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Portuguese Angola

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Portuguese Angola

Province of Angola
State of Angola
Província de Angola
Estado de Angola
Colony; Overseas province;
State of the Portuguese Empire



Flag Coat of arms
Portuguese West Africa (Angola and Cabinda)
Capital Luanda
Languages Portuguese
Political structure Colony; Overseas province;
State of the Portuguese Empire
Head of state
 -  1575-1578 King Sebastian I of Portugal
 -  1974-1975 President Francisco da Costa Gomes
 -  1837-1839 (first) Manuel Bernardo Vidal
 -  1975 (last) Leonel Alexandre Gomes Cardoso
 -  1589-1591 (first) Luís Serrão
 -  1836- (last) Domingos de Saldanha Oliveira e Daun
Historical era Imperialism
 -  Establishment of a coastal settlement 1575
 -  Fall of Portuguese Empire November 11, 1975
 -  1970 1,246,700 km² (481,354 sq mi)
 -  1970 est. 5,926,000 
     Density 4.8 /km²  (12.3 /sq mi)
Currency Angolan escudo (in the 20th century)

Portuguese Angola or Portuguese West Africa are the common terms by which Angola is designated when referring to the historic period when it was a Portuguese overseas territory in southwestern Africa. The former Portuguese Angola became an independent country in 1975 and now forms the Republic of Angola.

During its history of 400 years, Portuguese Angola had the following formal designations: Donee of the Kingdom of Sebaste (1575-1588) Captaincy-General of the Kingdom of Angola (1588-1834), Province of Angola (1834-1926), Colony of Angola (1926-1951), Province of Angola (1951-1972) and State of Angola (1972-1975). It is to note that the term "Colony of Angola" began to be used occasionally since 1914, but only in 1926 it completely replaced the designation "Province of Angola".[1]


  • History 1
    • Colony 1.1
      • The beginning of the war 1.1.1
      • Campaign in the Eastern Front 1.1.2
    • Federated state 1.2
    • Carnation Revolution and independence 1.3
  • Government 2
  • Geography 3
  • Economy 4
  • Education 5
  • Sports 6
  • Famous people 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The history of Portuguese presence on the territory of contemporary Angola lasted from the foundation of a Portuguese settlement in what today is Soyo, in the 16th century, until the decolonization of the territory in 1975. During these four centuries, several entirely different situations have to be distinguished.


Queen Nzinga in peace negotiations with the Portuguese governor in Luanda, 1657.

When Portuguese explorers reached the Kongo River, which now belongs to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a more important trading settlement on the Atlantic coast, at Soyo which then belonged to the Kongo Kingdom and is today Angola's northernmost town (except for the Cabinda exclave).

In 1575 the settlement of Luanda was established on the coast south of the Kongo Kindom, and in the 17th century the settlement of Benguela, even more to the south. From 1580 to the 1820s, well over a million people from current-day Angola were exported as slaves to the so-called New World, mainly to Brazil, but also to North America.[2] According to Oliver and Atmore, "for 200 years, the colony of Angola developed essentially as a gigantic slave-trading enterprise".[3] Kingdom of Portugal sailors, explorers, soldiers and merchants had a long-standing policy of conquest and establishment of military and trading outposts in Africa with the conquest of Muslim-ruled Ceuta in 1415 and the establishment of bases in current-day Morocco and the Gulf of Guinea. The Portuguese had Catholic beliefs and their military expeditions included from the very beginning the conversion of foreign peoples.

In the 17th century, conflicting economic interests led to a military confrontation with the Kongo Kingdom. Portugal defeated the Kongo Kingdom in the Battle of Mbwila on October 29, 1665, but suffered a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Kitombo when they tried to invade Kongo in 1670.

