THE lighting in Angola has continued for more than a year, and many Africans and European residents in this overseas province doubt that Portugal will be able to restore order. The all-out campaign by the 30.000 Portuguese troops to exterminate the rebels during the dry season —June through September—tailed. In October the Portuguese government announced that order was restored, but it is doubtful that even 10 percent of the 7000 Europeans who fled the Portuguese Congo last spring have returned to their homes.
The Portuguese, in their attempt to restore order, have had no squeamishness in meeting terror with terror; the only difference is that Portugal acted under the cloak of defending Western and Christian civilization in Angola.
According to the Portuguese, the revolt in northern Angola was unexpected. The suddenness of the attack by African nationalists in the Congo convinced the Portuguese that they were not at fault. Portuguese spokesmen said, “We know our Africans. If this revolt had been planned from within, we would have been forewarned.” The Portuguese tried to explain the revolt in terms of forces outside the Angolan province.
Portugal places the blame
Premier Salazar, in his address to the Portuguese National Assembly on June 30, 1961, condemned the United Nations for giving comfort and aid to the Angolan “terrorists.” After the United States voted in favor of the UN resolution to investigate the conditions in Angola, the Portuguese lamented that America betrayed them. “We were their allies,”they said. “Now they are no longer our friends.”
One of the forces behind the revolt in the Portuguese Congo, according to the Portuguese, is Communism. In a series of articles featured in the newspaper A Províncial de Angola, Armando César stated that the activities of the Communist Party are essential in the creation of a revolutionary climate in the Portuguese overseas provinces. Another scapegoat has been Protestant missions. The Portuguese claim that 95 percent of the Protestant missionary personnel are foreigners; therefore, they say, Protestantism is a foreign element. Protestant missions stressed education for Africans, and Portuguese settlers resent educated Africans — more so when an African has a higher education than his European neighbor. Europeans refer to educated Africans as calcinhos (“those who wear European trousers”) and distrust them. The Portuguese say it is significant that in the actions of the terrorists not a single Protestant mission was attacked.
Land, the bone of contention
Africans reject the Portuguese explanation that the revolt is the result of exterior forces and say that violence was inevitable. The immediate grievance was land. The boom in coffee prices in 1945 increased the desire of Europeans to acquire more land. In the next few years, the European population of 7000 appropriated most of the suitable coffee land from the indigenous people.
Africans describe the Europeans’ tactics as follows: A Portuguese settler makes a survey of an area and stakes it out as his property. He registers it under his name with the juridical administration of the district. Later, as he begins to plant bis coffee trees, he finds that small African coffee farms are within his staked area. The settler demands that Africans move out from his legalized property. But Africans reply that they had their farms before the white settler arrived. The settler then inquires of the Africans whether their property is registered at the government post. “No.”Africans reply, “we see no need for it. Everyone knows that this is our property. Furthermore, we cannot afford to legalize our land. It costs too much.” The Portuguese settler then forcibly evicts the African farmers from the staked area.
The Africans appeal to the government chefe, but he ignores their claims. The land is now registered under the settler’s name. Angolan residents, Portuguese and Africans, know that the land grabbing by Europeans in the Portuguese Congo bred deep resentment among Africans.
The fall of coffee prices in 1959 adversely affected the living standards of all groups. Until 1959, a sack of coffee sold for twenty dollars; in the 1959-1960 coffee season, a sack was worth five dollars. Many European shop owners were going bankrupt. For instance, in the town of Bembe, only two out of forty-one commercial houses showed any profit during the 1959—1960 fiscal year. The economic recession in the Portuguese Congo snapped the thin ties between Africans and Europeans.
Much more significant than recent grievances, however, are old ones. First is the Portuguese claim that Angola is Portugal. Under it the Portuguese evolved the “assimilation" theory, by which Angolan Africans could achieve Portuguese citizenship. Because there was no other recourse, Angolan Africans lived and worked within the assimilation concept, but they never accepted it. Angolan Africans say, “The policy of assimilation is unacceptable, not only in theory but even more in practice. It is based on the racist idea of the incompetence of African people and implies that African cultures have no value.”
Second is the existence of a police state in Angola. PIDE (Polícia Internacional de Defesa do Estado) controls the life of every African and European. Few dare to criticize Salazar openly. Opposition usually means arrest and a prison sentence.
Third is the inability of the Portuguese to develop the resources of Angola. Africans say there is little to show for the five hundred years of Portuguese occupation, and they see very little hope for rapid development in the future. Portugal’s per capita gross national product is only slightly higher than that of Ghana, which has not as yet been able to solve its own problems. Africans therefore doubt the ability of the Portuguese to develop their overseas territories.
