Friday, April 8, 2011

Private Letters of an Angolan Patriot



Jorge Sangumba (1944-1982), UNITA Foreign Secretary
  Those of you who know me well, also know how much I value my privacy ( maybe even to the point of reclusiveness.)  But as a historian, I treasure knowledge even more.   I have decided to publish these letters because they fill in a gap in our historical knowledge of the men and women, who gave their lives to the anti-colonial struggles in Africa, during the Cold War years.       

Jorge Sangumba and I had corresponded for several months before we met in London in 1973.   I was a graduate student at Harvard, and he was foreign secretary of UNITA,  a liberation movement fighting for Angolan independence from Portuguese colonialism.   We were married two years later.  But civil war erupted in Angola, days after our wedding.  Our marriage fell apart in the midst of the ensuing chaos.  Even so, some ties are eternal.   Jorge was tortured to death in 1982.

UNITA’s story will probably never be told in full, because history is told by the victors.   However, in this small way, I’d like to sabotage that maxim.  For Jorge’s letters help to put a human face on a political movement, that the outside world came to know only in the context of its unstable  leader.  Click here for a tribute to J. Sangumba called "The Angola of My Dreams." Please be patient. It loads slowly.


   

PART I 
1973 
London, January 5th 1973
25 Ospringe Road
London, N.W. 5
England

Dear Sister Connie Hilliard¨,
I just received your letter.  Many thanks. Before Tony[1]  left to Dar es Sallam (Tanzania) he has written to me about you, and recommended me to write to you and send you information on Angola and UNITA.  I did send you some material on UNITA in English, French and Portuguese.  I am sure you will manage to go through it. 
            It is a pity that we have to correspond in letters, because you have raised so important and pertinent questions on Angola that only an oral analysis of at least four hours could correspond to the importance of your questions and problems raised. 
            It is true that the UNITA propaganda machinery is very poor, if not insufficient.  But why do some groups in USA, Canada, Europe, mainly socio-democratic groups, liberals, communist parties (revisionists) and their agencies take an anti-UNITA stand?    Any liberation movement which preaches and practices “people’s war,” any movement which have the leaders living and dying with the toiling masses of Africa, is a dangerous movement in long range, and therefore, it must be eliminated  and isolated from international public opinion, before it gains roots and support.  But the secret of fighting against any possible elimination from them is to have closer and closer links with the people inside Angola.  This has been UNITA secret of survival for the past six years of continuous struggle against the Portuguese in Angola and other groups outside Angola.    Yes, the enemy (Portuguese) and imperialism in general through their press-media have been abusing UNITA as a terrorist movement, Maoist movement, etc.  But now it is too late for them to eliminate UNITA.
            This year 1973 a UNITA Third Congress will be held inside Angola.  Journalists, international observers are all invited.  You, sister are cordially invited to be our special guest 1973 around July, August, September, or even later if you cannot make during the third congress.  Also, if you know any brother journalist, or brothers willing to indulge in such national adventure they will be welcome, indeed.
Your brother in the struggle,
Jorge Sangumba
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Londres
January 24, 1973

Dear Connie,
  Here I will try to give my meager contribution to the role of the Angolan women in the national liberation struggle.  The women’s liberation in our case in Southern Africa is only conceived and has a meaning within the context of the struggle for national liberation.  They are not separate struggles.
            From time immemorial the Angolan women always resisted against Portuguese domination in Angola. Queen Nginga fought against the Portuguese for decades and her role in the struggle against foreign domination excelled.  She is today the symbol of women’s resistance in Angola.
            The general political commissar of Women’s brigade is sister Augusta Chitunda, and a member of UNITA’s Central Committee.  Women do not only take part in armed struggle, they take also an active part in the consolidation of the military bases and in the administration of these same bases.  In education (literacy campaign), the Angolan women have been playing a decisive role.  There are women teachers in the military bases and local committees, teaching not only reading and writing, but also political education.  The women play also a role in the agricultural cooperatives in the local committees spread all over the zones, subzones, regions and villages.  They along with the women plough the fields, clean the fields, prepare food for the guerrilla, and in the various processes of food storage. In the medical field, the Angolan women constitute the best nurses and medical officers in the UNITA areas.  The future for Africans is very bright, but we all have to fight now correctly.
            Indeed, I was a student for a year in Lincoln University (1964-1965) in English language and then I went to continue my studies to New York City till 1968.  In 1968, I went back to Africa and actively I joined UNITA forces. 
            We are today inviting all reporters to come and see what UNITA has been doing inside Angola despite their imperialistic tricks.  All our enemies, and friends know very well that UNITA does not exist in Zambia, Zaire, Congo-Brazzaville, then where is UNITA?  Or UNITA does not exist, if it exists it has to exist somewhere.  UNITA has liberated some areas inside Angola where it built its “home” where live more than 1 million people, with schools, cooperatives, clinics, a popular administration, in short an embryo of a new state.  The liberated areas depend on a tactical or strategic control.  But above all, the most essential element in a liberated areas where you do exercise a tactical and strategic control are the people.  No movement, at least UNITA, is interested in liberating desertic areas without the population.   
Sincerely,
Jorge Sangumba

