The National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Portuguese: Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola; abbreviated FNLA) is a political party and former militant organisation that fought for Angolan independence from Portugal in the war of independence, under the leadership of Holden Roberto.
Founded in 1954 as the União dos Povos do Norte de Angola guerrilla movement, it was known after 1959 as the União dos Povos de Angola (UPA) guerrilla movement, and from 1961 as the FNLA guerilla movement.
Ahead of the first multiparty elections in 1992, the FNLA was reorganized as a political party. The FNLA received 2.4% of the votes and had five Members of Parliament elected. In the 2008 parliamentary election, the FNLA received 1.11% of the vote, winning three out of 220 seats.
In 1954, the United People of Northern Angola (UPNA) was formed as a separatist movement for the Bakongo tribe who wished to re-establish its 16th century feudal kingdom but was also a protest movement against forced labour.:4:138 Holden Roberto was to be the king of that land.:4 By 1958, the organisations name changed to the “Uniao das Populcoes de Angola” (UPA) under Holden Roberto who came from São Salvador, Bakongo, Northern Angola with the newly named organisation described as an ethnic political movement.:224 In March 1961, the UPA begun an uprising in the north attacking white coffee plantation owners and servants, “assimilados”, African Catholics and tribal members other than the Bakongo tribe.:4:138 The Portuguese government respond by sending soldiers to Angola and more than 50,000 people would die in the violence by the end of 1961.:222 It was said more than a million refugees would flee the north of Angola for Zaire.:138 In an attempt to become a national political movement, it merged with the “Partido Democratico de Angola” (PDA) to form the “Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola” (FNLA).:224 By February 1962, the FNLA had merged into an organisation called the Angolan Revolutionary Government in Exile (GRAE) with Roberto as its President and Jonas Savimbi as its foreign minister, based in Kinshasa, Zaire and recognised by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as Angola's only freedom movement until 1971.:224:138 Its core membership were Angolan refugees and expatiates in Zaire.:224
The United States government began aiding the FNLA in 1961 during the Kennedy administration, and rerouted one-third of its official aid to Zaire to the FNLA and UNITA organisations. Over the course of many years, the governments of Algeria, Tunisia, West Germany, Ghana, Israel, France, Romania, the People's Republic of China, South Africa, the United States, Zaire, and Liberia actively supported and aided the FNLA. The French government supplied men and loaned one million pounds sterling without interest. The Israeli government gave aid to the FNLA between 1963 and 1969. Holden Roberto visited Israel during the 1960s, and FNLA members were sent to Israel for training. During the 1970s the Israeli government shipped arms to the FNLA through Zaire. The People's Republic of China began supplying the FNLA with arms in 1964. It gave the FNLA military equipment and at least 112 military advisers.
By July 1964, GRAE's right as the only liberation movement was challenged with the resignation of Congo Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula, their backer, and the departure of Jonas Savimbi, who would go on to form his only liberation movement UNITA because of Roberto's dictitorial leadership, unwillingness to accept non-western support and a lack of a political program.:225-6:138 Roberto would see off a “coup de'tat” in June 1965 by his defence minister and in November of the same year, his brother in law, Mobutu Sese Seko took control of Zaire in a coup.:226 But by 1968, GRAE's unity had begun to disintegrate.
