Angola fought an anti-colonial guerilla war against Portugal for 14 years before its political independence in 1975. Right after independence, the three liberation movements involved in the struggle for independence fought each other for control of the country, initiating a civil war that lasted until 2002.2

When independence was declared, 95 percent of the Portuguese population—approximately 340,000 people—fled the country, leaving behind houses, apartments, and farms. Most of these abandoned properties were later occupied by Angolan families.3 The number of houses abandoned was especially high in urban centers, where the majority of Europeans lived.4 These real estate properties were “nationalized” or “confiscated” by the post independence government.5 However, the legal procedures required were not always completed and, to this date, no precise information exists regarding which real estate properties were definitively transferred to state ownership.6 The government process of granting land rights to families that took over abandoned properties was also not completed and many individuals throughout Angola, particularly in Luanda, never received formal titles to housing they occupied after independence.7

The legal and institutional framework for land and housing rights after 1975 was incomplete and complex. The first land-specific legislation passed after independence, during a brief period of peace in 1992, was essentially agrarian. Laws regulating the occupation and exercise of land rights in urban areas were not approved until 2004.     

2 The war of independence from Portugal was fought by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular para Libertacao de Angola, MPLA), the National Liberation Front of Angola (Frente Nacional de Libertacao de Angola, FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Uniao Nacional para Independencia Total de Angola, UNITA). After independence, the MPLA took power and instituted a socialist regime. The civil war initially involved the three movements and later only the MPLA and UNITA. In 1992 there was a brief period of peace and the country held its first multiparty elections since 1975. However, the war resumed soon after and ended in 2002, with the signing of the Luena Memorandum of Understanding. There have been no elections in Angola since 1992. 

3 Tony Hodges, Angola—Do Afro-Estalinismo ao Capitalismo Selvagem, (Cascais: Principia, 2002), p. 27.

4 At independence only ten percent of Angolans lived in urban areas. See Maria do Carmo Medina, Angola – Processos Politicos da Luta pela Independencia (Coimbra: Almedina, 2005), pp. 18, 19.

5 Nationalization was the legal regime applicable to property abandoned for more than 45 days; confiscation was the legal regime applicable to property belonging to anyone who had collaborated with fascist organizations (the colonial secret police) or anti-national organizations (UNITA, FNLA, FLEC).

6 Under the nationalization and confiscation laws, the government was required to publish decisions on nationalization or confiscation of a specific property in the official gazette (Diario da Republica) and register it with the real estate registry. This was not always done. Hodges, Angola, p. 53. 

7 Hodges, Angola, p. 53.