N.B.   If you happen to write an article on Angola, UNITA in the future you can use some of my information given from our correspondence.  Do not feel inhibited,  because I am only articulating what UNITA believes and practices.


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London, February 27th 1973
Dear Connie,
            Your letter of February 13th 1973 was a very interesting one.  You should not feel bad because of lack of any action so far.  Action without analysis leads to adventurism and short range solutions.  I prefer you to ask all the possible political questions on UNITA as sister and comrade.  Theory and practice are linked permanently in a dialectical way.
            UNITA is operating in vast areas inside Angola. MPLA and sometimes FNLA claim to operate in the same areas.  Let it be.  However, if any group, person, nationally or internationally wants to speculate about it and deny the evidence it is their privilege to do so, but it is not worthwhile.   Anyone interested to see and substantiate the claims of UNITA in Bie, Cuando-Cubango, Malanje, Huambo, is well-come and will conclude by himself that the struggle in Angola is much more serious than what some groups pretend to simplify outside Angola.
            The death of Amilcar Cabra[2]l is a tragedy not only for the people of Guinea-Bissau but for all African revolutionaries.   We do hope that one who will occupy his place will show same dedication, talent and courage. 
            Take care, and I do hope that I did answer some of your questions, although sometimes in emotive way mainly when one talks about of Angolans killing other Angolans.  It is terrible!   Salute!. . .
Sincerely,
Jorge Sangumba

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Londres, April 21st 1973
Dear Connie,
            I definitely shall be in Canada and USA after my trip from Africa (Angola?) around September or October, and we shall be able to sit down and iron out some inherent contradictions which are, in fact, normal in any struggle.  Therefore, do not feel discouraged, because sometimes when an enemy or potential enemy attacks you or scorn on you, it is a good thing, indeed. If you have still more questions to put, please do not hesitate to put them.  We are here outside Angola for that.  I hope that you are fine, and doing well in your studies.
Sincerely yours,
Jorge Sangumba

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Londres, May 6th 1973
Dear Connie,
            Your telephone call last time was a  nice and comforting surprise.  I was happy to hear from you again, and I must confess that it made the remaining hours of my spoiled Sunday a more decent one.  It was spoiled by three successive meetings where I was invited to speak, and it finally turned out to be Trotskyite meetings where the participants “intellectuals” spend more time and energy in masturbating over the issue of whether world revolution is possible or not, of whether Stalin was a good Marxist or not, or whether a scientific revolution cant ake place in Africa or not…That was my Sunday!
            Good luck for your car, and you better be careful with old cars because they use to offer nasty surprises to people.  Take care, I must have at least few hours of rest before I go caput…
Salute,
Jorge

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Londres, May 14, 1973
Dear Connie,
Exactly an hour after I finished speaking to you on the phone, a bell rang.  It was the post office man who brought me some documents from Zambia to be used in the OAU[3] conference in Addis [the capital of Ethiopia].
            I could not contain the temptation of sending you this note and one of the documents that will be used in our work in Africa.  As you can see the document is exactly based on your research and writing.  The introduction of the document speaks for itself.  They are not only congratulating you, but also encouraging you and encouraging other brothers and sisters to write and rewrite the epic of the African history. 
            Your pamphlet was well done, and since we need writers, we are expecting a lot from you.  I shall discuss with my comrades in Africa the possibility for you, on day, in not distant future to go to Angola, and then interpret the reality in a revolutionary way, as a historian and finally you may end up writing a “book.”  What about that.  I am not dreaming, Connie, it can be done and must be done.

