Angola's tormented path to petro-diamond led growth

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According to the World Bank figures, Angola's population was 12m in 1998, up from 5.6m at the last census in 1970.Government sources indicate a slightly higher figures of 12.6m. There have been large war-related population movement since independence in 1975. The UN estimated in June 2000 that 2.5m people were internally displaced inside Angola, while up to 2.75m needed humanitarian aid. These figures do not account for significant populations inaccessible in Uniao National para Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) areas. There are Angolan refugees in several neighboring countries, most prominently Zambia.
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The Cost of the war

Hundred of thousands have died from the direct or indirect effects of the war, and there are many thousands of orphans, widows and disabled people. Recent data for employment are scarce, although government figures from 1995 indicates that 63% of people working in Luanda were employed in the informal sector. Angola is ranked 160th out of 174 countries in the UN development Program's Human Development Index in 2000.


The Umbundu-speaking Ovimbundu are the largest ethnic group and accounted for 38% of the African population in the 1960 census. They are largely concentrated in the fertile central and northern highlands and have traditionally suported UNITA. The Mbundu (often known as Kimbundu), who speak Kimbundu, made up 25% in the 1960 census. They live largely in the north-western provinces, particulary in Luanda, and came under the strongest Portuguese influence. The Bakongo, who speak Kikongo, made up around 14% in the same census. Most live in the north and north-west, and include smaller groups such as the Luanda-Chokwe in the north-east. Around 3-5% of the population are mixed-race mestiços, concentrated in the cities.

The huge war-related population upheavals have transformed Angolan society. The first of the these upheavals was in 1960, when hundreds of thousands of Bakongo were uprooted in the north-western provinces, following the harsh colonial response to the UPA rebellion, and took refuge across the border in what is now the DRC (ex-Zaire). Other Bakongo, and Africans in some other parts of the country, were regrouped into fortified villages by the portugueses. During the 1980s, most of the Bakongo

More ethnic groups.

Although Portuguese was Angola's official language, the great majority of Angolans (more than 95 percent of the total population) used languages of the Bantu family--some closely related, others remotely so--that were spoken by most Africans living south of the equator and by substantial numbers north of it.

Angola's remaining indigenous peoples fell into two disparate categories. A small number, all in southern Angola, spoke so-called Click languages (after a variety of sounds characteristic of them) and differed physically from local African populations. These Click speakers shared characteristics, such as small stature and lighter skin color, linking them to the hunting and gathering bands of southern Africa sometimes referred to by Europeans as Bushmen. The second category consisted of mestiços, largely urban and living in western Angola. Most spoke Portuguese, although some were also acquainted with African languages, and a few may have used such a language exclusively.

The languages spoken in Angola are Portuguese, Bosquimana, and Bantu. From the three, only Portuguese has a written form.

Apart from the a few Bosquimanos, Bochimanes, Europeans, and Mestizos, the majority of Angola's population is of Bantu origin.

3000 or maybe even 4000 years ago, the Bantu left their land (now known as Cameroon and Nigeria) behind and migrated in two different movements towards the southern and eastern regions of Africa. A migration that lasted until the 19th century, it is considered to be the largest migration in African history.

The Bantu name does not refer to a unique Tribe, as their migratory formation and expansion gave fruit to a large variety of crosses. There are around 500 bantu villages, making it thus impossible to talk about the Bantu race, but of Bantu villages, meaning cultural communities, with a common civilization and related languages. Taking into consideration the displacement of the Bantu, the wars, intermarriages, and foreign influences, the Bantu groups still conserve the roots of a common trunk origin.

The Bantu term is applied to a civilization that converses its unity and was developed by villages of the black race. The suffix "ntu" means human person, and "ba" is the plural form. Bantu, hence, means human beings.
Besides the relation between the hundreds of Bantu languages that exist, the Bantu still have very similar beliefs, rituals and customs.

