Global Ideologies, Local Politics: The Cold War as Seen from Central Angola

06 Sep 2017

International rivalry in the Cold War has dominated scholarship on the post-independence war in Angola, but little research has been done on how foreign support for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) had an impact on political mobilisation inside Angola. This article draws upon interviews with people who remembered the conflicts of the 1970s and 1980s in the Angolan Central Highlands, the area in which UNITA made its strongest identity-based claims against the MPLA state, and which was fiercely contested during the war. It compares these with memoirs and other secondary material that record elite perspectives on the war. I argue that ideologies espoused by the external players in Angola had little direct impact on the political affiliations of people in the contested area. Nevertheless, external support for rival movements in Angola indirectly shaped and polarised popular attitudes towards the movements, notably by providing the MPLA and UNITA with the capacity to present themselves as state-like.