Antonio de Figueiredo (March 18, 1929?Nov. 30, 2006) was a Portuguese-born journalist, activist, writer, and broadcaster who did a lot for the liberation of Portugal?s former colonies in Africa by exposing the oppression and wanton dehumanization of Africans in those colonies.
His literary and political activism covered Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, South Africa, Guinea, and Rhodesia.
In 1974 he served as an advisor to Portugal?s delegation to the General Assembly (UN). Last but not least, his 1961 book ?Portugal and Its Empire: The Truth? exposed what Portuguese imperialism and colonialism were doing to Mozambique and Angola.
Figueiredo had great admiration and respect for Nkrumah and his ideas. Perhaps his [Figueiredo] closest friend and colleague was the late Basil Davidson. Finally, this essay (?Nkrumah and The Forgotten Anglo-Portuguese Alliance?) written by Figueiredo appeared in the New African Magazine (No. 448, Feb. 2006). It explains Nkrumah?s role in decolonizing the Portuguese colonies in Southern Africa. Figueiredo was a thorn in the flesh of the Portuguese political leadership and establishment. Please read on:
?Nkrumah recognised the double condition of Portugal as “coloniser and colonised” when he wrote in 1963 that “a form of financial and diplomatic dependence, accompanied by political independence, is presented by Portugal [which] is an independent, sovereign state, but actually for more than 200 years has been a British protectorate?” He couldn’t be more right.
The Anglo-American “special relationship” which, with the current disastrous war in Iraq, has further exposed the glaring gap in power between Britain and the US, finds a curious precedent, if not in scale and circumstances, at least in outline and evolution, with the now almost forgotten Anglo-Portuguese Alliance.
Few amongst Britons or the millions of visitors to London, including Portuguese-speaking, know that Piccadilly, one of the busiest arteries in London, leading to the world-famous Circus, was once named Portugal Street.
This was to mark the marriage of the daughter of the Portuguese King John IV, Catarina de Braganza, to Charles II of England in 1661, two decades after the restoration of Portugal’s independence from Spain (1640) and the recent restoration of the monarchy in England from Cromwell’s short-lived republic, which, incidentally, was as much a strong supporter of Portuguese independence from Spain as an oppressor of nearby Ireland.
The Portuguese princess brought in her dowry a vast sum in gold bullion as well as the cession of Tangier (Morocco) and Bombay (now Mumbai) in India, to England, as an inducement for a future imperialist partnership.
Article 15 of the Marriage Treaty could not be more explicit on how the Portuguese kings and warlords, long outnumbered by sea-lords, were prepared to use their English allies to recover some of their far-flung coastal outposts in the Far East, Africa and Brazil, from their common Dutch and Spanish rivals: “The King of England,” said Article 15, “doth profess and declare, with the consent and advice of his Council, that it will take the interests of Portugal and its Dominions to heart, defending the same with utmost power by sea and land even as England itself?”
Such interests would indeed be taken to heart as well as into British capitalist portfolios. Originally the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, dating back to 1373, had been entered into when both England and Portugal were feudal, rural monarchies of about the same stature in the contemporary European context, but both facing different or common enemies, especially France and Spain–Portugal’s much bigger and still expanding territorial neighbour.
If anything, between 1415–when the Portuguese first conquered Ceuta (which was part of Morocco) and the English were battling the French at Agincourt–up to 1580, when the Portuguese had acquired maritime supremacy and trade extending from West Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope to India and Southeast Asia, or across the South Atlantic to Brazil, small Portugal had the upper hand over England. The English were then still lagging behind in transoceanic navigation which they gradually first developed, like the Dutch, for piracy on the high seas rather than scientific exploration.
By comparison, the far more recent Anglo-American “special relationship,” essentially deriving from the times when most of the would-be American states were still mere colonies of England, took much longer to develop. In fact, for a long time, even after American independence, they had to wait as England-cum-Britain became the succeeding and biggest of maritime superpowers with an empire over which they claimed “the sun never set” or “the blood never died,” or probably both.
At the start of the 21st century, rightly or wrongly, Britain is seen to offer its considerable experience of intrusion in the Middle East to curry favour with its almighty “special relation”, USA. In Africa, the “special relationship” is seen to be operative in Zimbabwe, a divisive issue within the Commonwealth where many member states are too weary of imperialism, old or new.
Generally speaking and by comparison, the gradual process of imbalance of power between the two “partners,” i.e. Britain/Portugal and Britain/USA has become so analogous and so marked–and, if anything, so much faster that one cannot but join “old” Europe in echoing the internationalised French phrase “d?j? vu.”
In what concerns Africa, while European and lately American authors, historians, political analysts, etc., still dominate Africanist literature, some prejudices continue to surface when writing on each other?s countries’ histories. This is perhaps why I still prefer to rely on the textbooks by African thinkers themselves, and particularly Kwame Nkrumah who, being free from such prejudices, see the former European colonisers from a more independent African perspective.
The survival of the Portuguese empire can only be explained by the implications of the now forgotten Anglo-Portuguese Alliance which, like it is said of “old soldiers, never formally died but has just been allowed to fade away due to the common membership of NATO.?