The Angolan Bantu can be divided into the following ethnolinguistic groups, which in turn are divided into hundreds of subgroups or tribes:

Quicongo or Bakongo:


The Kikongo-speaking Bakongo made up an estimated 15 percent of the Angolan population. In 1988 the Bakongo were the third largest ethnolinguistic group in Angola. Concentrated in Uíge, Zaire, and Cabinda provinces, where they constituted a majority of the population, the Bakongo spilled over into the nation of Zaire (where they were the largest single ethnic group) and Congo. Although the Angolan city of São Salvador (renamed Mbanza Congo) was the capital of their ancient kingdom, most of the Bakongo were situated in Zaire.

Their former political unity long broken, the various segments of the ethnolinguistic category in Angola experienced quite different influences in the colonial period. The Bashikongo, living near the coast, had the most sustained interaction with the Portuguese but were less affected by participation in the coffee economy than the Sosso and Pombo, who were situated farther east and south. All three groups, however, were involved in the uprising of 1961. The Pombo, still farther east but close to the Zairian border, were much influenced by developments in the Belgian Congo (present-day Zaire), and a large contingent of Pombo living in Léopoldville (present-day Kinshasa) formed a political party in the early 1950s. The Solongo, dwelling on the relatively dry coastal plain, had little contact with the Portuguese. They and the Ashiluanda of the island of Luanda, to the south, were Angola's only African sea fishermen.

The Mayombe (also spelled Maiombe) of the mountain forests of Cabinda spoke a dialect of Kikongo but were not part of the ancient kingdom. That part of the Mayombe living in Zaire did join with the Zairian Bakongo in the Alliance of Bakongo (Alliance des Bakongo-- Abako) during the period of party formation in the Belgian Congo, but the Cabindan Mayombe (and other Kikongo-speaking groups in the enclave), relatively remote geographically and culturally from the Bakongo of Angola proper, showed no solidarity with the latter. Instead, in 1961 the Mayombe formed a Cabindan separatist movement, the Alliance of Mayombe (Alliance de Mayombe--Alliama), which merged with two other Cabindan separatist movements in 1963 to form the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda--FLEC).

One of the first major revolts of the nationalist struggle was instigated by Bakongo in March 1961 in the northwest. The Portuguese crushed the peasant attack, organized by the Bakongo group, the Union of Angolan Peoples (União das Populações de Angola -- UPA), on their settlements, farms, and administrative outposts. Subsequently, 400,000 Bakongo fled into Zaire. In 1962 the UPA formed the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola -- FNLA), which became one of the three major nationalist groups (the other two being the MPLA and UNITA) involved in the long and bloody war of independence. Most of the FNLA's traditional Bakongo constituency fled into exile in Zaire during the war. Following independence, however, many Bakongo exiles returned to their traditional homesteads in Angola. They had since retained their ethnolinguistic integrity.

The Quicongo occupy Cabinda and the North East Region between the coast and the Cuango river. Traditionally the Bakongo made their living on mandioc crops. They are a very superstitious group with a high propensity to create mystic religions. They also possess a lively philosophical spirit. Are very propense to maritime life and have a reputation of being proud, frivolous, ulta sensitive and highly intelligent.

Dominate an extensive region between the coast and the Cuango river. Their main lively hood is coffee cultivation and fishing

Ludnda Quioco


The hyphenated category Lunda-Chokwe constituted an estimated 8 percent of the Angolan population in 1988. As the hyphenation implies, the category comprises at least two subsets, the origins of which are known to be different and the events leading to their inclusion in a single set are recent. The Lunda alone were a congeries of peoples brought together in the far-flung Lunda Empire (seventeenth century to nineteenth century) under the hegemony of a people calling themselves Ruund, its capital in the eastern section of Zaire's Katanga Province (present-day Shaba Province). Lunda is the form of the name used for the Ruund and for themselves by adjacent peoples to the south who came under Ruund domination. In some sources, the Ruund are called Northern Lunda, and their neighbors are called Southern Lunda. The most significant element of the latter, called Ndembu (or Ndembo), lived in Zaire and Zambia. In Angola the people with whom the northward-expanding Chokwe came into contact were chiefly Ruund speakers. The economic and political decline of the empire by the second half of the nineteenth century and the demarcation of colonial boundaries ended Ruund political domination over those elements beyond the Zairian borders.

