African history is one of indigenous cultures colliding with colonial repression. Angola is no different. Members of the hunter-gatherer Khoisan group are thought to have been the first inhabitants of the area that is present-day Angola. In the thirteenth century, Bantu-speaking peoples of West Africa arrived in the area, establishing a powerful kingdom and partly displacing the Khoisan population.
In the fifteenth century, however, the Portuguese first explored the coast of Angola and the region was forever changed. The Portuguese never found the gems they originally sought; they unfortunately discovered an all too lucrative trade—the slave trade. For the next four hundred years Angola remained a Portuguese colony, losing millions of her children to slavery. Not only did Angola suffer until 1975 when Portugal granted her independence, the lasting effects of years of suppression greatly hindered the people of Angola in improving their own country. During Portuguese rule, Africans had suffered repression in all walks of life. Their infrastructure economically, socially and educationally was in shambles.
Like many other African nations, the native Angolans had risen in national revolt in 1961. The groups born out of the following years have shaped the face of modern day Angola. The two main factions came to be known as the Popular de Libertacão de Angola (MPLA) and the Independência Total de Angola (UNITA). Founded in 1956 in Zambia, the Marxist-influenced MPLA was represented strongly by the well-educated Angolan Africans. UNITA was founded by Jonas Savimbi in 1966.
Since Portugal withdrew in 1975, these two factions have dominated Angola's history. Angola became one of the many battlefields for the Cold War, with the MPLA receiving support from the Soviet Union and UNITA receiving Western aid. By 1991, a multiparty ceasefire was reached; however, the peace was short-lived and in November 1992, fighting broke out again, destroying much of the country's remaining infrastructure. The two groups came to terms again in 1994, but fighting was renewed in 1998. The United Nations pulled out its peacekeepers in 1999. In April 2002, the MPLA and UNITA signed a cease-fire agreement and attempted negotiations on a lasting peace.
In the wake of the past thirty years of war lay over one million dead Angolans, millions more displaced and a country left in shambles. The millions of Angolans forced from their homes were forced to live in camps, not knowing when they could return home. These people lack some of the most basic necessities of life, including the lack of education for their children. However, the years of warfare have not taken away the pride of the Angolan people, and today there is hope that a brighter future lies ahead.
(Taken from the RISE International website. RISE International partners with Angolan churches, community leaders and government officials to build primary schools in rural Angola.)