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Speech delivered by the President of the Portuguese Republic in Maputo Municipal Council

Honourable President of the Municipal Council and my dear friend, Dr. Eneias Comiche,
Madam President of the Municipal Assembly,
Honourable Vice-Presidents of the Municipal Assembly,
Honourable Councillors,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I cannot hide the emotion with which I received the keys to the City of Maputo. It is an award which greatly honours and affects me, just as it affects my Wife, because Mozambique, and particularly its capital, are places very closely linked to our personal and family memories. Maputo is a part of our lives.

During my National Service, I stayed in Mozambique for two years. When we received the news that I had been mobilized to Africa, my Wife and I decided to get married. Eleven days later we boarded the ship Infante D. Henrique, sailing to Mozambique. The money that my Wife had saved as a high school teacher allowed her to purchase a First Class ticket on the ship in which I, as a 2nd lieutenant, had the right to travel.

We docked in this city on November 16, 1963, and here we spent two happy years. The name of my daughter arose out of the feelings my Wife and I had for a street filled with jacaranda trees that descended towards the sea, a floral explosion which left us in rapture. It was then called Princess Patricia Street.

As I wrote in my Autobiography, «the discovery of East Africa was fascinating». «I bought a second hand Renault Dauphine motor car, for twenty two thousand escudos, a deed made possible with a loan from Montepio Geral and a certain amount of economic audacity… But youth is naturally confident, there was a new continent that remained to be discovered and it could not be done on foot…»

These words, which I have written, explain, I believe, the deep emotion with which I received today the keys to the City of Maputo. It is, naturally, a distinction conferred upon the President of the Portuguese Republic, but there are occasions in life when public and personal matters are interwoven and confounded. The person who today receives the key to Maputo is also the young and just married 2nd lieutenant who, many years ago, had the boldness, with few resources, to buy a motor car to become acquainted with a land which immediately fascinated him.

Mozambique is today a free and sovereign nation. Maputo is a very different city to that which I knew the first time I came here. But my emotion is kept intact, in this city which holds a central place in the geography of my affections. The beauty of the streets, the warmth of its people, its intense smells and tastes: Maputo continues equal to itself.

Equally, Africa maintains the fascination of its mysteries. To allow itself to be discovered Africa demands, before anything else, that we respect it. Here, Nature proceeds majestically on its way, not always generous with humanity. The vastness of the territory is a lesson in humility for the immoderate ambition of human beings. In each step, Africa and its millenary past remind us that we are no more than a particle in the Universe, an ephemeral piece of dust in the immense surface of our planet. Africa is a lesson of humanity.

I would like my countrymen to share the experience in the discovery of these places, that they should come here in search of the beauty and of the vast potential contained in Mozambique. Maputo is, undoubtedly, one of the better gates of access to this country of promise, of immense opportunities for those who have the audacity to discover them. The same audacity that, a few dozen years ago, a very young couple travelled over East Africa in a motor car bought with the trusting help of a banking institution.

It was, as I said, boldness proper of youth. But it is with this same spirit of adventure and risk that Mozambique must be discovered in our days. Those that believe that it is possible to become acquainted or prosper in this country without audacity or boldness should not deceive themselves. Africa is a lesson in humility, but it is equally a matter of pluck.

Mister President and my dear friend,

I do not want to finish my speech without paying tribute to the endeavour that Your Excellency and your officers have placed in the refurbishment and modernization of this city, at the same time as its memory is cherished, thus recognizing its own identity.

On conferring this distinction upon me, the Maputo Municipal Council honours Portugal in the person of its Head of State. On behalf of Portugal and of the Portuguese I thank you. But also in my own personal name and, should you so permit, in that of my Wife, I am extremely grateful for your gesture. A gesture which is also very significant, since it involves, in the person of the President of the Municipal Council, the best which I have ever found in Mozambique: true and loyal friends.


© 2008 Presidency of the Portuguese Republic