Control of most of the central highlands was achieved in the 18th century. Further reaching attempts at conquering the interior were undertaken in the 19th century [4] However, full Portuguese administrative control of the entire territory was not achieved until the beginning of the 20th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, due to the Mbunda resistance to Portuguese colonial occupation, when the Portuguese colonialists abducted the twenty first (21st) Mbunda Monarch, King Mbandu I Lyondthzi Kapova (Kathima Mishambo),[5] the Mbunda waged a fierce armed campaigns in defending their Mbundaland, southeast of Angola. Technology however, aided the Portuguese forces in gaining an upper hand in the war as they had a constant supply of gunpowder for their guns. Without the knowledge to make gunpowder, the Mbunda eventually found their muzzle-loaders useless and increasingly relied on their bows and arrows as well as a few other traditional arms which were suited for close contact warfare. The Portuguese firepower took a heavy toll of the Mbunda, some of whom started to throw their muzzle-loaders in the rivers for lack of gunpowder. The Portuguese eventually dislodged the Mbunda Kingdom extending Angola territory over Mbundaland.[6] It is thus at that stage that Angola in its present dimensions was constituted, as a Portuguese colony.

In 1884 Britain, which up to that time refused to acknowledge that Portugal possessed territorial rights north of Ambriz, concluded a treaty recognizing Portuguese sovereignty over both banks of the lower Congo, but the treaty, meeting with opposition there and Germany, was not ratified. Agreements concluded with the Congo Free State, the German Empire and France in 1885-1886 fixed the limits of the province, except in the south-east, where the frontier between Barotseland (north-west Rhodesia) and Angola was determined by an Anglo-Portuguese agreement of 1891 and the arbitration award of the King of Italy in 1905.

During the Portuguese’s colonial rule of Angola, cities, towns and trade-posts were founded, railroads were opened, ports built, and a Westernized society was being gradually developed, despite the fact of a deep traditional tribal heritage in Angola which the minority European rulers were neither willing nor interested to eradicate. Since the 1920s, Portugal's administration showed an increasing interest in developing Angola's economy and social infrastructure.[7]

The beginning of the war

In 1951, the Portuguese Colony of Angola became an overseas province of Portugal. In the late 1950s the Portuguese Armed Forces (FAP) in the area to the point that the guerrillas were able to cross the Cuanza River and could threaten the territory of Bié which had an important urban center in the agricultural, commercial and industrial town of Silva Porto. In 1970, the guerrilla movement decided to reinforce the Eastern Front by relocating troops and armament from the North to the East.

Campaign in the Eastern Front

In 1971, the FAP started a successful counter-insurgency military campaign that expelled the three guerrilla movements operating in the East to beyond the frontiers of Angola. The last guerrillas lost hundreds of soldiers and left tons of equipment behind, disbanding chaotically to the neighboring foreign countries in the region or in some cases, joining or surrendering to the Portuguese authorities. In order to gain the confidence of the local rural populations, and create conditions for their permanent and productive settlement in the region, the Portuguese authorities organized massive vaccination campaigns, medical check-ups, water, sanitation and alimentary infrastructure as a way to better contribute to the economic and social development of the people and dissociate the population from the guerrillas and their influence. In 31 December 1972, the Development Plan of the East (Plano de Desenvolvimento do Leste) included in its first stage, 466 development enterprises (150 were completed and 316 were being built). 19 health centers had been built and 26 were being constructed. 51 new schools were operating and 82 were being constructed[12][13]

However, the Portuguese authorities were unable to defeat the liberation guerillas as a whole during the Portuguese Colonial War, particularly in Portuguese Guinea, and had suffered heavy casualties across the 13 years of conflict. Throughout the war period Portugal faced increasing dissent, arms embargoes and other punitive sanctions imposed by most of the international community. For the Portuguese society the war was becoming even more unpopular due to its length and financial costs, the worsening of diplomatic relations with other United Nations members, and the role it had always played as a factor of perpetuation of the Estado Novo regime. It was this escalation that would lead directly to the mutiny of members of the FAP in the Carnation Revolution in 1974 - an event that would lead to the independence of the former Portuguese colonies in Africa.

