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Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
    << Back to Angola National Security


    Government recruits learning the mechanics of an AK-47 assault rifle
    Courtesy United Nations (J.P. Laffont)

    Constitutional and Political Context

    The Angolan Constitution provides a framework for both international and national security policies. Article 16 establishes the country's official policy of military nonalignment and prohibits the construction of foreign military bases on Angolan territory. Reflecting its concern for territorial unity and the status of Cabinda Province as an integral part of the national homeland, Article 4 also provides that "any attempt to separate or dismember" any territory will be "forcefully combated." The president, under Article 6, is designated commander in chief of the armed forces and in Article 53 is also given extraordinary powers to declare a state of emergency or a state of siege, to declare war, and to make peace.

    The government's organization for security and defense reflected both ideological and national security considerations in its interlocking network of party, government, and military officials. The Council of the Revolution, which performed both executive and legislative functions before 1980, included the minister of defense, the chief of the general staff, and regional military commanders. In the first national People's Assembly (national legislature), which in 1980 replaced the Council of the Revolution as the supreme organ of state, defense and security personnel constituted 10 percent of the membership (see Structure of Government , ch. 4).

    Since the early days of the liberation struggle, the MPLA had recognized the need for firm political direction of FAPLA. Political control was established and maintained by two complementary means: political indoctrination and institutional penetration and subordination. Political education was an integral part of FAPLA's military training, and political commissars were attached to guerrilla units to ensure compliance with party directives.

    MPLA politicization and controls were formalized and expanded after the transformation of FAPLA into a conventional army during 1975 and 1976. Many of the independence leaders continued to hold concurrent positions in the party, government, and military establishment. At the regional level, the overlaying of military and political leadership was also common, as many of the provincial commissars were both MPLA Central Committee members and FAPLA lieutenant colonels. Within the armed forces, political commissars in each unit reported not to the military chain of command but to the political leadership of the region or province.

    Extensive politicization of the military by institutional means did not preclude the possibility of military intervention in politics. In 1977 Nito Alves led an abortive coup in which several MPLA and FAPLA leaders were killed. In the aftermath, Alves's supporters were executed or purged, and the top military and political posts in the armed forces were assigned to loyalists: David António Moises was appointed FAPLA chief of the general staff, and Julião Mateus Paulo (nom de guerre Dino Matross) became FAPLA national political commissar.

    The interpenetration of the MPLA and FAPLA was maintained throughout both organizations' hierarchies. In 1983, six years after the MPLA had designated itself a "workers' party" (Partido de Trabalho; henceforth the party was known as the MPLA-PT), a series of party committee seminars for the political organs of the defense and security forces was inaugurated by Paulo, then Central Committee secretary for defense and security. The purpose of these seminars was to review the implementation of party directives and structures within the armed forces. In 1985 seminar members recommended that the party's provincial departments of defense and security implement the 1984 directive to award membership to armed forces veterans and disabled soldiers and that the local party and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola Youth Movement (Juventude do Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola -- JMPLA) participate more actively in defense and security. For its part, FAPLA had a political directorate that maintained party liaison and supervision.

    In the 1980s, the need for total mobilization and coordination of the nation's resources to combat the escalating UNITA insurgency and South African intervention led to reorganizations of both the central and the provincial governments. President José Eduardo dos Santos created the Defense and Security Council under his chairmanship in April 1984 to plan and coordinate national security policy. Originally, the council included the ministers of defense, state security, and interior; the FAPLA chief of the general staff; and the party Central Committee secretary for ideology, information, and culture as an ex officio member. In May 1986, the Defense and Security Council expanded to include the ministers of state for inspection and control, for the productive sphere, and for economic and social spheres, posts that had been created in a February 1986 government reorganization. In effect, the Defense and Security Council became the standing body of the Council of Ministers when the latter was not in session. The Defense and Security Council met in two sessions: a weekly meeting on defense and security matters, and a biweekly meeting on economic issues.

    In July 1983, the MPLA-PT Political Bureau decided to form regional military councils as an "exceptional and temporary measure" to coordinate political, military, economic, and social leadership in areas "affected by armed acts of aggression, vandalism and banditry." The councils reported directly to the president as FAPLA commander in chief, who was empowered to determine which areas warranted such councils and to appoint council members. The councils were authorized to requisition and restrict the movement of people and goods, and their newly created military tribunals tried crimes "against state security, economic sabotage, speculation and disobedience of directives from the regional military councils, as well as those who may damage or endanger the interests of collective defense and security" (see Criminal Justice System , this ch.). Eleven of Angola's eighteen provinces were immediately made subject to regional military councils, whose chairmen were FAPLA colonels.

    Before 1988 FAPLA's areas of operations were divided into ten military regions (see fig. 13). In early 1988, however, calling this structure inadequate, the Ministry of Defense announced the formation of northern, eastern, southern, and central fronts. The northern front encompassed Zaire, Uíge, Malanje, Cuanza Norte, and Bengo provinces. The eastern front covered Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul, and Moxico provinces. No official information on the other fronts was available in late 1988, but presumably the southern front included Cuando Cubango, Huíla, and Namibe provinces, and the central front may have comprised Bié, Huambo, Benguela, and Cuanza Sul provinces. There was no information on the status of Cabinda and Luanda provinces, but perhaps they remained separate regions because of their strategic importance and small size. Because of the uncertain boundaries of these fronts, most news accounts referred to the military regions when describing FAPLA's areas of operation.

    Data as of February 1989

    NOTE: The information regarding Angola on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Angola ARMED FORCES information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Angola ARMED FORCES should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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