Angola has always been a troubled nation. Five centuries under Portuguese colonial rule drained the country of human resources through slavery and exploitation and left little in the form of economic development to benefit the Angolan population. Since independence in 1975, the country has endured a nearly continuous period of war, interrupted only by a short interlude of peace from March 1991 to October 1992. The war has been sustained through extensive international support for both of the antagonists, the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) government and the rebel movement UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola). The peace initiated by the Lusaka Peace Agreement of November 1994 has been fragile and is still not secured as of the end of 1996.
For the Angolan population, the effects of colonialism and war have been devastating. Hundreds of thousands of people have died as a direct consequence of the armed conflict. Socioeconomic indicators on life expectancy, child mortality, income, levels of education, and health rank Angola among the poorest countries in the world. And the war has left deep scars in the basic social and cultural fabric of society that will take a long time to heal. In human development terms, Angola currently finds itself among the ten poorest countries in the world.
However, the outcome might have been different. Angola has more resources than most other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Oil already represents an important source of income, and the country's reserves are considerable. Angola also has substantial mineral resources, huge hydroelectric potential, vast and fertile agricultural land, and some of Africa's most productive fishing waters. The country's geographical location is advantageous in relation both to regional markets and to export markets overseas. In addition to colonialism and war, another reason for the discrepancy between economic potential and performance has been