Agostinho Neto: The failed vision of a united Africa - 3

Wednesday March 20 2019


By Peter Kafumu

This last part of the story of António Agostinho Neto is narrates his legacy as a nationalist, freedom fighter and pan-African leader of his time. We also write about Neto, Angola’s outstanding poet.

His poetry always spoke of the dream for a free Angola. The poetry hoped to re-conquer the Angolan identity despite the presence of inhumane colonisers. In his poems, his pan-African spirit was always affirmed, and his countrymen’s morale in the liberation struggle strengthened.

Although Neto’s leadership was shortened by disease, his life and leadership is celebrated in many ways as elucidated hereunder. At his death, the Times of London, in its tribute described him as: “… A man of outstanding intellectual abilities who took advantage of the opportunities offered by the colonial authorities to emerge as their principal opponent…”

Neto’s best poems, most of which he wrote in the suffering of imprisonment, always spelt out his dreams for the freedom of his country. For instance, one of the poems cried out: “…Tomorrow we will intone anthems to freedom; …We will commemorate the date of slavery’s abolition; …No man will silence us; ….No man will be able to prevent us; …The smile on our lips is not out of gratitude for the death with which they kill us; …With all Humanity let us lay claim to our world and to our Peace…”

Neto’s greatness was also evoked by Fidel Castro on the 26th of July 1976 in Pinar del Río. He said: “...And we have here a man who devoted his whole life to the effort of liberating his homeland, who was forced to confront enormous difficulties. ...Neto is also a man of extraordinary culture, of great intellectual capacity and an extraordinary poet, who devoted his life and his pen to his people, to his brothers and sisters, discriminated against and enslaved, to forging the political consciousness of the Angolans...”

Castro ended his praise of his friend Neto by saying: “...Not only did he forge a consciousness, he also forged, the instrument of the struggle and c harted a line, a road; the only road in Angola, for achieving independence, which was the heroic struggle of the people, the armed struggle of the people. ...Neto is also one of the most modest, noble and honest men I have ever known...”

The reverence mantra to this great man is also enshrined in a poem written by Chinua Achebe titled “Agostinho Neto”. Part of the poem goes like this: “…Neto, I sing your passing. Timid requisitioner of your vast Armory’s most congenial supply. What shall I sing? A dirge answering the gloom? No, I will sing tearful songs of joy. I will celebrate the man who rode a trinity. Of awesome fates to the cause of our trampled race! Thou Healer, Soldier and Poet...”

Neto’s epitomes include his birthday being a National Heroes’ Day and a Public Holiday in Angola; the public University of Luanda, the Agostinho Neto University, is named after him to celebrate his life; and a Street in Belgrade in Serbia is named the Dr Agostinho Neto Street to cherish this great leader of Africa.

Also the Soviet Union awarded Neto the Lenin Peace Prize for 1975-76 because of his contribution to the liberation struggle to emancipate Africa and his pan-African temperament.

Agostinho Neto, though gone to the eschatological reality, remains one of the forefathers of the liberation and unity of the African renaissance. Although the vision of the African unity seems like a failed dream, he and the other first generation of pan-African leaders who envisioned a United Africa will endure as our latent energy of hope for the economic liberation and unity of the African continent.

For sure, one day this embryonic energy will erupt like a giant dormant volcano of old to lay bare its intrinsic needs of the economic freedom of Africa and its people.