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Amílcar Cabral


Amílcar Cabral

Amílcar Cabral
Amílcar Cabral, with the flag of Guinea-Bissau in the background, on a GDR stamp.
Personal details
Born Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral
(1924-09-12)12 September 1924
Bafatá, Portuguese Guinea
Died 20 January 1973(1973-01-20) (aged 48)
Conakry, Guinea
Political party African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde
People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola

Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral (Portuguese: ; (1924-09-12)12 September 1924 – 20 January 1973(1973-01-20)) was a Guinea-Bissauan and Cape Verdean agricultural engineer, writer, and a nationalist thinker and political leader. He was also one of Africa's foremost anti-colonial leaders. Also known by his nom de guerre Abel Djassi, 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 20 January 1973, about eight months before Guinea-Bissau's unilateral declaration of independence. Thought not a Marxist,[1] he was deeply influenced by Marxism, and became an inspiration to revolutionary socialists and national liberationists world-wide.


  • Early years 1
  • War for independence 2
  • Tributes 3
  • Films 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Early years

He was born on 12 September 1924 in Bafatá, Guinea-Bissau, to Cape Verdean parents Juvenal Antònio Lopes da Costa Cabral and Iva Pinhel Évora. Cabral was educated at Liceu (Secondary School) Gil Eanes in the town of Mindelo, Cape Verde, and later at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia, in Lisbon (the capital of Portugal, which was then the colonial power ruling over Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde). While an agronomy student in Lisbon, he founded student movements dedicated to opposing the ruling dictatorship of Portugal and promoting the cause of liberation of the Portuguese colonies in Africa.

He returned to Africa in the 1950s, and was instrumental in promoting the independence causes of the then Portuguese colonies. He was the founder (in 1956) of the PAIGC or Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (Portuguese for African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) and one of the founders of Movimento Popular Libertação de Angola (MPLA) (later in the same year), together with Agostinho Neto, whom he met in Portugal, and other Angolan nationalists.

War for independence

Amílcar Cabral with Nicolae Ceaușescu

From 1963 to his assassination in 1973, Cabral led the PAIGC's 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.

Amílcar Cabral soon realized that 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's 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, with the help of Portuguese agents operating within the PAIGC, shot and killed him. The Portuguese government's plan, which eventually went awry, was to enjoin the help of this former rival to arrest Amílcar Cabral and place him under the custody of Portuguese authorities. The assassination[2] took place on 20 January 1973 in Conakry, Guinea. His half-brother, Luís Cabral, became the leader of the Guinea-Bissau branch of the party and would eventually become President of Guinea-Bissau.

Other than being a guerrilla leader, Cabral was highly regarded internationally as one of the most prominent African and Marxist thinkers of the 20th century and for his intellectual contributions aimed at formulating a coherent cultural, philosophical and historical theoretical framework to justify and explain independence movements. This is reflected in his various writings and public interventions.

Tributes of the most lucid and brilliant leaders in Africa, Comrade Amílcar Cabral, who instilled in us tremendous confidence in the future and the success of his struggle for liberation.
— Tricontinental Conference1966 in Havana, Cuba[2]

Cabral is considered a "revolutionary theoretician as significant as elegy to Cabral in 1973.


  • Cabral's political thought and role in the liberation of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde is discussed at some length in Chris Marker's film, Sans Soleil (1983). He is also the subject of the Portuguese documentary Amílcar Cabral, released in 2000.
  • The documentary film Cabralista,[3] winner of the CVIFF Cape Verde International Film Festival prize for best documentary in 2011, puts Amilcar Cabral's political views and ideologies in the spotlight.[4]


  1. ^ Gleijeses 1997, p. 46.
  2. ^ a b c "Africa: A Continent Drenched in the Blood of Revolutionary Heroes" Victoria Brittain, The Guardian, January 17, 2011.
  3. ^ trailer.Cabralista
  4. ^ CVIFF

Further reading

  • Abdel Malek, Karine, "Le processus d'accès à l'indépendance de la Guinée-Bissau.", In : Bulletin de l'Association des Anciens Elèves de l'Institut National de Langues et de Cultures Orientales, N°1, Avril 1998. - pp. 53–60
  • Bienen, Henry (1977). "State and Revolution: The Work of Amilcar Cabral". Journal of Modern African Studies 15 (4): 555–568. 
  • Chabal, Patrick. Amilcar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership and People's War. New York and Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1983. ISBN 0-521-24944-9.
  • Chailand, Gérard. Armed Struggle in Africa: With the Guerrillas in "Portuguese" Guinea. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969. ISBN 0-85345-106-0.
  • Chilcote, Ronald H. (1968). "The Political Thought of Amílcar Cabral".  
  • Dhada, Mustafah. Warriors at Work. Niwot, Colorado, USA: Colorado University Press, 1993.
  • McCollester, Charles. "The Political Thought of Amilcar Cabral." Monthly Review, 24: 10–21 (March 1973).
  • Sigal, Brad. Amilcar Cabral and the Revolution in Guinea-Bissau City College of New York

External links

  • "The Weapon of Theory", a speech at the Tricontinental Conference in Havana, 1966
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica Amilcar Cabral
  • "National Liberation and Culture", a speech at Syracuse University in 1970
  • The African Activist Archive Project website has documents, posters, buttons, and photographs related to the struggle for independence in Guinea-Bissau and support for that struggle by U.S. organizations. The website includes photographs of Cabral.
  • Works at
  • "The Revolution in Guinea-Bissau and the Heritage of Amilcar Cabral" from Africa in Struggle, by Daniel Fogel
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