UPA / FNLA / GRAE Order of Battle during the Portuguese Colonial War

The UPA (União das Populações de Angola) was a non-marxist nationalist organisation formed in 1957 (Abbott & Rodrigues, 1998; Cann, 1997; Morris, 1974). There membership was largely from the Bakongo people whose territory spanned Angola and Belgium Congo. As time went on they gained support from the more southern Ovimbundu and Nhaneka-Humbe peoples. Belgium Congo (Zaire) became independent in 1960 and from 30 Jun 1960 the new regime began to support the UPA including allowing them a radio station and training camp. The movement received support from Congo, Algeria and the US

A year after their defeat in the Mar 1961 revolt the UPA changed their name to FNLA (Frente Nacional de Libertaço de Angola) although they were often still referred to as UPA (Abbott & Rodrigues, 1998; Cann, 1997). Also in Mar 1962 they formed a government in exile called GRAE (Governo da República de Angola no Exílio). GRAE was recognised by the OAU as the sole legitimate independence movement in Angola (Morris, 1974).

UPA men were trained in Ethiopia, Egypt and India (Morris, 1974).

The military wing was formed in Jun 1961 called ELNA (Exército de Libertaão Nacional de Angola) (Abbott & Rodrigues, 1998; Cann, 1997). They built up a large force in the Congo and Zaire. In the early 1960s it reached a peak of 6,200 men. The leadership was unwilling, however, to commit these forces back in Angola so the men mostly stayed in their camp at Kinkuzu. Discipline was poor and combined with poor administration at their base the troops often took food and women from the local population by force (Morris, 1974). Morale declined and in 1972 the troops mutinied. The Zairian army intervened and took over training.

Savimbi, when he split from FLNA / GRAE, said that (Morris, 1974):

  • Bernhardt Manhertz, an American Vietnam vet, was the defacto leader of ELNA from Apr 1964
  • The Israeli counter-espionage service trained Roberto’s personal guard
  • Professor John Marcum, an American, was Roberto’s personal adviser
  • Other American advisers worked with the FNLA / GRAE
  • The GRAE / ELNA army at Kinkuzu lacked political training and were merely paid mercenaries
  • The troops received wages for each trip into Angola, no matter how shallow, which was a disincentive to conduct deep penetrations into the interior

Humbaraci and Muchnik, (1972) imply UPA tactics involved frontal assaults on the Portuguese.

They were largely equipped with Soviet light infantry weapons (Abbott & Rodrigues, 1998):

  • Soviet SKS carbine or Chinese Type 56 copy
  • AK47
  • RPG rocket launcher


Abbott, P. and Rodrigues, M. (1998). Modern African Wars 2: Angola and Mozambique 1961-74. Osprey.

Cann, J. P. (1997). Counterinsurgency in Africa: The Portuguese way of war 1961-1974. Hailer.

Humbaraci, A., and Muchnik, N. (1972). Portugal’s African Wars. NY: The Third Press.

Morris, M. (1974). Armed Conflict in Southern Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: Jeremy Spence.

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