Federated state

In June 1972, the

  • The Mbunda Kingdom Research and Advisory Council

External links

  1. ^ )Carta Orgânica da Colónia de AngolaDecreto n.º 12499 de 15 de outubro de 1926 (
  2. ^ Joseph C. Miller, Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730-1830, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988
  3. ^ Medieval Africa, 1250-1800 (pp174) By Roland Anthony Oliver, Anthony Atmore
  4. ^ René Pélissier, Les guerres grises. Résistance et revoltes en Angola (1845-1941), Montamets/Orgeval: Editora do autor, 1977
  5. ^ René Pélissier, La révolte des Bunda (1916-1917), pp. 408 - 412 (French for "the Mbunda revolt"), section footnotes citing sources: Luís Figueira, Princesa Negra: O preço da civilização em África, Coimbra Edição do autor, 1932.
  6. ^ Robert Papstein, 1994, The History and Cultural Life of the Mbunda Speaking People, Lusaka Cheke Cultural Writers Association, ISBN 99 820 3006X
  7. ^ [1] More Power to the People, 2006.
  8. ^ [2], British Broadcasting Company, January 2008.BBC News
  9. ^ Tvedten, Inge (1997). Angola: Struggle for Peace and Reconstruction. p. 31. 
  10. ^ Edgerton, Robert Breckenridge (2002). Africa's Armies: From Honor to Infamy. p. 72. 
  11. ^ Walker, John Frederick (2004). A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred-Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola. p. 143. 
  12. ^ (Portuguese) António Pires Nunes, Angola Vitória Militar no Leste
  13. ^ António Pires Nunes, Angola, 1966-74: vitória militar no leste, ISBN 9728563787, 9789728563783, Publisher: Prefácio, 2002
  14. ^ John A. Marcum, The Angolan Revolution, vol. II, Exile Politics and Guerrilla Warfare (1962-1976), Cambridge/Mass. & London, MIT Press, 1978
  15. ^ a b Angola, History, The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2007, Columbia University Press
  16. ^ (Portuguese) Cronologia: Movimento dos capitães, Centro de Documentação 25 de Abril, University of Coimbra
  17. ^ (Portuguese) Arquivo Electrónico: Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, Centro de Documentação 25 de Abril, University of Coimbra
  18. ^ (Portuguese) A Guerra Colonial na Guine/Bissau (07 de 07), Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho on the Decree Law, RTP 2 television,
  19. ^ Dismantling the Portuguese Empire, Time Magazine (Monday, July 07, 1975) NB: The figures in this source are too high, as the total number of whites in the colonies did not reach 700,000.
  20. ^ Angola antes da Guerra, a film of Luanda, Portuguese Angola (before 1975),
  21. ^ LuandaAnosOuro.wmv, a film of Luanda, Portuguese Angola (before 1975),
  22. ^ BenguelaAnosOuro.wmv, a film of Benguela, Overseas Province of Angola, before 1975.
  23. ^ NovaLisboaAnosOuro.wmv, a film of Nova Lisboa, Overseas Province of Angola, before 1975.
  24. ^ LobitoAnosOuro.wmv, a film of the Lobito in Portuguese Angola, before independence from Portugal.
  25. ^ SáDaBandeiraAnosOuro.wmv, a film of Sá da Bandeira, Overseas Province of Angola, before 1975.
  26. ^ MalanjeAnosOuro.wmv, a film of Malanje, Overseas Province of Angola (before 1975).
  27. ^ a b (Portuguese) Angola de outros tempos Moçamedes, Moçâmedes under Portuguese rule before 1975,
  28. ^ Angola-Carmona (Viagem ao Passado)-Kandando Angola, a film of Carmona, Portuguese Angola (before 1975).
  29. ^ CabindaAnosOuro.wmv, a film of Cabinda, Portuguese Angola (before 1975).
  30. ^ a b c d e History of Angola, Republic of Angola Embassy in the United Kingdom
  31. ^ (Portuguese) Angola - Moçâmedes, minha terra, eu te vi crescer... (Raul Ferreira Trindade), history of Moçâmedes/Namibe
  32. ^ Louise Redvers, POVERTY-ANGOLA: NGOs Sceptical of Govt’s Rural Development Plans, [Inter Press Service News Agency] (June 6, 2009)
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h Warner, Rachel. "Conditions before Independence". A Country Study: Angola (Thomas Collelo, editor). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (February 1989). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.[3]
  34. ^ (Portuguese) 52. UNIVERSIDADE DE LUANDA
  35. ^ 6h Huambo 1973, Nova Lisboa Internacional Sports Race


