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From "Guns to Roses". An Angolan Soldier's Story

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For a former number three of UNITA guerrillas, Antonio Urbano Chassanha, who hung up his uniform in 1992 and is now based in Lobito, Angola's southern coast, the past life of the military, has been changed into that of an entrepreneur, into a branch of floriculture.

In order to settle with accounts of the past and guard those past memories, he has written two books, "Angola: Onde Os Guerreiros Não Dormem” (2000)  (Translated: "Angola: Where The Warriors Don’t Sleep") and  “Esanju: A Rebelde Do Wambu” (2003) (An Umbundu language title) on the history and legends with ovimbundo traditions that pass from generation to generation through the oral tradition.

Now living in Catumbela, between Lobito and Benguela, Urban Chassanha explains that now being refurbished from the Angolan Armed Forces, he does not want to spend the rest of the days "sitting on the couch in front of a television."

Together with his wife, Anabela, three years ago they had the idea of producing plant species replantings and from there progressed to the production of ornamental trees, plants and flowers.

"I had a teacher who said that, ‘He who knows suffering better appreciates the happiness of others.’ Indeed, creating life through seed matter, having expectations for it to pop up, keeping up with its growth and then putting  it in bag is a whole dynamic that gives us much enjoyment, "he says.

Former senior officer of the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FALA / UNITA),Urban Chassanha was a deputy of the in the "Black Rooster" delegation in the Joint Commission, a body created to oversee the implementation of the United Nations sanctioned Protocol of Peace signed in 1994 in Lusaka.

Three years ago, through his book writing and other events, his life changed and he took on a role in a new vocation: gardening.   He opened his business, Lobitus Garden Horto and his new ambitions were realized.

"We experimented with indigenous trees, whose seeds were taken from an area between Balombo and Bocoio (Benguela province).  These plantings sprung up well and are in good health, and in this success we have the ability, when we are asked, to produce millions of species," says proudly.

Along with him he has 42 employees who help him in the ‘process of creating life’, which is the starting point in the rehabilitation of the living areas of Angola.

Converted to his new identity, Urban Chassanha considers that it has not been a difficult transition from ex-guerrilla to florist.

"I often say that the war did not create us many options. Peace creates us all the possible options and gives us imagination. It was not at all difficult. I like what I have done and have an interest in doing more, because it is an area that gives me immense pleasure,” he emphasizes.

And Angola? Does the country that is more than 10 years out a of civil war that left thousands dead and maimed and destruction behind, ready to replace the bullets for flowers?

"I think the country has all the conditions to move forward. Weaknesses are specific to a process that is not easy.  Also, nobody naturally thinks of the facilities needed for the future. It takes work.  It needs a lot of work," he says.

"I believe that in time all wounds can be healed. He also notes, that he is very pleased with the eagerness of people to learn more, forming an extremely positive sign.  Those of us, the older people, are here to tell them the history "

"I am giving a compass to create this project, but when I feel that this project is up to speed, after a time I  will devote myself to writing," he concludes. (Lusa website)

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