MPLA—Director of Information Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
Tor Sellström: When did you come into contact with the Nordic countries?
Paulo Jorge: After fleeing from Portugal, I started to work for MPLA in Paris in 1962. I then became aware of the contacts that our organization had with solidarity groups in Sweden. From 1968-69, I was sent to Sweden to meet them. One was the Africa Groups. I formed part of a delegation that also established contact with people from the Swedish Social Democratic Party. But it was not until 1971 that I got a deeper knowledge of the relations between MPLA and the Swedish solidarity groups and the Social Democratic Party. At that time, I had been transferred to our eastern front, which covered the province of Moxico (the so-called third political-military region), the Lundas (the fourth region) and Bié (the fifth region). I had left the second political-military region in the Cabinda province. Between 1971 and 1973, I learned about the aid from Sweden and other Nordic countries, such as Finland and Norway.
Was the support from Norway for the Ngangula school?
Paulo Jorge: Precisely. It started to arrive at the same time as the support from Denmark. It was humanitarian assistance, such as clothes and school equipment. Of course, as a matter of principle, there were no military items. Only humanitarian.
Tor Sellström: Including means of transport, vehicles?
Paulo Jorge: Yes. The humanitarian assistance and the vehicles were very important and added to other support that we were receiving. Whenever deliveries arrived from a country—such as Sweden and the other Nordic countries— MPLA would inform its soldiers and members about the assistance so that they would understand the meaning of solidarity and know which countries were our friends. We always gave this information through our radio broadcasts. We had two programmes, one from Brazzaville and the other from Lusaka, called ‘Angola in Combat’ ( ‘Angola Combatente’).
Tor Sellström: How did you explain then that two of the Nordic countries were members of NATO?
Paulo Jorge: It was very simple. To avoid problems, we always said that the assistance came from solidarity organizations, support committees and so on. We never spoke of parties or governments. When we received assistance, we said: ‘We received this from solidarity organizations in friendly countries’. Up to a certain time, we never mentioned the name of the parties.
Tor Sellström: But how could MPLA’s leadership explain that the movement received humanitarian support from the Nordic countries, which were part of the Western bloc?
Paulo Jorge: Our understanding was the following: These governments had their relations, accords and agreements. It was not for us to tell them that they could not be part of this or that European organization. Our interest was that they found a way of helping us and that they did not interfere in the war. We knew that the Nordic countries never interfered directly in the military process on Portugal’s side. That was the most important aspect. There was a kind of neutrality from the Nordic countries, as well as others, towards the war and Portugal’s military actions against us.
Tor Sellström: Did you experience any political conditions related to the Nordic support?
Paulo Jorge: No.
Tor Sellström: Was it strictly humanitarian?
Paulo Jorge: Absolutely. There was never any condition imposed on us. We received the assistance and we stayed in contact. I went to Sweden a couple of times, once to Norway and once to Finland before independence. Of course, the assistance opened a channel for discussions. We held meetings without major publicity, because we did not want to cause any trouble for those who supported us. We also received some support from other European countries. I should underline that as far as I know the assistance from Sweden was always larger than that from Norway, Denmark or Finland. We received the goods and distributed them. There were never any conditions attached. In our contacts with the political parties, it sometimes also happened that there was some monetary support involved. For example, when we visited Sweden there were certain groups that paid for our stay.
Tor Sellström: The Swedish Social Democratic Party gave MPLA financial contributions from its solidarity fund.
Paulo Jorge: Exactly. I remember very well that our President Agostinho Neto informed us about the financial support from the Nordic countries and that he mentioned precisely that fund.
In the period between the end of 1971 and 1974, we received a lot of humanitarian assistance from the Nordic countries, in particular from Sweden. The largest amount was from Sweden and a considerable part from Denmark. The Africa Groups played an important role for the mobilization of these funds and also with regard to the financial help that the Social Democratic Party gave us.
Tor Sellström: Do you think that the fact that Sweden assisted Cuba and Vietnam facilitated your relations with the Nordic countries?
Paulo Jorge: Yes, but it was not only that. Sweden also attracted our attention because it already had close relations with the liberation movements in Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, namely FRELIMO and PAIGC. We were aware of these relations. It is also true that a certain independence and neutrality concerning, for example the Cuban question, helped. It made it easier for us to receive the support. In the case of Angola, the information we had, moreover, was that the support from the Nordic countries was basically for MPLA and not for the other movements.
Tor Sellström: As regards Sweden, Holden Roberto visited a couple of times, but FNLA never received official assistance from the government.
Paulo Jorge: Exactly. That clear position of independence—I call it an independent position—by Sweden and the other Nordic countries helped the liberation movements that were really fighting. Sweden was very wise in this regard because it supported those that they knew were fighting, that is PAIGC, FRELIMO and MPLA. That was important. We could see that Sweden’s position was in favour of the authentic movements, those which really were involved in the struggle for independence and the creation of a new independent state. Sweden took a very clear and wise stand. We saw that.
Tor Sellström: Do you believe that Olof Palme played an important part in this context?