See also

Famous people

From the 1940s onward, city and town expansion and modernization included the construction of several sports facilities for Nova Lisboa, Benguela, Sá da Bandeira and Moçâmedes. The International Nova Lisboa 6 Hours sports car race became noted internationally.[35]


Two state-run university institutions were founded in Portuguese Africa in 1962 by the Portuguese Ministry of the Overseas Provinces headed by Adriano Moreira - the Estudos Gerais Universitários de Angola in Portuguese Angola and the Estudos Gerais Universitários de Moçambique in Portuguese Mozambique - awarding a wide range of degrees from engineering to medicine.[34] In the 1960s, the Portuguese mainland had four public universities, two of them in Lisbon (which compares with the 14 Portuguese public universities today). In 1968, the Estudos Gerais Universitários de Angola was renamed Universidade de Luanda (University of Luanda).

Starting in the early 1950s, the access to basic, secondary and technical education was expanded and its availability was being increasingly opened to both the African indigenes and the ethnic Portuguese of the territories. Education beyond the primary level became available to an increasing number of black Africans since the 1950s, and the proportion of the age group that went on to secondary school in the early 1970s was an all-time record high enrolment.[33] Primary school attendance was also growing substantially.[33] In general, the quality of teaching at the primary level was acceptable, even with instruction carried on largely by black Africans who sometimes had substandard qualifications.[33] Most secondary school teachers were ethnically Portuguese, especially in the urban centers.[33]

In mainland Portugal, the homeland of the colonial authorities who ruled in the territory from the 16th century until 1975, by the end of the 19th century the illiteracy rates were at over 80 percent and higher education was reserved for a small percentage of the population. 68.1 percent of mainland Portugal's population was still classified as illiterate by the 1930 census. Mainland Portugal's literacy rate by the 1940s and early 1950s was low by North American and Western European standards at the time. Only in the 1960s did the country make public education available for all children between the ages of six and twelve, and the overseas territories profited from this new educational developments and change in policy at Lisbon.

Non-urban black African access to educational opportunities was very limited for most of the colonial period, most were not even able to speak Portuguese and did not have knowledge of Portuguese culture and history.[33] Until the 1950s, educational facilities run by the Portuguese colonial government were largely restricted to the urban areas.[33] Responsibility for educating rural Africans were commissioned by the authorities to several Roman Catholic and Protestant missions based across the vast countryside, which taught black Africans in Portuguese language and culture.[33] As a consequence, each of the missions established its own school system, although all were subject to ultimate control and support by the Portuguese.[33]


Fishing in Portuguese Angola was a major and growing industry. In the early 1970s, there were about 700 fishing boats, and the annual catch was more than 300,000 tons. Including the catch of foreign fishing fleets in Angolan waters, the combined annual catch was estimated at over 1 million tons. The Portuguese territory of Angola was a net exporter of fish products, and the ports of Moçâmedes, Luanda and Benguela were among the most important fishing harbours in the region.

By the early 1970s, a variety of crops and livestock were produced in Portuguese Angola. In the north, cassava, coffee, and cotton were grown; in the central highlands, maize was cultivated; and in the south, where rainfall is lowest, cattle herding was prevalent. In addition, there were large plantations run by Portuguese that produced palm oil, sugarcane, bananas, and sisal. These crops were grown by commercial farmers, primarily Portuguese, and by peasant farmers, who sold some of their surplus to local Portuguese traders in exchange for supplies. The commercial farmers were dominant in marketing these crops, however, and enjoyed substantial support from the overseas province's Portuguese government in the form of technical assistance, irrigation facilities, and financial credit. They produced the great majority of the crops that were marketed in Angola's urban centres or exported for several countries.[32]

