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António Agostinho Neto

In office
11 November 1975 – 10 September 1979
Succeeded by José Eduardo dos Santos

Born September 17, 1922(1922-09-17)
Bengo, Angola (then a Portugal-ruled territory)
Died September 10, 1979 (aged 56)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Political party Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola
Spouse(s) Maria Eugénia da Silva[1]

António Agostinho Neto (September 17, 1922 – September 10, 1979) served as the first President of Angola (1975–1979), leading the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the war for independence and the civil war. His birthday is celebrated as National Heroes Day, a public holiday in Angola.


Early life

Born at Catete in Bengo Province, Angola, in 1922, Neto attended high school in the capital city, Luanda; his father, also called Agostinho Neto, was a Methodist pastor. The younger Neto left Angola for Portugal, and studied medicine at the universities of Coimbra and Lisbon. He combined his academic life with covert political activity of a revolutionary sort; and PIDE, the security police force of Portuguese Prime Minister Salazar, arrested him in 1951 for his separatist activism. Seven years later he was released from prison, and he finished his studies, marrying Maria Eugénia da Silva the same day he graduated. He returned to Angola in 1959.[1][2]

Political career

In December 1956 the Angolan Communist Party (PCA) merged with the Party of the United Struggle for Africans in Angola (PLUA) to form the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola with Viriato da Cruz, the President of the PCA, as Secretary General and Neto as President.[2][3]

The Portuguese authorities in Angola arrested Neto on June 8, 1960. His patients and supporters marched for his release from Bengo to Catete, but were stopped when Portuguese soldiers shot at them, killing 30 and wounding 200 in what became known as the Massacre of Icolo e Bengo.[3] At first Portugal's government exiled Neto to Cape Verde. Then, once more, he was sent to jail in Lisbon. After international protests were made to Salazar's administration urging Neto's release, Neto was freed from prison and put under house arrest. From this he escaped, going first to Morocco and then to Zaire.[1]

In 1962 Neto visited Washington D.C. and asked the Kennedy administration for aid in his war against Portugal. The U.S. government turned him down, choosing instead to support Holden Roberto's comparatively anti-Communist FNLA.[4]

Neto met Che Guevara in 1965 and began receiving support from Cuba.[5] He visited Havana many times, and he and Fidel Castro shared similar ideological views.[6]

Following the Carnation Revolution in Portugal during April 1974 (which deposed Salazar's successor Marcelo Caetano), three political factions vied for Angolan power. One of the three was the MPLA, to which Neto belonged. On November 11, 1975, Angola achieved full independence from the Portuguese, and Neto became the nation's ruler. His government developed close links with the Soviet Union and other nations in the Eastern bloc and other Communist states, particularly Cuba, which aided the MPLA considerably in its war with the FNLA and UNITA.

Neto died in a hospital in Moscow, while undergoing surgery for cancer, shortly before his 57th birthday. Jose Eduardo dos Santos succeeded him as president. But the Angolan civil war continued to rage for almost a quarter of a century more.


The main university in Angola, the Agostinho Neto University, is named after him.

The Soviet Union awarded Neto the Lenin Peace Prize (1975-76).

A poem by Chinua Achebe entitled Agostinho Neto was written in his honor.[7]

An airport in Santo Antão, Cape Verde, is named after him, due to the beloved work he performed there as a doctor. There is also a morna dedicated to him.

A street in New Belgrade in Serbia is named after him, the Dr. Agostina Neta street.

Preceded by
President of Angola
11 November 1975 – 10 September 1979
Succeeded by
José Eduardo dos Santos


  1. ^ a b c James, W. Martin (2004). Historical Dictionary of Angola. pp. 110.  
  2. ^ a b Tvedten, Inge (1997). Angola: Struggle for Peace and Reconstruction. pp. 29–30.  
  3. ^ a b Africa Year Book and Who's who. 1977. pp. 238–239.  
  4. ^ Walker, John Frederick (2004). A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred-Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola. pp. 146–148.  
  5. ^ Abbott, Peter; Manuel Ribeiro Rodrigues (1988). Modern African Wars: Angola and Mocambique, 1961-74. pp. 10.  
  6. ^ Chazan, Naomi; Robert Mortimer, John Ravenhill, Donald Rothchild (1992). Politics and Society in Contemporary Africa. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc.. pp. 392. ISBN 1-55587-283-2.  
  7. ^ Achebe, Chinua. "Agostinho Neto". Retrieved 2008-05-14.  

External links

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