Angola’s first president: Agostinho Neto

In the first part of a new series we are launching on great figures of African political life, Amandla’s Gwen Schulman speaks to Vanier College history professor Eric Lamoureux about the significance of the first Angolan president, António Agostinho Neto Kilamba, and his contribution to African history.


Castro’s legacy in Africa (part 2): Ole Gjerstad on Cuba’s support to anti-imperialist struggles

ole-gjerstad-225x300(photo credit:

In this second part of Amandla’s look at the life of Fidel Castro and his role on the African continent, Amandla regular Doug Miller talks to Montreal anthropologist, writer, radio broadcaster and filmmaker Ole Gjerstad who was a witness of the Cuban presence in Angola.

Gjerstad offers a rare first-hand look at the Cuban presence in Africa and how Castro contributed to the liberation struggles on the continent.

Also be sure to check out part 1

Castro’s legacy in Africa (part 1): Isaac Saney on the Angolan war

Gwen Schulman speaks with Isaac Saney on the relationship of Cuba, under Castro, and Africa.

Isaac Saney is Director and Black Studies Senior Instructor, he holds a PhD in history from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London in the United Kingdom. The SOAS is recognized as one the world’s premiere centres for the study of Africa. His teaching has encompassed courses on Africa, the Caribbean, Cuba, and Black Canadian history. He is the author of the widely acclaimed book Cuba: A Revolution in Motion (Zed Books, 2004).

Also check out The battle for Cuito Carnevale

Re-examining Cuito Cuanavale: a battle that changed history

The 1988 Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Southern Angola led to the stunning defeat of apartheid South Africa’s military supremacy in Southern Africa, paving the way for Namibian independence and accelerating the demise of apartheid. On the 25th anniversary of this key moment in history, Gwen Schulman talks to Ameth Lô of the Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa on the decisive role played by Cuban forces in the battle and the ensuing changes.

In 1987/88 the battle became an important episode in the Angolan Civil War (1975 to 2002). Between 9 September and 7 October 1987, the Angolan Army (FAPLA), in an attempt to finally subdue the Angolan insurgent movement UNITA in south-eastern Angola, was decisively repelled in a series of battles at the Lomba River by the South African Army (SADF), which had once more intervened on UNITA’s behalf. With FAPLA retreating to their starting point at Cuito Cuanavale, the SADF and UNITA went on the offensive and started the siege by shelling Cuito with long-range artillery on 14 October. A major battle ensued and Angola, fearing a defeat, requested help from Cuba. With Cuban reinforcements, Cuito was held and the South African advance ended after six unsuccessful attempts to overcome the FAPLA-Cuban defences between 13 January and 23 March 1988. The SADF withdrew but continued to shell Cuito from a distance.

Source: wikipedia

Amandla: Réseau Kaira au Mali, Angola, Algérie

Dans cette dernière émission: Myriam Cloutier s’entretient avec El Nasser Amin sur le reseau de radio communautaire Kaira au Mali, ainsi que sur le projet de jardins sur les toits.

Biko Mungala analyse la situation actuelle en Angola et en Algérie

Sorry problem with audio links!
Désolé, il y a un problème lien!

The Angolan control of the two Congos/ Le contrôle de l’Angola sur les deux Congos

(Lien en anglais/ link in english)

Voici un article paru dans le journal Daily Nation de Nairobi (Kenya). Il est écrit par Gitau Warigi. Il traite de la toute puissante armée angolaise qui a influencé les événements politiques récents en République du Congo et en République démocratique du Congo. Il faut savoir que l’Angola dispose de l’enclave du Cabinda, un territoire coincé entre les deux Congo, mais que le régime de Luanda tient à garder libre de l’influence déstabilisatrice qu’auraient ses voisins. Donc, quoi de mieux que d’intervenir chez ces voisins afin d’atteindre cet objectif… Nous présentons ici l’article (voir plus bas).

Here is an article written by Gitau Warigi in the Daily Nation of Nairobi (Kenya). It talks about the importance of the angolan army in the recent political events in the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We post the full article here.

Gitau Warigi:


A joke by a Kenyan expatriate working with the United Nations in Kinshasa is typical of how foreigners there view the Congolese.

According to the joke, when the usual hustlers and small-time traders and beggars accost you in your car as you are caught up in a traffic intersection, just switch on the pulsating rhumba of Kofi Olomide or some such musician on your car stereo, and the street hustlers will instantly forget what they accosted you for and start dancing. Then you can easily drive away.

