Population 14.5 million
Capital Luanda
Independence from Portugal 1975

One of Africa's major oil and diamond producers, Angola is also one of the world's poorest countries.

The capital, Luanda, lies on the Atlantic coast in the north-west of the country. Angola is divided into an arid coastal strip stretching from Namibia in the south to Luanda; a wet, interior highland; a dry savanna in the interior south and southeast; and rain forest in the north and in Cabinda. The Zambezi River and several tributaries of the Congo River have their sources in Angola.

The exclave province of Cabinda borders with both the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (The latter's only oceanic access, 60 kilometres (37 mi) in width, divides Angola from Cabinda.) The population stands at around 300,000. The Angolan central government has yet to put a definitive end to the Cabindese secessionist movement.

Recent History
The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the rebel group Unita were bitter rivals even before the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975. The Soviet Union and Cuba supported the then-Marxist MPLA, while the US and white-ruled South Africa backed Unita as a bulwark against Soviet influence in Africa. The conflict raged on, fuelled by the geopolitics of the Cold War and by the ability of both parties to access Angola's natural resources.

After 16 years of fighting, which killed up to 300,000 people, a peace deal allowed elections to be held. But Unita rejected the outcome and resumed the war, in which hundreds of thousands more were killed. Another peace accord was signed in 1994 and the UN sent in peacekeepers.

But the fighting steadily worsened again and in 1999 the peacekeepers withdrew, leaving behind a country rich in natural resources but littered with landmines and the ruins of war. The connection between the civil war and the unregulated diamond trade - or "blood diamonds" - was a source of international concern. The UN froze bank accounts used in the gem trade.

The death of Unita leader Jonas Savimbi in a gunfight with government forces in February 2002 raised the prospect of peace and the army and rebels signed a ceasefire in April to end the conflict.

Angola’s is an economy in disarray because of a quarter century of nearly continuous warfare. Despite its abundant natural resources, output per capita is among the world's lowest. Subsistence agriculture provides the main livelihood for 85% of the population.

The country faces the daunting tasks of rebuilding its devastated infrastructure, retrieving weapons from its heavily-armed civilian population and resettling tens of thousands of refugees who fled the fighting. Landmines and impassable roads have cut off large parts of the country. Many Angolans rely on food aid.

(edited. Wikipedia, BBC, The Africa Guide, Bradt)
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