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National Liberation Front of Angola

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National Liberation Front of Angola
Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola
PresidentNgola Kabangu
FounderHolden Roberto
Founded1954 (as the União dos Povos do Norte de Angola guerrilla movement)
1959 (as the União dos Povos de Angola guerrilla movement)
1961 (as the FNLA guerilla movement)
1992 (as a party)
HeadquartersLuanda, Republic of Angola
IdeologyCivic nationalism[1]
Christian democracy[1]
Political positionCentre-right
Seats in the National Assembly
2 / 220
Party flag

The National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Portuguese: Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola; abbreviated FNLA) is a political party and former militant organisation that fought for Angolan independence from Portugal in the war of independence, under the leadership of Holden Roberto.

Founded in 1954 as the União dos Povos do Norte de Angola guerrilla movement, it was known after 1959 as the União dos Povos de Angola (UPA) guerrilla movement, and from 1961 as the FNLA guerilla movement.

Ahead of the first multiparty elections in 1992, the FNLA was reorganized as a political party. The FNLA received 2.4% of the votes and had five Members of Parliament elected. In the 2008 parliamentary election, the FNLA received 1.11% of the vote, winning three out of 220 seats.[3]





In 1954, the United People of Northern Angola (UPNA) was formed as a separatist movement for the Bakongo tribe who wished to re-establish its 16th-century feudal kingdom but was also a protest movement against forced labour.[4]: 4 [5]: 138  Holden Roberto was to be the king of that land.[4]: 4 

By 1958, the organisation's name had been changed to the "União das Populações de Angola" (UPA) under Holden Roberto who came from São Salvador, Bakongo, Northern Angola with the newly named organisation described as an ethnic political movement.[6]: 224  In March 1961, the UPA began an uprising in the north massacring thousands of white settlers and servants, most of the Bailundo southern ethnicity, "assimilados", African Catholics and tribal members other than the Bakongo tribe, men, women and children.[4]: 4 [5]: 138  The Portuguese government respond by sending soldiers to Angola and more than 50,000 people would die in the violence by the end of 1961.[6]: 222  It was said more than a million refugees fled the north of Angola for Zaire.[5]: 138 

In an attempt to become a national political movement, it merged with the "Partido Democratico de Angola" (PDA) to form the "Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola" (FNLA).[6]: 224  By February 1962, the FNLA had merged into an organisation called the Angolan Revolutionary Government in Exile (GRAE) with Roberto as its President and Jonas Savimbi as its foreign minister, based in Kinshasa, Zaire. It was recognised by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as Angola's only freedom movement until 1971.[6]: 224 [5]: 138  Its core membership were Angolan refugees and expatriates in Zaire.[6]: 224 

Foreign aid


The United States government began aiding the FNLA in 1961 during the Kennedy administration and rerouted one-third of its official aid to Zaire to the FNLA and UNITA organisations.[7][8] Over the course of many years, the governments of Algeria, Tunisia, West Germany, Ghana, Israel, France, Romania, the People's Republic of China, South Africa, the United States, Zaire, and Liberia[9] actively supported and aided the FNLA. The French government supplied men and loaned one million pounds sterling without interest.[7][10] The Israeli government gave aid to the FNLA between 1963 and 1969. Holden Roberto visited Israel during the 1960s, and FNLA members were sent to Israel for training. During the 1970s, the Israeli government shipped arms to the FNLA through Zaire.[11] The People's Republic of China supplied the FNLA with military equipment and at least 112 military advisers in 1974.[12]

Break up of GRAE


By July 1964, GRAE's right as the only liberation movement was challenged with the resignation of the Congolese Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula, their backer, and the departure of Jonas Savimbi, who would go on to form his own liberation movement UNITA because of Roberto's dictatorial leadership, unwillingness to accept non-western support and a lack of a political program.[6]: 225–6 [5]: 138  Roberto would see off a "coup d'état" in June 1965 by his defence minister and in November of the same year, his brother-in-law, Mobutu Sese Seko, took control of the Congo (later Zaire) in a coup.[6]: 226  But by 1968, GRAE's unity had begun to disintegrate.

