Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

The PAIGC and the Beginning of Open Warfare

Number of visits: 1575

After graduating from the institute in 1950, Amílcar goes through a period of apprenticeship at the Agronomy Center, in Santarém. Shortly thereafter, Juvenal Cabral dies. Then, in 1952, Amílcar returns to Bissau, under contract with the Agricultural and Forestry Services of Portuguese Guinea.

The man who arrives in Bissau is a 28-year-old agricultural engineer whose goals are not limited to those connected with his profession (in which, incidentally, he has always shown great competence). The most important of these goals: to raise the awareness of the Guinean common masses. As he says is a memorandum to the members of the organization, during the struggle for liberation, in 1969: “I didn’t come to Guinea by mere chance. My return to my native land was not occasioned by any material need. Everything was carefully planned, step by step. I had great possibilities of working in other Portuguese colonies and even in Portugal itself. I left a good job as a researcher at the Agronomy Center to take a job as a second class engineer in Guinea...This was done following a plan, an objective, based on the idea of doing something, of contributing to the betterment of the people, to fight against the Portuguese. That’s what I have done since the day I arrived in Guinea.”

The “Engineer,” as he will be called by his compatriots, is in the best position to carry out the task of “raising awareness.” As manager of the agricultural station at Pessubé, he is able to contact rural workers, including Cape Verdeans. But it’s difficult to bring the Cape Verdeans and the Guineans together to form a common front. It will be difficult to the very end, even though a number of Cape Verdeans gather around him (Aristides Pereira, Fernando Fortes, Abílio Duarte, among others). His political activities run parallel to his professional work. He is in charge of the planning and implementation of Guinea’s agricultural sensus; his final report is, to this day, the first dependable collection of data for a more accurate knowledge of Guinean agriculture.

In the beginning, Amílcar tries to act in strict observance of the law. He drafts the by-laws of a club dedicated to sports and cultural activities open to all Guineans. The Portuguese authorities do not permit it to function because the signers of the document do not have a government issued identity card.

In 1955, Governor Melo e Alvim forces Cabral to leave Guinea, although he permits him to return once a year for family reasons.

That very same year, a group of Asian and African countries hold a conference at Bandung, Indonesia, the Bandung Conference, which gives birth to the movement of nonaligned countries in world politics. That year also marks the end of the first Vietnamese war of independence and the beginning of open warfare by the National Liberation Front (FLN) of Algeria. Amílcar Cabral has been transferred to Angola and is working in Cassequel, as an engineer...and coming into direct contact with the founders of the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), of which he becomes a member.

During one of his visits to Bissau, on September 19, 1959, a new party comes into existence founded by Amílcar Cabral, Aristides Pereira, Luís Cabral, Júlio de Almeira, Fernando Fortes and Elisée Turpin. Its name: African Party for the Independence and Union of Guinea and Cape Verde (known by its Portuguese acronym PAIGC). It is, obviously, an underground organization that will acquire legal status only four years later when it establishes a foreign delegation in Conakry.

This is a period of exhausting activities for Amílcar Cabral. He continues his botanical and agricultural studies that force him to travel frequently between Portugal, Angola and Guinea.

In November, 1957, he attends a meeting in Paris called to discuss and plan the struggle against Portuguese colonialism; he makes contact with anticolonialists in Lisbon; goes to Accra, capital of Ghana, for a Pan-African meeting and then heads for Luanda when the Pidjiguiti massacre occurs. In January of 1960, he attends the Second Conference of African Peoples, in Tunis, and goes to Conakry in May. That same year, he goes to an international conference in London where, for the first time, he denounces Portuguese colonialism. But here he leaves it quite clear, as he did throughout the years of struggle, that he is not against the Portuguese people. His battle is exclusively against the colonial system.

Historical research and the testimonials of many of the participants in the events show that the PAIGC’s leader always made himself available for negotiations with the Portuguese government, but such openness was never accepted by the dictatorship regime.

Between 1960 and 1962, the PAIGC operates out of the Republic of Guinea. Its activities are developed along three courses of action: to prepare militants and party workers to spread the party line in the interior of Guinea; to obtain the support of neighboring countries (a very complicated affair because the Republic of Guinea intended to use Amílcar Cabral’s Guinean supporters to carry out its own political agenda and because Senegal showed its hostility for six years) and, finally, to marshal international support.

War breaks out in 1962 against the Portuguese Establishment. Seventeen years have gone by since Juvenal Cabral’s son arrived in Lisbon to attend college.


March 30 2010