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1975: Divided Angola gets independence

The southern African state of Angola has gained its independence from former colonial power Portugal.

The leader of one of the country's rival factions, Dr Agostinho Neto, of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), has been proclaimed the country's first president.

In the capital, Luanda, huge crowds cheered and soldiers fired shots into the air as the new country's flag was raised at midnight.

However, the main groups vying for power held separate independence ceremonies.

The MPLA held a huge ceremony at a stadium in the capital, Luanda, attended by a representative from the Soviet Union.

'Slave pool'

In a speech, Dr Neto was critical of the Portuguese for not recognising the MPLA as the "sole legitimate representative" of the Angolan people.

Meanwhile, the rival Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) announced it had joined forces with another liberation movement to form a national council which would act as Angola's government.

Angola's independence ends nearly 500 years of Portuguese rule.

Initially the Portuguese used Angola as a "slave pool" for its more lucrative colony in Brazil and mined Angola's precious gemstones and metals.

Resistance to Portuguese rule was widespread by the mid-20th century but was complicated by clashes between the various African communities.

In Context
After Angola's independence the civil war intensified and was bolstered by foreign involvement.

The Soviet Union and Cuba supported the left-wing MPLA and the US and South Africa backed Unita.

After 16 years of fighting in which up to 300,000 people died, a peace deal made it possible for elections to be held.

But Unita rejected the outcome and resumed the war.

However, the death of Unita leader Jonas Savimbi in February 2002 raised the prospect of peace.

In April 2002 the Angolan army and Unita signed a formal ceasefire in Luanda to end the 27-year conflict.


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