Angola: “United will we overcome the challenges of the present and the future”

SANF 20 no 50 – by Raymond Ndhlovu
Unity is key, from Cabinda to Cunene, and history has proved that a united people can overcome the challenges of the present and the future.

This was the message from the President of Angola, H.E. João Lourenço, on the 45th anniversary of National Independence, when he paid tribute to all Angolans for accepting the safety measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “This year, our tribute goes to all the Angolan people, who have consented to sacrifice so that together we can prevent and combat COVID 19.”

President Lourenço commended the people of Angola for their commitment towards the development of the country.

“The country faced serious challenges to its own existence but always knew how to overcome them, because it relied on the strength of its people,” he said, “but also achieved great achievements that we have an obligation to preserve and consolidate.”

The President also called for unity across the country saying, “…our own history has shown that only together will we overcome the challenges of the present and the future.”

On 11 November 1975, the founding President of Angola, Dr Agostinho Neto proclaimed the independence of Angola from Portugal after a protracted resistance and a liberation war against the colonial power that lasted for 14 years.

Dr Neto is celebrated as the father of independence in Angola, and the date is marked National Independence Day.

Angola has recorded many achievements since independence, including in access to social services such as health, education and housing. The country has recorded significant progress in economic and infrastructure development. Angola is the main petroleum producer in southern Africa and second in Africa after Nigeria.

Angola recently signed a bilateral agreement with Namibia for the construction of a cross-border hydroelectric dam, a development which will advance the use and uptake of renewable energy sources in the SADC region. This will achieve a renewable energy mix in the regional grid of at least 32 percent by 2020 and 35 percent by 2030.

In terms of education, the adult literacy rate has increased to 58% for women and almost 84% for men.

Another significant achievement is in gender representation as women hold senior ministerial positions in Cabinet, and just over 30% of parliamentarians are women, with 67 women of the total 2020 Members of Parliament, according to the SADC Gender and Development Monitor 2018.

On Independence Day, the people of Angola reflect on the attainment of freedom from Portuguese colonial rule and acknowledge the sacrifices of the sons and daughters who gave their lives in the struggle for independence.

The first colonial settlers to invade Angola arrived on the Atlantic coast in 1575 and the resistance began soon after, but Independence was not regained until 400 years later, due to the lethal weapons used. For centuries, colonial settlement was mainly of interest to Europe as a source of wealth and resources including slaves, or as a dumping ground for exiled criminals.

Colonial control was officially instituted in the late 19th century following the Berlin Conference of 1885, when the European powers divided the map of Africa among themselves, mainly for their mineral resources.

After decades of exploitation, plundering and deprivation of human rights and dignity, the sons and daughters of Angola organized resistance to colonial rule, with the support of countries in Africa and elsewhere, to reclaim control of their country and its resources.

The contribution of these heroes and heroines in the liberation history of Angola is also commemorated every year, marked on 17 September in honour of the founding President, Dr Agostinho Neto, who was born on that date in 1922 in the Bengo province of Angola.

That day and Independence Day profile the legacy of Dr Neto who, together with his compatriots founded the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) on 10 December 1956 to fight and dislodge Portuguese colonial rule.

The beginning of the liberation war is marked as 4 February 1961 when the MPLA cadres stormed the prison in Luanda to try to release political prisoners.

Speaking during the liberation war in 1968 over Radio Tanzania, Neto said, “Our struggle is not an isolated struggle in the world. It is part of a global struggle by humanity to bring an end to the exploitation of man by man, and it is within this framework that we must view our struggle outside the narrow limits of racial prejudice.”

Neto became Angola’s first president following the proclamation of independence on 11 November 1975, until his death in 1979 at the age of 56.

Angolan independence in 1975 did not bring peace as part of the country was controlled by other groups that were well-armed by apartheid South Africa, which occupied an area in the south of the country, a 50-km strip along the border said to be for defence purposes, but in practice to weaken Angola and to attack the SWAPO liberation fighters from South West Africa (now Namibia) which was occupied by South Africa.

Apartheid South Africa had invaded southern Angola in August 1975, prior to independence in November, and engaged in periodic airstrikes in the area targeting the Angolan army, SWAPO fighters, and refugee camps, including direct South African military attacks which were resisted by the Angolan army with the support of allies from Cuba and Namibia, until the formal peace agreement in 1989.

President Lourenco referred to this in his independence address this week, saying, “Unfortunately, the years that followed were not what Angolans dreamed of, which would be to build a developed country where Angolans would start to benefit from the vast riches that nature offers us and recover the deserved dignity, as human beings of a free country.

“For almost three decades, Angola had to face external military aggressions and a war between brothers, which destroyed not only the country’s main infrastructure, but also destroyed families and, in general, the human tissue.”

The Cuito Cuanavale battle, which ended on 23 March 1988 in the province of Cuando Cubango in southern Angola, changed the face of southern Africa and was the final blow against apartheid.

This was followed by successful negotiations for the independence of Namibia (1990) and end of the apartheid administration in South Africa (1994).

March 23 is now marked by the Southern African Development Community as Southern Africa Liberation Day.

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