops and advisors from Angola. However, the accord failed when the South African government failed to uphold its end of the agreement. By this time, over 500,000 Ovimbundu were considered refugees by the United Nations.
Apr 1986 Formal military aid was given to UNITA by the United States.
Aug 1988 Agreement between Cuba, South Africa, and Angola on a cease-fire in Angola and Namibia and an end to South African participation in the wars was concluded. This opened the way to independence in Namibia and an agreement to withdraw 50,000 Cuban troops from Angola.
Apr 1989 An estimated 400,000 Angolans were refugees in neighboring states and another 650,000 were internally displaced.
Jun 22 - 30, 1989 A cease fire was agreed to, but it did not last.
Apr 1990 The MPLA and UNITA committed to peace talks in which a cease-fire, multipartyism and free elections were agreed to.
Sep 1990 The U.N. estimated that as many as 96,000 Angolans were in critical condition due to malnutrition and another 685,000 were at risk as the drought reached its fourth year.
Dec 1990 MPLA Congress endorsed the creation of a free-market economy and multiparty system of government, and denounced communism.
Mar 1991 Government legalized opposition parties. FNLA had essentially become a non-actor, though its exiled leader (Holden Roberto) returned when parties were legalized and was a candidate for president in 1992. UNITA transformed itself into a political movement. In May, the last of the Cuban troops left Angola.
May 1991 The press reported that the newly signed peace agreement effectively ended a bloody 16-year civil war. There were calls for a national election. However, the peace was very tenuous and the country remained tense.
Mar 1992 There was evidence of division within UNITA. Two generals resigned and condemned Savimbi as a dictator.
Aug 1992 Large numbers of refugees in Zaire began trickling back into Angola prior to elections. It is likely that most of these refugees are of the Bakongo ethnic group.
Sep 29 - 30, 1992 Angolans went to the polls in the first direct elections since independence. 4.8 million voted. Presidential candidates included dos Santos, Savimbi, and Roberto.
Oct 1992 Election results brought violence. In the presidential election, 49.7% of the vote went to dos Santos, 40% to Savimbi. The MPLA gained 129 of 220 seats in the national assembly. The FNLA received 2.5% of the National Assembly seats. The election was proclaimed free and fair by international observers. The majority of demobilized UNITA soldiers returned to arms.
Oct 30 - Nov 1, 1992 "Three Day War" in Luanda. Evidence suggested more than 10,000 bodies of Ovimbundu and Bakongo lie in mass graves.
Nov 1992 Savimbi's rebels intensified fighting. Rebel forces controlled between 60%-70% of the country.
Jan 1993 Angola was once again in full scale civil war. Aid workers said 10,000-15,000 people have been killed in the past four months. Savimbi launched an offensive in oil-rich northern provinces (including Cabinda). Oil production was the MPLA's main source of revenue. The people of Cabinda province were involved in a separate struggle against the MPLA government for the independence of Cabinda.
Jan 22, 1993 Military, national police and civilians massacred civilians, mostly Bakongo in several cities. Reports suggested this was a deliberate attempt to destroy the Bakongo (ethnic cleansing) who were referred to as "Zaireans" in Angola. The number of dead was thought to be in the thousands (most reports suggested between 4000-6000 dead). Some Ovimbundu were also killed. Following this massacre, known as "Bloody Friday," the government condemned those who took part.
Jan 27, 1993 UNITA and government representatives were in Ethiopia for talks aimed at ending the fighting. UNITA forces were estimated at 35,000; MPLA troops were estimated at 60,000.
Mar 1993 The ongoing fight for Huambo, a UNITA stronghold, left an estimated 10,000 people dead since mid-January. Many of them were presumed to be civilian Ovimbundu. UNITA controlled areas of Angola comprising about 40% of the total population.
Apr 1993 UN mediated peace talks were proposed. Savimbi would agree to a formal cease-fire if the UN sent in peacekeepers and the government agreed to decentralization of power in a provisional government lasting 2-3 years. Peace talks broke down in May.
May 19, 1993 President Clinton announced the U.S. would recognize the government of dos Santos in Angola. In July, the U.S. decided to lift its embargo on nonlethal military supplies to Angola. The MPLA government said this move will put it on a more equal footing with UNITA.
Nov 1 - 3, 1993 Peace talks resumed, but faltered by the end of the month. Recent fighting around Kuito in the central highlands (Bie province) left about 25,000 dead.
Dec 11, 1993 Peace talks stalled when rebels accused the government of trying to assassinate Savimbi in a bombing raid on the provincial capital Kuito. An estimated 100,000 have been killed since Savimbi renewed the civil war in October 1992.
