93. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1


A. Summary

Angola is a Portuguese colony on the northwest extremity of white-dominated southern Africa. Lisbon’s rule over the territory is opposed by independent African states, particularly those on Angola’s borders. These have supported a 9-year old nationalist insurgency in Angola which, while thus far unsuccessful, shows no sign of abating. U.S. association with Portugal as a NATO ally creates problems for [Page 214] USG relations with independent Africa. At the same time, differences between the U.S. and Portugal over the latter’s African policies have adversely affected our bilateral relations with Lisbon.

Material U.S. interests in Angola are small, though growing. The territory is important within the context of our concern with the over-all southern African problem. Our policy objectives over the near term should be generally concerned with the lessening of border tensions, the development of local institutions with significant African participation, the limiting of South African influence, and an increased understanding of U.S. African policy by both black and white Angolans. There is little we can do to attain these objectives except to try to maintain some influence in Lisbon and in the black African states most directly concerned. We should continue to remain outside the conflict and maintain our arms embargo.

B. Background


Political/Security. Despite occasional references to increased autonomy for Angola from Portuguese Prime Minister Marcello Caetano, Lisbon continues to control tightly the political-economic life and administration of the province. Internal right-wing pressures, led by the military, to maintain the present colonial policy have apparently precluded any significant GOP policy changes in this area for the foreseeable future.

Although the US, like the UN, treats Angola as a non-self-governing area and thus feels Portugal has international obligations under Article 73e of the UN Charter to promote the political, economic, social and educational development of the territory and to submit reports to the UN, Portugal regards Angola as a “province” being an integral part of the Portuguese nation. Unlike South Africa and Rhodesia, Portugal officially advocates “multiracialism,” defined as the development of a completely racially integrated society. Many centuries of neglect of the territory’s African population as well as its present colonial status have, however, created de facto white minority rule in Angola at least for the time being.

Many leaders of Angola’s 300,000 white community wish more economic and ultimately political autonomy from the metropole. Both patriotism and the realization that Portuguese military forces will be necessary in Angola for the foreseeable future serve to mute the whites’ demands at present, however.

Nationalist African insurgencies in the northwestern and eastern parts of the territory continue. The principal insurgent groups are the MPLA, the GRAE and UNITA, each of these having a somewhat different tribal base. All three movements are dedicated to the “liberation” of Angola from Portuguese rule. They operate from neighboring African [Page 215] countries and receive OAU and/or communist support. None of the insurgent movements has succeeded so far in enlisting a significant number of Angola’s 5.2 million Africans, who are largely rural and apolitical.

A largely expeditionary (although about 20 percent African) Portuguese force of about 65,000 men plus white and native irregulars numbering about 40,000 has succeeded in maintaining a military stalemate in Angola over the past several years. African nationalist insurgents totaling about 7,000 in the territory at any one time are active only in sparsely populated areas of the east, the northwest and the borders of the Cabinda exclave, all peripheral to Angola’s economic life.

The Portuguese have managed to neutralize most Africans in the areas of active insurgency by resettling them in large controlled villages. As a result, the insurgents have been forced to maintain long supply lines back to their bases in Zambia and the Congo (K); this and their failure to win the support of local tribes have been important reasons for the inability of the rebels to penetrate into the more densely populated central highlands.

The insurgent groups also continue to be plagued by internal and intermural dissension. Nonetheless, the nationalist insurrection in Angola shows no sign of abating and will probably continue to be a major and costly security problem for the Portuguese for the foreseeable future. (Portugal devotes about 38 percent of its budget to defense.) South Africa gives the Portuguese some helicopter support in southeastern Angola, but the Portuguese have sought to hold association with South Africa to a minimum.

Economic. With abundant agricultural and mineral resources, the exploitation of which has quickened in recent years, Angola’s economy is healthy and growing. The territory is one of the world’s major coffee and gem diamond exporters, and iron ore and petroleum extraction are increasing rapidly. Although defense spending has limited governmental development efforts, the Angolan insurgency has stimulated an increase in private investment and infrastructural projects, as well as improvements in education and health facilities. Angola’s principal economic problem continues to be its traditional balance of payments deficit with metropolitan Portugal, a problem that new mineral exports will ease but probably not eliminate in the near future.

Foreign Relations. All foreign relations for Angola are handled by the central government in Lisbon. Civilian and military intelligence officials of the province do maintain quasi-diplomatic contacts with South African counterparts, and lately, with officials from the Congo (K).

