On 22 February 2002, Jonas Malheiro Savimbi, who led the UNITA rebel movement during the bloody armed conflict in Angola and who had battled to take power by force since Angola's independence from Portugal in 1975, was killed in a gun battle with the Angolan Army. During the Cold War, Savimbi was a proxy for the United States against the then-Marxist government of Angola. But after the end of the Cold War, he lost international support for rejecting peace efforts. He was accused of perpetuating a bloody internal conflict to advance his own interests and was exposed to international sanctions. Meanwhile, the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos moved closer to the United States.
The 27-year-long armed conflict is believed to have killed approximately one million people and driven four million others from their homes, creating a humanitarian crisis. In addition, the conflict destroyed almost all of the country's infrastructure, and effectively disrupted every effort by the government to start the long desired national reconstruction after independence, and the building of prosperity for the nation's children.