After a lengthy armed struggle to throw off colonial rule, Angola descended into war just months after becoming independent from Portugal in 1974. Two armed groups, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) fought each other for control of the country, with the former receiving extensive assistance from Cuba and the Soviet Union and the latter being supported by South Africa and the USA. This devastating conflict raged until 1988, when a ceasefire set the scene for the withdrawal of foreign troops the following year.1 Representatives of the MPLA and UNITA then attended talks in Zaire in 1989, before entering into an 18-month period of negotiations supported by the UN and the governments of the USA and USSR in Portugal in 1990. These talks culminated with the 1991 Bicesse Peace Agreement, which established a fresh ceasefire, set the framework for the creation of an integrated national army, scheduled elections to take place within 16 months of the signing of the agreement, and called for an extremely limited peacekeeping mission (the United Nations Angola Verification Mission, UNAVEM) to monitor implementation.2
The election resulted in a victory for the MPLA. UNITA disputed the result, reformed their armed forces (which had disarmed much less than the MPLA’s), and launched a blistering offensive. By the beginning of 1993, UNITA held 75 per cent of the country. In May 1993, the US government withdrew its support for UNITA and recognised the embattled MPLA administration. Combined with losses on the battlefield, this forced UNITA leaders back to the negotiating table. On 20 November 1994, talks in Zambia supported by Portugal, the UN, and the USA culminated with the signing of the Lusaka Protocol.3 This agreement established power-sharing mechanisms, again attempted to disarm or integrate combatants, and again included the deployment of a severely under-strength peacekeeping mission. The agreements signed in Bicesse and Lusaka succeeded in stopping the war for approximately five years but failed to create the framework for a lasting peace to develop in Angola.