Multiculturalism in Fiction and Fact in Angola Reading Pepetela's Mayombe After Twenty-Nine Years
par Avelino Chicoma Bundo CHICO
Arrupe College (University of Zimbabwe) - BA Honours and MA in Philosophy and Humanity 2009
Multiculturalism in Fiction and Fact in Angola: Reading
Pepetela's Mayombe After
Avelino Chico, SJ
An essay for the course APH 402 Position Paper in
DATE: April 16, 2009.
I am grateful to Prof. Anthony Chennells, my advisor through whom I have learned to love literature. I am also grateful to Fr John Moore, SJ, who helped me a lot in the course of my stay at Arrupe College. To the rector, the dean, other members of staff and my fellow Jesuits and friends, I am also grateful. My gratitude also goes to the members of my Jesuit province (Portugal Province) mainly to those `labouring' in the Angolan Mission. Finally, I owe extensive gratitude to my parents.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
AU African Union
DRC Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire)
FNLA National Front for the Liberation of Angola
GURN Government of Unity and National Reconciliation
MPLA People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola
MPLA/PT People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola/Labour Party
OAU Organization of African Unity
UN United Nations
UNITA National Union for the Total Independence of Angola
USA United States of America
There is a saying in Angola that if you drop a seed into the soil, the next day you will find a fullygrown plant. Similarly, if you plunge a drill into Angola's seabed, oil will come gushing out. Angola is one of the richest countries in the world and its riches comprise not just natural resources, the free gifts of Mother Nature but also human resources, the mental and physical power of its people and man-made resources which are the product of the intellectual and technical engagement by the population with their environment. However, this wealth of resources seems to confer little benefit on the lives of most of the Angolan people. Instead, for twenty-seven years they were being used to feed the catastrophic civil war which left seventy percent of the population in deepening poverty and eighty percent without basic medical care, running water, electricity or access to information. Moreover, much of the infrastructure was destroyed, eighty percent of agricultural plantations were abandoned, dozens of bridges smashed, the trading network was disrupted, most administrative services were and still are corrupt and most medium-level and highly skilled workers had left the country.
The three principal Angolan nationalist movements took their shape from the three main ethnolinguistic groups. UNITA, which was founded in 1966, was rooted among the southern Ovimbundu, whose language is Umbundu, constituting Angola's largest ethnic group - thirtyeight per cent. The MPLA was founded in 1956 and drew its support mainly from the central Mbundu as well as whites, mestiços and the city-based Creoles. The Mbundu whose language is Kimbundu constitute the country's second largest ethnic group - fifteen per cent. The northern Bakongo whose language is Kikongo and who constitute Angola's third largest ethnic group - thirteen per cent - founded FNLA in the 1950s. Even though each of these movements shared the
same objectives - the independence of Angola - they were never able to form a joint front. Both UNITA's and FNLA's leaders Jonas Savimbi and Holden Roberto respectively, viewed MPLA as the movement which was excessively narrow in its ethnic preference for Mbundu citizens and was effectively in the pockets of the whites, mestiços and the Creoles. The two leaders looked on whites, mestiços and Creoles as `non-Africans' and therefore disconnected from the `real' Africa. Thus, while the lack of unity was hindering the popular uprising, racial contempt towards those Angolans who were perceived as non-indigenous had opened a wound, which had long and painful consequences for any possible postcolonial conciliatory approach.
Despite their differences, in January 1975, the Portuguese authority and the three movements signed the Alvor accords, which were supposed to pave the way to independence. The date for independence was set for 11 November and in meantime, a transitional government was formed. The holding of elections was set for October and the movements were working towards that. But, the leaders of the three movements Savimbi, Roberto and Agostinho Neto (MPLA) opted not to serve in the government, each preferring to embark on a desperate race to achieve supremacy before the scheduled date for independence. Russia and Cuba continued to provide military aid to MPLA. The USA, South Africa and China began to send money and weapons to UNITA and FNLA. As a result, the transitional government was making little progress and, with the escalating arms race, in March the battle to hold the capital, Luanda, began. The MPLA held it and on Independence Day proclaimed the `People's Republic of Angola.' Savimbi and Roberto, who were far away from Luanda, proclaimed from Huambo the `Democratic Republic of Angola' (Davidson, Slovo and Wilkinson 86). The departing Portuguese authority rejected any
responsibility for the situation in the country. However, it expressed regret that the three liberation movements were allowed to arm themselves in the run-up to independence.