Nixon's policy to Angola


On President Richard Nixon, assuming office in 1969, he ordered a review of the United States policy towards Angola as well as South Africa and Rhodesia. In January 1970, National Security Council Study Memorandum 39 was adopted, which acknowledged that the white regimes in those countries should not be politically and economically isolated and that engaging them was the best means of achieving changes in their systems.[13]: 773  This meant a reduction in aid to the FNLA.[13]: 773 

Coup in Portugal


In late 1972, the FNLA concluded a ceasefire with the MPLA, which was being attacked by the former in northwest Angola and by the Portuguese in the northeast.[4]: 7 [additional citation(s) needed] A condition of the ceasefire was it needed more arms as it had no US aid apart from Roberto's CIA retainer, and Neto spoke to the Tanzanians who interceded with the Chinese government.[4]: 8  After all groups met the Chinese, the FNLA received military aid and training from early 1973 until the fall of 1974, and then only diplomatic aid thereafter.[4]: 8  In April 1974, a military coup occurred in Portugal with a later announcement of future independence for its colonies which began the process by the FNLA, MPLA and UNITA in attempting to strengthen their reach throughout Angola and resulted in conflict amongst each other.[4]: 8  The Romanian government delivered arms to the FNLA in August 1974.[14] In August 1974, the Portuguese Angolan government had proposed a two-year plan for independence with the three groups and white settlers forming a coalition government but this was rejected outright.[6]: 227  In order to end the conflict amongst the groups, individual ceasefires were arranged between the groups and the Portuguese Angolan Military Council, with the FNLA signing on 15 October 1974 that allowed it and the other three liberation parties to set up political offices in Luanda.[6]: 226–7  By 25 November 1974, a ceasefire was concluded between the FNLA and UNITA and with the MPLA on 18 December.[6]: 229 

Ford's policy to Angola


When Gerald Ford assumed the presidency in August 1974, the new US foreign policy moved away from the National Security Council Study Memorandum 39 to one of support for black rule in Angola as well as passive support for the white rule and so minimal aid was returned to the FNLA.[13]: 774  But by November 1974, the US decided they did not want a future government dominated by the pro-Soviet MPLA so the CIA funded the FNLA with $300,000 to help it achieve that objective.[4]: 8 

Africa's attempt to mediate


The increasing violence would result in the gathering of the FNLA and the other two parties in Mombasa, Kenya, from 3–5 January 1975 by the invitation of President Jomo Kenyatta.[6]: 228  The object of the meeting was to unite the parties and find common ground prior to the independence talks in Portugal later that month.[6]: 228  Roberto speaking on behalf of all, declared an accord had been reached and that all parties had overcome their differences and had agreed firstly to a just and democratic society without ethnic discrimination; agreeing to a transitional government, armed forces and civil service and lastly to co-operate in the country's decolonisation and defence.[6]: 228  The FNLA and the other parties would meet in Portimao, Portugal on 10 January 1975 and resulted in the formation of the Alvor Agreement, signed on 15 January 1975, which would grant Angola independence from Portugal on 11 November, ending the war of independence.[4]: 8  The plan also called for a coalition government and a united army.[13]: 774 

Transitional government's failure


Within 24 hours of the Alvor Agreement, fighting broke out in Luanda amongst the FNLA and MPLA with further violence on 23 March when the MPLAs Lopo do Nascimento was subject to an assassination attempt by the FNLA.[15]: 59  The transitional government's failure to work was also said to be the result of a lack of interest by the Portuguese government in Angola as it tackled a failed counter-coup in Lisbon by General Spinola and the lack of will of the Portuguese troops to serve in Angola and end the violence between the MPLA and FNLA.[15]: 59  The final straw was the dismissal in August of the Portuguese High Commissioner Antonio da Silva Cardoso whose attempt to reign in the MPLA had the support of the FNLA.[15]: 59  The FNLA saw its only alternative as a military one after having been expelled from Luanda.[15]: 59  On 29 August 1975, the Alvor Agreement was suspended by Portugal except for independence in November, and withdrawal of its troops that signal an escalation of violence for the control of Angola prior to that date.[15]: 60 

US covert aid to the FNLA increases


The US government did not believe the Portuguese plan would work and that the MPLA would seize power and install a Soviet-backed regime in power.[13]: 774  In late January 1975, the 40 Committee, part of the executive branch of the US government, met and reviewed a proposal from the CIA to fund the FNLA with $300,000 and UNITA, $100,000.[13]: 774  The committee approved the funding for the FNLA but not for UNITA. The money was to be used by the FNLA to purchase newspapers and radio stations.[16]: 16  In addition to the money, the US supplied weapons to Zaire which, in turn, passed them on to the FNLA, and also supplied several thousand troops.[13]: 774  With this funding, Roberto believed any future coalition could be abandoned and in doing so the Soviet Union would begin to increase its aid to the MPLA.[13]: 775  By June 1975, the CIA requested a meeting with the 40 Committee in which it proposed increased aid for the FNLA.[13]: 774  A decision was not made for a month as the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) and U.S. State Department wished to consider the proposal.[13]: 775  Assistant Secretary of State Nathaniel Davies objected to further aid, as he believed it would not help the FNLA to become as militarily strong as the MPLA except with massive amounts of money; escalate Soviet and Cuban involvement and feared South Africa would intervene and this would have negative diplomatic connotations for the United States in Africa, so the only option was a diplomatic solution.[13]: 775  Henry Kissinger ensured that the NSC viewpoint prevailed and that aid, not diplomacy could prevent an MPLA win so aid of $14 million was approved for the FNLA and UNITA in July and that increased to $25 million in August and reached $32 million by September.[13]: 775  The assistance would become known as Operation IA Feature.[15]: 61  The CIAs covert plan begun sending supplies to the FNLA through Zaire and Zambia and was able to supply by November 1975, 12 APC, 50 SAMs, 1000 mortars, 50,000 rifles and machine guns, 100,000 grenades, 25 million rounds of ammunition, 60 trucks, trailers, boats, radios, spare parts, medicine and food with training by retired US military advisors and five spotter planes as well as mercenaries.[13]: 776 [16]: 6  The CIA appointed John Stockwell to manage the Angolan Task Force but found that many members of the CIA doubted the FNLAs ability to beat the MPLA and this was confirmed when he visited Angola and discovered the lack of political support for the organisation and also feared any entry of South African forces in Angola would undermine the United States diplomatically in Africa.[13]: 776 [16]: 6 

