Effects of the Insurgency

Angola Table of Contents

The UNITA insurgency had a far greater impact on Angola's social fabric than the government's socialist policies. Hundreds of thousands of displaced persons were forced not only to seek refuge in towns and military protected resettlement areas but also to disrupt traditional life-styles. Intensive military recruitment drained urban and rural areas of much of the young adult male population as well. UNITA frequently reported avoidance of government military conscription and battlefield desertions, and its spokespersons also claimed in late 1988 that large numbers of teachers in rural areas had been recruited by the government, depleting the schools of trained instructors. It was not clear to what extent, if any, this disruption changed the social order in families, or if village social structures remained intact.

Another significant influence on the population caused by the UNITA insurgency was the emphasis on defense. Two militia forces were created: the ODP in 1975 (renamed the Directorate of People's Defense and Territorial Troops in 1985), and the People's Vigilance Brigades (Brigadas Populares de Vigilāncia--BPV) in 1984. The Directorate of People's Defense and Territorial Troops, operating as a backup force to the Angolan armed forces, had both armed and unarmed units dispersed throughout the country in villages to protect the population from UNITA attacks. Although the Directorate of People's Defense and Territorial Troops had an estimated 50,000 official members in 1988, as many as 500,000 men and women may have been participating in reserve functions. The BPV, organized more as a mass organization than as a branch of the armed forces, had an estimated 1.5 million members in 1987. Designed to function in urban areas, the BPV had broader responsibilities than the Directorate of People's Defense and Territorial Troops, including political and military training of the population and detection of criminal activities.

The consequences of war-related economic failure also disrupted Angolan society profoundly. The government had been compelled to expend enormous economic and human resources to fight UNITA, denying the population basic goods and services as well as diverting those with the skills badly needed for national development into military positions. The toll was heaviest among children, who suffered the most from substandard health conditions and the underfunded and understaffed school system. The insurgency also contributed heavily to underproduction in the agricultural sector, resulting in dangerous food shortages, especially in rural areas, and in the country's dependence on external food sources.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress