The Kanaxixe market was reduced to rubble by the new civil war underway in Angolan territory. This attack on the market is part of the war against all men and women in Angola carried out by agents wielding power promiscuously, and who conduct personal deals to amass fortunes through the use and abuse of this power and the property of the nation. This is a ‘pacific civil war’, as some think based on a lack of information, but one which at various times has been marked with the blood of the many victims of this attack on personal property, mostly urban land, and especially in Luanda. This war is a successor to that which took place between the ‘national liberation movements’, initiated to seize control of the state, which the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola – Partido do Trabalho (MPLA) was able to achieve in 1975.
Few are aware of this land war since up to now only one side has resorted to violence, the plunderers who make use of the authority and arms of the state against the people. The victims have not yet responded by using violence. Their only defence has been public denunciations of these attacks through national and international organisations. The organisation which I lead, SOS Habitat, has been one of the protagonists of this pacific approach to defence resulting, among other things, in defusing the potential for spontaneous violence by the many victims of land grabbing. Despite this, those responsible for these attacks are systematically guaranteed impunity.
Do not forget that the civil war in Angola was based on the legitimacy of a revolution, led by the MPLA, which proposed the end of capitalism in Angola. Long before the Kinaxixe market debacle, the ideals of this revolution had been thrown on the garbage heap of our history by the ex-‘revolutionaries’ who, despite this change in ideology, continue to rule via the domination of state administration by the MPLA. They are unwilling to abandon this inherited one-party dictatorship, despite the fact that it has been unconstitutional since 1991.
The government of José Eduardo dos Santos has destroyed and thrown away the material and cultural wealth of our country. In order to generate wealth for a few individuals, part of the collective memory of Luanda and the entire country has been transformed into historical ruins. Some rich individual or government insider will probably cover the land of the Kinaxixe market with a modern shopping centre.
Before this perpetration, this same government ordered the demolition of the Palace of Dona Ana Joaquina, building in its place a replica of the same building. In indignation over this crime, the MPLA Deputy Lúcio Lara took a piece of rubble from this landmark building into the National Assembly where, in the name of all of us – the millions of victims of this senseless act – he wept. It was a bold form of protest which (from my point of view) contested the actions of the head of his party (the MPLA) and of the dos Santos government. Dos Santos is the individual who is ultimately responsible for the decisions of the government and the state of Angola. He must necessarily be aware of this crime and the impunity with which it took place. But the gesture of the deputy, despite the seriousness it represented, had little impact on the continued impunity with which these types of malfeasances are carried out.
Following this, many houses of the poor were demolished in various Luanda shantytowns and their inhabitants abandoned among the remaining rubble or, under threat of arms of the state, dumped in ‘warehouses of the poor’ such as those the government of the MPLA has erected in Calemba, Zango, and Panguila. These new and emblematic colonial ‘native quarters’ have, paradoxically, been built in Angola following independence. The musical tradition of the common people, which the MPLA used extensively to mobilise the population against Portuguese colonialism has a line that says, ‘they rounded us up in corrals as if we were cattle.’ And now the government of the MPLA, led by José Eduardo dos Santos, is doing exactly the same thing as Portuguese colonialism. These ‘warehouses of the poor’ are a direct manifestation of endo-colonialism (internal colonialism) and the paradigm of urbanisation of the suburbs of Luanda adopted by this MPLA government, to expel the majority of the poor and marginalised population presently living in the capital from the city and outside the reach of basic government services and gainful employment. The phase of planned social apartheid, used by José Eduardo dos Santos to strengthen his regime of endo-colonialism, is now taking form.
At any time other public spaces and many of our homes already marked for demolition may be levelled, with our expulsion serving the private interests of a few. These same few amassed fortunes during the war, even as the war blocked most attempts to promote the general well-being of the population.
Many of our public and private spaces are about to be razed in order to serve or become the property of others for the development – as they see fit – of private projects, allegedly with some public utility, but in the planning of which we have not participated nor have we designated others to participate for us. It is evident that commercial enterprises serve the public in some way and depend on the public for their market. But is it necessary that this ‘public service’ provided by the private sector has to be based on the destruction of our collective property and the expulsion of the rest of us, as is presently taking place?
Various buildings in the city become the object of private appropriation following a predatory stage of negligent and rudderless ‘government management’, leaving them ready to be gutted and turned over to private interests.
The rights and aspirations of all of society are being extinguished in order to build the property base and illicit wealth of the ‘land lords.’ To the detriment of all (but a few), this process makes José Eduardo dos Santos, his agents and clients, co-proprietors of our country (without legal title), transforming it into an immense ‘Fazenda [plantation] Angola,’ which is becoming our collective space of suffering and death. Despite this, it is amazing that this fazenda is still being referred to by these same predacious individuals as a country and state enjoying democracy and the rule of law.
The international community – for whom human rights, the rule of law and democracy are considered essential for human development – is silent in the face of this endo-colonialism. It has become an accomplice rather than run the risk of losing business opportunities with Fazenda Angola. It fears the cooling of relations with the government of José Eduardo dos Santos if it were to contest the predatory crimes that are so abundantly evident. It shamelessly ignores the acts committed against us, as is evident in the praise which it continues to heap on the government of the MPLA led by José Eduardo dos Santos, as the prime minister of Portugal, José Sócrates, recently did at the International Exhibition of Luanda (FILDA). For the representatives of these countries – themselves historical predators of humanity on an international scale – everything is reduced to a question of economic opportunities and modernisation of the market, even claiming it to be a ‘well intentioned’ urban renewal, conveniently ‘understanding’ and accepting the justifications presented publicly to them.
