Africa

Angola country profile

  • 11 January 2016
  • From the section Africa
Map of Angola

One of Africa's major oil producers, Angola is striving to tackle the physical, social and political legacy of a 27-year civil war that ravaged the country after independence.

Following the withdrawal of the Portuguese colonial masters in 1975, the rival former independence movements competed for power until 2002.

Much of Angola's oil wealth lies in Cabinda province, where a decades-long separatist conflict simmers.

The government has sent thousands of troops to subdue the rebellion in the enclave, which has no border with the rest of Angola. Human rights groups have alleged abuses against civilians.

FACTS

The Republic of Angola

Capital: Luanda

  • Population 24.3 million

  • Area 1.25m sq km (481,354 sq miles)

  • Major languages Portuguese (official), Umbundu, Kimbundu, Kikongo

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 50 years (men), 53 years (women)

  • Currency kwanza

Getty Images

LEADER

President: Jose Eduardo dos Santos

Image copyright Getty Images

Jose Eduardo dos Santos, of the ruling MPLA, has been in power since 1979, and is Africa's second-longest serving head of state after Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang. He keeps tight control over all aspects of Angola's political life.

Many Angolans credit the president for leading the country to recovery after the end of its 27-year civil war in 2002, and for turning the country's formerly socialist economy into one of the world's fastest-growing - mainly on the back of Angola's prodigious oil wealth.

Some, however, accuse him of authoritarianism, staying in office for too long and failing to distribute the proceeds from the oil boom more widely.

In 2008, his party won the country's first parliamentary elections for 16 years. A new constitution approved in 2010 substituted direct election of the president with a system under which the top candidate of the largest party in parliament becomes president.

It also strengthened the presidency's powers, prompting the Unita opposition to accuse the government of "destroying democracy".

The president's daughter Isabel was named Africa's first billionaire in 2013 by Forbes, the financial magazine.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images

Social media appeared to be under threat at the end of 2015 when President dos Santos called for their stricter regulation, at a time when the government was cracking down on political dissident and activism.

For many urban Angolans, the internet has become the primary medium for expression of political anger because of the dangers of protesting on the streets.

The state controls all media with nationwide reach, including radio, the most influential medium outside the capital.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Angola's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Angolan civil war involved forces from Cuba, pictured, as well as from South Africa

1300s - Kongo kingdom consolidates in the north.

1483 - Portuguese arrive.

17th and 18th centuries - Angola becomes a major Portuguese trading arena for slaves. Between 1580 and 1680 a million plus are shipped to Brazil.

1885-1930 - Portugal consolidates colonial control over Angola, local resistance persists.

1950s-1961 - Nationalist movement develops, guerrilla war begins.

1974 - Revolution in Portugal, colonial empire collapses.

1975 - Portuguese withdraw from Angola without formally handing power to any movement. MPLA is in control of Luanda and declares itself government of independent Angola. Unita and FNLA set up a rival government in Huambo.

Civil war begins, dragging on until 2002.

1979 - Jose Eduardo dos Santos becomes country's leader.

1987 - South African forces enter southeast Angola to thwart MPLA and Cuban offensive against Unita. They withdrew the next year.

1991 - Government, Unita sign peace accord in Lisbon.

1992 - Disputed elections. Fighting flares again.

1998 - Luanda launches offensive against Unita - thousands killed in next four years of fighting.

2002 - Unita leader Jonas Savimbi is killed in battle and a formal ceasefire is signed.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The civil war came to an end following the killing of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi

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