Diamond mining began in 1912, when the first gems were discovered by Portuguese prospectors in a stream of the Lunda region, in the northeast. In 1917 Diamang was granted the concession for diamond mining and prospecting in Portuguese Angola. From the mid-1950s until 1974, iron ore was mined in Malanje, Bié, Huambo, and Huíla provinces, and production reached an average of 5.7 million tons per year between 1970 and 1974. Most of the iron ore was shipped to Japan, West Germany, and the United Kingdom, and earned almost US$50 million a year in export revenue. During 1966-67 a major iron ore terminal was built by the Portuguese at Saco, the bay just 12 km North of Moçâmedes (Namibe). The client was the Compania Mineira do Lobito, the Lobito Mining Company, which developed an iron ore mine inland at Cassinga. The construction of the mine installations and a 300 km railway were commissioned to Krupp of Germany and the modern harbour terminal to SETH, a Portuguese company owned by Højgaard & Schultz of Denmark. The small fishing town of Moçâmedes hosted construction workers, foreign engineers and their families for two years. The Ore Terminal was completed on time within one year and the first 250,000 ton ore carrier docked and loaded with ore in 1967.[27][31] The Portuguese discovered petroleum in Angola in 1955. Production began in the Cuanza basin in the 1950s, in the Congo basin in the 1960s, and in the exclave of Cabinda in 1968. The Portuguese government granted operating rights for Block Zero to the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company, a subsidiary of ChevronTexaco, in 1955. Oil production surpassed the exportation of coffee as Angola's largest export in 1973.

The Portuguese started to develop townships, trading posts, logging camps and small processing factories. From 1764 onwards, there was a gradual change from a slave-based society to one based on production for domestic consumption and export. Meanwhile, with the independence of Brazil in 1822, the slave trade was abolished in 1836, and in 1844 Angola's ports were opened to foreign shipping. By 1850, Luanda was one of the greatest and most developed Portuguese cities in the vast Portuguese Empire outside Mainland Portugal, full of trading companies, exporting (together with Benguela) palm and peanut oil, wax, copal, timber, ivory, cotton, coffee, and cocoa, among many other products. Maize, tobacco, dried meat and cassava flour also began to be produced locally. The Angolan bourgeoisie was born. Meanwhile, the slave trade was abolished in 1836, and in 1844 Angola’s ports were opened to foreign shipping.[30] From the 1920s to the 1960s, strong economic growth, abundant natural resources and development of infrastructure, led to the arrival of even more Portuguese settlers from the metropole.[30]

The philosophy of war gradually gave way to the philosophy of trade. The great trade routes and the agreements that made them possible were the driving force for activities between the different areas; warlike states become states ready to produce and to sell.[30] In the Planalto (the high plains), the most important states were those of Portuguese Empire.[30]

Portuguese explorers and settlers had founded trading posts and forts along the coast of Africa since the 15th century, and reached the Angolan coast in the 16th century. Portuguese explorer Paulo Dias de Novais founded Luanda in 1575 as "São Paulo de Loanda", and the region developed as a slave trade market with the help of local Imbangala and Mbundu peoples who were notable slave hunters. Trade was mostly with the Portuguese colony of Brazil in the so-called "New World"; Brazilian ships were the most numerous in the ports of Luanda and Benguela. By this time, Angola, a Portuguese colony, was in fact like a colony of Brazil, another Portuguese colony. A strong Brazilian influence was also exercised by the Jesuits in religion and education.[30]


The exclave of Cabinda was to the north.[29]

Topographic map of Angola.

The capital of the territory was Luanda,[20][21] officially called São Paulo de Luanda. Other cities and towns were:

Luanda grew from a town of 61,208 with 14.6% of those inhabitants being white in 1940, to a major cosmopolitan city of 475,328 in 1970 with 124,814 Europeans (26.3%) and around 50,000 mixed race inhabitants. Most of the other large cities in Angola had around the same ratio of Europeans at the time, with the exception of Sá da Bandeira (Lubango), Moçâmedes (Namibe) and Porto Alexandre (Tombua) in the south where the white population was more established. All of these cities had European majorities from 50% to 60%.

Angola was indeed a territory that underwent a great deal of progress after 1950. The Portuguese government built dams, roads, schools, etc. There was also an economic boom that led to a huge increase of the European population. The white population increased from 44,083 in 1940 to 172,529 in 1960. With around 1,000 immigrants arriving each month. On the eve of the end of the colonial period, the ethnic European residents numbered 400,000 (1974) (excluding enlisted and commissioned soldiers from the mainland) and the mixed race population was at around 100,000 (many were Cape Verdian migrants working in the territory). The total population was around 5.9 million at that time.