South Africans enter the civil war


On the pretext of attacks around the Calueque hydroelectric facility, the South Africans army would enter Angola to defend its interests in the facility and would develop into Operation Savannah to assist the FNLA and UNITA to gain as much control of southern and central Angola prior to independence day in November.[15]: 70  The US appeared to give the green light for the South Africans covert invasion but this would soon change as their involvement became public knowledge, the US would distance themselves.[15]: 70  The South Africans would advance close to Luanda from the south while a small force of South African artillery and advisors would support the FNLA in the north.

FNLA attacks Luanda


Without the control of Luanda on independence day, Roberto saw that the FNLA's international legitimacy would be in doubt.[15]: 86  The only 'suitable' attack on Luanda was from the north through Quifangondo.[15]: 88  Attacks were carried out by the FNLA on 5 and 8 November 1975 but were repulsed each time by the MPLA.[15]: 88  With independence day looming on 11 November 1975, Roberto gave the final order to attack Quifangondo on 10 November unaware that the Cubans had reinforced the positions with troops and new Soviet equipment.[15]: 88  Roberto would claim the South African were sending men to help him while the South Africans claimed they warned against a frontal assault but whatever the real story was, the FNLA's final assault on what became known as the Battle of Quifangondo failed disastrously.[15]: 89–90  The MPLA retained Luanda, and Angola gained independence from the Portuguese High Commissioner with Neto declaring the People's Republic of Angola.[15]: 91  The FNLA would continue its fight inside Angola for another four months.[15]: 91 

US aid ceases


On 6 November 1975, CIA Director William Colby appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and briefed them that his organisation had not informed the committee fully on its activities in Angola and the following day, the New York Times released the testimony to the world.[13]: 777  By 26 November, Nigeria, against U.S. wishes, had recognised the MPLA government and soon convinced twenty-two other African nations to recognise them too.[13]: 777  By December, President Ford and Kissinger decide that the aid to the opposition parties should not be abandoned and the CIA was ordered to draw up further aid plans which would need Senate approval but meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee drew up the Clark Amendment, named after Senator Dick Clark, after his visit to Angola.[13]: 778  He concluded that the White House and CIA had lied about their involvement and that the US effort was responsible for dragging the Cubans and South Africans into the country's conflict.[13]: 778  The State Department and CIA, unable to stay on message, were unable to convince the House or Senate and on 19 December 1975, the Clark Amendment passed the Senate and covert US aid in Angola ended with the House following suit on 27 January 1976.[13]: 778–9 

FNLA retreats from Angola


The MPLA and Cubans would maintain the initiative in Northern Angola after the defeat of the FNLA at Quifangondo with the advances on Caxito and the latter's airbases at Camabatela and Negage.[15]: 107  Caxito would fall on 27 December 1975 and the FNLAs main airbase at Camabatela was captured on 1 January and Negage on 3 January while their capital at Carmona fell on 4 January and so the FNLA rout began in earnest.[15]: 107–8  By early 1976, defeated by the MPLA, the FNLA began retreating, looting villages in northern Angola, as they headed for the Zairian border.[17]: 13  On 11 January 1976, FAPLA and the Cubans captured Ambriz and Ambrizete from the FNLA and then advanced on their headquarters at São Salvador its route defended by foreign mercenaries under Colonel Callan and elements of the FNLA.[15]: 108–9  With Colonel Callan committing atrocities in the fighting including against his own men he would be stripped of his command in the FNLA and so mercenary support which had begun the previous December ended and São Salvador was captured on 15 February 1976.[15]: 109  The South Africans would withdraw from Angola on 27 March 1976 after receiving guarantees from Angola and United Nations on the safety of the installations at the Calueque hydroelectric facility so ending Operation Savannah.[15]: 112  Elements of the FNLA that had taken part as South African army's Task Force Zulu, would be reformed into 32 Battalion.[15]: 71 

