In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Data Sets
  • Journals
  • Websites
  • Independence, Socialism, and State Building
  • Economy and Society, 1975–1990
  • Destabilization and Conflict
  • Peace Agreements
  • Patterns of Mobilization and Demobilization
  • Causes and Consequences of Structural Adjustment
  • The Changing Urban-Rural Dynamic

Political Science Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau
Benedito Machava, Anne Pitcher
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0097


Armed struggles for independence, a commitment to socialism, persistent post-independence conflict, political instability, and authoritarian rule are the key political features that the countries of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau have had in common since independence. To explain these similarities, comparative scholars have often referenced shared experiences of Portuguese colonialism, the violent response by the Portuguese government to growing demands for liberation in the 1960s, and the influence of the Cold War on the ideas and the policy approaches of newly independent governments in Lusophone African countries in the 1970s and early 1980s. Yet political and economic trajectories of these countries have also diverged in significant ways since independence. Whereas Guinea-Bissau has lurched from coup to coup; the same political parties have governed Mozambique and Angola since the transition to independence in 1975. Following the conclusion of lengthy conflicts—1992 in Mozambique and 2002 in Angola, both countries practice some form of electoral democracy. Both countries have also experienced extremely high growth rates in the last decade whereas Guinea-Bissau’s largely agricultural economy has languished owing to political unrest. These divergent outcomes pose challenges for scholars wishing to compare the three countries. Study of the political dynamics of Lusophone Africa has thus gone in heterogeneous directions.

General Overviews

A number of scholars have produced detailed, single-country case studies such as Malyn Newitt’s exhaustive history of Mozambique (Newitt 1995) or the succinct but insightful analysis of politics in Angola in Hodges 2004 (cited under Economy and Society, 1975–1990). Scholars such as Mattes and Shenga 2007 or Kyed, et al. 2012 (both cited under Civil Society) are pursuing comparisons at the subnational level of individual countries to examine expression of citizenship conveyed by public opinion data or the role of traditional authorities, respectively. Some scholars are making comparisons with other countries in and beyond Africa, especially with respect to themes such as destabilization, civil war, and peace building (Paris 2004, cited under Peace Agreements), post-conflict political-party building (Manning 2007, cited under Patterns of Mobilization and Demobilization), and private-sector development (Pitcher 2012, cited under Politics and Private-Sector Development). Finally, some scholars have relied on comparisons drawn from across all of Lusophone Africa to revive important debates regarding the nature of the state (Chabal, et al. 2002), the construction of nationalism and nationhood (Morier-Genoud 2012), or politics and gender (Moura, et al. 2009, cited under Civil Society). These multiple avenues of research suggest that studies of the comparative politics of Lusophone Africa are both varied and vibrant. Undergraduate political science classes in African politics, general education courses that focus specifically on Lusophone Africa, or history courses that spend several weeks covering the contemporary political dynamics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau (AMGB) could reliably depend on the sources in this section. To gain a basic grasp of the transition to independence and the creation of one-party states, consult works written close to that time period such as Galli and Jones 1987 on Guinea-Bissau and Somerville 1986 on Angola. Newitt 1981 offers a more streamlined overview of the struggles by the Portuguese government to establish formal colonial rule in AMGB from the late 19th century until its departure in 1975. Newitt 1995 only focuses on Mozambique, but its coverage of the longue durée of Portuguese engagement with Africa is so comprehensive that it is worth reading by anyone wishing to specialize in the study of Lusophone Africa. Contributions to Birmingham and Martin 1998 situate Portuguese colonialism in comparative context by addressing the legacies of French and British colonialism alongside that of Portugal. Chabal, et al. 2002 examines not only the late colonial period but also the period immediately after independence and is divided into two parts. Part 1 written by Chabal acquaints students with the theoretical debates regarding Lusophone exceptionalism and the nature of the postcolonial state, whereas the second section contains multiple authors who examine the differences among Lusophone countries since independence. With important contributions by Michel Cahen, Didier Peclard, and Gavin Williams, Morier-Genoud 2012 criticizes official discourses of nationalism in AMGB and revives important debates on the construction of nationalism in highly divided societies.

  • Birmingham, David, and Phyllis Martin, eds. History of Central Africa: The Contemporary Years since 1960. New York: Longman, 1998.

    Explores the major challenges faced by countries in the central part of Africa since independence in the 1960s and 1970s. Offers a comparison of the legacies of Portuguese, French, and British colonialism and contains chapters by noted historians and political scientists covering eleven countries, including Mozambique and Angola.

  • Chabal, Patrick, with David Birmingham, Joshua Forrest, Malyn Newitt, Gerhard Seibert, and Elisa Silva Andrade. A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Africa. London: Hurst, 2002.

    Contains several theoretical and comparative chapters on the end of Portuguese colonialism and post-independence state formation as well as individual case studies of all five Lusophone African countries including Cape Verde and São Tomé e Príncipe.

  • Galli, Rosemary, and Jocelyn Jones. Guinea-Bissau: Politics, Economics and Society. London: Frances Pinter, 1987.

    A short general study of Guinea-Bissau that explores Guinea-Bissau’s failed efforts to transform a successful liberation struggle into a post-independence social revolution. Analyzes the radicalization of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde and its development policies, and the alienation of Guinean peasantry.

  • Morier-Genoud, Eric. Sure Road? Nationalisms in Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2012.

    Contributions revisit the debate on nationalism and critically evaluate nationalist narratives articulated by governments in AMGB. Theoretical and conceptual submissions by Cahen and Birmingham, whose research on Lusophone Africa has become canonized in the literature, are joined by country-specific evaluations of nationalism and culture; nationalism and the failed state; and the dynamics of social exclusion in AMGB.

  • Newitt, Malyn. Portugal in Africa: The Last Hundred Years. London: Longman, 1981.

    A broad but thorough examination of Portuguese colonialism in Africa (c. 1870–1975). Describes Portuguese efforts to effectively secure the control of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau and African responses to the “pacification” campaigns; the establishment of the colonial administration and colonial economy (the concession companies, plantations and labor regimes, white settlements and assimilation); and the crisis of the colonial state and the liberation wars.

  • Newitt, Malyn. A History of Mozambique. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

    Shows meticulous attention to detail. A masterpiece on the general history of Mozambique from the 15th century to the present. Important for those wishing to specialize in the historical or political study of Lusophone Africa, despite its single-country focus.

  • Somerville, Keith. Angola: Politics, Economics and Society. London: Frances Pinter, 1986.

    Like Galli and Jones 1987, this book was part of a series of monographs on Marxist regimes worldwide. It highlights key policies of the ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, party-state relations, and Angola’s economy.

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