The Chokwe, until the latter half of the nineteenth century a small group of hunters and traders living near the headwaters of the Cuango and Cassai rivers, were at the southern periphery of the Lunda Empire and paid tribute to its head. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Chokwe became increasingly involved in trading and raiding, and they expanded in all directions, but chiefly to the north, in part absorbing the Ruund and other peoples. In the late nineteenth century, the Chokwe went so far as to invade the capital of the much-weakened empire in Katanga. As a consequence of this Chokwe activity, a mixed population emerged in parts of Zaire as well as in Angola, although there were virtually homogenous communities in both countries consisting of Chokwe, Ruund, or Southern Lunda.

The intermingling of Lunda (Ruund and Southern Lunda) and Chokwe, in which other smaller groups were presumably also caught up, continued until about 1920. It was only after that time that the mixture acquired the hyphenated label and its members began to think of themselves (in some contexts) as one people.

The languages spoken by the various elements of the so-called Lunda-Chokwe were more closely related to each other than to other Bantu languages in the Zairian-Angolan savanna but were by no means mutually intelligible. The three major tongues (Ruund, Lunda, and Chokwe) had long been distinct from each other, although some borrowing of words, particularly of Ruund political titles by the others, had occurred.

Portuguese anthropologists and some others accepting their work have placed some of the peoples (Minungu and Shinji) in this area with the Mbundu, and the Minungu language is sometimes considered a transitional one between Kimbundu and Chokwe. There may in fact have been important Mbundu influence on these two peoples, but the work of a number of linguists places their languages firmly with the set that includes Ruund, Lunda, and Chokwe.

Economic and political developments in the 1970s affected various sections of the Lunda-Chokwe differently. Substantial numbers of them live in or near Lunda Norte Province, which contains the principal diamond mines of Angola. Diamond mining had been significant since 1920, and preindependence data show that the industry employed about 18,000 persons. Moreover, the mining company provided medical and educational facilities for its employees and their dependents, thereby affecting even greater numbers. How many of those employed were Lunda-Chokwe is not clear, although neighboring villages would have been affected by the presence of the mining complex in any case (see Extractive Industries , ch. 3). In the intra-Angolan political conflict preceding and immediately following independence, there apparently was some division between the northern Lunda-Chokwe, especially those with some urban experience, who tended to support the MPLA, and the rural Chokwe, particularly those farther south, who tended to support UNITA. In the 1980s, as the UNITA insurgency intensified in the border areas of eastern and northern Angola, Lunda-Chokwe families were forced to flee into Zaire's Shaba Province, where many remained in 1988, living in three sites along the Benguela Railway. The impact of this move on the ethnolinguistic integrity of these people was not known.

A somewhat different kind of political impact began in the late 1960s, when refugees from Katanga in Zaire, speakers of Lunda or a related language, crossed the border into what are now Lunda Sul and northern Moxico provinces. In 1977 and 1978, these refugees and others whom they had recruited formed the National Front for the Liberation of the Congo (Front National pour la Libération du Congo--FNLC) and used the area as a base from which they launched their invasions of Shaba Province (see National Security Environment , ch. 5). In the 1980s, these rebels and perhaps still other refugees remained in Angola, many in Lunda Sul Province, although the Angolan government as part of its rapprochement with Zaire was encouraging them to return to their traditional homes. The Zairian government offered amnesty to political exiles on several occasions in the late 1980s and conferred with the Angolan government on the issue of refugees. In 1988, however, a significant number of Zairian refugees continued to inhabit LundaChokwe territory. The significance for local Lunda-Chokwe of the presence and activities of these Zairians was not known.


Just north of Ovimbundu territory lived the Mbundu, the second largest ethnolinguistic category, whose language was Kimbundu. In 1988 they made up an estimated 25 percent of the Angolan population. In the sixteenth century, most of the groups that came to be known as Mbundu (a name apparently first applied by the neighboring Bakongo) lived well to the east of the coast in the plateau region (at a somewhat lower altitude than the Ovimbundu); a few groups in the far northeast lived at altitudes below 700 meters. In general, the outlines of the area occupied by the Mbundu had remained the same. The major exception was their expansion of this area to parts of the coast formerly occupied by Bakongo and others.

