Despite having claimed to withdraw all troops from Angola, two South African commandos are killed today during an attempt to destroy Malongo oil refinery, the largest such facility in Angola. The Chief of the South African Defence Forces, General Constand Viljoen, is forced to resign over the incident.
Angolan rebel leader Dr. Jonas Savimbi states that oil infrastructure will no longer be “off limits”, particularly given the decision of the government to defend key installations with Cuban and Soviet troops rather than Angolan nationals. Dr. Savimbi is in Washington to meet with US President Ronald Reagan.
The recent announcement by Dr Jonas Savimbi regarding a potential attack on Cabinda shocked the Angolan government and, under Soviet guidance, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos opens talks with Cabindese rebels with an offer of autonomy for northern Angola. President dos Santos calls for an increased commitment by the Soviet bloc, with troop numbers climbing to 42,000 over the next year and being boosted by the arrival of the T-72 tank, in response to the suggestion that the US Congress will be granting the UNITA rebels $68 million in aid.
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos announces that he has opened talks with Cabindese rebels with an offer of autonomy for northern Angola. The rebels believe that the talks are pointless and are unprepared to accept anything other than full independence. President dos Santos states that independence is “not an option”.
The Soviets arrange a new military aid deal with Angola, increasing shipment of weapons and equipment, as well as increasing the number of advisors available to the government of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Including large numbers of artillery and tanks, the weapons are used to penetrate into South West Africa (Namibia), capturing the cities of Ondangwa and Rundu.
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos gives the order for his troops to advance on the city of Mavinga, a former Portuguese base and one of the strongholds of the UNITA rebel army. Two light infantry, one armoured and two mechanised divisions advance on the city, covered by MiGs operating out of Menongue. As the government forces move south of the Lomba River, the lightly-armed rebels call on South African forces to cross the border from South-West Africa and assist them.
Soviet and South African tanks clash in southern Angola, west of Mavinga, with at least one hundred forty tanks destroyed in the first major tank battle in African history. The superiority of the South African artillery costs the Soviets at least ten more tanks and the loss of twelve MiGs to Stinger fire before both sides are forced to withdraw. There are an estimated five hundred casualties.
The Soviet/Angolan/Cuban armies in southern Angola again clash with the South African army. This time, through sheer weight of numbers, the Angolan army occupies the Chambinga Heights and capture the airfield nearby. They provide an ultimatum demanding that the rebels leave the town of Cuito Cuanavale to avoid casualties. The Angolans are now within air reach of the major base of the rebels, Jamba. Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos credits access to South African intelligence information for the victory, stating “we knew their numbers and their tactics before they arrived”. By month’s end, Jamba is facing the prospect of siege, with Angolan forces closing in on every side.
Angolan rebel forces begin a series of assaults against positions north of Mavinga, driving back advancing Soviet forces and leaving a number of tanks as smouldering wrecks. Similarly, the Angolan air force is experiencing innumerable difficulties in their ongoing attempts to eliminate the shield of SAMs surrounding the southern capital of Jamba, having lost five jets.
The Soviet Union and Cuba announces jointly their intention to withdraw their forces from Angola, but will leave behind some additional air cover to ensure Jamba will capitulate in time. Jamba appears to be ready to stand the siege by the Angolan army, as the rebellion retains the support of a civilian population despite the loss of services, irregular mortar fire and being reliant upon air supply from South West Africa.
Nine hundred South African troops insert into Jamba in attempt to relieve the city. They are immediately successful, driving back Angolan forces from the immediate environs. While it does not stop the air raid attempts, it provides the citizens of Jamba with a reprieve from daily bombardment over the coming month.
An ambush raid outside Jamba in southern Angola sees the death of twenty government troops against two of UNITA’s rebels. It appears to have been a strategy of testing the boundaries of rebel control. The process of three reinforcements of the city over the next eight months will continue to be met by occasional skirmishes on the city’s outskirts and constant exchange of artillery.
It is revealed that the CIA has, until August 1986, been funnelling money through Saudi Arabia and Morocco to the rebels in Angola, a clear violation of the Clark Amendment. CIA Director William Webster states that the project was cancelled last year when he took office and that UNITA, the rebel group, would have begun to run out of American money by the end of last year. The total payment since 1982 has been $38 million.