Jan 1994 Freedom of Assembly was restricted when Bakongo attempted to commemorate the anniversary of "bloody Friday". Freedom of speech was curbed in the National Assembly and the government controlled the press. Opposition party representatives in the National Assembly were prohibited from traveling to their constituents in the interior of the country. National Assembly subcommittee for Human Rights released a report which failed to find the government responsible for the events of "bloody Friday" in January 1993. The opposition PDP-ANA party (Democratic Party for the Progress-Angolan National Alliance), which is almost exclusively made up of Bakongo, proclaimed the report a whitewash.
Feb 1 - Mar 31, 1994 Food shortages due to conflict and drought were evident in the central highlands, traditional homelands of the Ovimbundu. Thousands were starving and the Red Cross estimated some 200,000 people in and around Huambo are in immediate danger. Fighting continued in the area.
May 1994 Savimbi suspended participation in peace talks in protest over the bombing of Huambo.
Jun 1994 Government continued on the offensive. Attacks were reported in Lunda Norte, Malanje and Uige in the North.
Nov 20, 1994 Lusaka peace accord signed. U.N. Peacekeeping Force was proposed for 1995. South African leader Nelson Mandela played an instrumental role in bringing the MPLA and UNITA together. Peace in Angola, however, is fragile.
Feb 1995 U.N. voted to send 7000 peace keepers to Angola in May. Defections of UNITA leaders caused alarm as they threatened to return to war. Angola remained tense.
Feb 14, 1995 Savimbi held a congress of UNITA deputies and his basic message to the press was that the war is over. At this congress, Savimbi purged UNITA of those members who refused to return to war after the 1992 elections. By this time, Savimbi has lost outside allies and popular support. Angolans are tired of war and many blame UNITA more than the government for the recent fighting (e.g. siege of Kuito). Savimbi is now 60 and said he will accept some power-sharing arrangement with the government. The people of Angola were not quite sure if they believe him. Outside observers were a little less skeptical as they see no other options for Savimbi. Many believed he was a beaten man.
May 15, 1996 A U.N. report on human rights in Angola indicated that abuses continue and the judicial system has collapsed . The U.N. has been monitoring the implementation of the November 1994 peace accord in several regions. U.N. verification missions reported obstruction of the missions and assassinations. Military forces often detain civilians without reason and hold them without charge or trial. Young boys and man are being forced to join both the government's military and UNITA rebels. There continued to be problems with UNITA conscripts demobilizing.
Mar 1997 UNITA joined the National Unity government; 70 parliamentarians already took their seats and 10 former generals were integrated into national army. Fighting in Benguela province was reported over past few months (Reuters, 12 March 1997).
Apr 9, 1997 67 out of the 70 elected União Nacional de Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA) deputies were finally sworn-in at the National Assembly in Luanda. Two days later, the government of National Unity and Reconciliation was installed following months of intense pressure on UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi by the international community. However, UNITA suspended the implementation of the 1994 Lusaka protocol, which was the cause of the tension of the country.
Jun 1 - Jul 31, 1997 UNITA carries out attacks in the North East of the country, as tension increased everywhere (Deutsch Presse Agentur, 3 September 1997)
Aug 1997 UNITA was blamed for killings that took place in Southern Angola. (Deutsch Presse Agentur, 3 September 1997).
Sep 3, 1997 The United Nations Security Council adopted sanctions against UNITA for noncompliance with the Lusaka Peace Accord B to take effect 30 September if UNITA does not comply with the accord (Deutsch Presse Agentur, 3 September 1997).
Oct 11, 1997 UNITA threatened to withdraw from the peace process. UNITA has economic interests over Cuango diamond field in Lunda Norte and still has effective control over the area. UNITA withdrew from Lusaka Peace Accord between October 1997 and January 1998 (Deutsche Press Agentur, 15 September 1998).
Jan 1998 UNITA and the government signed an agreement to implement terms of a ceasefire which will be implemented as 28 February 1998 (Deutsche Press Agentur, 15 September 1998).
Mar 17, 1998 Former UNITA Second in Command Eugenio Manuvahda said Savimbi wants war. Manuvahda says if UNITA wants peace, it should abandon Savimbi (Deutsche Press Agentur, 17 March 1998).
Mar 21, 1998 UNITA radio reported that the police and the army were engaged in an offensive against UNITA in Benguela province (BBC, 21 March 1998).
Apr 30, 1998 The United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of MONUA (UN Observer Mission in Angola) until 30 June (Africa News, 30 April 1998).
May 1998 Fighting restarted in Benguela Province 1998 (Deutsche Press Agentur, 15 September 1998).
May 15, 1998 The UN reported on human rights abuse during war. The UN is monitoring the Lusaka Peace Accord signed in November 1994. Also, a UN verification mission in several regions in Angola reported abductions, arbitrary arrests and assassinations. In addition, military forces often detained civilians without reason and held them for ransom; men and boys were forcibly conscripted for military service by both side (Reuters, 15 May 1998).
Jul 1998 UNITA was blamed for heavy fighting in Lunda Norte (Deutsche Press Agentur, 15 September 1998).