On President Richard Nixon assuming office in 1969, he ordered a review of the United States policy towards Angola as well as South Africa and Rhodesia. In January 1970, National Security Council Study Memorandum 39 was adopted which acknowledge that the white regimes in those countries should not be politically and economically isolated and that engaging them was the best means of achieving changes in their systems.:773 This meant a reduction in aid to the FNLA.:773
In late 1972, the FNLA concluded a ceasefire with the MPLA which was being attacked by former in north-west Angola and by Portuguese in north-east.:7 A condition of the ceasefire was it needed more arms as it had no US aid apart from Roberto's CIA retainer, and Neto spoke to the Tanzanians who interceded with the Chinese government.:8 After all groups met the Chinese, the FNLA received military aid and training from early 1973 until the fall of 1974, and then only diplomatic aid thereafter.:8 In April 1974, a military coup occurred in Portugal with a later announcement of future independence for its colonies which began the process by the FNLA, MPLA and UNITA in attempting to strengthen their reach throughout Angola and resulted in conflict amongst each other.:8 The Romanian government delivered arms to the FNLA in August 1974. In August 1974, the Portuguese Angolan government had proposed a two-year plan for independence with the three groups and white settlers forming a coalition government but this was rejected outright.:227 In order to end the conflict amongst the groups, individual ceasefires were arranged between the groups and the Portuguese Angolan Military Council, with the FNLA signing on 15 October 1974 that allowed it and the other three liberation parties to set up political offices in Luanda.:226-7 By 25 November 1974, a ceasefire was concluded between the FNLA and UNITA and with the MPLA on 18 December.:229
When Gerald Ford assumed the presidency in August 1974, the new USA foreign policy moved away from the National Security Council Study Memorandum 39 to one of support for black rule in Angola as well as passive support for white rule and so minimal aid was returned to the FNLA.:774 But by November 1974, the US decided they did not want a future government dominated by the pro-Soviet MPLA so the CIA funded the FNLA with $300,000 to help it achieve that objective.:8
The increasing violence would result in the gathering of the FNLA and the other two parties in Mombasa, Kenya, from 3-5 January 1975 by the invitation of President Jomo Kenyatta.:228 The object of the meeting was to unite the parties and find common ground prior to the independence talks in Portugal later that month.:228 Roberto speaking on behalf of all, declared an accord had been reached and that all parties had overcome their differences and had agreed firstly to a just and democratic society without ethnic discrimination; agreeing to a transitional government, armed forces and civil service and lastly to co-operate in the country's decolonisation and defence.:228 The FNLA and the other parties would meet in Portimao, Portugal on 10 January 1975 and resulted in the formation of the Alvor Agreement, signed on 15 January 1975, which would grant Angola independence from Portugal on 11 November ending the war of independence.:8 The plan also called for a coalition government and a united army.:774
Within 24 hours of the Alvor Agreement, fighting broke out in Luanda amongst the FNLA and MPLA with further violence on 23 March when the MPLAs Lopo de Nascimento was subject to an assassination attempt by the FNLA.:59 The transitional government's failure to work was also be said to be the result of a lack of interest by the Portuguese government in Angola as it tackled a failed counter-coup in Lisbon by General Spinola and the lack of will of the Portuguese troops to serve in Angola and end the violence between the MPLA and FNLA.:59 The final straw was the dismissal in August of the Portuguese High Commissioner Antonio da Silva Cardoso who's attempt to reign in the MPLA had the support of the FNLA.:59 The FNLA saw its only alternative as a military one after having been expelled from Luanda.:59 On 29 August 1975 the Alvor Agreement was suspended by Portugal except for independence in November, and withdrawal of its troops that signal an escalation of violence for the control of Angola prior to that date.:60
The US government did not believe the Portuguese plan would work and the MPLA would attempt to seize power installing a Soviet back regime in power.:774 In late January 1975, the 40 Committee, part of the executive branch of the US government, met and reviewed a proposal from the CIA to fund the FNLA with $300,000 and UNITA, $100,000.:774 The committee would approve the funding for the FNLA but not for UNITA. The money was to be used by the FNLA to purchase newspapers and radio stations.:16 In addition to the money, the US supplied weapons to Zaire who in turn passed them on to the FNLA and also supplied several thousand troops.:774 With this funding, Roberto believe any future coalition could be abandoned and in doing so the Soviets would begin to increase its aid to the MPLA.:775 By June 1975, the CIA requested a meeting with the 40 Committee were it proposed increased aid for the FNLA.:774 A decision was not made for a month as the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) and U.S. State Department wished to consider the proposal.:775 Assistant Secretary of State Nathaniel Davies objected to further aid as he believed it would not help the FNLA to become as militarily strong as the MPLA except with massive amounts money; escalate Soviet and Cuban involvement and feared South Africa would intervene and this would have negative diplomatic connotations for the United States in Africa, so the only option was a diplomatic solution.:775 Henry Kissinger ensured that the NSC viewpoint prevailed and that aid not diplomacy could prevent a MPLA win so aid of $14 million was approved for the FNLA and UNITA in July and that increased to $25 million in August and reached $32 million by September.:775 The assistance would become known as Operation IA Feature.:61 The CIAs covert plan begun sending supplies to the FNLA through Zaire and Zambia and was able to supply by November 1975, 12 APC, 50 SAMs, 1000 mortars, 50,000 rifles and machine guns, 100,000 grenades, 25 million rounds of ammunition, 60 trucks, trailers, boats, radios, spare parts, medicine and food with training by retired US military advisors and five spotter planes as well as mercenaries.:776:6 The CIA appointed John Stockwell to manage the Angolan Task Force but found that many members of the CIA doubted the FNLAs ability to beat the MPLA and this was confirmed when he visited Angola and discovered the lack political support for the organisation and also feared any entry of South African forces in Angola would undermine the United States diplomatically in Africa.:776:6
On the pretext of attacks around the Calueque hydroelectric facility, the South Africans army would enter Angola to defend its interests in the facility and would develop into Operation Savannah to assist the FNLA and UNITA to gain as much control of southern and central Angola prior to independence day in November.:70 The US appeared to give the green light for the South Africans covert invasion but this would soon change as their involvement became public knowledge, the US would distance themselves.:70 The South Africans would advance close to Luanda from the south while a small force of South African artillery and advisors would support the FNLA in the north.