At one level, the joke is a statement about the powerful influence of Congolese music in Africa, which is a compelling fact of life whether you live in Nairobi or Luanda or Lusaka or Abidjan.

But it is also a none-too-flattering aspersion on the supposedly hopeless hold music has on the Congolese, which presumably “explains” their lousy record as fighters in defending their terribly resource-rich country from covetous neighbours.

Another cruel joke has it that when Rwandan forces invaded for the second time in 1998, many Congolese picked up their guitars hoping to lull the invaders away from Kinshasa. That was not true, of course, but one cannot miss the crushing condescension.

There has always been something of a misconception that the Rwandans singlehandedly overthrew dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. The truth of the matter is that securing Kinshasa, which is in the western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was the work of Angolan forces.

Angola [see national flag on the right] in reality is the superpower in that area of the continent. Outside South Africa, Angola has perhaps the most mechanised and best equipped Army in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also extremely battle-hardened through fighting Unita rebels and at one time the apartheid-era South African forces.Angolan Flag

Second Invasion

It is actually the Angolans who intervened to defeat the Rwandese in their second Congolese invasion and who have, apparently, sustained the Kabila regime (both father’s and son’s) ever since.

When heavy fighting erupted in Kinshasa last March between the government soldiers of President Joseph Kabila and his main rival Jean-Pierre Bemba, a rumour swept through the 7-millionman city that Kabila prevailed only because of Angolan intervention.

What is certain is that, according to one Francois Charlier of the UN mission in Kinshasa, the large UN peacekeeping mission in the country, which goes under the acronym MONUC, kept out of it all. However, they did give Bemba’s fighters temporary refuge.

The tale of the DRC and its smaller namesake to the north, Congo-Brazzaville, is one of near-failed States which are dotted with murderous militias and which, when you think of it, probably ended up endowed with too much natural wealth for their own good.

The DRC has the minerals while Congo-B has the oil but neither country can show much for its riches. A favourite cliche is that you dig a hole anywhere there, and you will come up with gold or ruby or titanium or whatever else you fancy.

The two countries are separated by the giant Congo River, and their two capitals – Kinshasa and Brazzaville – face one another across the four-mile expanse of the river. The pre-colonial Bakongo kingdom bestrode both countries across the river and this is what gave the Congos their name.

There are many other things they have in common beyond the shared Congo name. French is the official lingua franca in both countries, though when you cross the river to either country you realise you are in very different territory when you are asked for passports and entry permits.

Militia routed

The DRC and Congo-B relate extremely uneasily. The dynamic at work is one of two unstable neighbours each of who is wary of adding to his own misery by embracing an equally unfortunate kin.

When Bemba’s militia was routed by Kabila in March, a whole brigade or so crossed the river and sought refuge in Congo-B, where the authorities are extremely cagey about the brigade’s whereabouts.

A couple of tank shells landed in Brazzaville as the Kinshasa side sought to pursue the fleeing renegades. Congo-B fumed but did not react, reportedly after getting assurances that the shelling had actually been targetted at the boats the Bemba fighters were crossing to Brazzaville with but the shells ended up getting misdirected to Brazzaville city.

All along, Kabila, who is a Swahili speaker from the east, has suspected the neighbour of supporting his rival Bemba, who has a massive following in Kinshasa even after he was forced into exile in Portugal. Brazzaville on its part believes Kinshasa was not neutral during the insurgencies of 1993 and 1997 that ripped Congo-B apart.

Angola’s interests are much more complex. Its oil-rich enclave called Cabinda which juts out into the Atlantic is sandwiched by the Congos, and for this reason it wants to ensure the regimes in Kinshasa and Brazzaville are amenable to its interests.

Besides, there is the huge Inga dam on the Congo River that supplies a large part of Angola with electricity. However, Angola’s intimate involvement with the conflicts of the Congos are intertwined with its own drawn-out internal conflict with Unita. Mobutu used to support Unita, and Luanda suspected the same with the Ninja militias that oppose Congo-B’s President Denis Sassou-Nguesso.

Sassou-Nguesso is a typical African dictator. A large UNDP entourage of which I was part was kept waiting for about an hour for its scheduled Ethiopian Airlines flight because the “Mighty One” was flying out to some place. Sassou-Nguesso, who is from the poorer northern part of Congo-B, has deep military links.

