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Portuguese Colonial War

Portuguese Colonial War
Portuguese troops embarking to go to the Colonial War
Military Conflict
ConflictPortuguese Colonial War
Date1961 � 1974
LocationAngola, Portuguese Guinea and Mozambique
ResultIndependence of all Portuguese colonial possessions after the Carnation Revolution military coup in Lisbon
Portugal Portugal

Supported by:
South Africa South Africa
NATO (marginally, with great restrictions)
African independence movements (1961-74):
Mozambique FRELIMO

Supported by:
Soviet Union
United States (at times, including JFK era)
People's Republic of China
Warsaw Pact (marginally)
Portugal Francisco da Costa Gomes
Portugal António de Spínola
Portugal António Augusto dos Santos (1964 - 69),
Portugal Kaúlza de Arriaga (1969 - 74)
Holden Roberto
Jonas Savimbi
Agostinho Neto
Amílcar Cabral
Mozambique Eduardo Mondlane (1962 - 69)
Mozambique Filipe Samuel Magaia (1964 - 66)
Mozambique Samora Moïses Machel (1969 - 75)
65,000 in Angola
32,000 in Guinea-Bissau
51,000 in Mozambique
38,000-53,000 + ? Guerrilla
18,000 in Angola
10,000 in Guinea-Bissau
10-15,000 in Mozambique
8,289 dead
15,507 with permanent deficiency (physical or psychological)
50,000 in Angola ~6,000 killed
~4,000 wounded in Guinea-Bissau
>10,000 killed in Mozambique
Civilian casualties:
50,000 killed in Mozambique

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The Portuguese Colonial War ( ), also known in Portugal as the Overseas War (Guerra do Ultramar) or in the former colonies as the War of liberation (Guerra de Libertação), was fought between Portugal's military and the emerging nationalist movements in Portugal's African colonies between 1961 and 1974, when the Portuguese regime was overthrown by a military coup. It was a decisive ideological struggle and armed conflict of the Cold War in African (Portuguese-Africa and surrounding nations) and European (mainland Portugal) scenarios. Unlike other European nations, the Portuguese Estado Novo regime did not leave its African colonies, or the overseas provinces (províncias ultramarinas) as those overseas territories were officially called since 1951, during the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1960s, various armed independence movements became active in these Portugal-administered territories, namely in Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea. During the war, several atrocities were committed by all forces involved in the conflict. The decolonization and independence of several African states after the World War II, the Invasion of Goa by Indian Armed Forces and the Santa Maria hijacking, as well as the achievements of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, were also signs of the so called "Winds of change" supporting and giving context to the emergence of independence movements in Portuguese Africa.

Throughout the war period Portugal faced increasing dissent, arms embargoes and other punitive sanctions imposed by most of the international community. The combined guerrilla forces of the MPLA, the UNITA, and the FNLA, in Angola, PAIGC in Portuguese Guinea, and FRELIMO in Mozambique, succeeded in their 13-year-long pro-independence rebellion through guerrilla warfare and terrorism, when low-ranking elements of the Portuguese Armed Forces staged a military coup at Lisbon in April 1974. The Portuguese Armed Forces' Movimento das Forças Armadas overthrew the Lisbon government in protest of ongoing wars that seemed to have no military end in sight, as well as in rebellion against the new Military Laws that were to be presented next year (Decree Law: Decretos-Leis n.os 353, de 13 de Julho de 1973, e 409, de 20 de Agosto). The revolutionary Portuguese government removed its overseas military forces and agreed to a quick handover of power for the nationalistic African guerrillas.

The end of the war after the Carnation Revolution military coup of April 1974 in Lisbon resulted in the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Portuguese citizens plus the military personnel of European, African and mixed ethnicity from the newly-independent African territories to Portugal. Over 1 million people left these former colonies, predominantly Angola and Mozambique, the largest overseas provinces by then. This migration is regarded as one of the largest peaceful migrations in the world's history. Devastating civil wars followed in Angola and Mozambique, which lasted several decades and claimed millions of lives and refugees. The former colonies faced severe problems after independence. Economic and social recession, Marxist totalitarianism, corruption, poverty, inequality and failed central planning eroded the initial revolutionary fervour. A level of social order and economic development comparable to what had existed under Portuguese rule became the goal of the independent territories.

Portugal had been the first European power to establish a colony in Africa when it captured Ceuta in 1415; it became one of the last to leave. The former Portuguese territories in Africa became sovereign states, with Agostinho Neto in Angola, Samora Machel in Mozambique and Luís Cabral in Guinea-Bissau as the heads of state.

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