The Portuguese authorities established several national parks and natural reserves across the territory: Bicauri, Cameia, Cangandala, Iona, Mupa, Namibe and Quiçama. Iona was Angola's oldest and largest national park, it was proclaimed as a reserve in 1937 and upgraded to a national park in 1964.

Most of Angola’s rivers rose in the central mountains. Of the many rivers that drain to the Atlantic Ocean, the Cuanza and Cunene were the most important. Other major streams included the Kwango River, which drains north to the Congo River system, and the Kwando and Cubango Rivers, both of which drain generally southeast to the Okavango Delta. As the land drops from the plateau, many rapids and waterfalls plunge downward in the rivers. Portuguese Angola had no sizable lakes, besides those formed by dams and reservoirs built by the Portuguese administration.

Portuguese Angola was a territory covering 1,246,700 km², an area greater than France and Spain put together. It had 5,198 km of terrestrial borders and a coastline with 1,600 km. Its geography was diverse. From the coastal plain, ranging in width from 25 kilometres in the south to 100-200 kilometers in the north, the land rises in stages towards the high inland plateau covering almost two-thirds of the country, with an average altitude of between 1,200 and 1,600 metres. Angola's two highest peaks were located in these central highlands. They were Moco Mountain (2,620 m) and Meco Mountain (2,538 m).


In 1972, the Portuguese National Assembly changed Angola's status from an overseas province to an “autonomous state” with authority over some internal affairs; Portugal was to retain responsibility for defense and foreign relations. Elections were held in Angola for a legislative assembly in 1973.[15]

The highest official in the province was the governor-general, appointed by the Portuguese cabinet on recommendation of the Overseas Minister. The governor-general had both executive and legislative authority. A Government Council advised the governor-general in the running of the province. The functional cabinet consisted of five secretaries appointed by the Overseas Minister on the advice of the governor. A Legislative Council had limited powers and its main activity was approving the provincial budget. Finally, an Economic and Social Council had to be consulted on all draft legislation, and the governor-general had to justify his decision to Lisbon if he ignored its advice.

The government of Angola, as it was in Portugal, was highly centralized. Power was concentrated in the executive branch, and all elections where they occurred were carried out using indirect methods. From the Prime Minister's office in Lisbon, authority extended down to the most remote posts of Angola through a rigid chain of command. The authority of the government of Angola was residual, primarily limited to implementing policies already decided in Europe. In 1967, Angola also sent a number of delegates to the National Assembly in Lisbon.

In the 20th century, Portuguese Angola was subject to the Estado Novo regime. In 1951, the Portuguese authorities changed the statute of the territory from Colony to an Overseas Province of Portugal. Legally, the territory was as much a part of Portugal as Lisbon but as an overseas province enjoyed special derogations to account for its distance from Europe. Most members of the government of Angola were from Portugal, but a few were Africans. Nearly all members of the bureaucracy were from Portugal, as most Africans did not have the necessary qualifications to obtain positions.


These events prompted a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens, overwhelmingly white but some mestiço (mixed race) or black, from Portugal's African territories, creating hundreds of thousands destitute refugees — the retornados.[19] Angola became a sovereign state on 11 November 1975 in accordance with the Alvor Agreement and the newly independent country was proclaimed the People's Republic of Angola.

In April 25, 1974, the Portuguese government of the Estado Novo regime under Marcelo Caetano, the corporatist and authoritarian regime established by António de Oliveira Salazar that had ruled Portugal since the 1930s, was overthrown in the Carnation Revolution, a military uprising in Lisbon. In May of that year the new revolutionary government of Portugal proclaimed a truce with the pro-independence African guerrillas in an effort to promote peace talks and independence.[15] The military-led coup returned democracy to Portugal, ending the unpopular Colonial War where thousands of Portuguese soldiers had been conscripted into military service, and replacing the authoritarian Estado Novo (New State) regime and its secret police which repressed elemental civil liberties and political freedoms. It started as a professional class[16] protest of Portuguese Armed Forces captains against the 1973 decree law Dec. Lei n.o 353/73.[17][18]

Carnation Revolution and independence


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