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Myth and Meaning of Aluta, Comrade
“Comrade,” a word for mate, fellow soldier, or for any politically aligned colleague is often used accordingly with A Luta Continua, Victoria Ascerta.
In Nigeria, the two words have been greatly corrupted so that its synonyms are: hooliganism, drunkenness, calumny and cowardice. The modus operandi both words really stand for were nowhere to be found or understood, leading one to throng a million misbelief.
However, the rate at which misconceptions have interpolated into the words, making students devoid of its knowledge fight and defend it wrongly, saying the “spirit of aluta” or “god of aluta” aimlessly and in useless charades orchestrated the reason for this missive.
A luta continua, victoria ascerta which are the Portuguese words for “The struggles continues; Victory is certain” was the rallying cry of the FRELIMO movement during Mozambique’s war for independence. The phrase is in the Portuguese language and was a slogan coined by the first president of FRELIMO, Dr. Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, which he used to rally the population in the liberated zones of Mozambique during the armed struggle against Portuguese colonial rule.
Eduardo Mondlane’s speech was as succinct as it was poignant. It was 1967, right in the middle of Mozambique’s guerrilla war against colonial Portuguese control, and the founding president of the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO) was telling his countrymen why they needed to keep fighting after three years of combat. But when the war finally ended seven years later, Mondlane was long gone, assassinated by a parcel bomb.
Worthy of note, following his assassination, his successor, Samora Machel, continued to use the slogan to cultivate popular support during post-independence to mobilize the population for a new Mozambique which Eduardo Mondlane defined as “We fight together, and together we rebuild and we recreate our country, producing a new reality – a New Mozambique, United and Freed. The struggle continues!”.
Machel became the first president of an independent Mozambique in 1975 and continued to use the phrase a luta continua as an unofficial national motto. Posters bearing the phrase can still be found on the walls of Maputo, the nation’s capital.
In some parts in Nigeria, the phrase has taken a new phase as while many die valiantly because of the phrase many have used the same phrase to scam Nigeria students.
A luta continua was not a phrase born out of deception to die young or cowardice to live long. It was a phrase for patriotic struggles and ardent spirit of nationalism among denizens of common goals.
A luta continua is also widely used in Nigeria by some students and activists. Protests, riots, and other actions to demand for the rights of Nigerian students are termed as “Aluta”. It is the motto of the all-Nigerian Students Union across all academic institutions of higher education. It is generally given in full: “A luta continua; vitória é certa”, meaning “The struggle continues; victory is certain”.
Increased usage of the term has also been noted during the 2016 South African Fees Must Fall protests.
Internationally, the phrase has also been used by human rights activists in Indonesia who demanded action from government for unresolved cases of human rights violation. The phrase gained traction especially after 2019 Indonesian protests and riots.
For Mozambicans, taking the language of their colonial oppressor and weaponizing it in their march for independence came naturally. Perhaps because it had been passed down by leaders who understood the significance of engaging the adversary in their own language, the phrase stuck. After the independence ceremony in 1975, South African songstress and human rights activist Miriam Makeba began performing “A Luta Continua,” a song written by her daughter who also composed songs about Patrice Lumumba and Malcolm X.
And then the phrase took on a life of its own. For years after Machel’s death, FRELIMO members still called each other “comrade,” and “A Luta Continua” became a popular mantra. Both expressions have since been adopted as part of the resistance movement by students on African campuses and other activists decrying the injustice meted out by military dictatorships in their respective countries in the ’80s and ’90s.
“It was exotica to lots of students who shouted ‘A luta’ before they knew its meaning,” says Chidi Odinkalu, former chairman of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission. “The idea of struggle of course had ideological and generational appeal.” It would go on to be used by more movements in the coming years, including Nigerian students and labour activists protesting the annullment of the 1993 presidential elections as well as South African students during the 2015 #FeesMustFall protests. In 2011, Kenyan LGBTQ activists wore it to show solidarity after one of their own was bludgeoned to death earlier that year.
Machel died in a 1986 plane crash in nearby South Africa, an incident widely believed to have been an act of sabotage by the country’s apartheid government. But “A luta continua” itself continues to rally activist groups, having long outlived the men who made it famous.