It is nearly three years since Angola won its independence from Portugal, and passed into the control of a Marxist government.
It is nearly three years since Angola won its independence from Portugal, and passed into the control of a Marxist government. Political stability was that government's first goal; then economic stability. Without yielding any ground in its revolutionary fervour, it has recently been re-opening contacts with Western Europe and the United States, as well as keeping those it already has with the Soviet Union and Cuba.
SYNOPSIS: Luanda, the capital and the country's only major city, still shows signs of its colonial past. Under Portuguese rule, it was an important commercial centre, with a population approaching half a million. It was and still is, a busy port. In 1975, when the Portuguese withdrawal was imminent, the Popular Movement took control of both city and port, which helped ensure its victory over its rivals.
The victory of the Popular Movement, the M.P.L.A., is commemorated by an imposing memorial. The movement, which now forms the government, takes care to see that the Angolan people do not forget that they owe their present state of independence to armed struggle. The party headquarters building proclaims its victory, and its ideology, outside as well as inside. The revolution, Vice-President Laro has said, must be Angolan as well as Marxist-Leninist.
After nearly three years, the government can still not afford to relax its vigilance. Murals exhort the people to educate themselves and to work hard for a revolutionary future.
They also whip up hate for rival political movement. If the National Front in the north appears to be a spent force, UNITA in the south is very much alive.
There are few signs of serious food shortages. Angola is a big, fertile country, with a wide range of climate. If production is not disrupted by war, it can basically feed its people. What has happened economically is that the cash crops, particularly coffee, have been drastically reduced since the Portuguese left.
The long line of shoppers is waiting for sugar. Angola produces sugar for itself, but there are sometimes distribution problems. However, it is the shortage of goods for export, other than crude oil, which is causing economic problems, and making the country so dependent on Soviet financial aid. In an attempt to lessen this dependence, President Neto's government has recently been making overtures, through the Belgian Foreign Minister, to the European Economic Community. It has shown interest in the Lome Convention, which associates the E.E.C. with developing countries, and is due for renegotiation in two years' time.
Cuban soldiers-- up to 15,000 of them-- are still in Angola, but not much in evidence. The Soviet Union supplies technical advisers as well as money, and the Russians occasionally take time from their work to enjoy a spell on the beach.
The Luanda fishermen take much the same line, in their own way, as the government does in a wider field: they will take help, and welcome it, from wherever it is offered; but they want it without strings.