Military demise of the FNLA


On 29 February 1976, the Angolan President Agostinho Neto and Zairian President Mobuto Sese Seko met in Brazzaville to sign a non-aggression pact which was meant to see the end of Angola's support for Katangese rebels in their country while the Zairians promised to expel both the FNLA and UNITA from bases in Zaire but the deal did not hold and the Shaba I invasion would occur in March 1977.[15]: 117–8  The Shaba II invasion of the Zairian Shaba Province in May 1978, by separatists based in eastern Angola, was the beginning of the end for the FNLA based in Zaire.[15]: 136  The Angolan President Neto and Zairian President Mobuto Sese Seko would meet again in Brazzaville during June 1978 where a reconciliation pact was signed between the two countries.[17]: 13  The result of this pact saw Holden Roberto exiled to Gabon by the Zairian President in November 1979 while he was in France for medical treatment.[15]: 138 [17]: 13  Elements of the FNLA would continue the fight after Roberto left, now called the FNLA-COMIRA (Angolan Military Resistance Committee) but ceased to exist by 1983.[15]: 138 

Electoral history


Presidential elections

Election Party candidate Votes % Result
1992 Holden Roberto 83,135 2.11% Lost Red XN
2012 Ngola Kabangu 65,163 1.13% Lost Red XN
2017 63,658 0.93% Lost Red XN
2022 66,337 1.06% Lost Red XN

National Assembly elections

Election Party leader Votes % Seats +/– Position Outcome
1992 Holden Roberto 94,742 2.40%
5 / 220
New Increase 4th Opposition
2008 Ngola Kabangu 71,416 1.11%
3 / 220
Decrease 2 Steady 4th Opposition
2012 65,163 1.13%
2 / 220
Decrease 1 Decrease 5th Opposition
2017 63,658 0.93%
1 / 220
Decrease 1 Steady 5th Opposition
2022 66,337 1.06%
2 / 220
Increase 1 Increase 4th Opposition

See also



  1. ^ a b Projet de Societé Archived 2010-08-05 at the Wayback Machine, official FNLA website (French and Portuguese)
  2. ^ Consulado Geral de Angola Archived 2013-11-03 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ National Electoral Commission website (in Portuguese).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Garrett, James; Neto, Agostinho (1976). "The Lessons of Angola: An Eyewitness Report". The Black Scholar. 7 (9): 2–15. doi:10.1080/00064246.1976.11413832. JSTOR 41066044. S2CID 147031567.
  5. ^ a b c d e Stevens, Christopher (April 1976). "The Soviet Union and Angola". African Affairs. 75 (299): 137–151. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a096706. JSTOR 721234.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ekaney, Nkwelle (1976). "Angola : Post-Mortem of a Conflict". Présence Africaine. 98 (2): 211–233. doi:10.3917/presa.098.0211. JSTOR 24349794.
  7. ^ a b AlʻAmin Mazrui, Ali (1977). The Warrior Tradition in Modern Africa. pp. 226–228.
  8. ^ Wright, George (1997). The Destruction of a Nation: United States Policy Towards Angola Since 1945. p. 9.
  9. ^ Liberia and Independent Africa, 1940s To 2012: A Brief Political Profile, 2013. p. 7.
  10. ^ Walker, John Frederick (2004). A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred-Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola. p. 143. ISBN 9780802140685.
  11. ^ Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin (1988). The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms and Why. p. 65. ISBN 9780394559223.
  12. ^ B. MacDonald, Scott (1993). European Destiny, Atlantic Transformations: Portuguese Foreign Policy Under the Second Republic: 1974–1992. p. 56.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Noer, Thomas J. (1993). "International Credibility and Political Survival: The Ford Administration's Intervention in Angola". Presidential Studies Quarterly. 23 (4): 771–785. JSTOR 27551153.
  14. ^ Wright (1997). The Destruction of a Nation. p. 57.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y George, Edward (2012). The Cuban Intervention in Angola, 1965–1991. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415350150.
  16. ^ a b c Klinghoffer, Arthur J. (January 1986). "US-Soviet Relations and Angola". Harvard International Review. 8 (3): 15–19. JSTOR 42759853.
  17. ^ a b c Kosnett, Philip S. (March 1980). "Angola Four Years Later". Harvard International Review. 2 (6): 12–14. JSTOR 42760744.

Further reading

  • Chris Dempster, Fire Power (first-hand account of foreign mercenaries fighting on the side of the FNLA) [1]
  • Peter McAleese, No Mean Soldier