The political story of Congo-B revolves around three over-arching antagonists: Sassou-Nguesso, Pascal Lissouba, and Bernard Kolelas. Out of the confusion they have created has emerged another depressing reality: a country that is virtually run by heavily-armed militias that owe their loyalties to their respective supremos, not the nation. Sasssou-Nguesso has the Cobras. Kolelas has the Ninjas. And Lissouba has the weaker but still nasty Cocoyes.

Sassou-Nguesso (the outgoing African Union chairman) got into power in 1979 and stayed there right up to 1992, when in the wave of political pluralism he was voted out and Lissouba voted in. But within a year, he was actively subverting Lissouba with his nascent Cobra militia.

At the time, he was supported by Kolelas, then mayor of Brazzaville who later shifted support to Lissouba and became his prime minister before they were ousted by Sassou-Nguesso in the second civil war of 1997. The Cobras’ great enemy, the Ninjas, owe loyalty to Kolelas.

It is doubtful Sassou-Nguesso and his Cobras would have prevailed if it wasn’t for Angolan backing. Luanda detests the Ninjas, who it linked to Unita. The French, too, were on the act, for it is believed they feared that the lucrative oil concession in Congo-B enjoyed by the Total Elf Fina oil company could get uncertain in the Lissouba regime. Other players included Gabon’s President Omar Bongo, who is a son-in-law to Sassou-Nguesso. Angola right now has garrisoned some 1,500 troops in Congo-B to protect Sassou-Nguesso’s regime.

Évictions forcées en Angola/ Forced evictions in Angola

(Liens en anglais/ links in english)

Un rapport de Human Right Watch indique que le gouvernement de l’Angola évince de force des milliers d’habitants des quartiers pauvres de la capitale, Luanda.

La nouvelle est aussi reprise par Reuters.

A new report from Human Rights Watch tells us that Angola’s government evicted thousands of people from the poor neighbourhoods of the capital city, Luanda, by force. (The news is also in Reuters)

HRW (Read the report here):

Angola: Thousands Forcibly Evicted in Postwar Boom

(Brussels, May 15, 2007) – In the economic boom since the end of Angola’s civil war in 2002, the Angolan government has forcibly evicted thousands of poor residents of the capital Luanda, usually with violence and almost always without compensation, Human Rights Watch and the Angolan organization SOS Habitat said in a report released today.

The 103-page report, “They Pushed Down the Houses: Forced Evictions and Insecurity of Tenure for Luanda’s Urban Poor,” documents 18 mass evictions in Luanda that the Angolan government carried out between 2002 and 2006. In these evictions, which affected some 20,000 people in total, security forces destroyed more than 3,000 houses, and the government seized many small-scale cultivated land plots. These large-scale evictions violated both Angolan and international human rights law, and have left many Angolans homeless and destitute with no access to a legal remedy.

“Millions of Angolans were displaced during the civil war, but since then the government has forcibly evicted thousands more from their homes in the capital,” said Peter Takirambude, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government’s postwar policies have resulted in the destruction of thousands of homes and repeated violations of human rights.”

Thousands of Angolans remain vulnerable to forced evictions caused by the government’s failure to address widespread insecurity of land tenure. The majority of Luanda’s estimated 4 million residents hold no formal title to their house or land. Inadequate laws on land and urban management due to lack of implementing regulations and the absence of provisions that protect against forced evictions, weak enforcement of laws and ineffective real estate registration procedures put thousands at risk.

“Most of the evictees are poor and vulnerable Angolans; their houses were demolished and many were left only with the clothes they were wearing,” said Luiz Araujo, director of SOS Habitat, an Angolan nongovernmental organization that focuses on housing rights. “Millions of Luanda’s residents will remain vulnerable to forced evictions unless the government takes immediate steps to end forced evictions completely and address the insecurity of land tenure in this city.”

The report provides evidence that forced evictions were neither sporadic nor isolated events in Luanda. Instead, the evictions represent a pattern of abusive conduct on the part of the Angolan government that has not significantly changed. To date, the authorities have neither taken the steps necessary to ensure forced evictions end, nor have they provided accountability for abuses associated with these evictions. The government has also failed to compensate the vast majority of evictees as it is required to do under Angolan and international law.

