TIMELINE: Angola’s historical events

A brief outline of Angola's history.


Few countries in Africa have had to endure as much trauma and conflict as Angola. Angolans say that, like the best steel, they have been tempered in the inferno of history and have emerged stronger and more determined. Reference to history is still very much part of everyday life in Angola and the current explosion of construction in the country can only be understood in the light of Angola’s history.

Early History

1300s: Kongo kingdom


1575: The first Portuguese explorers arrive in Luanda.

17th and 18th centuries: Angola becomes a major Portuguese trading arena for slaves. Between 1580 and 1680, a million– plus are shipped to Brazil.

1836: Slave trade officially abolished by the Portuguese government.

1885–1930: Portugal consolidates colonial control over Angola, local resistance persists.

1951: Angola’s status changes from colony to overseas province.

1956: The beginnings of the socialist guerrilla independence movement, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), in northern Congo.

1950s–1961: Nationalist movement develops, guerrilla war begins.

MPLA (People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola) fighters walk in rice fields during fightings against Portuguese troops in 1968 in Angola during the Angolan War of Independence (1961ñ1975). / AFP PHOTO / STF

1961: Forced labour abolished after revolts on coffee plantations leave 50,000 dead. The fight for independence is bolstered.

1974: April – Revolution in Portugal, colonial empire collapses. November – Angola independence.

Angola independence


1975: Angola Civil War begins between MPLA and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) movement.

1979: MPLA leader Agostinho Neto dies. José Eduardo dos Santos takes over as President.

Dos santos

1987: South African forces enter Angola to support Unita.

SA troops marching.

1988: South Africa agrees to Namibian independence in exchange for the removal of Cuban troops from Angola.

1989: Dos Santos and Unita leader Jonas Savimbi agree on a ceasefire, which collapses soon afterwards, and guerrilla activity resumes.

1991: April – MPLA drops Marxism–Leninism in favour of social democracy. May – Dos Santos, Savimbi sign peace deal in Lisbon which results in a new multiparty constitution.

1992: September – Presidential and parliamentary polls certified by UN monitors as generally free and fair. Dos Santos gains more votes than Savimbi, who rejects results and resumes guerrilla war.

1993: UN imposes sanctions against Unita. The US acknowledges the MPLA.

1994: Government and Unita sign Lusaka Protocol peace accord.

Lusaka accord

1995: Dos Santos, Savimbi meet, confirm commitment to peace. First of 7,000 UN peacekeepers arrive.

1996: Dos Santos, Savimbi agree to form unity government join forces into a national army.

1997: April – Unified government inaugurated, with Savimbi declining post in the unity government and failing to attend the inauguration ceremony. May – Tension mounts, with few Unita troops having integrated into the army.

1998: Full-scale fighting resumes. Thousands killed in next four years of fighting.

1999: UN ends its peacekeeping mission.

2002: February – Savimbi killed by government troops. Government, Unita sign ceasefire shortly afterwards.


2002: May – Unita’s military commander says 85% of his troops have gathered at demobilisation camps. There are concerns that food shortages in the camps could threaten the peace process. June – UN appeals for aid for thousands of refugees heading home after the ceasefire. August – Unita scraps its armed wing. “The war has ended,” proclaims Angola’s Defence Minister.

Angola war mural

2003: February – UN mission overseeing the peace process winds up. June – Unita – now a political party – elects Isaias Samakuva as its new leader.

2004: December – The government says 300,000 foreign diamond dealers have been expelled. September – Oil production reaches one million barrels per day.

Picture taken end of December 2007 showing an oil platform of the US Pride company situated off Angola.    AFP PHOTO MARCEL MOCHET / AFP PHOTO / MARCEL MOCHET

2005: June – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits, promises to extend more than $2bn in new credit, in addition to a $3bn credit line Beijing has already given Luanda.

2006: August – The government signs a peace deal with a separatist group in the northern enclave of Cabinda.

October: The UN refugee agency begins “final repatriation” of Angolans who fled the civil war to the neighbouring DR Congo.


2008: September – First parliamentary elections for 16 years.

Angola vote 2008

2009: March – Pope Benedict celebrates mass in front of more than a million people in Luanda.

Constitutional change

2010: January – Angola hosts African Nations Cup sporting event. Bus carrying Togo football team is attacked by Cabinda separatists. Parliament approves new constitution strengthening the Presidency and abolishing direct elections for the post. September – President of DR Congo, Joseph Kabila, visits Angola. Ties between the two neighbours deteriorated in 2009 when Angola began expelling illegal Congolese immigrants and Congo retaliated.

2012: September – Governing MPLA wins a comfortable victory in parliamentary elections, guaranteeing another term in office for President Dos Santos. African Union observers deem the polls free and fair. October – Angola launches a $5bn sovereign wealth fund to channel the country’s oil wealth into investment projects.

Angola construction

2014: May – First national census since 1970. Preliminary figures put the population at  24.3 million.

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