Paulo Jorge: I had the privilege of meeting Olof Palme a couple of times. It was obvious that he took a very special position towards the liberation movements on the African continent. There was a very interesting episode. I do not recall the year, but at that time I was Foreign Minister of Angola and there was a meeting in Maputo. Prime Minister Olof Palme attended that meeting.
At a dinner given by President Samora Machel, I was seated at a table with Machel, Palme, Joaquim Chissano, the Foreign Minister of Mozambique, and other leaders. On that occasion, something happened that underlined Palme’s involvement for the liberation of the African continent. And because of his involvement and commitment towards the liberation movements, he was given an honorary title. We began to address Prime Minister Olof Palme as an ‘honorary freedom fighter’.
Tor Sellström: Despite the fact that Sweden never supported the armed struggle?
Paulo Jorge: Of course. The aim of the assistance was to help the people. There was never any military support. When that dinner took place in Maputo, Angola and Mozambique were already independent countries. In this context, I also remember something which it is important to point out. In 1978, I made an official visit to Sweden as Foreign Minister. At the end of the visit, the first cooperation agreement was signed between Angola and Sweden. At that time, Ola Ullsten from the Liberal Party led the Ministry of International Cooperation. We signed the first agreement, through which SIDA pledged to give Angola a nonreimbursable grant of 50 million Swedish Kronor. I was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1976 until 1984. When my mandate ended in 1984, the assistance from SIDA was close to 200 million. It was increased a little every year. It was almost automatic. SIDA’s assistance constituted an extraordinary economic and social support. I was pleased because the first agreement between independent Angola and Sweden was signed by me and the minister from the Liberal Party.
Tor Sellström: Do you believe that Amílcar Cabral played a part in the establishing of relations between MPLA and Sweden?
Paulo Jorge: I do not know if there was a personal intervention by him. What happened was that MPLA, PAIGC and FRELIMO—later also CLSTP of São Tomé and Principe—had very close relations within CONCP. Amílcar Cabral, Eduardo Mondlane and Marcelino dos Santos used to go to Sweden and, of course, they also discussed the struggle in Angola. If it was a leader from MPLA—Mário de Andrade, Agostinho Neto or Lúcio Lara—who went, they would, naturally, similarly discuss the progress of the struggle in Guinea-Bissau or Mozambique. There was a very close relationship. We met annually and we discussed strategies together. It was quite natural that when Amílcar Cabral went to Sweden he would talk about MPLA and support for MPLA. He would certainly make the same contribution as Marcelino dos Santos when he went to Sweden and talked about PAIGC and MPLA.
Tor Sellström: In a letter from Agostinho Neto to Olof Palme, written after the Inter-Regional Conference in 1974, Neto mentioned a certain ‘misunderstanding’ that had occurred at the level of the Swedish embassy in Lusaka. Do you know what that was about?
Paulo Jorge: There was the so-called Eastern Revolt led by Daniel Chipenda. At that time, he belonged to the Steering Committee of MPLA on the eastern front, where he was one of the main leaders. He was the person who on MPLA’s behalf was in contact with various organizations, including international support organizations and the embassies. When the problem of the Eastern Revolt occurred—initially created by the dissatisfaction of a small ethnic group in the area of Moxico—Chipenda wanted to take advantage of the rebellion to challenge the leadership of Agostinho Neto. But the Eastern Revolt did not have any great chances of succeeding. It did not have sufficient support. However, when this took place there was a kind of paralysis. The diplomatic missions and the solidarity organizations in Zambia suspended their assistance for a while in order to understand what had happened.
Tor Sellström: Did the Soviet Union also suspend its assistance?
Paulo Jorge: Yes, they did. As far as I know, one of the countries that did not suspend assistance and maintained its position was Yugoslavia.
Tor Sellström: And Cuba?
Paulo Jorge: Naturally. Cuba was always completely behind us. But even the Soviet Union suspended its assistance. We had to explain the situation to them. Meanwhile, after the Eastern Revolt the Active Revolt broke out in the area of Cabinda and Congo-Brazzaville. The underlying cause of both the Eastern Revolt and the Active Revolt was an offensive by the Portuguese army on the eastern front. Using chemicals and defoliants, the Portuguese army forced the MPLA soldiers and the people living in the liberated areas to withdraw to Zambian territory. It involved a large number of people and during the first days it was very difficult for us to organize food supplies. We had to make a great effort to arrange the financial means and the food to be able to receive these people.
This situation led us to organize a congress between MPLA and those two factions, the Eastern Revolt and the Active Revolt in Zambia at the end of July 1974. As we did not reach an agreement, MPLA decided to leave the congress and move inside Angola and hold a new conference there. It was exactly 1 August 1974. It was also the day that the constitution of FAPLA, the Popular Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola was declared. We all went inside Angola and in the middle of September the Inter-Regional Conference of Militants was organized. It elected a new Central Committee and established a course of action for an independent Angola, because the coup of 25 April 1974 had already taken place in Portugal.