Born on September 12 in 1924, Amílcar Cabral led the fight to overthrow Portuguese colonialism in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.
By Hakim Adi
Greatness is an attribute best judged by circumstances. In every era, humans have had many apparently insuperable problems to overcome. Those who are great are those who can find solutions to these problems, or who can inspire others to solve them.
In the 20th century, most of Africa was faced with the task of liberating itself from foreign colonial rule. In many countries, a form of independence was achieved by the early 1960s. However, the dictatorial government of Portugal refused to acknowledge the rights of Africans to govern themselves in its colonies, which included Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea (which became Guinea-Bissau after independence).
The struggle for independence in Guinea was led by the great Amílcar Cabral (1924-73), who also played a leading role in the liberation of Portugal’s other colonies in Africa. He was one of the founders of the Movimento Popular Libertação de Angola (MPLA), and founder and leader of the Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Capo-Verde. The armed liberation struggles that he led eventually resulted in revolution in Portugal and the start of a new democratic era in that country, too.
Cabral found ways to unite the nearly one million people of Guinea, women included, even though most were illiterate peasant farmers and they spoke different languages. With limited outside support, the people of Guinea fought to liberate their country and started to build a new society in which they themselves were the decision-makers. They did this even when parts of their country were still occupied by Portugal, which had the military support of Britain, the US and other NATO members.
Under Cabral’s leadership, the people of Guinea achieved great advances – progress that induced the government of Portugal to plot to assassinate him. His murder was carried out in 1973, just before Guinea achieved independence from Portuguese colonial rule.
Many Africans continue to be inspired by Cabral’s great leadership. His life and work show that, whatever the obstacles, the people are capable of being their own liberators.
(Hakim Adi is professor of the history of Africa and the African diaspora at the University of Chichester)
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