In the contemporary postcolonial history of Africa, Angola is known as the site of one of the most treacherous conflicts that has ravaged the continent. After independence from Portugal in 1975, the 27-year civil war among the three leading liberation movements — the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) — claimed the lives of millions and left thousands of others displaced. Besides the enormous costs to human life, the war resulted in massive destruction of physical infrastructure, erosion of the social fabric, and the establishment of a militaristic and totalitarian state.
Although Angola adopted a multi-party legislature in 1992, the political system remains largely single-party oriented. The MPLA has governed the country since Independence and, following the death of the first president, Agostinho Neto, José Eduardo Dos Santos has been in power as President of the Republic since 1979. Following the approval of a new constitution in 2010, the political system has been presidential, making the presidency the most powerful state entity in the country. As Schubert (2010: 68) argues, the strengthening of Dos Santos’ rule through democratic elections was instrumental in consolidating the current power structure which “results in increasingly blurred distinctions between the dominant party, government and the state”. The conflation between the state and the ruling MPLA is felt at all levels of political organising, from the national to the lowest local authorities, making it impossible to think of the Angolan government outside of the MPLA. For this reason, we use the terms “government”, “state”, and “MPLA government” interchangeably. In fact, the influence of the ruling MPLA permeates all aspects of Angolan life.