The Final Days of the Neto Regime

Angola Table of Contents

By the late 1970s, Angolan head of state Agostinho Neto had reached a better understanding of the motivations behind the 1977 Nitista coup attempt. Accordingly, he sought a more pragmatic approach to balancing the diverse personalities and schools of thought within the government and party. In December 1978, Neto began a series of government and party reorganizations designed to increase the powers of the president, purge both ruling structures of incompetent and corrupt officials, and balance ethnic, racial, and ideological elements. By abolishing the offices of prime minister and deputy prime minister, Neto was able to deal directly with his ministers rather than through intermediaries. The reorganization also resulted in the dismissal or reassignment of a large number of senior party officials. Neto effected the most dramatic change in the MPLA-PT Political Bureau, which had been dominated by mestišos and Mbundu. He reorganized the Political Bureau by appointing officials, including three Bakongo and two Cabindan members, who gave it a broader ethnic representation. These reorganizations were accompanied by a partial amnesty that included the release from prison and return from exile of members of the Active Revolt, many of whom Neto reintegrated into the party. Furthermore, Neto welcomed back to Angola a number of FNLA members and, according to some sources, even made friendly overtures to Chipenda. By 1979 Neto had largely succeeded in molding the MPLA-PT into a cohesive organization of carefully selected cadres.

Neto also pursued a foreign policy designed to weaken external support for UNITA (and what was left of the FNLA and FLEC) and to secure friendly relations with as many states as possible for both security and economic reasons. Included in this last goal was a July 1979 foreign investment law that provided more attractive benefits for foreign investors and that Neto designed primarily to encourage further Western investment in oil exploration.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress