Independence and the Rise of the Mpla Government

Independence and the Rise of the Mpla Government

Unlike Portugal's other African possessions, which had made relatively peaceful transitions to independence months earlier, by November 11, 1975, Angola was in chaos. In the absence of a central government to which Portuguese officials could relinquish control, Portugal refused to recognize any faction; instead, it ceded independence to the people of Angola. The MPLA subsequently announced the establishment of its government in Luanda and called the territory it controlled the People's Republic of Angola.

The FNLA and UNITA announced a separate regime with headquarters in the southern city of Huambo and called their territory the Democratic People's Republic of Angola. But because of continuing hostility between them, the FNLA and UNITA did not set up a government until December 1975, nor did they attempt to fuse their armies. Moreover, the FNLA-UNITA alliance received no formal recognition from other states, mostly because of its South African support. In general, the international community, particularly other African states, viewed South African involvement in favor of the FNLA and UNITA as a legitimization of Soviet and Cuban support for the MPLA.

By January 1976, with the support of some 10,000 to 12,000 Cuban troops and Soviet arms worth US$200 million, it was clear that the MPLA had emerged as the dominant military power. By February 1976, the FNLA and its mercenaries had been defeated in northern Angola; under international pressure, South African troops had withdrawn into Namibia; and the MPLA was in control in Cabinda. Furthermore, United States assistance to the FNLA and UNITA ceased following the passage by the United States Senate of the Clark Amendment, which prohibited all direct and indirect military or paramilitary assistance to any Angolan group. The OAU finally recognized the MPLA regime as Angola's official government, as did the UN and Portugal and more than eighty other nations.


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