The Angolan insurgents’ Zambian safehaven has exacerbated relations between that country and Portugal. Lusaka’s former sub rosa con[Page 216]tacts with Lisbon have been a particular casualty of worsening tempers on both sides over the past year.

C. U.S. Interests

With the exception of Gulf Oil’s $150 million investment in an offshore oil field in Cabinda, U.S. investment in Angola is miniscule. Investment will probably increase, however, as mineral possibilities increase and the territory’s expanding economy makes it more attractive as a market. In trade, the U.S. is Angola’s second biggest supplier (after Portugal), while buying about one-half of the province’s coffee production. The U.S. took $54.2 million of Angola’s exports in 1969 while selling the province $32.9 million worth of goods. Prospects for increased American exports are excellent.

Angola occupies a potentially strategic position in the south Atlantic. This is particularly so since the closure of the Suez Canal and the prohibition on U.S. Navy calls at South African ports. The U.S. Navy uses port facilities at Luanda and occasionally Mocamedes for refueling on the average of once a month.

As part of the general problem of Portuguese Africa, Angola is a point of friction in our relations with the black African governments and with the Portuguese as well. Both sides are dissatisfied with our essentially middle-of-the-road policy and this manifests itself both in bilateral relations and in the U.N. In the latter case, the General Assembly and the Security Council have called repeatedly on the GOP over the past decade to change its colonial policy. In recent years, resolutions on Portuguese Africa have become more extreme and the choice for the U.S. has often been to abstain or to oppose them. This irritates the Afro-Asian group which sponsors them, and makes it less willing to accommodate us on other matters. An internationally acceptable solution to the Angolan problem would thus serve our interests by removing an impediment to the realization of more vital U.S. foreign aims, whether in Africa, in Europe, or in other areas of the world.

Pacific and equitable long-term solutions to the problems of southern Africa are in the U.S. interest. Events in Angola have considerable strategic and political significance for the future of the region. The continued operation of the Benguela Railroad is necessary to the economies and thus the stability of Zambia (until the Tan-Zam Railroad is built) and the Congo (K). A deterioration of the present uneasy situation in Angola could lead to widespread and bloody racial conflict in the territory. This might stimulate more South African assistance to Portugal, extending Pretoria’s presence to the Congo River, and making peaceful change in southern Africa even more difficult. Such developments would increase African and domestic pressures for the U.S. to actively intervene in the area, and would, in any event, make [Page 217] Angola and southern Africa more acute foreign policy problems than at present.

D. U.S. Interests

Realistic goals over the next five years would be the following:

Avoidance of becoming identified with either the Portuguese or insurgent side.
Improved Portuguese communications and relations with Zambia and the Congo (K).
A start in the development of local autonomous political institutions with significant African participation. The successful integration of increased numbers of Africans into the territory’s money economy and urban life.
Limitation of South Africa’s influence to the extent possible.
Increased awareness by Angola’s black and white populations of U.S. values, traditions, and foreign policy goals particularly as these are reflected in our attitude towards Africa.
Implementation of our policy toward Angola so as to minimize, in so far as practicable, adverse effects on our use of our base in the Azores.
Maintain overflight rights and access to Port facilities.

E. Courses of Action

There is little that the U.S. can do to influence events in Angola. Our policy should oppose Portugal’s use of force as a curative for its African problems while stressing the belief that only moves toward self-determination will promote long-term stability in Angola. Corresponding with certain of the objectives listed above, the following are possible specific USG actions which might make a contribution:

(a) Maintain the present embargo on arms for use in Portuguese Africa by either side in the conflicts.
Give public support to equitable, non-violent means of solving disputes in Portuguese Africa.
Continue the present policy of normal trade relations while neither encouraging nor discouraging American investment in Portuguese Africa. Investment guarantees can be considered on a case-by-case basis, however, using the guidelines of 3 (b) below.
In Lisbon and Lusaka, continue informally to stress the advantage of Portuguese-Zambian bilateral contact, and of avoiding recourse to the United Nations in case of disputes.
(a) Continue to discuss informally the future of Portuguese Africa with Portuguese officials.

[No additional pages of this paper were found.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1–2 ANG–US. Secret; Noforn. This paper was approved by the NSC Interdepartmental Group for Africa. Transmitted in CA–5102 to Luanda on October 2.