Evictees told Human Rights Watch and SOS Habitat that police officers and local government officials carried out evictions with brutal violence and excessive use of force. Police officers, sometimes accompanied by members of private security companies, fired shots in the air or on the ground to intimidate the unarmed population. Police often arbitrarily detained evictees, and many of those arrested told Human Rights Watch and SOS Habitat that they were physically abused while in police custody. Human rights defenders present during evictions were harassed and sometimes arbitrarily arrested.

The Angolan government failed to provide affected communities with adequate information about the purpose of their eviction and to consult them about possible alternative solutions to their forcible removal. In the “informal settlements” where the majority of Luanda’s population lives with unregistered tenure, residents were evicted with little or no notice. The government did not ascertain what rights people had to the land they occupied before evicting them.

The government also failed to provide accurate information about the body that issued the eviction order, its legal grounds, and the appropriate body for appealing such decisions. The authorities carried out these forced evictions without a proper and consistent procedure to determine the form or amount of compensation due to individual evictees.

The Angolan government justifies the evictions on the grounds that it needs the land for public interest development projects or that it is removing alleged trespassers from state land. While the government claims that it is trying to improve living conditions in Luanda, it is, in fact, making such conditions worse for the most economically vulnerable by evicting thousands of them and by depriving them of the necessary assistance to help the evictees reestablish elsewhere.

“Many people cultivated and lived in these areas for decades; others settled according to custom, with the permission of elders,” said Araujo. “The government never formally or legally expropriated the land people occupied or gave them a chance to claim their rights to the land.”

The evictions documented in this report were carried out in violation of Angolan and international law. Angola is a party to both the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is obliged to protect everyone from arbitrary or unlawful interference with their home and family, as well as take steps to realize the right to adequate housing. Forced evictions violate both these basic obligations and result in multiple other human rights violations.

Angola’s oil/ Le pétrole de l’Angola

Après l’histoire de Sarah Wykes, l’activiste anti-corruption, qui fut arrêtée en Angola, voici un article du New-York Times décrivant l’industrie du pétrole angolais (en anglais): une industrie en pleine expansion, mais aussi en pleine corruption.

After the story of Sarah Wykes, the anti-corruption activist, who was arrested in Angola. Here is an article by the New-York Times describing the oil industry in Angola: an industry in full expansion, but also in full corruption.


VIENNA, March 16 — Angola, which shared the stage with the world’s most powerful oil-producing nations at its first OPEC meeting here Thursday, is an unlikely candidate to be the darling of the global oil industry.

A corrupt, underdeveloped and war-scarred country, Angola is one of the poorest lands on earth. But ask any energy executive these days and another picture emerges: a place of immense riches, solicitous of foreign investors and among the three fastest-growing oil exporters in the world today.

In the capital, Luanda, hotel rooms cost more than $200 a night and are booked two months in advance by the oil companies; three times a week, nonstop charter flights known as the Houston Express ferry workers to and from Texas; offshore, dozens of oil fields have been discovered and given names like Cola and Canela.

Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and others have poured billions into Angola in the last decade to unlock petroleum resources in the country’s deep waters, where the vast majority of the oil is, and the payoffs are finally coming in.

In recent years, Angola has become the fastest-growing source of oil exports to the United States and, along with Nigeria and smaller West African countries, it is about to become an important component of American energy security.

Angola still has a terrible record on corruption and ranks on the lowest rungs of nearly all development indicators. Elections have been postponed several times and are currently scheduled in 2009.

The nation’s contradictions are glaring. Angola earned more than $30 billion last year from its petroleum exports. But according to a recent World Bank report, 70 percent of the population lives on the equivalent of less than $2 a day, the majority lack access to basic health care, and about one in four children die before their fifth birthday.

Sarah Wykes sur le point d’être libre/ Sarah Wykes about to be free

Global Witness annonce que Sarah Wykes serait sur le point d’être libérée. Selon le ministre angolais de la Justice: “Elle peut quitter le pays, maintenant, demain, le jour quelle voudra”.

Global Witness demeure surpris de cette annonce puisque l’avocat de Sarah Wykes n’a pas encore confirmé sa libération prochaine… À voir.

According to Global Witness, Sarah Wykes is about to be freed by the angolan authorities:

Media reports today [March 14th] have quoted the Attorney-General of Angola, Dr. Augusto Carneiro, as saying that Dr Sarah Wykes is now free to leave Angola. He is quoted as saying: “She can leave today, tomorrow, whenever she wants.”

