3 January 2008

Angola: "Baixa De Kassanje" Massacre Turns 47 Years

Luanda — The January 4, date of the massacre of the workers of the cotton plantations by the Portuguese Armed Forces, in Angola in 1961, is celebrated Friday for the 11th time, at a time the Government turns its attention to substantially improving people's living standards.

This year, the main event, which is being celebrated across the country under the motto: "For the dignity of the Angolan people, may we honour the forerunners of freedom," is to take place in Lubango city, southern Huila province, with other manifestations throughout the national territory until January 10.

Given the importance of the date, the National Assembly (parliament) decided in mid-1996, to include the date among the national holidays, as the "Colonial Repression Martyrs Day".

In order to remember those who fell victims of the heinous massacre of January 4, the government has designed a comprehensive programme of political, social, recreational and cultural activities, such as the inauguration of various economic and social undertakings.

Meanwhile, according to data available about the "Baixa de Kassanje" events, as reported by missionaries, "the uprising of the Angolan people began in November 1960, through to December the same year, until the colonial authorities managed to repress it, as from January 4, 1961."

This action, coupled with the arrests of nationalists who were part of the "Processo dos 50" court case, and other forms of repression, far from killing the aspirations of the Angolan people, only served as an incentive to the struggle and achievement of freedom.

Some academicians claim that the "Baixa de Kassanje" uprising reflects the different stages of Angolan people liberation struggle, in its patriotism and revolutionary expression, to get rid of oppression and colonial exploitation.

Among various contributions, stress goes to the book written by Moses Kamabaya, released in 2007, which specifies, in particular, the massacres of the "Baixa de Kassanje", perpetrated by the Portuguese colonialists, against a people who no longer wanted to bear the fatigue, the suffering and labour, as a relevant event that preceded the February 4, 1961, the day of start of the country's liberation struggle.

Thus, on January 3, 1961, the workers of the Portuguese-Belgium cotton plantation company "Cotonang" triggered a movement of revolt at "Baixa de Kassanje", demanding for the independence of Angola.

The following day, the armed forces of the former colonial power repressed the revolt with units of the Army and Air Force. The massacre was concealed to the public.

The Angola People's Liberation Movement MPLA) assert that the armed repression killed about ten thousand people, but Angolan historians are still to establish a precise number of casualties, due to lack of records.

MPLA, in power in Angola, considers that the January 4 reinforced the sense of unity of the Angolan people and accelerated the process of struggle for national independence, on November 11, 1975.

During celebrations of the date, the country's ruling MPLA party pays a respect and recognition for all those who sacrificed their lives so that today "we can be proud of living free and in sovereignty."

It however recognises that the best way of honouring the Kassanje martyrs is encouraging the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) brave combatants in order to continue with their action of sovereignty and restoring of state administration throughout the national territory.

It is also encouraging the National Police and the effectives of Defence and Internal Security in their effort to fight crime and ensure the country's sovereignty and stability.

Located some 300 kilometres of Luanda (Angolan capital), the region of Baixa de Kassanje was the main area of production of cotton, the main product of export of the Portuguese colonial era.

Indeed, the wave of repression extended to the whole region of "Baixa de Kassanje", until March that year, involving thousands of troops and police forces loyal to the colonial authorities, which even used aircrafts to bombard demonstrators.

The development is seen by historians as one of the main landmarks of the national liberation struggle against colonial oppression in Angola, as it permitted a more objective vision to the international community, of what was actually happening in the country and in the other Portuguese colonies in Africa.

The action of January 4, 1961 can be linked to the end of the World War II and the independence of many African countries, and in the former Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), whose territory shares a border with Angola of 2,511 kilometres in length.

Thus, the events heightened awareness of freedom of Angolan patriots that, on 04 February the same year, decided to start an armed struggle without truce against the Portuguese fascist regime, culminating with the proclamation of independence of the country on November 11, 1975 .

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