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Angola: Information on the Forças Armadas Populares de Libertaçao de Angola (FAPLA)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 6 December 2001
Citation / Document Symbol AGO37934.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Angola: Information on the Forças Armadas Populares de Libertaçao de Angola (FAPLA), 6 December 2001, AGO37934.E, available at: [accessed 19 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The following information is further to that contained in Jane's Intelligence Review of 1 July 1990, attached to AGO28697.F of 6 February 1998.

The Forças Armadas Populares de Libertação de Angloa (FAPLA), or People's Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola, was the army of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), or People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Angola: A Country Study Feb. 1989; Defence and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy Nov./Dec. 1996). FAPLA was formed in August 1974, replacing EPLA (Exército Popular de Libertação de Angola or People's Army for the Liberation of Angola), the guerrilla forces of the MPLA (Angola: A Country Study Feb. 1989).

The following information was obtained from a November 1994 Human Rights Watch Report titled Angola: Arms Trade and Violations of the Laws of War Since the 1992 Elections.

The Bicesse Accords of May 1991 called for the integration of the FAPLA and UNITA (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola or National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) forces, known as FALA (Forças Armadas de Libertação de Angola), into a 50,000-strong unified, neutral military force to be known as the Forças Armadas Angolanas (FAA, Angolan Armed Forces) before the September 1992 election. The FAA was to contain an equal number of FAPLA and FALA personnel, necessitating the demobilization of a large portion of FAPLA's 120,000-strong and FALA's 65,000-strong armies. The accords, under which the MPLA remained the legitimate and internationally-recognized government, also contained a "Triple Zero" clause, which prohibited either side from purchasing new weapons.

By June 1992 only 20,000 soldiers from both sides had been demobilized and only 8,800 soldiers had been integrated into the FAA, however, since its formation was a precondition for the election, a symbolic creation took place. In contravention to the Bicesse Accords the MPLA created the "Emergency Police", a highly trained armed paramilitary unit popularly known as the "Ninjas." By 1994, amid renewed fighting, the government had invested heavily in the army, which was retrained and rearmed under the banner of the FAA.

This information is largely corroborated in a November 1999 report published by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre, which stated the following:

A new national army would be established composed of an equal number of FAPLA and FALA (UNITA's guerrilla army) soldiers, and free and democratic elections were to be held by the end of 1992. On 27 September, FAPLA and FALA forces were formally disbanded and a new national army, the Forças Armadas de Angola (FAA) was officially established. The government created a special force called the "emergency police" popularly known as "Ninjas" to keep the peace. In protest at the formation of this special unit, UNITA deliberately slowed the process of demobilising its forces.

A UNHCR document refers to FAPLA as "the Government's previous army" and the FAA's "predecessor" (1 May 1997), however news articles and FALA communiqués since 1994 refer to the "Angolan Army" and the "Angolan Armed Forces" variously as both FAPLA and FAA (SAPA 3 Oct. 1994; Diario de Noticias 27 Dec. 1997; ibid. 14 Sept. 2000; The Namibian 24 Feb. 2000; Focus on Angola 26 Sept. 2000; ibid. 1 Oct. 2001).

In 1988 FAPLA's areas of operations, which had previously consisted of ten military regions, were divided into four "fronts" (Angola: A Country Study Feb. 1989). The northern front contained the provinces of Zaire, Uíge, Malanje, Cuanza Norte and Bengo, and the eastern front included Lunda Norte, Lunda Sul and Moxico provinces (ibid.). The report could not confirm which provinces belonged to the other two fronts, but it assumed that the southern front encompassed Cuando Cubango, Huíla and Namibe, and that the central front included Bié, Huambo, Benguela and Cuanda Sul (ibid.). It also suggested that the provinces of Cabinda and Luanda may have remained separate regions, due to their strategic importance and small size (ibid.).

For detailed information on the various FAA fronts in 1994 please see the attached Human Rights Watch report.

SAPA reported that FAPLA training was carried out in Kanfufu and Cabinda (3 Oct. 1994), while Diario de Noticias stated that the FAA regional headquarters are located in Matala (14 Sept. 2000).

According to Country Reports 2000 the FAA is responsible for protecting the State against external threats, and has intervened in regional conflicts every year since 1996 (2001). The FAA carries out counterinsurgency operations against UNITA, and to a lesser extent against the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda-Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Angola: A Country Study. February 1989. Library of Congress. Washington, DC. [Accessed 23 Nov. 2001]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000. 2001. United States Department of State. [Accessed 23 Nov. 2001]

Defence and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy. November/December 1996. Victor Ciorbea. "Leadership Profiles." (International Media Corporation 1996/NEXIS)

Diario de Noticias [Lisbon, in Portuguese]. 14 September 2000. "Angola: Armed Forces Claim Success Against UNITA; More Refugees in Zambia." (FBIS-AFR-2000-0914 18 Sept. 2000/WNC)

_____. 27 December 1997. "Congo-Brazzaville: Congolese President Nguesso: Angolan Troops Staying On." (FBIS-AFR-97-361 30 Dec. 1997/WNC)

Focus on Angola [in Spanish]. 1 October 2001. "Angola: UNITA Military Statement Rounds Up Operations Between 5-19 September." (BBC Worldwide Monitoring.NEXIS)

_____ [in Portuguese]. 26 September 2000. "Angola: UNITA Reports Military Operations 17th-27th September." (BBC Worldwide Monitoring.NEXIS)

Human Rights Watch (HRW/Africa). November 1994. Angola: Arms Trade and Violations of the Laws of War Since the 1992 Elections. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Jane's Intelligence Review. 1 July 1990. James Smith. "FAPLA – Angola's Marxist Armed Forces." (NEXIS)

The Namibian [Windhoek]. 24 February 2000. Tangeni Amupadhi. "Namibia; Protect Your Citizens, Marchers Urge Government." (Africa News/NEXIS)

SAPA [Johannesburg, in English]. 3 October 1994. "Angolan Army Reportedly Abducts 20 Namibians." (FBIS-AFR-94-191 12 Nov. 1995/WNC)

Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), Harare. November 1999. Democracy Factfile: Angola. [Accessed 23 Nov. 2001]

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 1 May 1997. Peace at Last? [Accessed 27 Nov. 2001]


Human Rights Watch (HRW/Africa). November 1994. Angola: Arms Trade and Violations of the Laws of War Since the 1992 Elections. New York: Human Rights Watch, pp. 26-30.

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

Africa Confidential 1998-2001.

Africa Research Bulletin 1998-2001.

Africa South of the Sahara 2000.

IND Country Assessment




Internet sites including:

Africa Online

Amnesty International


Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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