Angola Table of Contents
In the late 1980s, President dos Santos was working to strengthen his support among the nation's traditional leaders. Every few weeks, he would invite delegations of provincial and local-level representatives to meet with him, and Angop would headline these meetings with "the chiefs." Their discussions focused on regional economic and social concerns and served the important political purpose of demonstrating the government's desire to avoid confrontation and to secure support in rural areas.
The MPLA had a neutral relationship with traditional elites before independence, in part because the urban-based party had little contact with ethnic group leaders, whose following was strongest in rural areas. After independence, in its determination to improve the national economy and infrastructure, the MPLA called on people to rise above ethnic and regional loyalties, labeling them impediments to progress in the class struggle. Early MPLA rhetoric also condemned many religious practices, including local African religions. Such policies provoked the contempt of some traditional leaders.
Crises were dampened somewhat by the party's often confrontational relationship with the civil service during the early 1970s. Civil servants, as representatives of the colonial regime, had often clashed with traditional leaders or had otherwise subverted their authority. The MPLA, in contrast, condemned the elitist attitudes of bureaucrats who were employed by the colonial regime, thus gaining support from traditional rulers. At the same time, however, the party drew much of its support from the petite bourgeoisie it condemned so loudly, and much of the civil service remained intact after independence.
By 1980 MPLA-PT efforts to consolidate support in outlying regions were evident. Party officials appointed ethnic group leaders to participate in or lead local party committees in many areas. Merging traditional and modern leadership roles helped strengthen support among rural peasants who would have otherwise remained on the periphery of national politics. Although success was limited to a few areas, this program allowed dos Santos to maintain a balance between national and regional interests. Even some party ideologues, initially inclined toward strict interpretations of Marxist-Leninist dogma, voiced the belief that populist elements might be appropriate for a Marxist regime in an African context.
Data as of February 1989