Posted by: Dr. Y. | August 4, 2011

Agostinho Neto: doctor, poet, president, and father of Angolan independence

Agostinho Neto

Agostinho Neto

Agostinho Neto was the first president of Angola, and served from 1975 to his death in 1979. He was born in a Methodist family (his father was a Methodist pastor), attended high school in Luanda, and studied medicine in Lisbon (specializing in gynecology).  In Lisbon, he befriended future political leaders such as Amilcar Cabral (Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde) and Marcelino dos Santos (Mozambique). He combined his academic life with covert political activities.

In 1948 he published his first volume of poetry and was arrested for the first time. There followed a series of arrests and detention, which interrupted his studies. He joined the Movimento Popular da Libertação de Angola (MPLA, People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) when it formed in 1956. He was released from detention and allowed to complete his studies in 1958, retuning shortly afterwards to Angola (1959), where he set up a private medical practice.

Flag of Angola
Flag of Angola

On 6 June 1960, Agostinho Neto was arrested at his practice as a result of his campaigning against the Portuguese colonial administration of Angola. When patients, friends, and supporters marched in demonstration for his release, the police opened fire and 30 were killed, 200 more injured.  This became known as the Massacre de Icolo e Bengo (his birthplace). Neto was exiled to and held in captivity initially in Cape Verde and then in Portugal, where he wrote his second volume of poetry. After international pressures, the Portuguese government put him under house arrest, where he escaped to Morocco and later to Zaire (Congo).

He became president of the MPLA in 1962, and looked for support in the American government against Portugal, but was turned down. He received the support of Cuba and the Soviet Union for the fight for the freedom of the people of Angola from Portuguese imperialism.

After the Revolução dos Cravos (Carnation Revolution) in 1974 in Portugal, which took down the government by a military coup, Portugal’s foreign policy changed in its African colonies. On 11 November 1975, Angola became independent, and Neto was proclaimed president on that day. The country was effectively held under the rule of three independence movements, with the MPLA holding the central section and the capital.

Agostinho Neto & Jose Eduardo dos Santos
Agostinho Neto & Jose Eduardo dos Santos

Neto’s rule was marked by armed conflict with Holden Roberto’s FNLA (supported by Mobutu of Zaire, and the US) and Jonas Savimbi‘s UNITA which had military support from South Africa. While Neto enjoyed the help and support of the Soviet Union and Cuba, he still encouraged Western investment in the country – especially in oil production. He died of cancer on September 10th, 1979 in Moscow.  After his death, the civil war in Angola lasted for over a quarter of a century opposing Jose Eduardo dos Santos (his successor) and Jonas Savimbi.

Agostinho Neto was not only Angola’s first president, he was also a medical doctor, and a poet; he is actually one of Angola’s most acclaimed writer and poet. Please check out the website of the Fundação António Agostinho Neto, which has done a brilliant work in presenting Neto’s writings, debates, and comments by other leaders on Neto. Now I leave you with his great saying: “A luta Continua … A Vitória é certa!”


  1. […] the great African revolutionary said “La patrie ou la mort, nous vaincrons!”… and Agostinho Neto added “A luta Continua… e Victoria e certa!“ Share […]

  2. Thanks for the post. It’s unfortunate to see that only few “Africans” have heard of him.

  3. […] remembrance of Agostinho Neto, great leader and first president of Angola, I will leave you with a poem written by the great […]

  4. […] Agostinho Neto was the a medical doctor, a poet, and most importantly the first president of Angola. Today, I would like you to sit back and enjoy a poem written by this great African leader […]

  5. […] to all those who felt powerless in 2011, keep your heads up… and keep on fighting. Like Agostinho Neto used to say: a lutta continua e la victoria e certa! LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

  6. […] Monday the National Heroes’ Day, in homage to the country’s first president, the late Dr. Agostinho Neto, who was born on 17 September 1922 in Kaxicane locality.  Celebrate with me Angola’s […]

  7. […] Angolan heroes, and is a celebration of the life of one of their heroes, President Agostinho Neto who was born on this special day.  To mark this day, and to celebrate in style, I propose […]

  8. […] Davidson and other British Marxists who left me in no doubt about the integrity of the MPLA under Agostinho Neto, the first president of independent Angola. Unlike its CIA-backed rivals – the National Front for […]

  9. […] Davidson and other British Marxists who left me in no doubt about the integrity of the MPLA under Agostinho Neto, the first president of independent Angola. Unlike its CIA-backed rivals – the National Front for […]

  10. […] the Burkinabé revolution.  Amilcar Cabral not only wrote poems, but also revolutionary essays.  Agostinho Neto, the first president of Angola, also wrote poetry, just as Senegal’s first president Leopold […]

  11. […] African martyrs: many of our martyrs were either born or assassinated that month, Ruben Um Nyobe, Agostinho Neto, Steve Biko, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, to name just a few.  Today, I have […]

  12. Incredible history of our leader, teacher, father, revolutionary patriot and a Marxist follower.. I salute you the masses leader against all forms of colonial aggressions by imperialist backward running dogs…history has decided your struggle positively as a revolutionary..Aluta Continue!!!

  13. […] few months after independence from Portugal in 1975, with Agostinho Neto becoming Angola’s first president, civil war broke in the country when the city of Luanda […]

  14. Reblogged this on የዛጎል ዜና – Zaggole News – ለተመጣጣነ መረጃ እንተጋለን.

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