P 20

Southern African Liberation Movements: Transnational Connections in Southern Africa and with Countries in the ‘East’ (1960 – 1994)

Panel abstract
This panel will explore connections between liberation movements in Southern Africa and between those movements and countries in the Eastern Bloc in the Cold War decades of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The many different forms such connections took have been little investigated. This panel will include some case-studies of such interactions, at both leadership and grass-roots levels, seeking to explain why they took the form they did. As resistance increased in Southern Africa, the relationship between liberation movements and Eastern European states changed over time. What role did actors in both Southern Africa and Eastern Europe play? What can we learn by looking at biographies in a time of increasing racial and international conflict? Members of liberation movements worked together in exile headquarters in Dar es Salaam and elsewhere, and in camps such as Kongwa in Tanzania. Some travelled to Eastern Europe for military training or to receive university education. Such connections will be teased out and an attempt made to bring threads together for the region as a whole.

Time: Friday, 29/06/2018, 8.30 - 10.30 am, 11 am - 1 pm (double session)
Venue: Seminargebäude, S 203

Convenors
Lena Dallywater (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL), Leipzig)
Chris Saunders (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Helder Fonseca (University of Evora, Portugal)

Panellists
Helder Fonseca (University of Evora, Portugal)
Chris Saunders (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Andrew Ivaska (Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)
Nedzad Kuc (University of Vienna, Austria)
Sebastian Pampuch (Humboldt University of Berlin)
Elizabeth Banks (New York University, USA)
Christian Williams (University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa)

Discussants
Constantin Katsakioris (University of Bayreuth)
Steffi Marung (Leipzig University)

 

Paper abstracts

Helder Fonseca
Angolan Guerrillas and Eastern-European Live Experiences: a Prosopographical Approach (1961– 1974)

Recent historical research on exile in Southern Africa has provided a better understanding of the multiplicity of experiences of various social segments and individuals as members of liberation movements or refugees during the liberation struggles, including connections between exiles. Progress has also been made in our knowledge of international support provided to liberation movements. However the specific experiences in exile of ‘freedom fighters’ have a marginal place in the social history of Southern African liberation struggles, both within the regional context and within the interconnected global network of solidarity and active educational, political, and military training support, in which countries in the ‘East’ had a very important yet non-exclusive action. Based on archival research, this paper is about how Angolan militant and guerrillas (fighters) had experienced, in the ‘East’, active solidarity between 1961-1974. The principal documentary pieces are Portuguese military and police security services’ (PIDE/DGS) interrogation reports of arrested, imprisoned, captured, and kidnapped guerrillas. In addition, different types of records captured in military operations (‘apontamento diário’, ‘apontamento individual’, ‘livro de notas’, and ‘agenda’) will be considered, as well as personal narratives subsequently published. As a rule, the interrogation reports followed a script of topics, covering, first, individual identity data, that may include age, marital status, places of birth and residence, ethnicity and dialects, occupation, military situation, literacy, etc, followed by the membership of liberation movements, training activities [when, where, and with whom], and other organizational and operational information. Other police sources permit a quasi-systematic prosopographical approach, a ‘middle ground’ research strategy that throws light on individual trajectories and agency. The aim of this paper, exploring circa 160 individual interrogation reports between 1966 and 1974, is to approach from below the individual and collective experience of Angolan freedom fighters, considering geography, host institutions, daily life, training, and local connections.