Nkrumah himself, in his classic book, Africa Must Unite, first published in 1963, more accurately uses Portugal as a case study, not so much of colonialism, but of “neo-colonialism,” arising from the historical Anglo-Portuguese connection.
Quoting from Lenin’s ?Imperialism: The Last Stage of Capitalism,? Nkrumah recognises the double condition of Portugal as “coloniser and colonised” as follows: “A form of financial and diplomatic dependence, accompanied by political independence, is presented by Portugal. Portugal is an independent, sovereign state, but actually for more than two hundred years it has been a British protectorate. Great Britain has received commercial privileges, preferential conditions for importing goods and especially capital into Portugal and the Portuguese colonies, the right to use the ports and islands-of Portugal, etc. etc.”
Given that, by 1963, the Soviet Union had developed its own constellation of satellite states, Nkrumah, in another of his own books, with significant irony, entitled ?Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,? reaffirms the concept “that the essence of neo-colonialism is that the state that is subject to it is, in theory independent and has all the outward trappings of internal sovereignty. In reality, its political system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.”
The British had such a share in the profits which Portuguese colonialism extracted from colonial peoples that the Alliance, in modern terms, could be described as a racket that protected Portugal from rival powers.
The series of commercial treaties ending with the historically famous Treaty of Methuen of 1703, establishing terms of trade between Portugal and England-cum-Britain, is regarded by historians as the earliest basic model for colonial relationships. (The best study on the implications and significance of this relationship was written by Sandro Sideri: ?Trade and Power?Informal Colonialism in Anglo-Portuguese Relations,? Rotterdam University Press 1970).
While keeping the division between Portugal and Spain, the British had perhaps the lion’s share in the profits that the Portuguese extracted from the colonies. This deal was particularly profitable during the so-called Second Portuguese Empire or the “Golden Age” of Brazil when gold and other riches found their way to Lisbon and London where, according to many economists, they contributed to the early prosperity and financial ascendancy of the City of London (the financial heartland of Britain).
After the independence of Brazil in 1820, when England-cum-Britain was well on the way to becoming an imperial superpower, most of the remaining possessions of the far-flung Portuguese empire had as their neighbours British colonies, protectorates or members of the “white Commonwealth.” British dominions overshadowed the remnants of Portugal’s nominal empire–the small territories under the generic name of Goa had become mere enclaves of the vast (British) India; Macau, a client gambling resort for booming Hong Kong; East Timor was closer to Darwin (Australia) in more ways than to Batavia (now Jakarta).
In Southern Africa, where for centuries only the Dutch/Afrikaners had been the distant but nearest neighbours of Mozambique and Angola, a new generation of ruthless British empire-builders even forgot both the spirit and the letter of the London-Lisbon royal connections.
At the time of the “scramble” for Africa and for the gold, diamonds and minerals of Southern Africa at the end of the 19th century, Portuguese “imperialism on credit” only precariously survived the bullying by new British empire-builders, notably Cecil Rhodes.
As every Southern African knows, Rhodes completed the conquest of the would-be Rhodesias and Nyasaland, partly at the expense of Portuguese claims over the vast landlocked territories of what is now Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia, when the Portuguese, perhaps day-dreaming, wanted a continuous central African empire from Luanda (Angola) to Lourenco Marques (now Maputo, capital of Mozambique).
The Portuguese, however, had to give way to Cecil Rhodes’ plan of a new British empire from the Cape to Cairo, under an “ultimatum,” as famous in Portuguese history books as it is glossed over in British diplomatic annals.
Despite this 1890 ultimatum, at a time when British imperialism was as hated as its US successor is today, the Portuguese crown had to aid and abet Britain in the second Anglo-Boer war, by closing the port of Lourenco Marques–the only outlet to the sea–to the beleaguered Republic of Transvaal. This Portuguese royal betrayal only strengthened the Republican cause in Portugal which, after the assassination of King Carlos and his heir in 1908, ended with the Republican revolution of 1910 when the last and shortest-lived king Manuel fled into exile in–you guessed it?England!
The background to the 1974-75 revolution in Portugal that led to the current Second Republic and the radical withdrawal from Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Angola, and soon after, followed by Portugal’s integration in the CEE/European Union (1986), contain many elements of the overall dramatic duality of “satellite imperialism,” under-development, and decadence that, under Salazar’s regime (1932-74), made small Portugal appear to be an European “backwater.”
Nkrumah’s influence filtered to exiles-cum-intermediaries like myself mainly through the support extended by that great African statesman to the leaders of the Portuguese African liberation movements who converged in Accra, Ghana’s capital. Even after Nkrumah became the victim of a Western-inspired coup, and went into exile in Conakry (Guinea), his Guinea-Bissau fellow exile, Amilcar Cabral, the most influential of Portuguese freedom fighters, often visited and learned from him.
Apart from the liberation struggle that was foremost in his mind. Nkrumah’s prophetic thinking concerning the ideals and aims of an African Union, also apply to Europe, including Britain, where so many misguided national traditionalists persist in their ambivalence concerning the EU. Small countries can now only opt for either being full partners in a common democratic bloc or increasingly, minor and dependent “partners” in an unequal alliances or “special relationships.”
The emerging multi-polarisation which will soon include China, India, Brazil and Russia, will make the choice even more compelling.?
By : Francis Kwarteng