In the year six decades have passed since the conflict began, the recent death of Lieutenant Colonel Marcelino da Mata, “the best-decorated military officer in the Portuguese army”, and the lively discussions that sparked his military successes over the following days, to recall two fundamental things about the colonial war: that in terms of collective memory (and not just historiography) it is not over yet and that so much (if not all) is paradoxical. Black, Guinean, the military fought for the Portuguese army against black Guineans who fought for a Guinea independent of colonial power, the “African nation” forged by Amílcar Cabral in battle. On a personal level, this paradox mirrored this larger one, that of a thirteen-year conflict on three African fronts waged by a poor country on the European periphery, when the major colonial powers had already granted independence to their overseas possessions. But when as early as April 25, 1974 and even after November 25, 1975 the battlefield passed from the countries of Africa to the political administration of the memory of this conflict, an even more amazing paradox that exposed the ideological dispute between the US became mentors of the two military pronouncements and, above all, the discomfort of some of the spirits of this African gesture at the beginning of the Third Republic. In the middle is a book.
Despite the abolition of state censorship by the Junta de Salvação Nacional in May 1974 and in the periodical press, fears of a “new censorship” were concentrated, and in the year and a half there was a certain amount of friction between the various political actors, obstacles of different order create for one or another edition of books (of which the case of the Radiographie Militar de Manuel Barão da Cunha in 1975 is paradigmatic). Nothing, however, would come close to what happened in an edition of Ulmeiro in May 1976, which was already completely in a “democratic normalization” shortly after the new constitution of the republic came into force, two months after the inauguration of Mário Soares as Prime Minister of the I -Constitutional Government and Ramalho Eanes as the first president of the republic elected after the revolution. Colonial War Massacre – Tete: An example from journalist José Amaro was a smooth edition of 20 documents on the December 1972 massacres in Mozambique, which were transcribed and commented on. In addition there were the reports of the priests, of whom she was first heard. If this meticulous, chronologically organized documentary film meeting was unprecedented here, nothing was really unknown there: except for Mário Soares himself, three years earlier, in London and with the Catholic priest Adrian Hastings, who at a press conference had informed about the massacres of the ” Operation Marosca ”was known to jeopardize Marcelo Caetano’s visit to the English capital. In the introduction, Amaro points out the need to look for responsible people (“the guy who puts a gun in a kid’s mouth by shooting him at close range – he has to answer for him”), but acknowledges that “the evidence is evident that the killers of Tete will not be brought to justice,” such as the recent release of Kaúlza de Arriaga, commander of the Mozambique ground forces until 1974. If there had been hopes of a trial a year earlier November 25th, the air seemed to have changed. Now it is precisely one of the heroes of that date, Colonel Jaime Neves, one of the two epigraphs in the book: “There was never a war without death! Evil comes from war!” … and no one else! “(The other is a gruesome description of the execution of a child with a shot in the mouth, taken from a report by the priests of the Mission of S. Pedro).
It was the newspaper “otelista” Página Um that reported the unexpected on September 17th: the author and editor of Ulmeiro, José Ribeiro, was sued by the General Staff of the Armed Forces (EMGFA) for suing the President of the Republic. Formally, the charge was that of a crime under Article 66 paragraphs d) and e) of the Press Act (Dec. Act 85-C / 75): in short: “Violation of military secrets essential to national security”. and unauthorized disclosure of military operations with the risk of “cohesion of the armed forces”. It seemed and it was unbelievable: Amaro remembered that the then Prime Minister Mário Soares had given this information to the world in 1973 and that the disclosure of documents denouncing “the crimes of the colonial regime” served the MFA program and for “redemption “The past contributed,” and the publisher warned of the impending danger of reverting to the ban and confiscation of books. Artur Portela Filho’s option shared the astonishment: Wasn’t this disclosure “the moral duty of the highest officials of the new regime”? This is therefore a political judgment in the new regime, even if it is carried out by the military justice system: after the defendants have been heard in the judiciary at the end of the year, they are informed that the case will be referred to the military counterpart.
There, on December 7th, in the headquarters of the Military Justice Police, a heated dialogue between the investigating judge and the editor shed light on the crux of the matter: “On so many pages the judge asks me: ‘You, why did you not refer to those responsible for the operation Heard Marosca? “And I replied, ‘And you, to keep the whole truth, are raising the dead so that I can hear them too.’ * This confusion, in which there seemed to be no cut between two regimes for the army in 1974, colors another case, months later: pictures of a staging of one of the plays in Um Acto by Sttau Monteiro (who was arrested in 1966 for this publication) issued by RTP in 1977 are identified by the EMGFA as “serious crimes against the armed forces”. Once again, the memory of the colonial war seemed to be at stake, and nothing seemed to detract from EMGFA’s tenacity in pursuing the strained management of that memory: the lawsuit against Ulmeiro’s book came about in early 1978.
In May Adrian Hastings wrote in an “open letter” to the MFA in the London Times: “The greatest atrocities [do anterior regime] They took place in Africa and the army was deeply involved – so deep that you have never been able to investigate them yourself since April 1974. “The shadow that these words accused never seems to have dissolved
Then a break. The paradox, however, was just waiting: guaranteed by the almost extinct Revolutionary Council, which was sent in this spirit, the case would be heard in March 1983 before the 5th Territorial Military Court of Lisbon. But everything led to an ex-machina solution: instead of the trial, an amnesty for the accused under Law 74/79, which covered “political crimes”. In other words, the process, whose “political character” had disappeared under the guise of legal formalities, would disintegrate for purely political reasons. The decision did not please the editor José Ribeiro: “I wish the court had declared that there is no place for a criminal case. [A amnistia] In practice this means that we were neither acquitted nor convicted. “It will be in the Diário de Notícias, Guilherme de Melo, to ask the question:“ In letting the military power drag itself from its own complexes, it was taking a serious risk: that, this book in the dock and what it is itself contains, in the end it is the judge himself. “In short: a judgment on the colonial war itself had been avoided.
When Adrian Hastings came to Portugal in February 1975, he was clearly informed of the unease that still aroused in the upper strata of the armed forces what had made him known to the Portuguese: the international exposure of the Tete massacre. In May he wrote in an “open letter” to the MFA in the Times of London: “The greatest atrocities [do anterior regime] They took place in Africa and the army was deeply involved – so deep that you have never been able to investigate them yourself since April 1974. “The shadow that these words accused never seems to have dissolved.
* In a recorded conversation on October 16, 2016
(Responsible for Daniel Melo – CHAM from Nova-FCSH – the virtual exhibition of the exhibition for the 50th anniversary of Ulmeiro, which could be visited in 2019 in the Fábrica Braço de Prata in Lisbon, is already online).