Although most of the boundaries of Mbundu territory remained fairly firm, the social and linguistic boundaries of the category had shifted, some of the peripheral groups having been variably influenced by neighboring groups and the groups close to the coast having been more strongly influenced by the Portuguese than were the more remote ones. Moreover, the subdivisions discernible for the sixteenth century (and perhaps earlier) also changed in response to a variety of social and linguistic influences in the colonial period. The Mbundu in general and the western Mbundu in particular, located as they were not far from Luanda, were susceptible to those influences for a longer time and in a more intense way than were other Angolan groups.

There were a number of Kimbundu dialects and groups. Two, each incorporating Portuguese terms, gradually became dominant, serving as lingua francas for many Mbundu. The western dialect was centered in Luanda, to which many Mbundu had migrated over the years. The people speaking it, largely urban, had come to call themselves Ambundu or Akwaluanda, thus distinguishing themselves from rural Mbundu. The eastern dialect, known as Ambakista, had its origins in the eighteenth century in a mixed Portuguese-Mbundu trading center at Ambaca near the western edge of the plateau region, but it spread in the nineteenth century through much of eastern Mbundu territory. Another Kimbundu-speaking group, the Dembos, were generally included in the Mbundu category. Living north of Luanda, they had also been strongly influenced by Kikongo speakers.

By the late 1960s, the Mbundu living in the cities, such as Luanda and Malanje, had adopted attributes of Portuguese lifestyle . Many had intermarried with Portuguese, which led to the creation of an entirely new class of mestiços. Those who received formal education and fully adopted Portuguese customs became assimilados (see Glossary).

The Mbundu were the MPLA's strongest supporters when the movement first formed in 1956. The MPLA's president, Agostinho Neto, was the son of a Mbundu Methodist pastor and a graduate of a Portuguese medical school. In the 1980s, the Mbundu were predominant in Luanda, Bengo, Cuanza Norte, Malanje, and northern Cuanza Sul provinces.



Nganguela (also spelled Ganguela) is a term, pejorative in connotation, applied by the Ovimbundu to the peoples living east and southeast of them. The essentially independent groups constituting what was no more than a Portuguese census category was split by southward penetration of the Chokwe in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Only two groups in the western section of the territory accepted the name Nganguela; the others carried names such as Lwena (or Lovale), Mbunda, and Luchazi--all in the eastern division. The Lwena and Luchazi, roughly equal in number, constituted about a third of the census category of Nganguela, which in 1988 accounted for an estimated 6 percent of the Angolan population.

Unlike the farming peoples who numerically dominated the larger ethnolinguistic categories, the groups in the western division of the Nganguela were cattle raisers as well as cultivators. Those in the eastern division near the headwaters of the Zambezi River and its tributaries also relied on fishing.

All the groups included in the Nganguela ethnolinguistic category spoke languages apparently related to those spoken by the Ruund, Southern Lunda, and Chokwe. Lwena and Chokwe, although not mutually intelligible, were probably more closely related than Chokwe was to Ruund or Lunda. Except for sections of the Lwena, during the time of kingdoms most of these peoples were outside the periphery of Lunda influence, and some (in the western division) were affected by Ovimbundu activity, including slave raiding.

Of the ethnolinguistic categories treated thus far, the Nganguela have had the least social or political significance in the past or in modern times. For the most part thinly scattered in an inhospitable territory, split by the southern expansion of the Chokwe, and lacking the conditions for even partial political centralization, let alone unification, the groups constituting the category went different ways when nationalist activity gave rise to political movements based in part on regional and ethnic considerations. The western division, adjacent to the Ovimbundu, was most heavily represented in the Ovimbundu-dominated UNITA. Some of the groups in the eastern divisions were represented in the MPLA-PTA, which Mbundu and mestiços dominated, although the Lwena, neighbors of and related to the Chokwe, tended to support UNITA.

