A constant state of civil war had existed in Angola since that country declared its independence from Portugal in 1975. A coalition government, composed of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Portuguese acronym: MPLA), the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Portuguese acronym: FNLA), and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Portuguese acronym: UNITA), took power on 15 January 1975. The MPLA was supported by the Soviet Union, while the FNLA was a pro-Western group. UNITA received arms and aid from Communist China.
In April 1975, Cuban troops, requested by MPLA leader Agostihno Neto, arrived in Angola. Tensions between the MPLA, FNLA, and UNITA increased, and the coalition government collapsed. Civil war broke out, and South Africa sent an armoured force to support the UNITA and the FNLA. The South African force defeated the Cuban troops on 12 December 1975. The following year, the MPLA and Cuban forces crushed the FNLA and the South Africans withdrew from Angola on 30 April 1976. At the same time, guerrilla forces of the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO) used Angola as a base of operations against South African forces in Namibia. The MPLA launched an offensive against a combined force of UNITA troops and remnants of the FNLA forces.
The following years witnessed constant civil war as Cuban and MPLA troops waged a savage campaign against the UNITA-FNLA forces. On several occasions, South African troops supported UNITA in Angola. In 1989, a ceasefire was arranged, and the first United Nations (UN) Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM) was created to supervise the withdrawal of Cuban troops. No Canadian troops were involved in the first UN mission.
However, sporadic fighting continued, and, in 1991, a second UN Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM II) was established to supervise and monitor a new ceasefire agreement. UNAVEM II included 15 Canadian military personnel and 335 troops from other UN members.