As the world celebrated Halloween in 1992, a raging war was taking place in Angola. Now known as the Angolan Halloween Massacre, the event saw the death of at least 10,000 people.
Like quite a number of crises and civil wars in Africa, the Halloween Massacre followed the 1992 elections in the southern African country.
The elections were held between October 29 and 30, pitting the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which had just signed a peace accord the previous year to end the civil war that had ravaged the country since 1975.
Both MPLA’s José Eduardo dos Santos and UNITA’s Jonas Savimbi did not win an absolute majority. UNITA complained of lack of fairness of the election and sent in negotiators to the capital city while at the same time preparing for war.
An investigation was conducted and no errors or irregularities that could alter the final results were found. UNITA rejected the results and resumed guerilla fighting. Soon after clashes between the two factions broke out, forcing Jonas Savimbi to leave the capital.
It is reported that the MPLA was swift in fighting dissent, attacking opposition stations in Luanda and eventually killing many UNITA and National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) members.
History indicates that the massacre has been a taboo topic in Angola and thus there are no official records of how many people died- usually approximated to be between 10,000 and 50,000 people- and who the victims were. However, it is recorded that at least 10,000 people from the Ovimbundu and Bakongo ethnic groups were killed by MPLA forces.
This was Angola’s second deadliest massacre after the May 1977 massacre that saw the MPLA descend on protesters, who had risen against the government. It was claimed that a faction of the MPLA had wanted to overthrow then president Agostinho Neto. The Cubans intervened and the coup was quelled.
However, the killings continued.
‘In front of the ditch,’ explains the doctor, ‘stood seventeen Angolans. They were going to be executed for collaborating with the Nito Alves group. Among those who were about to be killed were people I knew… “He watched as this line of Angolan men and women were shot without blindfolds. … ‘The firing squad was made up of Angolan FAPLA troops. The Cubans who were present were limited to watching…
When all seventeen were dead, the two doctors were called forward. ‘We were there to sign the death certificates,’ says Dr Martinez, ‘but they had already been completed and filled in.’ In every case, the stated cause of death was acidente de viacao – road accident. ….
Houses were flattened and any form of dissent was quelled as many Angolans were sent to Cuba either to be “trained or brainwashed.”
Just like the Halloween Massacre, the 1977 event is little-talked about and has been used by many as a warning sign against protests and dissent against government.
Although the Halloween Massacre ended on November 2- thanks to the intervention by the UN, it would take 10 years for the Angolan Civil War to stop. In February 2002, Savimbi was killed by government forces, forcing UNITA to sign a ceasefire shortly afterwards.