Chris Saunders
Swapo’s ’Eastern’ Connections, 1966-89

The relationship between the decolonization of Southern Africa and the Cold War continues to be of interest to historians. One thread in the success of Namibia’s liberation struggle is the support that the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) received from countries in the ’East‘. Only aspects of this fascinating story have been told, mainly from a perspective shaped at least in part by the involvement of the authors in the politics of the Cold War. Though the paper will in particular draw upon the work of Vladimir Shubin for the Soviet Union and of Hans-Georg Schleicher for the GDR, it will seek to contextualize their contributions, to show, for example, that SWAPO’s connections with the socialist bloc headed by the Soviet Union were influenced by its relations with Cuba and with countries outside the socialist bloc, such as Sweden. The paper will begin with an analysis of the way in which SWAPO’s connections shifted from the People’s Republic of China to the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the mid and late 1960s. It will then consider the various forms that SWAPO‘s connections took with the Soviet Union and GDR in the 1970s and 1980s. It will be shown that the relations that were established were not one-sided and that they changed in significant ways over time.

Andrew Ivaska
Liberation Itineraries: Transnational Mobility Within a Frelimo in Exile

This paper begins from the vantage point of the left-wing Mecca that was Dar es Salaam in the 1960s to consider the politics of transnational mobility during Frelimo’s formative years in exile. During the early years of the 1960s, across the landscape of liberation movement cadres, academics, volunteers, students, journalists, diplomats, and official hosts who built Tanzania’s reputation as an incubator for socialist projects, the Eastern Bloc was impactful for Frelimo without being the dominant partner it would later become. Frelimo was still finding its footing and wracked by competing factions backed by a diverse array of sponsors; Tanzania itself was seeking to carve out a place of relative autonomy vis-à-vis the designs of the Cold War superpowers. Precisely because of this flux these early Dar years open up a unique lens on the everyday meanings and ground-level practices of transnational mobility within Frelimo. This paper focuses on the complexities of Frelimo cadres journeys abroad – from the precarity of political refugee-hood, through Dar es Salaam as a ‘gate’ to further travel abroad, to experiences in Moscow, and beyond. It uses these journeys to explore a set of key phenomena that marked movements like Frelimo: the scholarship as a central technology of movement life; mobility as an index and shaper of internal inequality; the Cold War as a shifting resource but awkward frame; the complexities of experiences in Eastern Bloc capitals; and more.

Nedzad Kuc
Building Strong Relations Before Independence: Yugoslav Educational Aid to Southern Africa

Besides intensifying its relations with the West after the expulsion from the Cominform in 1948, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia focused on building a strong partnership with former European colonies and newly independent countries in the Global South, such as India, Indonesia, Egypt, and Ghana. The alliance culminated in the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement, in which Yugoslav President Tito was a key figure. Due to its own way of socialism, its resistance to Soviet Power, and its strong anticolonial stance Yugoslavia enjoyed great prestige in the movement as a role model for other member states. The country offered political and economic support to its new partners in the Global South, building infrastructure and deploying technical experts. Relations were not only limited to independent countries but were also established with anticolonial movements across the African continent. The paper analyses Yugoslav relations with national liberation movements in Southern Africa (for ex. in Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, or South Africa) and the educational aid provided by the Yugoslav government that led to a student mobility from Southern Africa to the Balkans during the Cold War. Based on archival documents consulted in Belgrade, the paper explores Yugoslav attempts to establish strong relations with potential new allies prior to their independence or liberation from racialist rule by responding to the need of Southern African liberation movements for well-educated young people, vital to the struggle for freedom, future socio-economic development, and state-building.

Sebastian Pampuch
Regaining Malawi’s Radical Tradition: Southern African Liberation, the Eastern Bloc, and the Socialist League of Malawi (Lesoma) in Tanzanian Exile, 1974-1991

