"We have hesitated for a long time before we put all our thoughts on paper. After all, it’s much nicer to create the impression that there’s one place in the world where all our hopes are being realized, rather than having to write home that the revolution is really difficult."
A quote from a circular letter by two Dutch and Portuguese volunteers in Angola in mid-1977 and the conclusion from a long analysis of the problems in and around Angola in the first two years after it gained its independence from Portuguese colonialism in 1975. Problems like the lack of cadres for the new government, poorly functioning government structures from the colonial days, which were not dealt with, armed and other destabilizing activities of the “contra-revolutionary powers” in the country, the interventions of the imperialist powers in the region (Katanga), etc.
This is just one example of the dozens, even hundreds of (circular) letters and reports by mainly young Dutch volunteers in the archives of the Eduardo Mondlane Foundation. The foundation was established in 1969 by men and women who went to Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and the Cape Verde islands in the 1970s and 1980s in solidarity with the liberation struggles of these people, to contribute to the development of new, progressive societies in these countries. They did so with a strong commitment, usually for a small salary, in often very difficult conditions, and struggled with the dilemmas originating from the discrepancies between their idealism and the much more complicated reality in these countries.
The Mondlane Foundation played an active role in the selection (in the early years, mainly on political grounds), preparation, and supervision of these volunteers, and published extensively on their experiences. Usually, the volunteers received their salaries from Dutch government agencies linked to the Ministry of Development Cooperation, and in the 1980s their work became – just like the many development projects of the Mondlane Foundation – an integrated part of the Dutch official development aid, especially to Mozambique and Angola.
This personal-political material constitutes some of the most fascinating parts of the extensive (17 meter) archive of the Eduardo Mondlane Foundation, the inventory of which was recently published on the website of the International Institute of Social History. In addition, the archives include minutes of the board and staff meetings, correspondence and other organizational papers from all the years of the organization’s existence (1969-1997), as well as detailed files of the development projects it was involved in throughout Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and the Cape Verde islands, and the political and information work of the foundation on these countries in southern Africa. (Text: Kier Schuringa) See also the weblog by Kier Schuringa about the EMS archive.