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Mozambique’s immortal Goan connection (Times of India)a

Mozambique’s immortal Goan connection

PANAJI: Many in Goa would have first heard ofAquino de Braganca when he died in an air crash on October 19, 1986. It was a crash that killed an African head of state and Aquino was that leader’s trusted confidant and advisor, playing a key role in the country’s freedom struggle and its baby steps in a free world. 

Bardez-born Braganca may not find a place in Goa’s history books. His role in the independence of another Portuguese colony in Africa, Mozambique, has, however, been forever etched in that country’s archives. Those who would like to know more of the man who has been described as “an important intellectual and political figure in the years leading up to and immediately following Mozambican independence” will get the chance to do so now. On Saturday, the book ‘Battle Waged, Lasting Dreams’ will be released and it has been written by the person who knew him best, his widow Silvia. 

Silvia, living today in St Estevam, has interviewed people who knew her husband, delved into his diaries and writings, and produced a 558-word volume on the man. There was no dearth of matter on Aquino. Being himself a journalist and an academic, Aquino wrote prolifically and there was much that had been written about him. The material, however, was scattered. “I started writing in 2003 and made trips to Portugal and Mozambiquegathering information. In 2009 I produced in Portuguese the first book on Aquino,” Silvia told TOI on Friday. 

Aquino’s friendship with Mozambique’s first president Samora Machel, led to them travelling together and he was often sent on missions as an envoy of the Mozambican government. Even before Mozambique gained independence, Aquino was the person the Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) turned to and sent to Lisbon to assess the situation there and initiate negotiations with the Portuguese government following the April 1974 overthrow of the dictatorship in Portugal. 

After Mozambique got its independence and FRELIMO formed the government, Aquino was appointed director of the Centre for African studies at the University Eduardo Mondlane, which recruited radical scholars with the aim to form them into “a research collective that focussed on current issues of social and political transformation”. 

Writes Silvia, “The largest body of his written work was centred on the denunciation of the colonial system and the apartheid regime. Such was the intensity of his work that it reinforced his conviction that the road to building socialism could not, by any means, be based on dogmatic theories. He irritated many orthodox Marxist scholars when he wrote on the Marxism of Samora, because, in his view, at that moment of history, he saw president Samora’s approach to Marxism as embodying his own conception of what Marxism ought to be about.” 

The idealism of Aquino may not, however, have percolated into the system. In the book Silvia recalls Aquino saying, “Power corrupts, whichever the system. That which we would criticize in others, we do it now. Where are the ideals gone? Where have all our good intentions to invest in education, to create wealth to be distributed among all, to eradicate poverty, to remove the incompetent and the corrupt, to create a better world gone? We try but we are quite far from attaining our cherished dreams!” 

Aquino’s closeness to Machel brought the Mozambique president to Goa in 1982. It was with Machel, travelling on the presidential aircraft to South Africa for consultations with the government there, that Aquino and many other Mozambique leaders lost their lives when the plane crashed over the Mozambique-South Africa border. 

For Silvia, writing the book was fulfilling a request from her late husband. She recalls him telling her to “write a little about what we say everyday”. And write she did, even recalling their last moments together. 

“You came close to me, who was waiting for you near the door and with a kiss you said: ‘Silvia! I am going’,” she writes. The tragic death ended a great Goan’s existence in the world. 

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