Huambo is the capital of Huambo province in Angola, Africa. The city is located about 220 km E from Benguela and 600 km SE from Luanda. The city's last known population count was 225,268.
Huambo is a main hub on the Caminho de Ferro de Benguela (CFB) (the Benguela Railway) that runs from the port of Benguela to the Congo border.
Airport: Nova Lisboa Airport.
The civil war halted Huambo's development and destroyed a great part of its infrastructure, but the advent of peace in 2002 brought a new era of reconstruction and regeneration. Before the war it had had some important food processing plants, and served as the main exporting point for the Province's considerable agricultural wealth. Huambo was also known by its numerous educational facilities, especially the Chianga Agricultural Research Institute (currently part of the Faculty of Agricultural Science).
Huambo was founded on 8th August 1912 by Portuguese General José Mendes Norton de Matos. In 1928 it was renamed Nova Lisboa (New Lisbon), indicating that the colonial administration intended making of it at some point the Capital of the colony. By the 1920s Huambo was one of the main economic engines of Angola. After independence in 1975, it was given back its original name.
Huambo had a population of 203,800 in 1983, but became the site of a brutal battle during the bloody civil war between the government and UNITA from independence until the death of rebel UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi. The city was besieged, extensively damaged, and its civilians were massacred en-masse or fled the city.
Upon independence in 1975, Savimbi declared Huambo to be a separate republic within the nation. However, with the help of Cuban military expedition, the MPLA government retook the city on 8 February, 1976. However, the surrounding area remained in the UNITA camp.
By mid 1976 the Cuban troops had established their most important structures in Huambo town in the area of San Pedro, Lufefena and Cruzeiro, and strong garrisons in most of the other municipal capitals and main towns, but UNITA had the control of nearly all of the territory in between.
Displaced people started concentrating in towns, seeking physical protection and humanitarian assistance. In this context, one of the first humanitarian agencies to arrive in the Province of Huambo was the ICRC (1979). In 1984 the conflict escalated dramatically, and so did displacement into towns. A major relief operation was launched in the capitals of the Central Plateau and in a good number of the municipalities still accessible by plane. By then the largest part of the roads were controlled by UNITA and heavily mined.
In May 1991 a peace agreement was reached between the Government and UNITA. United Nations agencies and NGOs progressively moved in between mid 1991 and 1992. The situation gradually improved and general elections were called for in September 1992. But trouble set off as soon as the results of the polls were disseminated. Unrest arrived to Huambo very rapidly, as UNITA considered the Province in a way as their political shrine. They concentrated in the town most of their leaders and a large section of their troops soon after the defeat in the elections was made public.
The city would still be formally under the control of the Government, but tension progressively built-up due to increasing violent actions involving UNITA militia. By the end of 1992 all foreign aid agencies had withdrawn from Huambo. UNITA took full control of the town in the course of a horrendous street-to-street battle that started just after Christmas 1992 and reached its climax by mid-January in the following year. Violent combats in and around Huambo continued still for 55 days, until the Government troops retired and UNITA gained full control of the city. Most other cities in the Central Plateau were occupied too by UNITA at the time, through no less violence and massive destruction. The armed conflict flared up again in August 1994. A large offensive gave back to the Government the control of Huambo on 9 November, and soon after all other provincial capitals. The UNITA headquarters was then moved to Jamba in the province of Kuando Kubango.
The war ended formally on November 20, 1994 with the signature of the Lusaka Protocol. To a great extent this step meant a move towards normalcy, and was received in Huambo with moderate optimism. UNITA moved again its headquarters soon after signing the protocol, this time to Bailundo, some 50 Km north of the provincial capital. This relocation raised serious concerns among most observers.
By 1995 free transit of people and goods was quite re-established in the Province. By the end of the year the United Nations peacekeepers (UNAVEM III) had been deployed too in Huambo, following the provisions of the Lusaka peace protocol. 1996 and 1997 were years of relative improvement of the living conditions of civilians in Huambo, although return movements were only moderate, reconstruction slow and commercial activities didn’t regain their past vigor.
After the United Nations Security Council enforced sanctions against UNITA (29 October 1997) because of delays in the implementation of the Lusaka protocol and reluctance to demilitarize and turn over its strongholds, insecurity in Huambo increased gradually, especially in the second half of 1998. I n early December the Government launched an offensive aimed at taking the last strongholds held by UNITA in Huambo and Kuito, this new war outbreak soon extending to other regions of the country. Huge population displacements started once again from the rural areas to Huambo, Kuito and Caala. Large camps of internally displaced people were then installed in these cities as the Humanitarian Community was forced to retire out of UNITA-controlled areas, withdrawing completely by the end of the year and concentrating in Huambo, Caala and, later, Ukuma.
The security situation got extremely volatile. As Huambo and other major towns in the Plateau were being shelled from Bailundo and other positions still in possession of UNITA, two Hercules C130 aircraft chartered by the United Nations with 23 people on board were shot down over Vila Nova (Dec. 26 and Jan. 2, 1999), as they were trying to evacuate to Luanda the last remains of the UNAVEM III mission in Huambo.
The Government took again the town of Bailundo in October 1999. Londuimbali, Vila Nova and some other large towns in the Province were already under the rule of the Government, and in December 1999 the administration of the state had been reestablished in all municipal capitals. In this period the conventional war that the Province had known gave way to guerrilla warfare, UNITA still controlling most rural areas and randomly striking military or police installations of the Government, and often civilian communities too.
The exodus of civilians into Huambo and Caala experienced a new boom. In early 2000 there were over 25,000 displaced people in the village of Caala, and over 40,000 in Huambo town. As international sanctions tightened around UNITA, their military actions in Huambo got more frequent and destructive, reaching a peak of violence by the end of 2000.
In October 2001 the Government launched a renovated offensive against UNITA from the North and the South of the Province, combining this time strict military action with what were known as operações de limpeça, literally, cleansing operations which consisted in removing from rural areas large groups of population which were subsequently forced into a few, specific concentration points. The idea behind this strategy was depriving the guerrilla of the potential support it may still find in the villages they formerly controlled in the bush, making their natural habitat unlivable. In the short term this resulted in renovated pressure over available resources in safe areas of the Province, and in many cases in the death by starvation of groups trapped by the conflict or impeded to reach any of those zones. This point probably represents the climax in the hardship the rural civilian population went through in the Province of Huambo for the duration of the war.
The death of Jonas Savimbi in February 2002 and the subsequent signature of a new cease-fire brought back tranquility to the Province and set the conditions for the present ongoing peace process and the beginning of an era of development.
Road view somewhere between Kaala from Huambo