372. Research Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rusk 0



  • Prospects for Angolan Nationalist Movement

The Angolan rebellion is now entering the last half of its third year. It has also entered a new psychological and political phase. This study surveys not only the prospects for the nationalist movement, but its policies and general orientation.


Militarily, the Angolan situation has changed little over the past year. Rebels and Portuguese alike have followed a policy of entrenchment, while concentrating on improved training for their respective [Page 580] troops. A small group of rebels (5,000-7,000 active fighters) prevents a large Portuguese force (42,000) from completely pacifying the northwestern sector. The rebels plan new assaults in the near future, perhaps over a slightly broader area. However, they are incapable of seriously challenging Portugal’s hold in Angola—certainly not during the next year or two.

Politically, the rebellion has entered a new phase in which the configuration of forces and opportunities is significantly altered. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) has selected Holden Roberto’s Government of the Republic of Angola in Exile (GRAE) as the sole legitimate nationalist agency. Eleven governments have formally recognized the GRAE. It is now unlikely that African states would accept any transitional arrangements in Angola that excluded the GRAE.

Africans seek a political rather than a military victory in Angola. However, Portugal is unlikely to agree to negotiation under terms acceptable to Africans in the foreseeable future. Thus, with broad African support, the GRAE will seek during the coming year to secure a firmer military position. The prospects increasingly are for a protracted struggle, a la Algeria.

The GRAE now commands support from tribal groups representing approximately 25 percent of the African population of Angola. These groups are located in the northwestern sector of the country. Faced with enormous obstacles to clandestine organization, the political parties comprising the GRAE nevertheless have attempted to extend their influence beyond the northern tribal groups. Heretofore strongly western-oriented, the GRAE is rapidly assuming a more neutral position and may seek some Eastern European assistance during the coming year—probably for tactical, rather than ideological reasons.

The GRAE’s rising fortunes have been reflected in the dramatic decline of the rival Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Once a strong contender for pan-African support, the MPLA faces an uncertain future and, possibly, political oblivion.

During the coming year, we anticipate the following developments:

a gradual but still indecisive step-up of military activity in Angola,
a sharpening of racial antagonisms within Angola,
increasing attacks on Portugal at the UN and in other international forums,
continuing Portuguese rigidity on the issue of self-determination,
increasing pan-African involvement on behalf of Angolan nationalists,
growing nationalist estrangement from the US and other NATO allies.

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  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Brubeck Series, Portuguese Africa. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem.