by Yoon Joung Lee
From the late 16th century to early 17th century, Europeans were very interested in negotiating about the African slave trade. The Portuguese were especially interested in having slaves for their new colony in Brazil. They were trying to expand their slave-trading activities further south to what is today the region of Congo and Angola, while English and French reached out in northeast Africa.
Queen of Angola, Anna Nzinga, was born to King Ngola Kiluanji Kia Samba sometime around 1581 in the kingdom of the Ndongo in southeastern Africa. By the time she was born, the king had accepted limited slave trading with Portuguese. Then, later the Ndongo people, led by her father, began fighting against the Portuguese after their territory was raided for slaves and the Portuguese attempted to conquer territory they believed included silver mines.
Her father King Kiluanji was a powerful and oppressive ruler, but he was killed by his own son and Nzinga’s brother, Mbandi, in 1618. Mbandi took the throne for himself and became a king. However, his rule was cruel, unpopular, and chaotic. The kingdom finally broke apart ever since he tried to murder the son of Nzinga to eliminate any threat to his power. While Mbandi was in the capital, Nzinga was in the refuge nearby state of Matamba.
Nzinga was known as a great negotiator with her emerging skills. When the Portuguese wanted a meeting with Ndongo in 1622, Mbandi asked her to return to his kingdom and negotiate a treaty with the Portuguese. Thus, she was sent to Portugal as Mbandi’s representative to negotiate with the Portuguese governor. However, the meeting room had only one chair, so Nzinga would have to stand during the meeting. She thought the situation would have made her appear to be the inferior to the Portuguese governor. She had one of her maids kneel to provide her a seat. Facing the governor on the equal level, she was able to convince the Portuguese to accept Ndongo as an independent monarchy, and treaty negotiations were successful.
Around this time, she was baptized by the Catholic Church and took the Christian name Dona Anna de Souza. In 1623, she had her brother killed and became ruler. She used religion as a political tool so that her country could possibly open to European missionaries and whatever advanced science and technologies she could attract.
By 1626, there was a conflict between her kingdom and Portuguese as she kept pointing to their many treaty violations and found allies in some neighboring peoples including Dutch to continue a resistance campaign against the Portuguese.
In the meantime, the Portuguese tried to establish one of her relatives, Phillip, as a puppet king in Ndongo who was more likely to comply with European demands. In 1693, the Portuguese opened peace negotiation with Nzinga after her successful campaign against the Portuguese, but the negotiations failed due to the increasing resistances against the Portuguese. In 1648, the Portuguese arrived and began to succeed. Nzinga was forced to accept Philip as a ruler. In other words, she had to accept the Portuguese actual power in Ndongo. She died in 1663, at the age of 82. Angola did not become independent from Portuguese authority until 1974. However, her rise to power was due to her bravery, intelligence and other personal capabilities that overcame the lamentations of gender.
by Yoon Joung Lee
Brazil’s new female president, Dilma Rousseff, was born in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais in 1947 to Bulgarian lawyer and entrepreneur Pedro Rousseff and school teacher Dilma Jane da Silca. Rousseff grew up in an upper middle class household. In her childhood, she lived in a large house with three servants. Rousseff and her two siblings, Igor and Zana Luica, were able to get a classical education including piano and French lessons. Her father died when she was 14 after leaving behind to her family about 15 properties.
In 1965, she enrolled in the Central State High School where she became hugely interested in politics. During this time, in her late teens, she became involved in left-wing politics and joined the underground resistant groups to the military dictatorship. In 1967, she joined her first group called POLOP (Worker’s Politics), a faction of the Brazilian Socialist Party founded in 1961. The group divided into the method to be used for the implementation of socialism, and the support of the struggle for the election of a constituent assembly. She later joined a second group which originated the Command of National Liberation. This secretive radical group saw the necessity of taking up arms against an illegitimate military regime. She ended up in the clandestine VAR-Palmares which is Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard.
In the 1960s and 1970s, such groups seized foreign diplomats for hostages to exchange with political leaders. For instance, a US ambassador was exchanged with a dozen political prisoners while German and Swiss ambassadors were swapped for more than 40 militants. The members of such groups were also involved in the acts of shooting foreign torture experts who were sent to train the generals’ death squads.
She had said that she was never actively involved in armed operations. However, in 1970 she was jailed in Sao Paulo for three years for “subversion” since she was armed when the undercover police found her at a bar. Her sentence was six years of imprisonment and 18 years without political rights, but it was later shortened. She was taken to the OBAN headquarters, and there she was tortured for 22 days with ferule, punching, and electric shock devices.
In 1973 when she was freed, she moved to Rio Grande do Sul. There she went back to university and started working for the state government in 1975. In 1977, she graduated from the Rio Grande do Sul Federal University with a major in Economics. Her second husband Carlos Araujo was also finishing his four-year term as a political prisoner by the time. In the same year, she gave a birth to her only daughter, Paula Rousseff Araujo. Due to her subversive past, she lost her first job and returned to university for a master’s degree. However, she never finished the program.
In the early 1980s, Rousseff and her husband, Araujo, became an active member in the PDT (Democratic Labour Party) led by Leonel Brizola. In the mid-1980s, the couple devoted themselves to help out Alceu Collares and his campaign for mayor of Porto Alegre, and Collares appointed Rousseff as a Municipal Secretary of Treasury after he was elected. In 1993, she was appointed the secretary of energy by the state governor of Rio Grande do Sul. However, she left the position the next year. In 1999, she was again appointed to her old job which was now called Secretary of Mines, Energy and Communications.
In 2000, she divorced after found out that her husband had another woman who was pregnant with his child. In 2001, she joined the Workers’ Party, led by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and left government in 2002 to work for Lula’s successful campaign for presidential elections. He was finally elected and appointed her Mines and Energy Minister. In 2005, when Lula’s chief of staff resigned due to a scandal, Rousseff was again appointed.
In the beginning of 2009, she firstly ran for elected office with a lack of experience and little name recognition as a candidate. In 2010, she started her campaign as the official presidential candidate from the Worker’s Party in the 2010 presidential election. She won the Presidency by an approximate margin of 56% to 44 % and will become the female head of government for the first time in the Brazil’s history on January 1, 2011. During her campaign, she presented that she will continue and follow Lula’s path that consists of largely market-friendly policies and social welfare programs. Due to Lula’s huge popularity in Brazil, many expect that Rousseff will become as popular a president as Lula.