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Angola was affected by internal conflict from about 1961 to 2002. From 1961 to 1975, three groups fought the Portuguese for independence, and each other for control of the country: the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA). After independence in 1975, geographic control was principally split between the MPLA holding the urban areas, and UNITA holding large portions of the rural east and south. The FNLA collapsed in 1976 and the MPLA gained control of larger parts of the country, while UNITA continued to battle for control from its base in the south of the country.

Attempts to end the conflict (Bicesse 1991; Lusaka 1994) failed due to contested elections in 1992 and UNITA's failure to fully comply with the conditions of the Lusaka agreement. By 1998, heavy fighting between the two factions had resumed, the peace process collapsed, and the UN imposed sanctions on UNITA. While Government forces slowly regained control over much of the country, low-level guerilla warfare persisted in non-strategic rural areas until February 2002 when Jonas Savimbi, UNITA's leader, was killed in battle. A Memorandum of Understanding serving as an addendum to the Lusaka Accord was signed between the Government and UNITA on April 4, 2002, leading to the rapid disarmament, demobilization and dissolution of the military arm of UNITA by August 2002. The political arm of UNITA has been actively working to strengthen and unite itself as a political entity.

A degree of peace and stability have returned to Angola with the demobilization of nearly 100,000 UNITA fighters and the resettlement of nearly 3.7 million internally displaced, refugees and other war-affected populations. There is general consensus that the emergency humanitarian phase has passed.


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Photo Credits: First picture on left Guy Tillim. Others by UN/DPI