Slavery in Angola

Slavery in Angola

Slavery in Angola existed since early times. Several peoples and tribes from current-day Angola, like the Imbangala and the Mbundu, were active slave traders for centuries (see African slave trade). Starting in the 16th century, Kingdom of Portugal's explorers founded settlements, trade posts and forts in Angola, and their major trading activities included a major role in the beginnings of the Atlantic slave trade. The institution of slavery was first abolished in 1836 by the Portuguese authorities.

Portuguese Angola


For several decades, slave trade with the Portuguese colony of Brazil was important in Angola; Brazilian ships were the most numerous in the ports of Luanda and Benguela. This slave trade also involved local black merchants and warriors who profited from the trade. In the 17th century, the Imbangala became the main rivals of the Mbundu in supplying slaves to the Luanda market. In the 18th century, war between the Portuguese, other European powers and several African tribes, gradually gave way to trade. The great trade routes and the agreements that made them possible were the driving force for activities between the different areas; warlike tribal states become states ready to produce and to sell. In the Planalto (the high plains), the most important states were those of Bié and Bailundo, the latter being noted for its production of foodstuffs and rubber. The colonial power, Portugal, becoming ever richer and more powerful, would not tolerate the growth of these neighbouring states and subjugated them one by one, so that by the beginning of this century the Portuguese had complete control over the entire area. From 1764 onwards, there was a gradual change from a slave-based society to one based on production for domestic consumption, and later for export. After the independence of Brazil from Portugal in 1822, the institution of slavery in Portugal's overseas possessions was abolished in 1836 by the Portuguese authorities.

Forced labour

The Portuguese Empire first established a "de jure" system of forced labour throughout its colonies in 1899, but the Portuguese government did not implement the system in Angola until 1911 and the government abolished it in 1913.cite book|last=Clarence-Smith|first=W. G.|year=2008|title=Slaves, Peasants and Capitalists in Southern Angola 1840-1926|pages=32-38] In 1926, the 28th May 1926 coup d'état empowered António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal. Later that year, Salazar reestablished forced labour, ordering colonial authorities to force nearly all adult, male, ethnic minorities in Portugal's African colonies to work. The government told workers that they would only have to work for six months of every year. In practice, this obligation was a life sentence of forced labor. Civil rights for natives, no longer treated as natural law, had to be "earned" on a case by case basis under the designation of "assimilade". Less than 1% of the native population ever achieved this designation. By 1947, 40% of workers died each year with a 60% infant mortality rate.cite book|last=Meltzer|first=Milton|year=1993|title=Slavery: A World History|pages=261]

By 1940 the white population in Angola had risen to forty thousand, 2% of the population. Most of these émigrés, illiterate and landless, took the best farming land, regardless of availability, without compensating existing landowners. The authorities expelled natives, forcing them to harvest maize, coffee, and beans. Natives could "volunteer" to work on the plantations, "voluntários", or face conscription, working for $1.50 per month as "contratados". This system of forced labour prompted 500,000 Angolans to flee, creating a labor shortage, which in turn created the need for more workers for the colonial economy.cite book|last=Walker|first=John Frederick|year=2004|title=A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred-Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope|pages=100-101] By 1947, 40%Verify source|date=June 2008 of the forced labourers died each year with a 60% infant mortality rate in the territory (according to The World Factbook's 2007 estimates, infant mortality rate (deaths/1,000 live births) in modern-day Angola was 184.44 - the worst result among all countries in the world). Historian Basil Davidson visited Angola in 1954 and found 30% of all adult males working in these conditions; "there was probably more coercion than ever before." Marcelo Caetano, Portugal's Minister of the Colonies, recognized the inherent flaws in the system, which he described as using natives "like pieces of equipment without any concern for their yearning, interests, or desires". Parliament held a closed session in 1947 to discuss the deteriorating situation. Henrique Galvão, Angolan deputy to the Portuguese National Assembly, read his "Report on Native Problems in the Portuguese Colonies". Galvão condemned the "shameful outrages" he had uncovered, the forced labour of "women, of children, of the sick, [and] of decrepit old men." He concluded that in Angola, "only the dead are really exempt from forced labor." The government's control over the natives eliminated the worker-employer's incentive to keep his employees alive because, unlike in other colonial societies, the state replaced deceased workers without directly charging the employeer. The Portuguese Government refuted the report and arrested Galvão in 1952. In 1961, Galvão would be involved in the hijacking of a Portuguese luxury cruise liner.

Baixa de Cassanje revolt

Workers employed by Cotonang, a Portuguese-Belgian cotton plantation company, revolted on January 3, calling on the Portuguese to improve their working rights and leave Angola. The revolt, commonly considered the first battle of the Angolan War of Independence, ended in a blood bath.cite web|author=Manuel Jerónimo|year=2008|url=|title=Angola: "Baixa De Kassanje" Massacre Turns 47 Years|format=HTML|publisher=Angola Press Agency via allAfrica|accessdate=2008-01-05]

After independence from Portugal

After independence from Portugal in 1975, during the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), both the largest opposition group, National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and the government ruled by the MPLA, used child soldiers in the civil war. Children's rights groups have estimated that as many as 11,000 children were involved in the last years of the fighting only. Some children received weapons and arms training and fought in the conflict. Many others acted as porters, cooks, spies and laborers. In 2003, one year after the conflict ended in mainland Angola, some UNITA soldiers who were 18 or older were incorporated into the national army and police. Others were demobilized in a national program and received needed assistance. But child soldiers, many of whom performed the same duties as adults, were denied these benefits.

In current day Angola, high levels of child trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, pornography, forced labor, sexual slavery, and other forms of exploitation are reported, in part due to the civil war-caused break down of social structures and traditional security mechanisms active before independence. Angola is a source country for significant number of men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Children have been trafficked internally and also to Namibia and South Africa for the purposes of sexual exploitation and domestic and commercial labor. The Government of Angola does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

At present, it is estimated that over one million primary school age children are out of school, the majority of them being girls. There is a strong correlation between women’s education and the increased vulnerability of both mothers and children to a range of life-threatening conditions, including forced labour and prostitution.

ee also

*History of Angola
*Slavery in Mauritania
*Slavery in Sudan


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