Relations with Other African States

Relations with Other African States

Angola was wary of attempts at African solidarity during its first years of independence, an attitude that gave way to a more activist role in southern Africa during the 1980s. President Neto rejected an offer of an OAU peacekeeping force in 1975, suspecting that OAU leaders would urge a negotiated settlement with UNITA. Neto also declined other efforts to find African solutions to Angola's instability and reduce the Soviet and Cuban role in the region. A decade later, Angola had become a leader among front-line states (the others were Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) seeking Western pressure to end regional destablization by Pretoria. Luanda also coordinated efforts by the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) to reduce the front-line states' economic dependence on South Africa.

Angola's relations were generally good with other African states that accepted its Marxist policies and strained with states that harbored or supported rebel forces opposed to the MPLA-PT. The most consistent rhetorical support for the MPLA-PT came from other former Portuguese states in Africa (Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique).

Nigeria, which led the OAU in recognizing the MPLA-PT regime in 1975, went on to seek a leadership role in the campaign against South Africa's domination of the region, but Nigeria never forged very close ties with Angola. Nigeria's own economic difficulties of the 1970s and 1980s, its close relations with the West, and other cultural and political differences prevented Luanda and Lagos from forming a strong alliance.

Zaire's relations with Angola were unstable during the 1970s and 1980s. Zairian regular army units supported the FNLA in the years before and just after Angolan independence, and Angola harbored anti-Zairian rebels, who twice invaded Zaire's Shaba Province (formerly Katanga Province). But Zaire's President Mobutu Sese Seko and President Neto reached a rapprochement before Neto's death in 1979, and Zaire curtailed direct opposition to the MPLAPT . Nonetheless, throughout most of the 1980s UNITA operated freely across Zaire's southwestern border, and Western support for UNITA was channeled through Zaire. Complicating relations between these two nations were the numerous ethnic groups whose homelands had been divided by the boundary between Zaire and Angola a century earlier. The Bakongo, Lunda, Chokwe, and many smaller groups maintained long-standing cultural, economic, and religious ties with relatives in neighboring states. These ties often extended to support for antigovernment rebels.

Zambia, which had officially ousted UNITA bands from its western region in 1976, voiced strong support for the MPLA-PT at the same time that it turned a blind eye to financial and logistical support for UNITA by Zambian citizens. Without official approval, but also without interference, UNITA forces continued to train in Zambia's western region. Lusaka's ambivalence toward Angola during the 1980s took into account the possibility of an eventual UNITA role in the government in Luanda. Both Zambia and Zaire had an interest in seeing an end to Angola's civil war because the flow of refugees from Angola had reached several hundred thousand by the mid-1980s. Peace would also enable Zambia and Zaire to upgrade the Benguela Railway as an alternative to South African transport systems.

Elsewhere in the region, relations with Angola varied. Strained relations arose at times with Congo, where both FNLA and Cabindan rebels had close cultural ties and some semi-official encouragement. Senegal, Togo, Malawi, and Somalia were among the relatively conservative African states that provided material support to UNITA during the 1980s. Throughout most of the decade, UNITA also received financial assistance from several North African states, including Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, and these governments (along with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) pressured their African trading partners and client states to limit their support of the MPLA-PT.

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