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Marcelino dos Santos (1929 - )

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Marcelino dos Santos (1929 - ) Awarded for:
His contribution in promoting the ideals of a free and democratic society.

Profile of Marcelino dos Santos

Marcelino dos Santos was born on 20 May 1929 in Lumbo, Mozambique. He is the son of Firmindo dos Santos and Teresa Sabino dos Santos. He was raised in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). Dos Santos comes from a family that was politically active. His father was a politically active member of the African Association of Mozambique.

Dos Santos left Mozambique in 1947 to continue his education at the Industrial Institute in Lisbon. At the Casa dos Estudantes do Imperio (House for Students of the Empire), he rubbed shoulders with others destined to become leaders of the independence movement in the Portuguese colonies. By 1950, Dos Santos had gone to Paris where he lived with writers and artists associated with the literary magazine Presence Africaine.

Under the pseudonyms Kalungano and Lilinho Micaia, Dos Santos published poems in O Brado Africano, and his work appeared in two anthologies produced by the Casa dos Estudantes do Imperio in Lisbon. Under his own name, he had a book published by the Associacao dos Escritores Mocambicanos (Mozambican Writers’ Association) in 1987, entitled Canto do Amor Natural.

Dos Santos was instrumental in the formation of the Anti-Colonial Movement (MAC) in Paris in 1957. He joined the Paris branch of the Uniao Democratica Nacional de Mocambique, one of the nationalist groups that would later merge to form the Frente de Libertacao de Mocambique (Frelimo). He was involved in the founding of the Conference of Nationalist Organisations of the Portuguese Colonies (CONCP) at Casablanca, and elected permanent secretary in charge of co-ordinating nationalist activity. He was skilled in communicating the aims of the CONCP to an international audience. He went on to become a founding member of Frelimo in 1962.

He increasingly devoted his energies to the organisation. His activism in the liberation struggle goes back the furthest of all those in the current Frelimo hierarchy, beginning when he was elected secretary general of the CONCP. As a back-up to Eduardo Mondlane, Dos Santos played an essential role in the merger of three parties into Frelimo in 1962 and in the development of the movement into a stable force that could open up a military campaign two years later. By 1964, he was Frelimo’s secretary for external affairs, invaluable to the party for his communication skills which he employed, for example, in his addresses before the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), the Afro-Asian Solidarity Conference and the United Nations.

After Mondlane’s assassination, Dos Santos was elected to the three-person Presidency Council, with Uria Simango and Samora Machel, which guided the party through the subsequent difficult period. He served as the party’s deputy president from 1969 to 1977. In the late 1970s, Dos Santos was Minister of Economic Development. He was a member of the Frelimo Political Bureau in charge of the economy in the early 1980s. From 1987 to 1999, Dos Santos was chairperson of the country’s Parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. He represented the left wing of the party and remained an avowed Marxist-Leninist.

From 1965 to 1970, he served as Secretary for External Affairs and was highly effective in using his international reputation and contacts to rally support and funds for the growing movement.

He continued this diplomatic role right through the transition period and was expected, after independence, to serve as Foreign Minister or representative to the UN or OAU. Although reputed to be ideologically aligned with the Soviet Union, he actually had solid contacts with both East and West. In 1970, he gained recognition from the Pope when he was received at the Vatican and given a copy of the papal encyclical Populorum Progressio on the problems of the underdeveloped world. The following year, he received the Lenin Centenary Medal.

Marcelino Dos Santos could have opted to stay in Europe but he returned to Mozambique and continued the fight for justice.