The civil war went on - no longer against the Portuguese but against the MPLA and its Cuban and Russian allies. Several attempts were made by the then OAU - now the AU - to bring the three movements together but this was fruitless. In 1976 USA enacted the Clark Amendment, which outlawed the sending of US weapons to the warring parties in Angola and both FNLA and UNITA were left on the brink of collapse. While the FNLA was defeated as a fighting force because they could not resist the heavy armaments provided for the MPLA by Russia and Cuba, UNITA retired to the bush to begin a new guerrilla campaign. Nevertheless, in 1985 the USA congress repealed the Clark Amendment and with US-aid, UNITA was able to liberate some `sanctuaries.' The revolution had aimed to create a new order and a more humane future society, not simply to force the Portuguese to relinquish control of the country and leave it to Angolans themselves. But as the people continued to sink into deepening poverty and the inheritors of the colonial rule turned into an elitist ruling party, the meaning of the revolution remained only simply in the potential it once had possessed. In other words, our leaders had failed to lead the nation beyond the rhetoric of Uhuru (independence).
Every society needs harmony and peace. Angola which has been devastated by conflicts of various kinds is devoid of harmony, stability and peace, those essential preconditions for the development of the country. Therefore, mechanisms for the prevention of conflict must be the major concern for the Angolan people. Without these, the country's developmental goal will not be achieved. Ethnic and ideological differences, the depth of mutual mistrust between the
movements, the MPLA's refusal to loosen its grip on state power, racial contempt and external influences have all led to the breakdown and failure of the implementation of agreements like the Alvor Agreement, the Bicesse Accord and the Lusaka Protocol. Even the peace that has been reigning in the country since 2002 has not yet healed the wounds of twenty-seven years of civil war. The country needs to find different mechanisms to prevent further conflicts, to unite its citizens, to accommodate differences and to celebrate each other's horizons. One mechanism for alleviating conflict is for a talented writer to translate a tricky political situation into a work of fiction. In Mayombe, the Angolan writer Artur C. M. P. dos Santos who writes under the name Pepetela, his guerrilla code-name, has done just that for the Angolan situation.
In his novel Mayombe, Pepetela portrays the lives of a group of Angolan guerrillas who are involved in the anti-colonial struggle. Despite their ethnic, tribal, ideological and racial differences, the guerrillas attempt to transcend these differences with a new nationalism informed by the liberation struggle. João and Fearless promote a culture of resistance in which an Angolan person will no longer act as a Kimbundu or a Kikongo but as an Angolan. A purely national identity, however, isolates one from one's local identification which has certain advantages. The experiential multiculturalism as it is depicted in a concrete and `existential' way in Pepetela's Mayombe, may serve only to divide. But a multiculturalism, which does not wash away ethnic particularism but celebrates differences, is another model of what the citizens of Angola should become.
I will analyze Pepetela's approach, dividing my remarks into
five parts. The first part comprises
Angolan people, which produced the three political movements. The influential statement which was made by Isaias Samakuva, the leader of the main opposition party, UNITA, just on the eve of the elections in 2008 - «Alguns sentem-se mais angolanos do que os outros [some people feel themselves to be more Angolan than others]» - will also be analyzed in this second part. The third part consists of a descriptive summary of the novel Mayombe. In the fourth part, which is subtitled «Has multiculturalism any value?» I will validate both the ideal of experiential multiculturalism and ethnically derived multiculturalism. Finally, in the fifth part, the conclusion, I shall give an overview of the paper and affirm as well as reaffirm some of the positions emphasized throughout the paper.