In the 1980s, the spread of the UNITA insurgency into the Nganuela-inhabited area adjacent to the Zambian border led to the flight of many Nganguela families into Zambia. The extent of this flight and its effects on the ethnolinguistic integrity of the Nganguela were unknown.


Ovambo, Nyaneka-Humbe, Herero, and Others

In far southwestern Angola, three categories of Bantu-speaking peoples have been distinguished. Two of them, the Ovambo and the Herero, were more heavily represented elsewhere: the Ovambo in Namibia and the Herero in Namibia and Botswana. The Herero dispersion, especially that section of it in Botswana, was the consequence of the migration of the Herero from German South West Africa (present-day Namibia) after their rebellion against German rule in 1906. The third group was the Nyaneka-Humbe. Unlike the other groups, the Nyaneka-Humbe did not disperse outside Angola. In 1988 the Nyaneka-Humbe (the first group is also spelled Haneca; the latter group is also spelled Nkumbi) constituted 3 percent of the population. The Ovambo, of which the largest subgroup were the Kwanhama (also spelled Kwanyama), made up an estimated 2 percent of the Angolan population. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Kwanhama Kingdom of southern Angola was a powerful state involved in a lucrative trade relationship with the Portuguese, who, together with the Germans, occupied Kwanhama territory in the early twentieth century. In the 1980s, the Ovambo were seminomadic cattle herders and farmers. The Herero constituted no more than 0.5 percent of the population in 1988. Traditionally, the Herero were nomadic or seminomadic herders living in the arid coastal lowlands and in the mountainous escarpment to the east in Namibe, Benguela, and Huíla provinces. Many Herero migrated south to Namibia when the Portuguese launched a military expedition against them in 1940 following their refusal to pay taxes.

In the southeastern corner of the country the Portuguese distinguished a set of Bantu-speaking people, described on a map prepared by José Redinha in 1973 as the Xindonga. The sole linguistic group listed in this category was the Cussu. The Language Map of Africa, prepared under the direction of David Dalby for the International African Institute, noted two sets of related languages in southeastern Angola. The first set included Liyuwa, Mashi, and North Mbukushu. These languages and other members of the set were also found in Zambia and Namibia. The members of the second set, Kwangali-Gcikuru and South Mbukushu, were also found in Namibia and Botswana. The hyphen between Kwangali and Gcikuru implies mutual intelligibility. Little is known of these groups; in any case, their members were very few.

All of these southern Angolan groups relied in part or in whole on cattle raising for subsistence. Formerly, the Herero were exclusively herders, but they gradually came to engage in some cultivation. Although the Ovambo had depended in part on cultivation for a much longer time, dairy products had been an important source of subsistence, and cattle were the chief measure of wealth and prestige.

The southwestern groups, despite their remoteness from the major centers of white influence during most of the colonial period, were to varying degrees affected by the colonial presence and, after World War II, by the arrival of numbers of Portuguese in such places as Moçâmedes (present-day Namibe) and Sá da Bandeira (present-day Lubango). The greatest resistance to the Portuguese was offered by the Ovambo, who were not made fully subject to colonial rule until 1915 and who earned a considerable reputation among the Portuguese and other Africans for their efforts to maintain their independence. In the nationalist struggle of the 1960s and early 1970s and in the postindependence civil war, the Ovambo tended to align themselves with the Ovimbundu-dominated UNITA. Many also sympathized with the cause of SWAPO, a mostly Ovambo organization fighting to liberate Namibia from South African rule.


The largest ethnolinguistic category, the Ovimbundu, were located in west-central Angola, south of Mbundu-inhabited regions (see fig. 5). In 1988 the United States Department of State estimated that they constituted 37 percent of the population. The language of the Ovimbundu was Umbundu.

The core area of the Ovimbundu kingdoms was that part of the Benguela Plateau north of the town of Huambo. Expansion continuing into the twentieth century enlarged their territory considerably, although most Ovimbundu remained in that part of the plateau above 1,200 meters in elevation.

