This article compares two regional elite associations in Angola's southern Huíla province — the Associação dos Naturais e Amigos de Kuvango, Jamba e Chipindo (Anakujachi — Association of Natives and Friends of Kuvango, Jamba and Chipindo) and the Associação Solidariedade Nyaneka-Humbi (SNH — Nyaneka-Humbi Solidarity Association). It demonstrates how these associations have gained increasing political significance through their representation of local interests. This is facilitated by deeply felt social and political exclusion resulting from war and a centralized state that hardly reaches the periphery where these associations are based. Until now, the central Angolan state has refused to grant the regions more autonomy despite an official gradualismo decentralization policy which introduces elected bodies at district level. In response, the strategy of these associations has been to ensure that their representatives obtain positions within the state, both nationally and locally, so that they could represent the interests of their specific region. Using the example of these regional elite associations, the article retraces the struggle over resources and citizenship, which is embedded in contemporary urban–rural interactions that mark political change in Huíla province.