Global Witness is very encouraged by this statement to the media by the Attorney-General. However, we were surprised by it because her lawyer has not yet been officially notified of the decision.

Since there has been no official notification, we do not yet know what the conditions are for Dr Wykes to leave the country and when all the official procedures will be completed.

Global Witness urges the Angolan authorities to take all possible steps to ensure that the formalities are speedily completed so Dr. Wykes can return to her family and friends in the United Kingdom.

Émission Amandla du 14 mars 2007/ Amandla radio show of March 14th 2007

Voici les sujets qui ont été abordés à l’émission Amandla du 14 mars 2007 sur CKUT 90.3FM à Montréal, et que vous pouvez télécharger ici.

– Suivi de la situation au Zimbabwe – en anglais. Comme nous l’avons indiqué dans ce blog, Robert Mugabe a arrêté une manifestation de l’opposition. Les arrestations ont été musclées et Morgan Tsvangirai, figure de proue de l’opposition, a été blessé. Une courte entrevue de Terna Gyse, sur le terrain, est présentée. On y fait aussi, un rappel historique de la dérive autoritaire du régime de Mugabe ainsi que des événements clef de l’an 2000, notamment sa réforme agraire controversée. On aborde aussi le problème de la position de l’Afrique du Sud et de l’ANC qui sont demeurés silencieux et ont été critiqués pour leurs inaction envers Mugabe. 40 minutes de bonne information!

– Où sont passé les millions miliards de dollars de Jonas Savimbi – en français. Présentation d’un article d’Afriqu’Échos Magazine. On y traite de la disparition de la fortune de l’ancien chef de l’UNITA (Angola) cinq ans après qu’il ait été tué par les forces du gouvernement de Luanda. Les noms de Konan Bédié (Côte d’Ivoire), Hassan II (Maroc), Gnassingbe Éyadema (Togo) refont surface comme bénéficiares de ce pactole qui a été érigé, il faut se le rappeler, grâce à l’exploitation de mines de diamants dans l’est angolais à coup d’un milliard de revenu par an!

Une dépêche présentée dans le journal La Presse de Montréal nous indique les “états d’âmes” de Mugabe :

«Lorsqu’ils critiquent le gouvernement qui essaye d’éviter les violences et de punir les auteurs de ces violences, nous estimons qu’ils peuvent aller se faire pendre», a déclaré le chef de l’État zimbabwéen à l’issue d’une rencontre avec son homologue tanzanien Jakaya Kikwete.


Allez sur le site de la BBC en haut à droite. Un lien vous mène vers une entrevue avec Morgan Tsvangirai appelant à continuer la lutte.

– Revue de Presse internationale sur l’actualité du continent africain – en français.

Here are the subjects that were talked about during the last Amandla show from March 14th on CKUT 90.3FM in Montreal. You can download it here.

– Follow up on the Zimbabwe events – in english. We mentionned it in this blog already: Robert Mugabe stopped a peaceful gathering organized by the opposition. The arrests were violent and Morgan Tsvangirai, the leading figure of the opposition, was badly hurt. A short interview, from the field, done by Terna Gyuse is presented. We also do a historical recap of the dictatorial drift of Mugabe’s regime as well as a description of the 2000’s events which includes the controversial land reforms. We also talk about the South African and ANC silent positions. Their inactions toward Mugabe have been criticized. In short, it’s a 40 minutes of good information!

The BBC show us how Mugabe feels about the attention the world put on his regime:

“When they criticise the government when it tries to prevent violence and punish perpetrators of that violence we take the position that they can go hang,” he said.

“Let’s praise Mugabe! ”

In the same BBC site you can find a klink leading to an interview with Morgan Tsvangirai asking to continue the fight.

– Where are the millions billions of Jonas Savimbi’s dollars – in french. We present an article from Afriqu’Écho Magazine. It describes the diseapperance of the fortune of the former UNITA’s leader (in Angola) five years after he was killed by the government forces from Luanda. The names of Konan Bédié (Ivory Coast), Hassan II (Morocco) and Gnassingbe Éyadema (Togo) reemerge. They are thought to be the main beneficiaries of a fortune that was created thanks to the exploitation of diamond mines in Eastern Angola which produced one billion dollars per year worth of diamonds.

– International Press review of the African continent – in french.