Queen Nzinga haunts the `scales’ of Angola’s autonomy

 

Queen Nzinga refuses to sit on the floor

A week ago, November 10, 2011, Angola marked its 36th Independence Day since the proclamation of independence, November 10, 1975. So, how better to acknowledge the day than to focus on … Angola asylum seekers? By and large, the Western media paid no attention to Angola today, but then again what else is new.

The great exception was Radio Netherlands Worldwide, which sported a piece entitled, “The `Mauros’ who could not stay.” `Mauro’ is Mauro Manuel, an 18 year-old Angolan lad who was recently informed he could stay in the Netherlands, where he’s lived, with a foster family, for the last eight years. Mauro wasn’t given asylum, but, on Tuesday of this week, he was allowed a reprieve. The Dutch Parliament gave him a student visa. What happens next is up in the air.

The “other `Mauros’” are women.

Amalia is 17, Tucha is 19. Their father was killed, for political activities, and the older sister was raped. That’s when they fled Angola. They lived in the Netherlands for five years. Then, they were denied asylum and, after five years, shipped back to Angola. No matter that Amalia was 16 at the time, a minor. No matter that no one knows where their relatives are or even if they are. A year on, they still don’t know if their mother is dead or alive.

“At the other end of the scale”, according to RNI, is Engracia. 33 years old. Completed her education in the Netherlands, where she lived for 14 years. No political violence. Supported by middle class kin in Angola and the Dutch Refugee Council, who paid for her ticket back and gave her 2000 euros.

So that’s the RNI Angola Scale: weeping, terrorized, impoverished failed asylum seeking girl, on one end; successful, entrepreneurial woman, on the other. On one end, desperately poor and with no apparent means of securing income; on the other, `gifted’ handsomely, as a `returning refugee’, by the largesse of Europe.

Really? That’s the scale?

What about all those other women in Angola? What about the ones who organize, struggle, and keep on keeping on? Women like Teresa Quarta, chairwoman of the Association of Angolan Women and Sports (AMUD), who argued this week that women athletes is all fine and well, but Angola needs to attend to developing and supporting women sports managers. What about women like primary school Maria Emelia and Rosa Florinda, women who don’t deny that things are tough, that classes are overcrowded, that the country lacks sufficient numbers of trained teachers, that too many children are too hungry. Women teachers, across the country, who keep teaching, keep pushing, keep pulling. Factory workers, farmers and farm workers, nurses and doctors, women. Ordinary women. Women not defined by their encounter with the European state. Women defined as simply Angolan.

When they look for a model, when they look for a Queen, for example, they need not look to Queen Beatrix, of the Netherlands, nor to her mother, Queen Juliana. Instead, they could look closer to home. They could look to Queen Nzinga, Nzinga the Warrior Queen of the Ndongo and Matamba, that woman who overcame local structures, who defied and often defeated the Portuguese, who almost single handedly created a new state. Nzinga was not a saint, was not some pure or ideal woman. She cut deals. She allied with the Dutch against the Portuguese. She provided safe haven for runaway slaves while at the same time engaging in the slave trade. That’s life. “It’s complicated.”

Nzinga was not a heroine nor is she an icon. She was a leader. Nzinga led in war, peace, commerce, politics, and life. Nzinga was an Angolan woman who led Angolans into action. Nzinga was an Angolan woman, who presaged not only Angola’s national independence but also its national autonomy. Nzinga haunts the `scales’ of Angola, and Amalia, Tucha, Engracia, Teresa Quarta, Maria Emelia, Rosa Florinda, and so many others, are her descendants. Tell that as the story of Angolan independence.

(This post originally appeared, in slightly different form and under different title, here http://africasacountry.com/2011/11/16/angolan-independence/

 

(Image of Queen Nzinga: Amazing Women in History)

The children just can’t stop crying

Makenda Kambana - Jimmy Mubenga's wife - (left) with family and supporters

Makenda Kambana – Jimmy Mubenga’s wife – (left) with family and supporters

Today, November 10, 2011, Angola marked its 36th Independence Day. How does Europe mark Angola’s independence?

Jimmy Mubenga was on a `hit list’ in Angola, and so he fled to England. He applied for asylum. Denied asylum, he was put on a plane. His wife and five children remained in England. Mubenga resisted deportation. He was forcibly placed on a plane and, according to witnesses, killed by G4S escorts. His widow, Makenda Kambana, reported, “The children just can’t stop crying and I don’t know what to say to them.” That was then. A year later, Makenda Kambana reports that little has changed, except, perhaps, for her education. Now she knows that her husband was not an anomaly, that he was part of a culture of mistreatment and abuse of people of color by the so-called escorts. What does she say to her children now?

That was 2010.

Five years earlier, Manuel Bravo, suffered a related fate. Bravo had arrived in England, with his wife Lidia and two sons, in 2001. He had been imprisoned for pro-democracy activities, and his parents and sister had been killed. In 2004, his wife took their son, Nelio, and returned to Angola, to take care of ailing relatives. She was arrested, and, upon release, fled to Namibia. Manuel Bravo was denied asylum, and then, in the middle of the night, border agents came to the house, took him and his son, Antonio, to the notorious, privately run Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, and told them to prepare for deportation the next day. That night, Manuel Bravo hanged himself, leaving a note that read, in part, “I kill my self, because I don’t have life for live any more. My son Antonio stay here in UK to continue his studying. When he grow up, he [illegible] your decision. I really sorry because I can’t return to Angola.”

Antonio did in fact stay in England. He did pursue his studies. He grew up to be a fine young man. And his reward, now that he’s an adult? The government seeks to deport him. Happy birthday, Antonio, welcome to adulthood.

And then there’s Amalia and Tucha. Amalia is 17; Tucha is 19. Their father was killed, for political activities. Tucha was raped. In 2005, alone and unaccompanied, they fled Angola. Last year, after living in the Netherlands for five years, they were denied asylum and peremptorily shipped back to Angola. No matter that Amalia was a minor. No matter that no one can locate their relatives.

Amalia explains, “A group of policemen entered our bedroom in the middle of the night. They said: ‘Pack your stuff.’ I said: ‘Why, why, why? I’m not yet 18!’ But they grabbed us and put us on a plane. Five people accompanied us; I don’t know who they were. I just cried and cried.”

I just cried and cried.

This is the narrative of empire: The children just can’t stop crying.

 

(Photo Credit: Socialist Worker)