As members of the North London Haslerriere Group of War on Want, and publishers of "Coffee for Britain Means Blood for Angola" — extracts from which you printed in the Catholic Herald — we are writing to answer some of the criticisms made by two correspondents in your columns, which have only now been brought to our notice.
The first, Mr. II. R. Stilwell, wrote on October 26, that the Portuguese were the oldest colonists, and seems to imply that this justifies their policies. We would reply that no colonialism is justified, even if the colonisers manage to achieve high material living standards for their subjects (which the Portuguese have not done), and it is for this reason that the Hasiemere Group and Third World. First are "notoriously anti-Portuguese".
Secondly, he talks about the 1961 massacre of whites in Northern Angola by outsiders from the Congo. We would remind him that the African U.P.A. (Uniao de Populacoes de Angola), though using adjacent independent Congo to some extent, had its origin and strength in Northern Angola.
According to William Minter, author of "Portuguese Africa and the West" (Penguin 1972), moreover, this incident "although co-ordinated fo some extent by U.P.A. militants,. was much more an unorganised popular outburst of violence than co-ordinated guerrilla warfare," and although hundreds of Portuguese were killed, the retaliation was ferocious, taking place often hundreds of miles from the original violence.
Thousands fled to the Congo and thousands more died and were bombed. Many educated Africans were rounded up and shot. Minter says: "To missionaries in Angola at the time, it appeared that the Portuguese were determined to wipe out all present and potential African leadership."
Thirdly, why did the Africans
not drive the Portuguese out in 1961 when they were so few against.so many Africans'? The lack of weapons and organisation is the obvious reason. The 1961 uprising took place with the help of only machetes, stolen rifles and old hunting guns. Organised resistance was to follow.
Fourthly, who hacks the freedom fighters? Through Unesco, the Angola Liberation Movement receives money from Sweden and Denmark, apart from help and support from neighbouring independent African countries such as Zaire and Zambia. And what will liberation mean to Africans, for instance those in the Portuguese Army? This only they can answer.
We do not suppose that the 'freedom movement is understood or backed by all Africans; as Basil Davidson, an authority on Portuguese Africa, says: "The timid withdraw and the fools betray and many confusions remain." But those working for independence are trying to overcome their "backwardness" and gain confidence in their own power of self-determination. We can only hope for the increasing strength of the liberation movement.
Fifthly, Mr. Stilwell talks rather vaguely about Communist influences and slanted information. Perhaps if Portugal were to accept less NATO backing for her colonial wars and allow more journalists into her territories, there might be less risk of either of these.
This letter is already too long, so we will end by answering the main point of Mr. Potier's letter of November 2 — that there is no forced labour in Angola.
As press officer for the Portuguese Embassy, however, he should be aware of the 1969 report of Dr. Alfonso Mendes, director of Angola's Labour Institute, on "Relevant Aspects of Counter-Subversion", who had this to say on forced labour: "Administrative authorities still intervene with repression against workers at the request of respective employers . . . the cases of physical violence are not a few .. In legal terms this intervention is designated as 'forced labour'."
In the light of this and other evidence we stand by our protest against Portugal's African colonial policy, and will continue to support the liberation movement in Angola, by trying to circulate the facts about the oppressed majority there.
Wendy Wedgeburv Barbara M. Hughes North London Hasleinere Group, War on Want 467 Caledonian Road, London, N.7.