Portugal, the oldest of the Western colonial powers,
began to occupy the rich African nation nearly five centuries ago, and
conducted the profitable slave trade from Angola, Mozambique and Guinea
Bissau toward Brazil. It was the economic decline of Portugal in the
mid-1970s combined with the peoples’ heroic struggle for independence in
the three colonies that led to the elimination of Portuguese
The transition from colonialism to independence was won
by armed liberation movements in each of the former colonies, but the
final change of hands from Lisbon to Angola was complicated by the fact
that there were three organizations in that nation claiming leadership
of the struggle. This allowed an opportunity for the enemies of Africa
to step in and fan the flames of disunity, and they leapt at the chance.
The split in the African struggle had its counterpart in a split among
the African supporters as well.
The situation was further complicated by the division
and opposition of the international powers during the Cold War—the U.S.,
the Soviet Union, and The People’s Republic of China, consistently
viewed each contested zone in Africa, Asia and Latin America as an
urgent mission to win new converts to their ideological camp. Outside
supporters, looking for such alignments as an indication of political
direction, often made their decisions based on whether or not a national
struggle was supported by East or West.
Jonas Savimbi led the organization UNITA, National Union
for the Total Liberation of Angola, based in an area of the Ovumbundu,
which had about a third of the population. Depending upon when and where
he was interviewed, Savimbi appealed to tribalism, nationalism,
anti-communism, or revolution, whichever suited his needs at the time.
When speaking to Black American audiences, he would claim friendship
with Malcolm X, and with international revolutionaries, he would invoke
the spirit of the Argentine, Che Guevara, who became a leader of the
In European capitals and in Washington, D.C., Savimbi
became the darling of the most racist right wing elements, and they
handsomely financed his terrorist struggle against the peoples
throughout southern Africa for nearly 30 years.
That was a perfect fit for U.S. foreign policy makers
who have for centuries opposed justice and independence for people of
color, whether it involved stealing land from the original Americans or
the Mexicans, or trampling the peoples of the Philippines, Haiti and
Cuba or of supporting apartheid governments throughout Africa in the
In 2002, we must be aware that the policy against
international and domestic justice is still the mission of Washington
policy makers, regardless of the fact that articulate and polished Black
Americans such as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are now used as
their advocates of mass destruction of peoples’ rights.
Pay attention as the U.S. budget expands to throw more
billions of dollars at the enormous military state at home and abroad
and as warlord George Bush continues to slash and burn the services and
support for the lives of the little folk everywhere. Watch closely as
Bush drops daisy cutters on the health care, education and civil
liberties of most Americans.
But keep in mind that those who have won the struggles
for justice have to organize at the grassroots, build coalitions with
those who have common interests, be creative with new ideas for new
situations and think independently of the U.S. corporate establishment.
In spite of Bush and the likes of Jonas Savimbi, let us pay attention to
the ideas and the tall spirit of the 60,000 international conferees
representing the peoples struggles for bread and roses who proclaimed
recently in Porto Alegra, Brazil, "A Better World is Possible."
(Charles E. Simmons is a former reporter of
international affairs and editor of Muhammad Speaks newspaper. He
currently teaches law and journalism at Eastern Michigan University and
is co-chair of CPR-Detroit. Contact him at [email protected])