Like most African groups of any size, the Ovimbundu were formed by the mixture of groups of diverse origin (and varying size). Little is known of developments before the seventeenth century, but there is some evidence of additions to the people who occupied the Benguela Plateau at that time. Over time, a number of political entities, usually referred to as kingdoms, were formed (see Ovimbundu and Kwanhama Kingdoms , ch. 1). By the eighteenth century, there were twenty-two kingdoms. Thirteen were fully independent; the other nine were largely autonomous but owed tribute to one of the more powerful entities, usually the kingdom of Bailundu, but in some cases Wambu or Ciyaka. By the beginning of the second decade of the twentieth century, effective occupation by the Portuguese had caused a fairly rapid decline in the power of the heads of these kingdoms, but Ovimbundu continued to think of themselves as members of one or another of the groups based on these political units after World War II.

In addition to the groups that clearly spoke dialects of Umbundu, there were two on the periphery of Ovimbundu distribution: the Mbui, who seemed to straddle the linguistic boundary between the Ovimbundu and the Mbundu; and the Dombe living to the west near the coast, whose language was closely related to Umbundu, although not a dialect of it. The Dombe and several other groups, including the Nganda and the Hanya (who, according to one account, spoke Umbundu dialects) relied on cattle raising, as did their southern neighbors, the Herero and the Ovambo. Still others, typically the old tributary kingdoms, came to speak Umbundu relatively recently.

Until the Portuguese established firm control over their territory, the Ovimbundu--particularly those of the major kingdoms of Bailundu (to the northwest), Bihe (to the northeast), and Wambu (in the center)--played important roles as intermediaries in the slave, ivory, and beeswax trades, acting as carriers, entrepreneurs, and raiders. With the decline of the slave trade in the last decades of the nineteenth century, the entrepreneurs among the Ovimbundu turned to the rubber trade, abandoning the warfare and raiding that had hitherto been integrally related to their economic activities. The rubber slump at the beginning of the twentieth century, the end of the de facto autonomy of their kingdoms not long after, and the displacement of Ovimbundu traders by the Portuguese forced these people to turn to cash-crop agriculture. (The men had hitherto had little involvement with cultivation; in fact, the women continued to be responsible for the cultivation of subsistence crops.)

The introduction of cash crops, particularly coffee, led to a series of changes in settlement patterns and social arrangements (see Structure of Society , this ch.). But after a time, soil exhaustion, lack of support of African agriculture by the colonial authorities, incursions of Portuguese settlers who took over valuable property in the highlands, and a number of other factors contributed to a decline in the success of Ovimbundu cash-crop agriculture. By the early 1960s, up to 100,000 Ovimbundu, estimated at one-quarter of the group's able-bodied adult males, were migrating on one-year and two-year labor contracts to the coffee plantations of Uíge and Cuanza Norte provinces; another 15,000 to 20,000 sought work in Luanda and Lobito; and roughly the same number worked in the industrial plants of Huambo or for European farmers in the Benguela Plateau. In most cases, remuneration was low, but these migrant workers had little alternative. This pattern continued through the remainder of the colonial period, except for those males who were involved in nationalist activity (usually with UNITA).

In the 1940s, the Ovimbundu organized what was probably the most closely knit Angolan community of the colonial era. With the financial and ideological aid of North American Christian missionaries, they established a network of Christian villages, each with its own leadership, schools, churches, and clinics. They were thus able to maintain the Ovimbundu culture while providing educational and social amenities for their children. The generation that emerged out of this structure became the disciples of Jonas Savimbi and the basis for UNITA, which in the 1980s used the same concepts to maintain Ovimbundu cohesiveness within UNITA-controlled areas.

Given the degree of change in Ovimbundu society and the involvement of the Ovimbundu with UNITA, it was difficult to determine their long-range role in Angolan politics. Just how long Ovimbundu solidarity would persist under changing circumstances could not be predicted.

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© World INvestment NEws, 2002.
This is the electronic edition of the special country report on Angola published in Forbes Global Magazine. February 18th, 2002 Issue.
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