African Troops in the Portuguese Colonial Army, 1961–1974: Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique

TitleAfrican Troops in the Portuguese Colonial Army, 1961–1974: Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsBorges Coelho, João Paulo
JournalPortuguese Studies Reviews
Start Page129
Date Published2002

The colonial powers systematically included Africans in the wars waged to preserve their order. Portugal was not an exception in this respect. Since 1961, with the beginning of the liberation wars in her colonies, Portugal incorporated Africans in her war effort in Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique through a process enveloped in an ideological discourse based on “multi-racialism” and on the preservation of the empire. African engagement varied from marginal roles as servants and informers to more important ones as highly operational combat units. By the end of the Portuguese colonial war, in 1974, African participation had become crucial, representing about half of all operational colonial troops. This paper explores in a comparative framework the three cases of Angola, GuineaBissau and Mozambique, seeking the rationale behind the process and the shapes it took. The abrupt end of the colonial war, triggered by a military coup in Portugal, paved the way for the independence of the colonies, but left a legacy difficult to manage by the newly independent countries. Shedding some light on the destiny of the former African collaborators during this period, the paper suggests that they played a role in the postindependence civil conflicts in Angola and Mozambique. © 2002 Portuguese Studies Review. All rights reserved.

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