University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > All POLIS Department Seminars and Events > From Rebel Movement to Political Party: UNITA's Social Engagement in Post-War Angola

From Rebel Movement to Political Party: UNITA's Social Engagement in Post-War Angola

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Angola’s principal opposition party, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) originated in 1966 as a breakaway anticolonial movement. From 1975 until 2002 UNITA waged an armed struggle against the ruling MPLA . After the failed electoral process of 1992, UNITA had representation in parliament even as it continued to do battle with the government. Since its military defeat and disarmament in 2002, UNITA ’s official role has been purely that of a parliamentary party. Through these changes of role, it has maintained a continuous organisational identity. The paper is based on interviews with UNITA members and the observation of UNITA practices, particularly the delivery of social services to its members and to wider society, since the end of the war. To understand UNITA only as a political party and to judge its effectiveness simply in terms of vote share is to ignore how its practices and its internal discourses are the product both of its distinct history as an anti-colonial movement and later as a rebel movement, and of the limits imposed on political participation in Angola by a party system that has its roots in the same history of anti-colonial and civil war. While most studies of African politics have concentrated on states, ruling parties, and party systems to the exclusion of opposition parties, the paper argues for the close study of opposition parties’ engagement with society and how they construct internal solidarity.

This talk is part of the All POLIS Department Seminars and Events series.

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