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.
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs