By - Victoria Akindele
Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral was born in September 1924 in Bafatá, Portuguese Guinea. He was an agronomist, nationalist leader, and founder and secretary-general of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde who helped lead Guinea-Bissau to independence. He was also a Bissau-Guinean and Cape Verdean agricultural engineer, theoretician, revolutionary, political organizer and diplomat. He was one of Africa’s foremost anti-colonial leaders.
Cabral led the nationalist movement of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands and the ensuing war of independence in Guinea-Bissau. He was assassinated on Jan. 20, 1973 about eight months before Guinea-Bissau’s unilateral declaration of independence. Although not a Marxist, he was deeply influenced by Marxism, wrote “The weapon of Theory” in 1966 and became an inspiration to revolutionary socialists and national independence movements worldwide.
Amilcar Cabral was the son of parents who hailed from Cape Verde, although he was actually born in Guinea-Bissau. Both lands were Portuguese colonies at the time.
Cabral was educated in Cape Verde, but later went to college in Lisbon, Portugal, as well. While there, he started up student protests against Portugal’s control over its African colonies.
Cabral – A freedom fighter
In the 1950’s, Cabral returned to Africa and organised an independence movement for both Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. And later on, he helped found a similar movement in Angola.
From 1963 to his assassination in 1973, Cabral led the the African party for the independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Portuguese: partido Africano para a independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde, PAIGC) guerrilla movement in Portuguese Guinea against the Portuguese government, which evolved into one of the most successful wars of independence in modern African history. The goal of the conflict was to attain independence for both Portuguese Guinea and Cape Verde. Over the course of the conflict, as the movement captured territory from the Portuguese, Cabral became the de facto leader of a large portion of what became Guinea-Bissau.
In preparation for the independence war, Cabral set up training camps in Ghana with the permission of Kwame Nkrumah. Cabral trained his lieutenants through various techniques, including mock conversations to provide them with effective communication skills that would aid their efforts to mobilize Guinean tribal chiefs to support the PAIGC. Cabral realized the war effort could be sustained only if his troops could be fed and taught to live off the land alongside the larger populace. Being an agronomist, he taught his troops to teach local crop growers better farming techniques, so that they could increase productivity and be able to feed their own family and tribe, as well as the soldiers enlisted in the PAIGC’s military wing. When not fighting, PAIGC soldiers would till and plow the fields alongside the local population.
Cabral and the PAIGC also set up a trade-and-barter bazaar system that moved around the country and made staple goods available to the countryside at prices lower than that of colonial store owners. During the war, Cabral also set up a roving hospital and triage station to give medical care to wounded PAIGC soldiers and quality-of-life care to the larger populace, relying on medical supplies garnered from the USSR and Sweden. The bazaars and triage stations were at first stationary, until they came under frequent attack from Portuguese regime forces.
In 1972, Cabral began to form a People’s Assembly in preparation for the independence of Guinea-Bissau, but disgruntled former PAIGC rival Inocêncio Kani, together with another member of PAIGC, shot and killed him on Jan. 20, 1973 in Conakry. The possible plan was to arrest Cabral, but facing the peaceful resistance of Cabral, they immediately killed him.
According to some theories, Portuguese PIDE agents, whose alleged plan eventually went awry, wanted to influence Cabral`s rivals through agents operating within the PAIGC, in hope of arresting Cabral and placing him under the custody of Portuguese authorities. Another theory claims that Ahmed Sékou Touré, jealous of Cabral’s greater international prestige, among other motives, orchestrated the conspiracy, both theories remain unproven and controversial.
Cabral’s legacy lives on
After the assassination, about one hundred officers and guerrilla soldiers of the PAIGC, accused of involvement in the conspiracy that resulted in the murder of Amílcar Cabral and the attempt to seize power in the movement, were summarily executed. His half-brother, Luís Cabral, became the leader of the Guinea-Bissau branch of the party and would eventually become President of Guinea-Bissau.
A declassified United States Department of State brief notes that the motives of his assassination are unclear but may have linked to “a feud between mulattos from the Cape Verde islands and mainland Africans.” Cabral was assassinated prior to the independence of the Portuguese colonies in Africa, and therefore died before he could see his homelands of Cabo Verde and Guinea Bissau gain independence from Portugal.
Half a world away, Cabral’s works had also become common parlance within the black liberation movement (BLM) by the time of his death. His works greatly aided the political and theoretical development of the BLM in the 1970s, which unfortunately played itself out in many fractious debates, broken alliances, and organizational splits during the middle of the decade (many greatly aided by the provocations of the federal bureau of investigation, FBI). Despite the fragmentation of the BLM during this period, Cabral’s work has had a lasting influence on the movement, as it is still being studied and referenced today in the formulation of strategy and the programmatic orientation of revolutionary nationalist and Pan-Africanist organizations.
In the 46 years since his untimely death, Amilcar Cabral’s political legacy lives on in the strategies and tactics used by the forces of the BLM to defeat the neo-colonial control of black communities, the advance of neo-liberal exploitation and social decomposition, to counter the consolidation of the Black faction of the transnational capitalist class, to stop the genocidal assault against the working class via mass incarceration and economic displacement, and build self-determining institutions and communities to liberate the people.
Sunday, Jan. 20, Cape Verde celebrated Heroes Day and honored its revolutionary leader Amílcar Cabral, marking the forty-sixth anniversary of his assassination.
Despite dying two years before Cape Verde’s independence was achieved in 1975, Amilcar Cabral is considered the number one freedom fighter and hero of the nation.
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