Finally, the assimilation concept is applicable to only a small number of Africans. The Anuario Estatistico for 1959 lists 30,089 as assimilados; this is less than one percent of the total African population of 4,250,000Africans question whether the Portuguese will ever abandon the parentchild relationship, no matter what reforms are proposed by Portugal. Last August 28, Portugal’s Overseas Minister, Adriano Moreira, announced the annulment of the “indigenous status,” which abolishes the legal distinction of the two classifications within the Portuguese colonial policy — namely, assimilado and indígena. Africans, however, question whether the Portuguese will ever implement this reform. Furthermore, Africans affirm they are Angolans and not Portuguese; no reforms by Portugal can change this.
Who are the rebels?
Leaders of Angolan nationalist parties live in neighboring African countries. They work in exile, because political groups other than the government party, Uniao Nacional, are forbidden in Angola. Mario Pinto de Andrade, whose home is in Luanda and who is the spokesman for MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertagao de Angola), fled Lisbon in the early 1950s because the police were about to arrest him for activities “against the security of the state.” Holden Roberto, secretary of UPA (União de Populagoes de Angola), resides in Leopoldville because he has been declared persona non grata in his birthplace, São Salvador, by the Portuguese government.
The rank-and-file members of the two groups, however, live in Angola, a fact which contradicts the official claim of a foreign invasion. The Congo has the only border open to the rebels to carry on their guerrilla warfare, and the African people on both sides of the border belong to the Kikongo-speaking tribal group.
UPA and MPLA, both African nationalist groups representing Angolans, differ in structure and leadership. UPA bypasses attempts to coordinate Angolan nationalist movements with European-led antiSalazar groups. MPLA, on the other hand, is interested in a unified African and European anti-Salazar action group, believing that the political situation in Portugal is closely related to that in Angola. Angolan Africans direct the activities of UPA; Angolan mulattoes are active leaders of MPLA.
In the struggle between the two organizations, the recent disturbances helped UPA consolidate a claim to represent the Angolan peoples. For UPA is in active combat with the colonial government. The Portuguese themselves enhanced UPA’s position among Africans in Angola. Through the media of the press, radio broadcasts, and public demonstrations, the Portuguese accuse UPA of starting the war. UPA has become a household word in African villages and towns in Angola.
Though UPA now appears stronger than MPLA, the positions of the two groups may change. There are many unpredictable factors, such as the place of Dr. António Neto. an African and MPLA leader, within the two groups. António Neto. after finishing his medical studies in Lisbon. returned to Angola in 1959, and in June, 1960, was arrested for “actions against the security of the state.”He was deported to the Cape Verde Islands and imprisoned. Africans in the Luanda district look to him as their leader, and he is respected by all groups.
The psychological factor
When the revolt began in the north. Africans in Angola hoped the rebels would win. Many innocent Africans suffered under Portuguese retaliatory measures but were willing to pay the price for independence. As the war continued without victory in sight, Africans questioned whether UPA’s strategy was wise; more so when PIDE acted swiftly to imprison many educated Africans in Luanda, Lobito, Benguela, Nova Lisboa, and Silva Porto.
Furthermore, the question of reestablishing the Bakongo kingdom will be important. If a move is made in this direction, the Portuguese Congo will separate from the rest of Angola, with the probability that UPA will lose its members from that area. UPA’s solidarity is also threatened by the ethnic political group ALIAZO (Alliance of the Zombo people who live cast of Sao Salvador). In November, two ALIAZO representatives came to press their claim for recognition before the UN subcommittee on the Angolan question.
Whatever differences there may be in structure and leadership, both MPLA and UPA are indigenous Angolan nationalist groups, not Communist fronts, as the Portuguese claim.
The United States is caught between Portugal’s requirement of support from the United States, its ally in NATO, and Angola’s requirement of support for its goal of selfdetermination. The Republican Administration under President Eisenhower had agreed with Salazar that the defense of Europe could not be separated from the African situation. Eisenhower’s visit to Portugal in 1 960 reflected the friendly relationship between the two countries. The Kennedy Administration, with the U.S. vote in the United Nations on the Liberian resolution, last March reversed U.S. policy on Angola.
The Portuguese government took advantage of the interval afforded it by the Berlin crisis to sow distrust among Angolans by playing off one tribal group against another. It recruited southerners to fight rebels in the north. The government ordered village leaders to report any stranger within their midst. Often this meant a specific directive to an African group, such as the Kuanyamas, to turn in to the government post any Ovimbundu passing through their villages. The government radio station in the city of Silva Porto in central Angola employs Africans to broadcast news in their respective languages. Their message is, first. “Hate the Americans,” and, second. “Resist the rebels from the north who are killing the loyal Bailundus.”
The Berlin crisis helped Portugal strengthen ties with NATO countries and relegated the Angolan question to a position of lesser importance in international politics. The U.S. position on Angola is complicated by military commitments in NATO, specifically in the Azores Defense Agreement. Angolan nationalist leaders recognize that NATO is for the defense of Europe; but they blame the United States if NATO is used to support colonialism in Angola. The United States risks losing either military bases in the Azores or the goodwill of 4,250,000 Africans in Angola and of most African UN members.