            I must go now to the airport.  Once more, stay well, and be prepared to read me again possibly from Africa.  This time I will have enough courage to pose you a challenge on personal basis.  I hope sincerely that I will not unsettle you, otherwise you will have to forgive me, will
you?
Je t’embrace,
Jorge
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May 30, 1973, Nairobi [Kenya]
Postcard
Dear Connie!
            Just a stop in Nairobi for two days coming from Addis Ababa [Ethiopia].  The OAU meeting ended on May 29, 1973.  Whether it was a success or not this smiling sister on the backand the suspicious child on her back will tell one day.  How are you?  Did you get my letter?  I shall be in Lusaka on June 1st and then. . . Greetings to everybody!
J’embrace,
Jorge
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Lusaka, 4th June 1973
Dear Connie,
            I just mailed a letter to you not long ago.  Today morning we received your telegram concerning Leon Dash visa problems. Many thanks.  The situation is the following:
1) If Leon Dash applied for visa, saying that he is going to visit UNITA areas, certainly the Zambian Consulate will refuse to accord him a visa to Zambia.  So, please, tell him to give another excuse, like safari, visit, transit, etc…etc, and never to say that he is coming to Zambia to visit us.  Firstly, because of the security problem/s involved and the political problems that you are aware of.  Therefore, he must struggle for the visa, even if it is a visa for one or two weeks, and then, we inside Zambia will demand an extension for one, two or three months.
2) If the consulate refuses to give him a visa, he must go via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and there he must ask for a visit visa for one month at Zambian Chancellery where I got my visa during the OAU conference.  This is a sound suggestion because the Zambian consulate in Addis Ababa is more flexible than in any other country.
3) If all these alternatives fail, then he must come even without a visa to Lusaka, and then we shall fight at the airport for it.  But for this alternative, he must be prepared to face all the technical risks of entering or returning.  But, we think that with an American passport he will have good chances to get in.  This is a last and desperate alternative, but he must try every possible channel, without ever saying that he is coming to Angola to see the freedom fighters because this is a very sensitive issue to Zambian authorities.  I hope we shall be understood.  The process of demanding a visa from here by us is a long one, and involve a lot of questions, queries, declarations, etc. Security problems just do not allow us to do that.
The inside is already informed about Leon Dash, so he must come whatever the difficulties.  His presence is very important, indeed.  His flight number, date of arrival, etc. must be communicated in order to wait for him at the airport of Lusaka.
            All my colleagues and comrades extend to you revolutionary greetings and courage in your endeavours for your academic success.
Sincerely yours,
Jorge Sangumba

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London, 17th September 1973
Dear Comrade Connie,
            I have just returned from inside Angola, well and safe.  Leon Dash is now writing his articles from Nairobi. 
            I had an excellent, but rather difficult and remunerating trip into the freeland of Angola.  The climax of our visit inside Angola was realized in the 3rd UNITA’s Congress.  Exactly 221 souls from the People’s Assemblies, from the Local Committees, from the People’s army (FALA), from the Political Bureau, from the Central Committee, and from the League of the Angolan women participated in this historical congress.  The decisions made in this Congress were very important for the development of our struggle in every dimension of it.  Total war was declared to the Portuguese bastards, and they will be chased night and day, whether in their toilets, churches, offices, safaris, and sleeping beds.  They shall catch hell, baby.  UNITA is now prepared and ready for that.  I shall send you in due course the final communiqué of the Congress, Resolutions, speeches, interviews, the New UNITA’s constitution, war communiqués, etc.
            With us went into Angola 9 foreign observers, including the 5 reporters one from the Washington Post of USA, Leon Dash, who incidentally is now writing his articles from Nairobi, and one journalist from the Sunday Times of London who has just arrived in London, Charles Simons who is now in USA, finally brother Kwado Akpan of the African Liberation Support Committee, and brother Malik Chaka of the Pan-African Skills operating from Tanzania who made a film on UNITA.  These last two are still in Zambia because when I left they stay still inside Angola filming and interviewing people and visiting the Railway Line.
            In a short letter, like this, and being still a bit confused I cannot tell you in detail about the situation inside Angola.  I shall keep this opportunity for later.  Since I just returned and naturally late, I am not yet sure whether I shall be able to come to USA according to my previous plans, and for how long.  I received all your letters in Lusaka, and upon my arrival in London Ernesto told me that you have been planning to come to Europe for holidays and possibly to read at the Oriental and African Studies (University of London) for few months.  It could be excellent, and you can be sure that we could not bother you with political activities, since I firmly believe that you should and must finish your studies and then feel free in your political and social activities.  For me, it could be a golden opportunity to talk to you about many things going on in my mind.
            The work that you have been doing in UNITA was very much appreciated by the UNITA leaders inside, and by the fighting people in Angola.  Concretely, they and I think it was a success for UNITA for you to have organized the Washington Post people to be in a position to send a reporter into Angola. 
            The Congress of UNITA took a principled political decision to unite with all forces capable of being united, at the moment.  The administrative details will be taken care by the High military command and by the Political Bureau of UNITA.  The situation so far is excellent.
            So talking about yourself, how are you?  Did you got o Senegal or you will still continue at Harvard?  Greetings from Toni and comrade Chitunda.  I will be pleased to read you shortly and know that you are doing o.k. in your studies.  Extend my kind regards to all our friends in USA, and if possibly to all our enemies who have been dreaming about UNITA’s disappearance from the Angolan political scene.
            I must go back to my bed.  I am still feeling dizzy and confused with the London brutal noise and pollution.
Adios, je t'embrace amicalement,
Jorge Sangumba 