There is extensive documentation of a radical tradition in Malawian politics, a tradition said to be lost under thirty years of authoritarian rule. Yet the Cabinet Crisis in 1964 provoked a considerable Malawian exile in which this radical tradition actually continued. The entanglements between this exile, Southern Africa’s liberation movements ,and the socialist world remain widely unknown. Lesoma was the largest of several Malawian opposition movements founded in exile, the only one with a Marxist outlook, and a movement of exiles which shared its Tanzanian refuge with exiled liberation movements. While the latter argued that violent liberation would generate independent states which could better resist neo-colonialism than the already independent ones, Lesoma argued that Malawi was a neo-colonial regime par excellence which would hinder further decolonization. Its leaders lived under the constant threat of Banda's forces but managed to organize support from the Eastern Bloc and to attend international gatherings such as a World Peace Council’s conference in Portugal. Hence, Lesoma resembles liberation movements while its mere existence challenges the notion of national liberation. Lesoma’s story broadens Malawi’s picture within Southern African liberation struggles as drawn by Kings M. Phiri in the corresponding SADC volume. My paper builds on a biographical research of a late Lesoma member exiled in Germany, his private estate, interviews given to me by former Lesoma members in Malawi, as well as on archival sources from the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union.

Elizabeth Banks
International Journeys as International Relations? The Value of Personal Biographies in Researching South-East Connections

After Eduardo Mondlane, the first president of Mozambique’s national liberation movement Frelimo, was killed by the Portuguese Secret Police in 1969, his two oldest children were sent to school in the Soviet Union. Drawing on Soviet and Mozambican archival and oral history sources, this paper uses Chude’s and Eduardo Junior’s education at the Moiseyev ballet academy and a boarding school in Ivanovo to discuss the effects of socialist internationalist links for individuals, and as an optic to bring broader Soviet-Mozambican relations into view. As children of a revolutionary VIP, their position in the USSR was exceptional; using their biographies as a lens has its limits. And yet in many ways, their Soviet adventures were relatively ‘normal,’ and reflect Mozambique’s experience with the Soviet Union on a wider scale. Their move to the USSR reflected Frelimo’s shift towards greater association with the socialist bloc in the late sixties, and Soviet authorities’ interest in symbolic gestures, not just the large-scale projects on which scholars have tended to focus. While it was a symbolic coup to have the teenaged Mondlanes present in the USSR, they experienced misunderstandings, disagreements, neglect, and eventually apparent disinterest in their fate. Using their biographies as an entry point, we see by extension that their experience at the micro-level mirrors an ambivalent interest in the fate of socialist Mozambique on the part of the internationalist Soviet Union.

Christian Williams
Humanitarian Aid. Nation Building and ‘Refugees’ Among Swapo in Zambia: a History of the Chaplaincy to Namibians, 1974-76

In February 1974, Salatiel Ailonga, a SWAPO clergyman, and Anita Ailonga, his Finnish missionary wife, founded the Chaplaincy to Namibians, a Christian ministry for Namibian exiles in Zambia. Although initially the Chaplaincy only served a few hundred Namibians, within months, thousands more had joined SWAPO there. In turn, the Chaplaincy found itself at the centre of a humanitarian crisis, which the Ailongas, as SWAPO members with international church networks, were uniquely placed to address. At the same time, the Chaplaincy became embroiled in a schism within SWAPO, which, by the middle of 1976, had resulted in the imprisonment and/or deportation of more than one thousand exiled Namibians, including the Ailongas. This paper will present a history of the Chaplaincy, drawing from its archives and the author’s extensive interviews with Namibians who lived in Zambia at that time. In so doing, it aims to highlight two aspects of how Namibians and others responded to their displacement in mid-1970s Zambia. First, the paper will examine how the Ailongas used international discourses on ‘refugees’ to procure aid at a moment when the meaning of this term differed across Western and Eastern bloc countries and was still unsettled in the context of Southern Africa’s exiled liberation movements. Second, it will consider how aid became politicized in the conflict within SWAPO, highlighting how SWAPO officials used aid to control allegiances in its first ‘refugee camp’ and how the Chaplaincy became threatening in this context. By tracing these dynamics, the paper will illuminate the evolution of ‘the refugee’ during Southern Africa’s liberation struggles, a topic which has barely been explored in existing historiographies. Moreover, it will highlight how Namibian exiles used the East-West conflict to advance competing agendas within a national community, thereby advancing an emerging argument in the Cold War literature.