US President George Bush announces a military aid package of $15 million for Angola. With the decline of the friendship with South Africa and the departure of Cuban and Soviet troops from Angola, “the opportunity for a new relationship” has emerged with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Full relations between Angola and the United States will be restored and all ties to UNITA, the Angolan rebel group, are formally severed. Some suggest that the reconciliation came through the work of exiled ANC leader Nelson Mandela.
Angolan troops occupy the city of Jamba after a long siege, effectively bringing to an end the civil war that has plagued the country since 1975. The war has claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos states the location of rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, is unknown but he was not in the city when taken. He declares his willingness to negotiate a ceasefire with South Africa.
Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos officially welcomes the ceasefire proposed by South African moderates for South West Africa. He offers to meet with South African representatives in London, but states that bilateral talks have a high likelihood of failure due to “historical tensions”. He recommends that the United Nations should oversee the talks.
Upon exiting regional talks on the future of South West Africa, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos admits that there is a general belief in the region that the proposal to create Namibia is not realistic, as it would be non-viable as a future state without Walvis Bay. Despite international pressure, South Africa is insisting that this port on the Namibian coastline is not part of the mandate and would remain part of South Africa post-independence. Dos Santos suggests that, if South Africa will not negotiate, the northern portion of South West Africa could become an autonomous portion of Angola. This is similar to arrangements currently being investigated for three of Angola’s northern provinces, and would allow Windhoek, Walvis Bay and the Namib Desert to be annexed fully by South Africa. However, it would also violate current UN rules and put South Africa in clear violation of its mandate.
The governments of South Africa and Angola sign an “in principle” agreement to withdraw all their troops in South West Africa behind the Swakop River as the agreed “line of control”. It is further hinted that pieces of South West Africa could be traded off to the neighbouring states of Botswana and Zambia in order to get regional acceptance of a partition of the Namibian territory.
South Africa and Angola issue a joint communiqué stating that they have agreed to a “sequence of steps to settle all barriers to peace”. Given recent leaks and announcements, it appears as though the two nations have agreed to partition the trust territory of South West Africa between them. While the United Nations opposes the action, both nations have stood in violation of international law repeatedly for years and are gambling that the Security Council will not impose its own demands if the Africans can bring their conflict to a permanent end.
South African and Angolan delegates sign a formal ceasefire, declaring an end to one of the world’s most complicated and protracted conflicts. Both nations make statements rejecting UN Security Council Resolution 435 and calling for the partition of South West Africa, with the new borders becoming formalised at the end of the year. Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos states that the agreement was the “only way out” and that ultimately, “all parties are receptive to a deal”.
The peace agreement between South Africa and Angola formally comes into effect, dividing the trust territory of South West Africa between the two countries, as well as neighbouring Zambia and Botswana. Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos states that he will now focus his national attention on ending violence in the country’s north, where former UNITA rebels have united with the National Front for the Liberation of Angola to create an armed force estimated at about 35,000 troops. Dos Santos projects that an end to the civil war will ultimately require negotiations with Zaire.
The Ambassadors to the United Nations from South Africa and Angola ask for UN peacekeepers to monitor the new border between the two countries and the demobilisation of troops along the border. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who has recently expressed disappointment at the decision by both countries to prevent the formation of Namibia, declines to provide the sanction sought.
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos secretly meets in Lisbon with Holden Roberto, leader of the rebel National Liberation Front. Santos is reported to have offered Roberto the position of governor of a new autonomous zone, called Kikongo, which includes the provinces of Cabinda, Zaire and Uige. The offer also comes with a guaranteed 20% share of all oil revenues, compared to 13% of the population. The FNLA will be allowed to serve as a paramilitary police in the zone, provided they renounce separatism and take responsibility for eliminating all Cabinda rebels who will not cooperate with the new arrangement. Roberto agrees to take the offer back to his people, but this is not publicly known at the time.
Holden Roberto, leader of the Angolan rebel group FNLA, announces that he is undertaking negotiations with the Angolan government to end the civil war. He states that a power-sharing role has been offered by President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and that, while “wary”, it is possible that the nation is finally “on a path of transition” toward peace for the first time in fourteen years. He has the support of the Communist Committee of Cabinda, which has broken away from the rebel FLEC (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda).
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos signs a peace deal with Holden Roberto, ending the last resistance to the central government and bringing peace to the nation for the first time in fourteen years. Dos Santos also commits in the deal to transition his country to a multi-party democracy, beginning with a free and fair election for President by the end of 1990. The election will be supervised by the United Nations.