135. Telegram From the Department of State to All Diplomatic Posts1

265503. Subject: Angolan Recognition.

Portugal will grant independence to Angola on Nov. 11 and, it appears, without transferring power to any one of the three major liberation movements. In this event it seems certain that Soviet-backed Popular Movement for Liberation of Angola (MPLA), based in Luanda, the capital, will proclaim itself sole govt of Angola. USSR intends to recognize MPLA regime immediately. Most Communist powers and some “progressive” countries in Africa and elsewhere are likely to follow suit fairly quickly.
It is probable the two rival movements, National Front for Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) will also proclaim jointly their own regime.
MPLA likely to base its claim to legitimacy on purported control of capital, of 12 of the 16 district capitals, and of two-thirds of Angolan territory and population. It will presumably also repeat its current charges that other two movements are “tools of the imperialists” (meaning Zaire, South Africa, US and France) which have lost any right to represent Angolan people.
MPLA control is actually limited to six district capitals and only one entire district. It controls about one-third of Angola’s territory and people. It also controls Luanda and the administrative structure remaining there after MPLA ejected FNLA and UNITA elements from Luanda last July ending transitional coalition govt composed of all three movements. On the other hand, FNLA and UNITA together control majority of territory and population and, since July reverses, have continued to make military comeback. FNLA and UNITA forces have recently advanced close to Luanda in north and have recaptured key centers of Lobito and Benguela in south.
(FYI) On Nov. 3 we temporarily closed our Consulate General in Luanda and withdrew its staff to Lisbon. A Dept spokesman stated that the decision to close the Consulate was made for security and political reasons (End FYI).
OAU, which recognizes all three movements, is currently engaged in last ditch effort to restore peace and to insure orderly transfer [Page 332] of sovereignty by Portugal. It is our hope that this effort will succeed, or at least provide opportunity for further negotiations among Angolans. Present indications are that MPLA will probably not be deterred from unilaterally declaring independence and seeking widest possible international recognition as sole govt of Angola. FNLA/UNITA have reportedly told OAU representatives in Kampala that they are prepared to join a government composed of all three movements, but will establish a rival government of their own if MPLA does declare itself Angola’s sole government.
US position is to favor true independence for the state of Angola and its rule by a government that, through a peaceful, negotiated solution, attracts the support of the great bulk of the population of Angola. We would view a claim by the MPLA that it is the government of Angola, and that it merits recognition as such, as unfounded, because in fact it controls a minority of the population and territory of Angola and consequently is not in a position to represent the interests of the state of Angola internationally. Recognition by the international community of the MPLA regime as the Angolan government could only serve as further obstacle to search for a peaceful, negotiated solution and to validation of principle of self-determination. The claim of FNLA/UNITA would, in our view, deserve to be taken into account by the international community in weighing possibilities and timing of recognition of the state of Angola and of the government which actually exercises effective control of that state.
Action requested: Unless you have objection or believe it would be counterproductive, action addressees should immediately seek to discuss current developments in Angola with host governments, drawing on information and guidance above. Purpose of discussion is 1) to seek host governments’ assessment of situation; 2) to insure they are aware of actual situation with respect to territorial/population control; and 3) to express our hope that they, too, would refrain from making any hasty move toward recognizing MPLA as government of Angola at time of independence.
Report results soonest. If during course of discussion it becomes apparent that host governments have in fact decided to recognize MPLA, you should include in your response recommendations on the next step in our dialogue with your host government on this issue.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Confidential; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by Fugit, Andrew, and Cutler; cleared in EUR, P, L, IO, S/P, NEA, EA, ARA, S/S, and S; and approved by Mulcahy. Repeated to Lourenco Marques.