A BOND OF BLOOD
Posted Friday, May 31, 1963 (Time Magazine)
Portuguese infantry patrols in northern Angola peered at the skies last week and waited prayerfully for the end of the rains. In the third year of their campaign to quell a stubborn native revolt against Portuguese rule, government forces counted on dry weather to throw armored units and paratroops against the African guerrillas, who throughout the rainy season had mercilessly harassed the bogged-down Europeans.
Nonetheless, government troops this season face tougher odds than ever before in the 2,000 sq. mi. battle zone, known to the colonists as the Rotten Triangle. The rebels, admitted a Portuguese officer, have "tremendously'' improved their tactics and firepower in recent months. Shuttling freely into Angola from Congolese bases across the 400-mile northern border, wily terrorist bands have replaced machetes and canhangulos, their crude, homemade muzzle-loaders, with Belgian Mausers, U.S. carbines and Czech machine guns. And, unlike Portugal's 50,000-man expeditionary force, they know every inch of the terrain. Says a longtime white administrator: "It would take 100,000 men to clean up the Triangle."
The Rivals. The bloody fight for Angola is the only shooting war still raging in Africa. To win it and "liberate"' the continent's biggest colonial territory, African leaders in Addis Ababa last week vociferously supported Algerian Premier Ahmed ben Bella's call to "establish a bond of blood" with the Angolan nationalists. The war is a grievous burden for tiny Portugal, which already has Western Europe's lowest living standard. But Strongman Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, 74, is by now too deeply committed to preservation of Angola as a "province" of Portugal to yield the Africans even token self-government without imperiling his own 31-year reign in Lisbon. Despite the steady rise in the guerrillas' strength and effectiveness, Salazar's best hope of victory lies in the bitter enmity between the two nationalist movements that are struggling to win Angola's independence.
Aid from Mulattoes. The rival rebel groups, both based across the border in the Congolese capital of Leopoldville, often seem more intent on destroying each other than the Portuguese. The Popular Movement for Liberation of Angola (M.P.L.A.) is led by smooth, Sorbonne-educated Mario Pinto de Andrade, 34, a mulatto whose backing comes mainly from other assimilados, the educated half-castes who have long had full Portuguese citizenship; to widen its appeal, however, an Angolan black, Poet Agostinho Neto, was recently made M.P.L.A.'s nominal leader. Andrade, who, like most of Salazar's foes, is often denounced as a Communist, is an astute politician and an able organizer. He has built a nationwide following among the mulatto elite who would be the logical leaders of independent Angola, and last week in Addis Ababa urged Africa's statesmen to help lance "the abscess of rivalry" between the two movements.
Andrade's offer of cooperation was rejected by his implacable foe, Holden Roberto, 38, a member of the far-flung Bakongo tribe, whose Union of Angolan Peoples (U.P.A.) has powerful support from the Congo's Premier Cyrille Adoula, Roberto's longtime friend. The U.P.A. has received aid from Tunisia as well. With a training camp near Thysville, 40 miles from the Congolese border, Roberto's guerrillas are the only militarily effective rebel group in Angola, though they have not succeeded in extending the conflict beyond the Triangle, where the Bakongo and allied tribesmen are dominant.
"Nobody's Puppets." Nonetheless, Roberto's U.P.A. has fought off insurgents from Andrade's movement. This month, at a makeshift hospital in Leopoldville, three young, Algerian-trained M.P.L.A. fighters told a grim tale of an ambush at the Loge River, deep inside the Triangle, in which Roberto's men massacred the rest of their 14-man guerrilla unit. The U.P.A. leader is just as fiercely determined to resist intervention from any other quarter. To Algeria's offer of 10,000 volunteers to fight in Angola, Roberto snapped: "We will kill them if they show up. We are nobody's puppets." Roberto, who promises a "big move soon," is expected to open a second front in the rich, cotton-growing Malange area, where a savage native uprising was stamped out in 1961. With the Congo's Katanga province now under Leo-poldville's control, the anti-Portuguese rebels could start moving in through Angola's "back door" as well.
Roberto has reason to be confident. It took the French five years and 500,000 troops to achieve even a stalemate in Algeria. Portugal is hard pressed to field one-tenth as many men. But Lisbon and Leopoldville may soon have little say in the war. The governments of Egypt, Ghana, Guinea and Algeria last week reached broad agreement on a plan to funnel equal aid to Mario Pinto de Andrade's M.P.L.A. and Holden Roberto's group. In Angola the Portuguese themselves have become increasingly skeptical of Salazar's ability to suppress the rebellion. Hard-bitten Portuguese colonists, many of whom were born in Angola, have already organized their own paramilitary Volunteer Corps to fight the guerrillas and, if necessary, to wage an O.A.S.-style campaign to preserve white supremacy in Angola. "This is our war," vowed one grim-faced plantation owner last week. "We'll all be killed rather than move out."