An important symbolic episode in the course of Angolan history took place on June 22, 1989, in the remote Zairian town of Gbadolite. On that date, Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos shook the hand of Jonas Savimbi, leader of the anti- government movement, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Uniã?o Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola -- UNITA). This friendly gesture occurred at the end of a meeting attended by representatives from seventeen African nations and held under the auspices of Zairian president Mobutu Sese Seko. Accompanying the handshake was a communiqué calling for a cease-fire between government forces and UNITA rebels, national reconciliation, and direct negotiations; specific provisions were to be arranged later. But like many other incidents in Angolan history, this promising event soon became a disappointment as the parties failed to make progress along the path to peace. And so, scarcely two months after the so-called Gbadolite Declaration, UNITA announced the end to the cease-fire. As the internal turmoil resumed, Angolans once again became victims in a civil war that by 1989 had lasted for fourteen years.
Clearly, turmoil, victimization, and disappointment are themes that have pervaded Angola's history, especially since the arrival of Europeans in the fifteenth century. Although the Portuguese crown initially sent to Angola teachers to educate and priests to proselytize, Portugal eventually came to view the area mainly as a source for slaves, especially for Brazil, its colony across the Atlantic Ocean. In the several centuries during which the slave trade flourished, scholars estimate that 4 million Africans from the Angola region were taken into slavery. Of this number, perhaps half died before reaching the New World.
During its five centuries of colonization, Portugal treated Angola mostly with indifference or hostility. Although Angolans were often responsible for enslaving other Africans, Portuguese traders provided the impetus and the market for slaving. By raising small armies, Portuguese fought their way into Angola's interior, disrupting as they went kingdoms having sophisticated civilizations. Less alluring to Portuguese settlers than Brazil, Angola generally attracted poorer immigrants, a great many of whom were degredados (see Glossary), or exiled convicts. Portugal's exploitation of Angola did not cease even after slavery had been legally abolished in Angola in 1858. Lisbon spent the last part of the nineteenth century engaged . . .