African invaded Angola in support of UNITA. At the same time, the United States began providing extensive aid to UNITA and the FNLA, which joined forces against the MPLA (Human Rights Watch, 1994).

In this manner, the Angolan civil war became a proxy war, one of many waged by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. By the late 1980s, Cuba had 50,000 troops in Angola. But the defeat of South African forces in the 1988 battle of Cuito Cuanavale, together with the end of the Cold War, sharply reduced the outside support for the warring parties. In late 1988, the Cubans agreed to withdraw their troops under the supervision of a U.N. peacekeeping mission, the United National Angolan Verification Mission (UNAVEM I). By May 1991, Cuban troops had left Angola, and the MPLA and UNITA signed the Bicesse Peace Accords, temporarily stopping a conflict that had killed between 100,000 and 350,000 people in combat (Human Rights Watch, 1994).