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email@example.com The following article was published by the Agência de Informação de Moçambique news service on Wednesday 28 July 2004. It is not a book review, but raises some important questions about recent Mozambican history. It is posted here with the permission of Paul Fauvet: BIOGRAPHY OF URIA SIMANGO LAUNCHED by Paul Fauvet Maputo, 28 Jul (AIM) - Several hundred people attended, on Tuesday night, the launch of a biography of one of the more controversial figures in recent Mozambican history, Uria Simango, the first deputy president of the country's liberation movement, Frelimo. The book "Uria Simango - um homem, uma causa" (Uria Simango - a man, a cause) is the work of 46 year old Mozambican researcher and social science student Barnabe Lucas Ncomo, who says he has spent many years gathering material for the biography. Simango was a Protestant pastor and a founder member of Frelimo. In the leadership crisis that racked the movement in the late 1960s, Simango became a leader of the conservative wing of Frelimo, which clashed with radicals influenced by marxism, such as the first Frelimo president, Eduardo Mondlane, the intellectual and poet, Marcelino dos Santos, and the head of the guerrilla army, Samora Machel. After the assassination of Mondlane in February 1969 (killed by a parcel bomb sent by the Portuguese political police, the PIDE), Simango did not succeed him. Instead a troika was set up between Simango, Machel and dos Santos. This collective presidency soon collapsed, and when Simango went public with his attacks on the revolutionary wing of the movement, by publishing an article entitled "Gloomy situation in Frelimo", he was expelled from Frelimo. The leadership crisis was overcome by the appointment of Machel as President and dos Santos as Deputy President in 1970. Simango remained active, working with fringe movements such as Coremo (Mozambique Revolutionary Committee), which adopted Maoist rhetoric in an attempt (largely unsuccessful) to obtain aid from China. On his return to Mozambique, after the collapse of the colonial-fascist regime in Lisbon in April 1974, Simango headed the National Coalition Party (PCN), one of various short lived attempts to form a rival movement to Frelimo. When extremist Portuguese settlers staged an abortive coup in September, and seized control of Radio Clube de Mocambique (the forerunner of Radio Mozambique), Simango appeared at the radio station, apparently giving his backing to the coup. Like other prominent opponents of Frelimo, Simango was arrested by the triumphant liberation movement. He was taken briefly to the Frelimo training camp in Nachingwea in southern Tanzania - and it was here, in 1975, that Samora Machel, according to the Tanzanian press of the time, gave a public promise that the prisoners would not be killed. They were taken to a re-education camp (these were rural prisons, but labelled as "concentration camps" by Frelimo's enemies) in Niassa province, and were never seen in public again. One of the major stains on Frelimo's history is that Machel's promise was broken. Simango, his wife, and the other "traitors" who had been rounded up were executed. Neither Frelimo, nor the government, has ever given details. The Mozambican public does not know when or where Simango was executed, and his sons have never been told where their parents were buried. No explanation has ever been given for why the initial decision to keep them alive was reversed. Ncomo believes the executions took place in the late 1970s. But 1983 would seem a more likely date - this was the year in which Frelimo, under severe pressure from the South African apartheid regime, adopted a series of panicky and authoritarian measures (such as the extension of the death penalty to cover economic crimes, and "Operation Production", the botched and ill- conceived attempt to evacuate the unemployed from the cities). But we cannot know the date for sure until the people in the Frelimo leadership who took the decision, or who knew about it, break their silence. Whatever its literary or academic merits or failings (and I cannot comment on them, since I have not yet read it), Ncomo's book certainly puts pressure on Frelimo to tell its own side of these events. The fact that a substantial (it is over 400 pages long) biography of the most famous Frelimo dissident is now available in Mozambican bookshops is an important political fact. So is the ability of Ncomo and his publisher, Edicoes Novafrica, to fill to capacity a sizeable theatre in the Maputo Franco-Mozambican Cultural Centre. Although the launch was addressed by a prominent Renamo parliamentarian, Dionisio Quelhas, it would be dangerously complacent to write the event off as just a Renamo rally. Many of the faces in that audience were young, quite probably students, and their presence surely indicates a thirst for knowledge about recent Mozambican history, and that is certainly a positive phenomenon. They will not be satisfied by the dismissive approach to Ncomo's book taken by leading Frelimo intellectual Sergio Vieira. Having obtained a pre-launch copy, Vieira savaged the book in his weekly column in the Sunday paper "Domingo". Vieira's criticisms may well be substantially correct - but his polemic could not convince anyone who did not already support Frelimo. First, it presumed knowledge of events in the 1960s and 70s which many young Mozambicans do not possess. Secondly, it avoided the question of Simango's death: almost certainly Vieira knows when, where and why Simango was killed. He should let the rest of us into the secret. Perhaps the ghost of Uria Simango will finally force Frelimo intellectuals to write their own honest memoirs, accounts of the liberation struggle and of the post-independence years. To date, such books from within Frelimo have been rare indeed. With a few honourable exceptions - such as the memoirs produced by Mondlane's widow, Janet, and by the country's first health minister, Helder Martins - recent Mozambican history written by Mozambicans is notable for its absence. Mozambique's greatest poet, the late Jose Craveirinha, once wrote "Treason is knowing how to write, and not writing". On this severe definition, far too many Frelimo intellectuals are committing treason. History will not tolerate blank pages for very long. Sooner or later somebody is going to write them. If Frelimo members do not write their own honest and thorough accounts of the events that they have lived through, they simply cede the historical terrain, without a fight, to their opponents. (AIM)