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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora