Agostinho Neto

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António Agostinho Neto
Agostinho Neto (1975).jpg
1st President of Angola
In office
11 November 1975 – 10 September 1979
Succeeded by José Eduardo dos Santos
Personal details
Born (1922-09-17)September 17, 1922
Ícolo e Bengo, Bengo, Overseas Province of Angola, Portugal
Died September 10, 1979(1979-09-10) (aged 56)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Political party Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola
Spouse(s) Maria Eugénia da Silva[1]

António Agostinho Neto (September 17, 1922 – September 10, 1979) served as the first President of Angola (1975–1979), after having led the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the war for independence (1961–1974). Until his death, he led the MPLA in the civil war (1975–2002). Known also for his literary activities, he is considered Angola's preeminent poet. His birthday is celebrated as National Heroes Day, a public holiday in Angola.

Early life[edit]

Born at Ícolo e Bengo, in Bengo Province, Angola, in 1922, Neto attended high school in the capital city, Luanda; his father, also called Agostinho Neto, was a Methodist pastor. The younger Neto left Angola for Portugal, and studied medicine at the universities of Coimbra and Lisbon. He combined his academic life with covert political activity of a revolutionary sort; and PIDE, the security police force of the Estado Novo regime headed by Portuguese Prime Minister Salazar, arrested him in 1951 for his separatist activism. Seven years later he was released from prison, and he finished his studies, marrying a white 23-year-old Portuguese woman who was born in Trás-os-Montes, Maria Eugénia da Silva, the same day he graduated. He returned to Angola in 1959.[1][2]

Political career[edit]

In December 1956 the Angolan Communist Party (PCA) merged with the Party of the United Struggle for Africans in Angola (PLUA) to form the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola with Viriato da Cruz, the President of the PCA, as Secretary General and Neto as President.[2][3]

The Portuguese authorities in Angola arrested Neto on June 8, 1960. His patients and supporters marched for his release from Bengo to Catete, but were stopped when Portuguese soldiers shot at them, killing 30 and wounding 200 in what became known as the Massacre of Icolo e Bengo.[3] At first Portugal's government exiled Neto to Cape Verde. Then, once more, he was sent to jail in Lisbon. After international protests were made to Salazar's administration urging Neto's release, Neto was freed from prison and put under house arrest. From this he escaped, going first to Morocco and then to Zaire.[1]

In 1962 Neto visited Washington, D.C. and asked the Kennedy administration for aid in his war against Portugal. The U.S. government turned him down, because it had oil interests in colonial Angola, choosing instead to support Holden Roberto's comparatively anti-Communist National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA).[4]

Neto met Che Guevara in 1965 and began receiving support from Cuba.[5] He visited Havana many times, and he and Fidel Castro shared similar ideological views.[6]

Following the Carnation Revolution in Portugal during April 1974 (which deposed Salazar's successor Marcelo Caetano), three political factions vied for Angolan power. One of the three was the MPLA, to which Neto belonged. On November 11, 1975, Angola achieved full independence from the Portuguese, and Neto became the nation's ruler after the MPLA seized Luanda at the expense of the other anti-colonial movements. He established a one-party state and his government developed close links with the Soviet Union and other nations in the Eastern bloc and other Communist states, particularly Cuba, which aided the MPLA considerably in its war with the FNLA, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and South Africa. However, while Neto made the MPLA declare Marxism-Leninism its official doctrine, his position was to favour a socialist, not a communist model.[citation needed] As a consequence, he violently repressed a movement later called Fractionism which in 1977 attempted a coup d' état inspired by the Organização dos Comunistas de Angola. Tens of thousands followers (or alleged followers) of Nito Alves were executed in the aftermath of the attempted coup, over a period that lasted up to two years.[citation needed]

Neto died in a hospital in Moscow, while undergoing surgery for cancer, shortly before his 57th birthday. Jose Eduardo dos Santos succeeded him as president. But the Angolan civil war continued to rage for almost a quarter of a century more.

Literary career[edit]

Agostinho Neto's poetic works were written chiefly between 1946 and 1960, largely in Portugal. He published three books of poetry during his lifetime. Several of his poems became national anthems.[7]

Legacy[edit]

The Soviet Union awarded Neto the Lenin Peace Prize for 1975-76.

The public university of Luanda, the Agostinho Neto University, is named after him. A poem by Chinua Achebe entitled Agostinho Neto was written in his honor.[8] An airport in Santo Antão, Cape Verde, is named after him, due to the beloved work he performed there as a doctor. For the same reason, the main hospital of Cape Verde in the capital Praia is named "Hospital Agostinho Neto" (HAN). There is also a morna dedicated to him. A street in New Belgrade in Serbia is named after him, the Dr. Agostina Neta street.[citation needed]

In 1973, during one of his few unofficial visits to Bulgaria, Neto met a woman with whom he had a daughter, Mihaela Marinova, who was raised in orphanages in Bulgaria. Neto's family has not recognised the child.[9][dead link][citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c James, W. Martin (2004). Historical Dictionary of Angola. p. 110. 
  2. ^ a b Tvedten, Inge (1997). Angola: Struggle for Peace and Reconstruction. pp. 29–30. 
  3. ^ a b Africa Year Book and Who's who. 1977. pp. 238–239. 
  4. ^ Walker, John Frederick (2004). A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred-Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola. pp. 146–148. 
  5. ^ Abbott, Peter; Manuel Ribeiro Rodrigues (1988). Modern African Wars: Angola and Mocambique, 1961-74. p. 10. 
  6. ^ Chazan, Naomi; Robert Mortimer; John Ravenhill; Donald Rothchild (1992). Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc. p. 392. ISBN 1-55587-283-2. 
  7. ^ Abdala, Benjamin, Jr. "Agostinho Neto." In African Lusophone Writers. Detroit: Gale, 2012, p. 120-125. (Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 367).
  8. ^ Achebe, Chinua. "Agostinho Neto". Retrieved 2008-05-14. 
  9. ^ http://www.publico.pt/Mundo/mihaela-marinova-e-filha-de-agostinho-neto_1463442

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Position created
President of Angola
1975–1979
Succeeded by
Jose Eduardo dos Santos