News / Africa

Angola's UNITA - From Battlefield to Ballot Box

Supporters of Angola's main opposition UNITA party cheer during an election rally in Luanda, August 25, 2012.
Supporters of Angola's main opposition UNITA party cheer during an election rally in Luanda, August 25, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Angola is still waiting for final results of the parliamentary elections, which are likely to be won by the ruling party MPLA and its leader, incumbent president José Manuel Dos Santos. In the meantime, the main historical opposition party, UNITA, is using all legal means to contest the elections. From the battlefield to the ballot box, the party has come a long way to achieve a peaceful resistance.

Sitting on his motorbike, Calupeteca Leonardo Mario, 20, is waiting for customers. In this suburb of Luanda, the young man is a moto-taxi driver. He says life is not easy around here.

Mario says he works twelve hours a day to earn only $20 per day which, given the high cost of life in Luanda, is not enough to live decently. So for its first elections, he decided to vote for the opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, known as UNITA.

Mario says that it is the first time he can vote and as he was growing up, he has always known the UNITA as the main opposition party in Angola. And that is why he voted for them. To him, UNITA, or the newly-created opposition party CASA-SE, are the same, their program does not matter as long as they oppose the ruling party, known as the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), and its leader, José Eduardo Dos Santos, who has been in power for the last 33 years.

UNITA, according to preliminary results, should get about 17% of the vote. And although the party contests the figures and claims the vote total is higher, it is still almost twice what the party had four years ago, during the first post-war elections.

For journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais, the simple fact that UNITA is still around is seen as quite an accomplishment, 10 years after the end of the civil war with the MPLA which lasted for 27 years and ended with the killing of UNITA's founder Jonas Savimbi in 2002.

"Peace was not a priority for UNITA, and ultimately they paid the price of war," he said. "I think UNITA has shown a great ability to survive under the most depressing conditions. After having lost part of its leadership in '92',  UNITA was able to rebuild its structure. It has done a remarkable job, in becoming a true civilian party. "

UNITA was created in 1966 by former MPLA member Jonas Savimbi, to fight Portugal, which ruled Angola as a colony. After independence was won in 1975, the liberation parties started to fight each other for power, in a Cold War proxy war, pitting the U.S. backed-UNITA against the MPLA, supported by the former Soviet Union and Cuba. In 2002, the MPLA eventually won by killing Savimbi.

UNITA's spokesperson Alcides Sakala, who was fighting alongside Savimbi back then, remembers the soul-searching the party had to face.

"Doc Savimbi died in combat," said Sakala. "That was really a very difficult moment. Because the party was founded by himself and now, what to do? 

"Continuing the resistance in a very difficult condition in a world that was changing then the second option was to take the idea of Doc Savimbi who was willing to negotiate again with the MPLA," he added.

So UNITA decided to become a peaceful political party. Its members elected Isais Samakuva to take over the party leadership, and engaged in the demobilization and re-integration of their army. This transition was not made without trouble, and relations with the ruling party are still difficult.

UNITA claims that the current elections are rigged, but unlike in 1992, elections during which the party rekindled the war, a call for violent action is now definitely off-the-table, says Sakala.

"Now UNITA is a political party," he said. "We don't have any army, we don't have a territory. Ten years have gone ever since the war has finished. Now, our option is to work with the Angolans."

The final elections results are expected to be announced Friday. The ruling MPLA party of President José Eduardo Dos Santos is widely expected to win by a landslide.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid