On 27th May 1977, a small demonstration against the MPLA, the ruling party of Angola - led to the slaughter of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people. These dreadful reprisals are little talked of in Angola today - and virtually unknown outside the country. In this book, journalist Lara Pawson tracks down the story of what really happened in the aftermath of that fateful day. In a series of vivid encounters, she talks to eyewitnesses, victims and even perpetrators of the violent and confusing events of the 27th May and the following weeks and months. From London to Lisbon to Luanda, she meets those who continue to live in the shadow of the appalling events of 40 years ago and who - in most cases - have been too afraid to speak about them before. As well as shedding light on the events of 1977, this book contributes to a deeper understanding of modern Angola - its people and its politics; past, present and future.
Lara Pawson worked for the BBC World Service from 1998 to 2007, reporting from Mali, Ivory Coast and São Tomé and Príncipe. From 1998 to 2000, she was the BBC correspondent in Angola, covering the civil war, and has returned to the country several times since. She currently works as a freelance journalist and lives in London.
Longlisted for The Orwell Book Prize 2015
Shortlisted for the Bread and Roses Prize for Radical Publishing 2015
Shortlisted for Paddy Power Debut Political Book of the Year 2015
Royal Africa Society runner up Best Book of the Year 2014
‘A bomb of a book.’
Claire Armitstead, The Guardian
'Engrossing and disturbing... [Lara Pawson] ends up reminding us of just how elusive historical truth can be.'
Cassie Werber, Wall Street Journal
‘With unflagging intelligence, fearlessness, and compassion, Pawson unfolds the human and political dimensions of this forgotten atrocity. She has done Angola a great service in writing this book, and all of us, Angolan or otherwise, do ourselves a great service in reading it.’
Teju Cole, author of Open City
'This is a great example of an indignant, journalistic account... Her flamboyant style and energetic tone are that of a novelist writing a gripping thriller but which, unfortunately for Angolans, is based on facts...'
René Pelissier, Africana Studia
'Compelling... [Pawson's] conversational tone, her musings, and lively descriptions, make In the Name of the People as engaging as it is informative.'
Lucy Popescu, Times Literary Supplement
'a timely new perspective... it is testimony to Pawson’s investigative eye, and also to her courage, that she has written a book about one of the biggest taboos in Angolan history... her candid conversations with survivors, widows and Angolan establishment figures draw the reader into an adventure-like study of post-colonial life in the country... a highly engaging read.'
Joana Ramiro, The New Humanist
'...an African non-fiction classic… a towering success... What a book, what a book!'
Richard Poplak, Daily Maverick
'[Pawson's] style is fresh and vivid, and her tenacious reporting allows a thorough examination of a confusing and shattering event in Angola's history.'
The Africa Report
'A major contribution of [In the Name of the People] is the refusal—poised on an inability—to discuss this event on the level of official history.’
Delinda Collier, Africa is a Country
'A fascinating examination of how societies which try to lock away their traumas remain haunted by ghosts rattling their chains.'
‘The recounting of encounters… are where Pawson’s innovative methodology — mixing academic rigor, investigative journalism, and the prose of a non-omniscient detective-novel narrator — is most powerful. The unrelenting lack of repentance of certain MPLA-sympathizing writers who were either taken for a ride or complicit with Angola’s self-serving elites is juxtaposed with Pawson’s increasing willingness to question the pillars of what she had held to be self-evident truths about Angola.’
Los Angeles Review of Books
‘This excellent book will endure the test of time for the intellectual honesty of its author, the originality of its style, and — without ever falling into the trap of determinism — for the way in which it sheds light on the wanderings of ‘revolutionary’ authoritarianism.’
Didier Péclard, Politique Africaine
‘A brilliant piece of sleuthing, research, reportage and an example of unblinking determination... I greatly admire this book.’
‘Lara Pawson has a poet's eye for telling detail, a priest's empathy for human idiosyncrasy and the dogged determination of a sleuth. Fired up by her determination to discover what really happened on May 27, 1977 in Angola, she skewers in the process of this gripping investigation both the hypocrisy of the Angolan government and the sloppy naivety of the British Left.’
Michela Wrong, author of In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz
'Pawson brings her sources to life like a novelist; her meetings are vivid and convincing. A simple, direct clarity of vision is brought to bear, and the reader begins to make some sense of the conspiracies and sub-conspiracies that led to the vinte-sete. By the end, Angola - along with some of its layered political complexity - is raw, vital, brutal and alive in front of us.'
M. John Harrison, author of Climbers
‘Gripping... Lara Pawson digs beneath the superficial account which was all we really had to explain the events… an account of the lives of those on both sides of the struggle in 1977, a series of portraits of life in Angola with its extremes of privilege and poverty and it reads like a thriller.’
Keith Somerville, African Arguments
'In the Name of the People is a thorough piece of excavation work and, at the same time, a dazzlingly well written story. Pawson’s prose is almost filmic and the book presents knife sharp portraits of a number of people whose lives are still marked by the events of 1977.'
‘To understand this book is to understand one of the most troubled periods in [Angola’s] recent history.’
Sousa Jamba, Semanário Angolense
‘Pawson painstakingly shows... that possibly the worst curses of postcolonial African states include the “killing” of internal party differences, cover ups of political murders and production of state-centric histories by both local and foreign supporters of the regimes.’
Tom Odhiambo, Daily Nation
'In a highly readable investigation, Lara Pawson exposes not only a forgotten massacre but a cover-up, perpetrated by British journalists and historians blinded by ideology. Travelling from London to Lisbon and Luanda, she reveals new information about the role of Cuban forces in the killings, and shows how racism against black Africans lies at the heart of Angolan politics.'
Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor, Channel 4 News and author of Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution
‘Lara Pawson’s book is a timely and significant intervention in contemporary Angolan history and the first book length study of these events in English. Pawson is an investigative journalist and historical sleuth of rare candour. Her high ethical standards, probing questions, sharp critical gaze, and keen observations make for a compelling text. She takes the reader in and along as she asks of herself and others difficult questions about painful times. While she had set out to discover “the unwritten truth”, Pawson instead unveils a still more complex landscape of memory and history, mined with silence, and knit together with complicities, stories, and the underside of ideals.’
Marissa Moorman, Associate Professor of History, Indiana University
‘Lara Pawson's book is not only the first English-language work to address the 27th May in depth, but her personal account of trying to unravel the complex knots of memory, violence, identity and politics in post-independence Angola offers a richly detailed, nuanced and emotional psychogramme of a nation simultaneously fixated on and forcefully repressing its unresolved past. She vividly evokes the difficulties of doing research in and on Angola, and brilliantly captures the everyday paranoia of life in Luanda, ranging from grandiose conspiracy theories to intimate recollections of loss and the broken promises of independence. This is played out against the backdrop of an increasingly cosmopolitan metropolis that is changing and reinventing itself at breakneck speed, which leaves little space for alternative recollections of the past that do not fit the master narrative of “peace and reconstruction”. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the social and political dynamics of contemporary Angola.’
Jon Schubert, Senior Africa Analyst, IHS Country Risk
‘Lara Pawson’s book narrates the events of the failed coup d’état carried out by Nito Alves’ followers against the then president Agostinho Neto in 1977 in Angola. In response, the forces of Neto tortured and killed thousands and thousands of people, and kept many other people in jail for at least two years. The relevance of Pawson’s book, which I wholeheartedly commend, is not only that it gives a fair and balanced picture of the tragic events occurred in 1977. The upside of the book is that it is focused on the afterlives of the coup, through, primarily, the description of how the political regime in Angola has brought about one of the most repressive state apparatus in Africa, and, secondarily, through the myriad ways people on both sides of the tragedy cope with those memories. The work that Pawson has done here is long overdue. Her starting point is that although in Angola people refer to a certain “golpe” (coup d’état) to justify their political indifference, there is almost nothing written about the 27th May 1977. Even many British journalists, who have chronicled the process of Angolan independence since 1975, have been complicit in silencing the 27th May 1977. My impression is that by going through these layers of silence and complicity, Pawson is asking very deep and provocative questions about the relationship between past and present in Angolan politics. There is no way politics in contemporary Angola may be understood without an engagement with the causes and the consequences of the 27th May 1977.’
António Tomas, Research Fellow, Makerere Institute of Social Research, Uganda
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co LtdPaperback
Publication Date: 30 Mar 2016
Number of Pages: 296
Illustrations: 2 mapsHardback
Publication Date: 30 Apr 2014
Number of Pages: 336
Illustrations: 16 bw in 8pp plates, 2 maps