Angola Table of Contents
Figure 15. Military Ranks and Insignia, 1988
It was difficult to gauge the conditions of service and morale among FAPLA troops. Little public information was available in the late 1980s, and much of what existed was propagandistic. Nonetheless, service did seem difficult. Conscription was intensive in government-controlled areas, and the spread of the insurgency undermined security everywhere. The constant infusion of raw recruits, the rapid growth of FAPLA, the increasing scope and intensity of military operations, and escalating casualties imposed substantial personal and institutional hardships. The continued dependence on foreign technicians and advisers, many of whom were not deployed in combat zones, had adverse consequences for operations and morale.
Pay and living conditions in garrison were probably adequate but not particularly attractive; in the field, amenities were either sparse or lacking altogether. The expansion of quarters and facilities for troops did not keep pace with the rapid growth of FAPLA, especially in the late 1980s. There were periodic reports of ill-equipped and poorly trained soldiers, as well as breakdowns in administration and services. But given the lack of alternative employment in the war-torn economy, military service at least provided many Angolans with short-term opportunities. UNITA frequently reported incidents of flight to avoid government conscription; demoralization among FAPLA troops from high casualties and deteriorating conditions of service; and battlefield desertions, mutinies, and revolts among FAPLA units. These reports became more frequent during annual FAPLA offensives against UNITA strongholds after 1985.
In early December 1986, the People's Assembly approved new military ranks for the three military services, differentiating those of the army and air force from the navy. FAPLA and FAPA/DAA were authorized to establish the ranks (in descending order) of general, colonel general, major general, and lieutenant general. The MGPA was to have the ranks of admiral, vice admiral, and rear admiral; the ranks of colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major were replaced by captain, commander, and lieutenant commander, respectively. Future navy second lieutenants would be given rank equivalent to that of their counterparts in the army and air force. Later that month, President dos Santos received the rank of general as commander in chief of the armed forces, the minister of defense was appointed colonel general, and ten other senior military officers were promoted to newly established higher ranks (see fig. 15).
Little information was available on the military justice system. Military tribunals were created in each military region, and a higher court, the Armed Forces Military Tribunal, served as a military court of appeal. Some observers inferred from the criminal justice system and the prevalent wartime conditions, however, that Angolan military justice was harsh, if not arbitrary (see Crime and Punishment , this ch.).
Data as of February 1989