Holding Nova Lisboa (Huambe), the second largest city in Angola, was of uttermost importance to UNITA. Public life in that city had also been greatly disrupted. Because of the establishment of an airbridge for the evacuation of refugees across Luanda to Portugal, the city was flooded with refugees during August and September. People were sleeping in the airport in bad sanitary conditions, in gardens and in parks, in anticipation of finding a place on an aircraft. Soon there were also a shortage of food, and especially petrol. By the beginning of October the airbridge came to an end. The refugees were gone, the city mostly abandoned. Even so, it made no difference to the level of prestige it held for the FNLA/UNITA.
Control of the city was important to the MPLA as well. With the coastline under their control, the MPLA started their advance from Benguela to Nova Lisboa in September 1975. At Benguela, Cuban instructors had already been providing training to MPLA-soldiers since August, and as it became apparent, also joined in the FAPLA advance. (“Cuba in Africa – Seed Ché planted”, The Washington Post, 12 January 1977)
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