01/15 – The Alvor Agreement

Fighters from UNITA’s militant wing – Armed Forces of the Liberation of Angola, or FALA – train with South African soldiers. (Pinterest)

On this day in 1975, representatives from Portugal and Angola signed the Alvor Agreement, a grant of independence for the former colony. Beginning in 1961, a number of Angolan guerilla (militia) groups had waged war against their Portuguese colonial masters. One of the dominant groups was the People’s Movement of Liberation of Angola (or MPLA), who were given weapons, training and financial aid from the USSR; although they primarily targeted Portuguese forces, they also ran afoul of the anti-communist Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) led by Jonas Savimbi. Savimbi courted everyone from the United States to South Africa and even China in his efforts to wipe out the communist MPLA.

After 13 years of fighting, the Alvor Agreement ended the Angolan War of Independence and brought an end to much of Portugal’s influence in the region. In the wake of the agreement, the MPLA and UNITA began fighting one another for total control of the country in a civil war that lasted until 2002. For NATO and the United States, Angola was more than just the site of an important event in decolonization: it was one of the battle grounds in a proxy war between the East and the West. Like many other liberation movements during the Cold War, the Angolan fighters – who never amounted to more than 90,000 on all sides – found themselves embroiled in something much larger than a domestic revolution. It could be argued that the initial war, and following civil war, would never have reached such heights of violence had the US and USSR refrained from providing such huge quantities of weapons to all involved.

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