Without the control of Luanda on independence day, Roberto saw that the FNLAs international legitimacy would be in doubt.:86 The only 'suitable' attack on Luanda was from the north through Quifangondo.:88 Attacks were carried out by the FNLA on 5 and 8 November 1975 but were repulsed each time by the MPLA.:88 With independence day looming on the 11 November 1975, Roberto gave the final order to attack Quifangondo on 10 November unaware that the Cubans had reinforced the positions with troops and new Soviet equipment.:88 Roberto would claim the South African were sending men to help him while the South Africans claimed they warned against a frontal assault but what ever the real story was, the FNLAs final assault on what became known as the Battle of Quifangondo failed disastrously.:89-90 The MPLA retained Luanda and Angola gain independence from the Portuguese High Commissioner with Neto declaring the People's Republic of Angola.:91 The FNLA would continue its fight inside Angola for another four months.:91
On the 6 November 1975, CIA Director William Colby appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and briefed them that his organisation had not informed the committee fully on its activities in Angola and the following day, the New York Times released the testimony to the world.:777 By 26 November, Nigeria, against the United States wishes, had recognised the MPLA government and soon convinced twenty-two other African nation to recognise them too.:777 By December, President Ford and Kissinger decide that the aid to the opposition parties should not be abandoned and the CIA was ordered to draw up further aid plans which would need Senate approval but meanwhile the Senate Foreign Relations Committee drew up the Clark Amendment, named after Senator Dick Clark, after his visit to Angola.:778 He concluded that the White House and CIA had lied about their involvement and that the US effort were responsible for dragging the Cubans and South Africans into the country's conflict.:778 The State Department and CIA, unable to stay on message, were unable to convince the House or Senate and on 19 December 1975, the Clark Amendment passed the Senate and covert US aid in Angola ended with the House following suite on 27 January 1976 .:778-9
The MPLA and Cubans would maintain the initiative in Northern Angola after the defeat of the FNLA at Quifangondo with the advances on Caxito and the latter's airbases at Camabatela and Negage.:107 Caxito would fall on 27 December 1975 and the FNLAs main airbase at Camabatela was captured on 1 January and Negage on 3 January while their capital at Carmona fell on the 4 January and so the FNLA rout began in earnest.:107-8 By early 1976, defeated by the MPLA, the FNLA began retreating, looting villages in northern Angola, as they headed for the Zairian border.:13 On the 11 January 1976, FAPLA and the Cubans captured Ambriz and Ambrizete from the FNLA and then advanced on their headquarters at São Salvador its route defended by foreign mercenaries under Colonel Callan and elements of the FNLA.:108-9 With Colonel Callan committing atrocities in the fighting including against his own men he would be stripped of his command in the FNLA and so mercenary support which had begun the previous December ended and São Salvador was captured on 15 February 1976.:109 The South Africans would withdraw from Angola on 27 March 1976 after receiving guarantees from Angola and United Nations on the safety of the installations at the Calueque hydroelectric facility so ending Operation Savannah.:112 Elements of the FNLA that had taken part as South African army's Task Force Zulu, would be reformed into 32 Battalion.:71
On 29 February 1976, the Angolan President Agostinho Neto and Zairian President Mobuto Sese Seko met in Brazzaville to sign a non-aggression pact which was meant to see the end of Angola's support for Katangese rebels in their country while the Zairians promised to expel both the FNLA and UNITA from bases in Zaire but the deal did not hold and the Shaba I invasion would occur in March 1977.:117-8 The Shaba II invasion of the Zairian Shaba Province in May 1978, by separatists based in eastern Angola, was the beginning of the end for the FNLA based in Zaire.:136 The Angolan President Neto and Zairian President Mobuto Sese Seko would meet again in Brazzaville during June 1978 where a reconciliation pact was signed between the two countries.:13 The result of this pact saw Holden Roberto exiled to Gabon by the Zairian President in November 1979 while he was in France for medical treatment.:138:13 Elements of the FNLA would continue the fight after Roberto left, now called the FNLA-COMIRA (Angolan Military Resistance Committee) but ceased to exist by 1983.:138