Obviously for those intent on appropriating the state of Angola, the preservation of historical landmarks in the development of Luanda – of its physical configuration, its ancestral buildings and culture as foundations of the Angolan nation – have little interest for the ‘headmen’ of the Angolan ‘democratic market economy,’ presently being built in the mould of colonial economics.
As the history of humanity has long shown, the (persistence of) identifiable values of a dominated society always represent a danger for any dictatorship. These values keep the collective memory of communities alive, sustaining their cohesion and capacity for resistance. Thus in the case of Angola, these values are being erased in order to consequently erase our citizenship, transforming us into zero value in the account ledgers of a political economy which reserves for us a future of docile servitude within a dictatorship of endo-colonialism. This project of endo-colonialism seeks to reproduce in each of us the colonial slave (monangabê) which, in the absence of an irreverent poet like Jacinto, evokes neither lament of the situation nor the rebellion that the process threatens to generate.
If we continue in this direction all we will remember in the future is the work of ‘headman’ José Eduardo dos Santos and of ‘his’ party, the MPLA. The MPLA is the first and principal hostage of the personal hegemony that he exerts over the state and the country. We run the risk of getting to the point where available information will suggest that nothing existed before him and that all that we become, as individuals and as a country, we owe to his predatory saga of material and cultural possessions of the Angolan community. We will thus have the perception that Angola is the invention of José Eduardo dos Santos, which history (if written accurately) will show to be the destroyer of the patrimony and the collective memory of Angola.
If will permits this strategy to be carried to its final consequences by dos Santos and by his principal hostage, the MPLA – once our collective memory has been totally erased – all that will be left of our citizenship will be a shell. We will then, as citizens, be nothing more than an empty casing. Our loss of political space will have reduced us all to the mere appearance of citizens, a state, in fact, in which the majority of us live in the present context. Our situation as citizens, which at the present time is precarious, will, in the gloomy future that the endo-colonialism of José Eduardo dos Santos offers, be one that could result in our being abandoned in ‘warehouses of the poor’ amidst material and cultural rubble. In this Eduardian social apartheid our citizenship will wither away, under guard of a variety of mercenaries using against us the arms of the ‘state’ and Fazenda Angola, despoiled as the land has been and reduced to useless gente gentia, held hostage by the outlaw bands of this dictator.
In response to the invitation of endo-colonialism to develop its project, competent foreign predators have already formed partnerships with Angolan predators by creating companies claiming to be ‘nationalist’, where by co-ownership arrangements the Angolan economic agents own more than 50% of the respective capital. Paraphrasing the Angolan nicknamed the ‘great poet,’ we are objectively faced with the ‘scavenging of the lifeless African corpse’ which denounced the crime, except in this case the scavenging is taking place remorselessly under the direction of José Eduardo dos Santos, heir to the sceptre of Agostinho Neto – poet, physician and the first president of Angola.
If we all cease to struggle, if we anesthetise ourselves with the crumbs that are left on the palace table of the endo-colonial headman or from the fear of seeking freedom, the perverse economic, political and cultural project of endo-colonialism which will restructure the very essence of Angola will be concluded as an extreme but very successful and ‘refined’ violation of our natural condition as humans, free and endowed with basic rights, (theoretically) ‘respected’ in the Eduardian ‘democracy.’
Thus Angola will continue, endo-colonial in nature, to be a great place to live for everyone except Angolans, as denounced by the Angolan singer Dog Murras. As witnessed by its complicity, this situation is not a concern for the ‘democratic humanists’ of the international community, especially in its Angolan manifestation. In particular it does not bother the European states and their commission, whose agents and investors in the Eduardian endo-colonial economy long ago chose to close their eyes in order to satisfy their appetite for petroleum, the expansion of their markets, and the exploitation of other Angolan natural resources. They only see Angola as an el dorado where they can quickly ‘make a killing’ instead of, above all else, seeing our country as a place of human beings equal to themselves.
It seems to me that this will continue until, in another February, we write the names of new heroes in the history of the liberation of Angola. Unfortunately I have a few doubts about this, because our honest and fearless peaceful protests have been of little use. And of even less use still will be, following every new attack, to continue to ‘angelically’ carry to the National Assembly (as did Deputy Lúcio Lara of the MPLA) parts of our demolished lives and soak them with our tears in this ‘cathedral of appearances’ where they present the fantasy of ‘democracy to satisfy the foreigners.’ Mister José Eduardo has declared to us and the world, in all seriousness, that democracy and human rights won’t reduce hunger. Thus in his actions he is being coherent with what he believes.
Having arrived at this point of endo-colonial violence, we can only remind Mr. dos Santos, the headman of Fazenda Angola, along with his employees and the clients of his endo-colonialist project, that they who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind. But I also wish, from the depth of my heart, that this harvest will take place through a September of voters rather than a February of heroes which, in reality, is what is being sown by dos Santos’s predatory. Free us, with urgency.
* Luiz Araujo is the director of SOS Habitat, an Angolan NGO.