Angolan Conflict 1986/89

The relationship between Ernesto Che Guevara and Jonas Savimbi

'The Last War' A blog from journalist Ivette Leyva,

English Translation

One of the most persistent myths of the war in Angola says Ernesto Che Guevara met the leader of UNITA, Jonas Savimbi, and preferred it over Agostinho Neto. Thousands of Cubans and Angolans are convinced that is correct, but historians investigations show otherwise.

The paths of the two leaders were about to cross between late 1964 and early 1965, but they never met personally.

Another persistent rumor suggests a relationship between Che and the FNLA leader, Holden Roberto, seems to have more merit.

In December 1964, Savimbi briefly visited Brazzaville (capital of present-day Republic of Congo), to meet with the leadership of the MPLA, which operated there. Five months earlier, in July, he had resigned from the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the government in exile (Grae), a position he occupied as a member of the FNLA.

In his book The Cuban intervention in Angola, 1965-1991, Edward George said that the leaders of the MPLA-Neto, Lucio Lara, Luis de Azevedo, was not impressed with Savimbi, who returned to Switzerland immediately, that same month to complete his medical degree, and immediately went to China to receive guerrilla training for four months. In October 1966, Savimbi returned to Angola in through the province of Moxico and founded his own movement, UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola).

Che, meanwhile, arrived in Brazzaville on January 5, 1965 for a two-day visit to the MPLA. Obsessed to spark a revolution in Africa, he asked the MPLA to send guerrillas to fight in the Congo (formerly known as Zaire and now the Democratic Republic of Congo), but that request, of course, was received coldly.

Che met with the leadership of the MPLA in Brazzaville in December 1964. I think the first right is Nito Alves, executed in a failed coup in 1978

However, the Angolans asked Che if Cuba would send instructors. Initially the MPLA is thought to have received guerrilla training from the Chinese, but the distance was a major obstacle. They had already asked the Algerians, but they did not respond, according to Piero Gliejeses in his book 'Conflicting Missions'.

Lúcio Lara's wife, Ruth, told Gliejeses that the Angolans were not very happy with the visit of Che. He knew little of the MPLA and his mind was concentrating on the next adventure in the Congo, which proved disastrous .

Anyway, the Argentine guerrilla Havana has sent military aid requests and instructors to Agostinho Neto, and promised to come in the summer.

A relationship between Holden Roberto and Che seems more likely, and would have been strictly correspondence.


Holden Roberto (1923-2007), in his old age

In an interview with Edward George in May 1998 in Luanda, Roberto said that Che sent him a letter, suggesting that he meet him. At that time Che was in Brazzaville, and visited an MPLA camp in Cabinda but was not impressed. Roberto answered the letter while he was in Kinshasa, replying to his request that they meet up, that he should go to meet him and that he wanted to help the FNLA. However, Roberto refused and told him that it was a war of national liberation and did not want foreigners involved. Roberto also said he would regret that decision.

If it actually happened? It's hard to say. However, in his book, Gliejeses also mentions that during his visit to Brazzaville Che, Jorge "Papito" Serguera (then ambassador to Algeria) visited a training camp, without the MPLA and the Angolans Che used the same trick he used with Fidel Castro and Herbert Matthews in the Sierra Maestra, by repeatedly parading the guerrillas in front of the visitors. Serguera returned to Brazzaville very impressed with the military power of the MPLA.

Source A blog from journalist Ivette Leyva