Jul 31, 1998 The United Nations said they found mass graves of recent clash victims in Lunda Norte province; the attack happened on 22 July and 105 people were killed. The government blamed UNITA for the attack (New York Times, 31 July 1998).
Aug 1998 The Angolan government gave the opposition movement UNITA until the end of August to complete demilitarization or risk losing its parliamentary seats and posts in government. In fact, UNITA was expelled from the Government of National Unity and Reconciliation. A few days later, a new UNITA faction appeared declaring its allegiance to the government and denouncing Savimbi as the main obstacle in the way of the peace process.
Aug 3, 1998 64,000 Angolans fled UNITA forced conscription in Zambia. Human rights abuses by UNITA were reportedly escalating since May 1998 (Africa News, 3 August 1998).
Sep 2, 1998 Four cabinet ministers of UNITA were fired by President dos Santos amid growing fears that civil war was about to resume (CSM, 2 September 1998)
Sep 11, 1998 Jorge Valentim, breakaway UNITA leader, said that the majority of UNITA militants want peace. On 7 September, the MPLA government urged the UN to recognize the splinter which issued a declaration on 2 September in which they renounced war and committed themselves to peace and national reconciliation on the basis of the Lusaka Protocol (BBC, 11 September 1998).
Sep 15, 1998 The United Nations Security Council renewed the mandate of its observer mission in Angola for another month following the complete breakdown of the peace process. Meanwhile, Savimbi resumed fighting B he refused to completely demobilize and to return areas under its control to the government. (Deutsche Press Agentur, 15 September 1998).
Sep 15, 1998 The U.N. Security Council renewed the mandate of its observers mission in Angola for another month following the complete breakdown of the peace process. Savimbi's UNITA resumed fighting and has refused to completely demobilize. (Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA))
Oct 20, 1998 UNITA and MPLA clashed violently in Uige Province. Officials began talking about forces of Savimbi rather than UNITA (BBC, 20 October 1998).
Dec 1998 Angolan government forces recaptured a strategic bridge in central Bie province, killing more than 50 UNITA rebels. The government control of the Cune River bridge represented a serious threat to UNITA’s military headquarters at Andulo, 60 km to the north. Shortly afterwards, advancing rebel troops pushed the government army out of eight towns and headed to the strategic city of Kuito. UNITA rebel forces had taken four towns in Huambo province and four others in neighboring Bie province since the beginning of December, when fighting restarted in the highlands about 300 miles southeast of the capital Luanda. The renewed fighting, which ended a four-year peace pact between the government and UNITA, displaced thousands of people who converged on Kuito.
Dec 17, 1998 More than 100 were killed in a grenade and machine-gun attack as civil war sputtered back to life. Government military authorities blamed the attack at a former railway station in Kunje, central Angola, on die-hard supporters of the UNITA (The Washington Times, 17 December 1998).
Jan 5, 1999 On 2 January, for the second time in a week, a United Nations plane was shot down soon after take-off from the besieged Angolan city of Huambo. Issa Diallo, head of the UN Observer Mission in Angola, said Kofi Annan was outraged and that UN flights were being specifically targeted. Both planes were shot down over territory controlled by UNITA (The Toronto Star, 5 January 1999).
Mar 5, 1999 During 1998, UNITA claimed that the MPLA government carried out selective assassinations in Luanda of 150 Ovimbundu.(BBC)
Jul 1, 1999 - Jul 31, 1998 The Angolan government, through the Criminal Investigation Police, published an arrest warrant issued in the name of citizen Jonas Malheiro Sidonio Savimbi. It states that Savimbi has continually committed crimes punishable under Angolan Law.
Aug 3, 1999 Angola's second City, Huambo, surrounded by UNITA rebel forces, is being steadily reinforced by a government determined to win back the central highlands from rebel leader Jonas Savimbi. The central highlands are ethnically Ovimbundu from which UNITA takes its support. UNITA has followers in the city but residents have bad memories of UNITA's occupation 5 years ago. Politically, UNITA's position is not helped by the 175,000 newly displaced it has forced off the land and into the city (Africa News Service)
Jan 1 - Feb 29, 2004 UNITA accuses a policeman of having killed a party member in Bie and of assaulting the UNITA Huila local secretary. They also accused MPLA youth and the Organziation of Civil Defense of attacking the UNITA women's wing, LIMA (Agence France Presse, 3/22/2004, “Former Angolan rebels accuse ruling party of violence, intimidation”)
Aug 2005 MPLA-aligned local officials in the Benguela province clashed with UNITA members who were attempting to set up offices in Benguela, where Ovimbundu are dominant. Two people were seriously wounded, but no fatalities reported. (Africa News, 9/7/2005, “Angola; Unita Calls On Govt to Address Acts of Intimidation in Provinces”)


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Information current as of July 16, 2010