Country Listing

Angola Table of Contents




Throughout history, relationships based on conflict, conquest, and exploitation existed among the Angolan peoples as well as between Angolans and their Portuguese colonizers. Following the initial contacts in the 1480s between Portugal and the Kongo and Ndongo kingdoms, relations were peaceful. However, by the early sixteenth century Angolans were enslaving Angolans for the purpose of trading them for Portuguese goods. This commerce in human beings stimulated a series of wars (see Precolonial Angola and the Arrival of the Portuguese , ch. 1). The Portuguese eventually intervened militarily in the kingdoms' affairs and subsequently conquered and colonized Kongo and Ndongo. Whereas warfare among Africans traditionally had been limited in purpose, scale, intensity, duration, and destructiveness, the wars of slavery and Portuguese conquest were conducted with few restraints.

Intra-African and Portuguese-African warfare continued from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, as the slave and firearms trade penetrated the hinterland and Portugal attempted to extend its territorial control and mercantile interests. War and commerce were the principal occupations of the Portuguese settlers, who represented the worst elements of their own society. Portugal was the first European nation to use deported convicts (degredados--see Glossary) to explore, conquer, and exploit an overseas empire. But unlike other European penal exiles, who were mostly impoverished petty criminals, these Portuguese exiles were the most serious offenders. By the mid-seventeenth century, virtually all non-African army, police, and commercial activities were dominated by the degredados. Indeed, until the early twentieth century the great majority of Portuguese in Angola were exiled convicts (see Settlement, Conquest, and Development , ch. 1).

During the nineteenth century, the degredados expanded and consolidated their hold on the political, military, and economic life of the territory. In 1822 degredado renegades joined garrison troops in Luanda in revolting against the Portuguese governor and setting up a junta. The degredados comprised the bulk of the Portuguese resident military and police forces, both of which engaged in plunder and extortion. In the 1870s, there were about 3,600 Portuguese officers and men stationed in Angola, and this number increased to 4,900 by the turn of the century. These were supplemented by African soldiers, auxiliaries, and Boer immigrants.

In contrast to the earlier pattern of episodic military campaigns with transient effect, the early twentieth century brought systematic conquest and the imposition of direct colonial rule. Taxation, forced labor, and intensified military recruitment were introduced. Although Portuguese policy officially permitted the assimilation of Africans, virtually all officers and noncommissioned officers remained white or mestiço (see Glossary). During the dictatorship of António Salazar (1932-68), the Portuguese army in Angola was 60 percent to 80 percent African, but not a single black Angolan achieved officer rank (see Angola under the Salazar Regime , ch. 1).

Data as of February 1989