The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) was a rebel group formed in 1966 to fight for Angolan independence from Portugal. The group"s leader, Jonas Savimbi, had studied Maoist ideology and tactics in China, and these formed the basis of his political and organizational doctrines. When Angolan independence was achieved in 1975, a struggle for power broke out among the various militias that had fought Portuguese rule. The Marxist Leninists of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) emerged as the strongest politico-military organization in the new nation, and its members quickly took the highest posts in the government and the army. Savimbi, who had turned down an offer to join the MPLA in 1966, declared war on the new regime on August 1, 1975. UNITA was defeated by the MPLA in the ensuing civil war but retained control of the Southeastern portion of the country, populated largely by peasants of the Ovimbundu ethnic group. From its headquarters in Jamba, Savimbi pursued a two-pronged strategy, educating the peasant population to "elevate their political consciousness," on the one hand and conducting a bloody guerilla campaign against the MPLA on the other. Although Savimbi was an avowed Maoist, he received a good deal of support throughout the eighties and early nineties from Western and pro-Western African governments, who detested the Soviet-backed MPLA. This support was not to last long after the end of the Cold War, however, as UNITA turned to terrorist attacks against foreign interests in Angola. Between 1998 and 2001, despite claiming to support then-ongoing peace negotiations, UNITA forces attacked Russian aid workers, a Canadian-owned diamond mine, a Land Rover owned by an Australian mining company, as well as a number of MPLA targets. The violence did not end until February 2002, when Jonas Savimbi was shot dead by members of the Angolan Army.
Since Savimbi's death, UNITA has fallen apart as a political and a military force. In November 2002, UNITA forces agreed to turn in their arms and join the government as a legitimate political party. The United Nations and the United States government have subsequently lifted sanctions on UNITA in recognition of their transformation. Although Angola's problems are still numerous, UNITA terrorism is no longer one of them.