Foreign policy and defense
Angola is a nation in Central Africa. Its capital city is Luanda. Angola is – much thanks to its oil riches – one of the more influential countries in Africa. The country has good relations with both the Western countries and China and Russia. But that’s not always the case.
During the 1960s Angola became a battlefield for the parties in the Cold War between East and West. For many years the outside world undermined the Angolan civil conflict that continued in 1975–2002 (see also Modern History). The Soviet Union has long supported the Marxist-Leninist MPLA government with both arms and military advisers, and Communist Cuba contributed over 65,000 soldiers. The Unitagerilla was backed by the United States and the white minority regime in South Africa, where apartheid prevailed. Only in 1993 was the MPLA government recognized by the United States. However, the political enmity during the war did not prevent the United States from buying oil from Angola and an American oil company from operating in the oil-rich Cabinda province.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Angola for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia took over the large debts that Angola had accumulated through extensive arms purchases during the 1980s. Russia continued to supply weapons and spare parts to the Angolan army. The MPLA regime sought new contacts in the West during the 1990s, which was facilitated by the world’s interest in Angola’s major oil resources. Angola has developed particularly good relations with other Portuguese-speaking countries, such as Brazil and the former colonial power Portugal.
Angola, like many other African countries, has strengthened contacts with China since the turn of the millennium. By offering billions in loans and aid, China has become the most important player in Angola’s post-war reconstruction. China has taken over the US’s previous role as Angola’s largest trading partner, and for China, Angola is Africa’s most important trading partner. A number of Chinese companies have invested in telecom, the construction industry and the mining industry, among others.
Angola’s role in the region
During most of the civil war in Angola, neighboring countries were more or less involved in the conflict, but in the 1990s Angola in turn began to assert its interests in the region through active intervention, diplomatic or military, in neighboring countries.
Angola’s relations with Congo-Kinshasa are strained today. The then Zaire dictator Mobutu Sese Seko gave early support to the guerrilla movements FNLA and Unita in Angola. The MPLA government therefore supported the Zairian rebel leader Laurent Kabila who overthrew Mobutu in 1997. Unita was driven away from its bases in Congo-Kinshasa and Angola’s government army was allowed to use the country as a springboard in the fight against Unita. When a new rebel movement in Congo-Kinshasa rebelled against Kabila in 1998–2003, Angola (as well as Zimbabwe and Namibia) intervened with the military and helped to save Kabila remaining in power.
In 2004, a dispute arose between Angola and Congo-Kinshasa since the Angolan army, using brutal methods, drove thousands of diamond miners, most Congolese, from diamond-rich districts in the northeast. Angola was later forced to apologize for the behavior of security forces, but deportations regained momentum in 2007 (see also Natural Resources and Energy). Congo-Kinshasa responded to the deportations by deporting Angolan citizens – according to Angola, there were several million migrants forced to leave Congo-Kinshasa.
Thousands of women in the troubled border area between Angola and Congo-Kinshasa have been subjected to systematic sexual abuse. Angola is accused of using rape as a weapon in the border conflict. Both the land boundary and the sea boundary in the oil-rich waters off the coast are disputed. Congo-Kinshasa has a short coastline wedged between Angola and the Angolan Cabinda province. In April 2013, the two countries agreed that 2016 will jointly start extracting oil in a contentious area.
Angola, which has long supported Joseph Kabila’s regime, appeared in the summer of 2017 to take a more critical stance, both against the president’s unwillingness to give up power, and concerns about what is happening in the Congolese Kasai. The troubled region borders Angola where many Congolese have moved away from the unrest that took off in the area from 2016.
South Africa and Zimbabwe
In 1997, the Angolan government provided decisive military support to Denis Sassou-Nguessou’s military coup in Congo-Brazzaville, as well as in subsequent civil wars. The reason was that the country’s elected government had allowed Unita to operate from its territory. Zambia was threatened with invasion from Angola if it continued to allow Unita’s weapons transport through the country. Namibia, on the other hand, supported the Angola government against Unita.
The apartheid regime in South Africa supported Unita militarily and attacked the South African ANC guerrillas and the Namibian Swapogerillan bases in Angola. After the regime change in South Africa in 1994, Angola’s relations with South Africa were normalized. But Angola’s ambitions during the 2000s to become a regional power have entailed competition with South Africa. There has been political tension between the countries. The relationship has improved since Jacob Zuma became President of South Africa in 2009.
Angolan President dos Santos has been close to Zimbabwe’s disputed President Robert Mugabe. The MPLA government signed an agreement on security cooperation with Zimbabwe in 2007, and Angola has expressed solidarity with Zimbabwe’s “struggle for economic independence”. However, prior to Angola’s takeover of the Presidency of the South African Development Community (SADC) in August 2011, dos Santos joined SADC’s demand for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. Assessors considered that dos Santos feared that popular protests would erupt in the region.
Angola is a member of the Guinea Bay Commission, which aims to promote peaceful cooperation in the oil-rich waters off the west coast of Central Africa. The Commission is headquartered in Luanda. On January 1, 2015, Angola became a member of the UN Security Council for a two-year term.
Angola is a regional military force. The armed forces (Forças Armadas Angolanas, FAA), with their more than 100,000 men and their long war experience, are among the strongest in Africa. The forces have great mobility thanks to transport aircraft and attack helicopters, manufactured in Russia. The regime employs private security companies to protect primarily oil facilities and diamond mines. A semi-military force of around 10,000 men (Casa Militar) is directly under the president’s office. As much as 18 percent of the state budget goes to the defense, significantly more than in major African countries such as South Africa and Nigeria.
After the first peace agreement in 1994, integration of guerrilla soldiers into the government army was begun, but at the end of the war in 2002, no more than a tenth of the defense force consisted of former Unitarebeller. A few years later, all of Unita’s force had been disarmed, but only a few thousand soldiers had joined the army or the police force.
During various periods between 1989 and 2003, the UN had peacekeeping forces or observer forces deployed in Angola. At most, the World Organization had 3,000 men in place in the country (1997). The most recent was the United Nations Mission in Angola (United Nations Mission in Angola, UNMA).
FACTS – DEFENSE
100,000 men (2017)
The air Force
6,000 men (2017)
1,000 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP
2.2 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget
10.3 percent (2017)