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London, October 10, 1973
Dear Connie,
            I just came from Paris, where I had a couple of press-conferences, meetings with the “left,” and a meeting with the Angolans studying there.  It was relatively a successful trip.  The eternal controversial and opportunistic left of France was astonished to hear from me that one may go to UNITA areas and then return safe and well.  Jean-Paul Sartre, the editor of the “New Liberation” was present and he shall publish something on Angola and UNITA.
            The work to be done in Paris is tremendous.  Unfortunately, Paris being Paris, I found it difficult to meet an Angolan brother serious and committed enough to do some political and diplomatic work for UNITA in that confused capital.
            Upon my return in London I found your letter of October 3, 1973.  And before that I also received another letter of yours accompanying a lovely book of poems by Mari Evans.  I took the little book with me to Paris, and I did read it thoroughly and religiously.
            I have some “nice” comments on Mari Evans’s I Am a Black Woman.  I am a political partisan in a classed and bourgeois society.  I do not have a choice but to be a partisan of either side.  Political partisan though I am, I do not demand that writers be of my political and ideological camp or even of my general political sympathies for writers of various colours and shades to receive my acclaim.  For example, I do acclaim literally Leon Trotsky, the founder of the Russian Red Army, but I do reject utterly his politics.  I do read almost daily and weekly the writings of Anatole France, “Anatole as an artist,” but his politics are reactionary.  Rosa Luxembourgh once said I belief that “with the true artist, the social formula that he recommends is a matter of secondary importance; the source of his art, its animating spirit, is decisive.”  Mao Tse Tung is more incisive, when he asks uncompromisingly: Literature for whom?, i.e. for which class doe s it serve?

            Many thanks for the book.  I shall take it as my birth day present, since I completed on October 7, 1973, exactly 29 years of hard existence as a black man.  I shall add to it the picture which you sent to me with the last letter.  Incidentally, in this picture you seemed to be a little worried and you lost weight.  What have been happing?  Too much book work or what? I am sure you will do well in your exams, and then my concern on your studies shall be justified.  I did lose weight also, but it was because of my last saga to  Angola.  I am trying to keep my present shape, but . . .
                        Congratulations for your new job in the Radio.  It may be quite exciting.  What the Radio programmes mainly consist?[4]  


Jorge

i.e. Savimbi’s father died on July 4th 1973, killed by the Portuguese!

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November 6, 1973, London
My dear Connie,
I received your anxiously awaited letter last night.  I was anxious to know the state of health of your dear father, although I never met him, and I was very sad because I wondered whether you knew that I was sharing every moment with you, your own concern about the health of your father, who I hope may be recovered by now.  After speaking to you by phone confirming your flight and coming to London, and after receiving your telegram, I write you that letter which I hoped to be able to smooth out your life’s little and great tensions, difficulties and anxieties.  It will not be a confession to a Padre or to the dreary congregation if I say to you that your {sic] becoming now part of my lonely existence.  It never happened to my excited life before, but things “miraculously” started to happen.  What does it mean?  Who knows?


¨ In 1973 Jorge Sangumba gave me written copyright permission to use his letters addressed to me as I found useful and necessary.    [1] Tony (Toni) Fernandes was the member of UNITA who introduced me to his party and who first encouraged me to get in touch with the movement’s  foreign secretary, Jorge Sangumba.
[2] The popular  leader of a liberation movement in the tiny West African country of Guinea-Bissau.  An agent of the  Portuguese secret police assassinated Cabral  on January 20, 1973.
¨The Organization of African Unity
[4] I had been hired by Boston  radio station WBCN to produce and broadcast a weekly, fifteen minute public service program.