Saturday, July 23, 2011
Field Trip: The Battle of Kifangondo
Last week, we took a trip to Caxito with some friends. Along the way, just outside of Luanda, we stopped at a monument to the Battle of Kifangondo.
The Angolan Civil war is extremely difficult to understand, so explaining this monument is difficult, but I will try to summarize. As the Portuguese were preparing to pull out of Angola in 1975, the three groups who had been fighting for independence, MPLA, UNITA and FNLA, began to fight each other for the right to control Angola. Each was supported by various foreign governments with shifting alliances over time: MPLA was supported by the Cubans and Soviets, UNITA by South Africa, the US and some Portuguese, FNLA, most confusingly was supported by China, the US, Zaire, Isreal at different points in its history. Eventually the FNLA was defeated completely and the rest of the civil war was fought between MPLA and UNITA.
While Angola served as a proxy for Cold War ideologies, the MPLA and UNITA refused to be pinned down. UNITA was not really looking for democracy and the MPLA was never anti-capitalist; during the war, Cuban troops were ordered to defend the interests of Chevron. I find that especially interesting. The MPLA maintained control of the government and eventually won the war in 2002, when UNITA´s leader was assassinated. The MPLA is still in power today.
The Battle of Kifangondo was fought in 1975, the day before independence from Portugal was celebrated in Luanda. The MPLA, along with Cuban troops, successfully prevented the FNLA from entering Luanda by fighting from a hill with a view of the road.
We were told FNLA troops used the road, even though it made them vulnerable, because they could not move their tanks through the surrounding swamps. It was an important victory for the MPLA, but unfortunately, it was just the beginning of the war.