Gambiana

Remembering legendary anti-colonial campaigner and political leader Amilcar Cabral

“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children. . .”

― Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral’s assassination on 20 January 1973 marked the loss of one of Africa’s greatest liberation intellectuals, military strategists, political organisers, and internationalists. 

As Secretary-General of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), the unparalleled nature of Cabral’s influence is evident in his involvement in liberation struggles against Portuguese colonies geographically far removed from Guinea Bissau such as Angola. 

Cabral’s leadership spearheaded a combination of revolutionary theory and practice, as seen in his significant contributions to developing a socialist Pan Africanism.

Born on 12 September 1924 in Guinea Bissau, Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral’s family origins were tied to both Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, and his father’s family was wealthy and land-owning. 

After schooling in Cape Verde, Cabral moved to Lisbon in Portugal to study agronomy. Influenced by other African students during his time in Portugal, he became involved in establishing student movements in opposition to the Portuguese colonial dictatorship. 

During this period, Cabral met Agostinho Neto, and together they would later find the Peoples Movement for Liberation in Angola (MPLA) in 1956.

Cabral used his privilege as one of only four university graduates from Guinea Bissau to travel the country as an agronomist between 1952 and 1954. He observed the material conditions of rural Guinea Bissau. 

Deeply influenced by Marxist theory in analysing the social structure of Guinea Bissau, Cabral understood what it would take to liberate the people of Guinea Bissau: the struggle for liberation was not solely against the colonisers, but neo-colonialism and imperialism. 

The formation of the PAIGC in 1956 was founded in the understanding that class struggle was what would liberate not only the people of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde but of Africa and the world.

Cabral’s revolutionary leadership is apparent in his ability to organize and mobilize the grassroots using revolutionary theory. His intimate understanding of Guinea Bissau was evident in his ability to navigate lessons learned in both urban and rural experiences. 

From this, he was able to draw an in-depth class analysis of Guinea Bissau and the African continent more broadly.

At the time of his assassination, in the rural areas which his armed forces had liberated from Portuguese rule, 200 primary schools had been set-up with 20 000 students, four hospitals, and 200 clinics had been built. 

Cabral’s understanding of internationalism as a strategic necessity meant he understood the importance of unified action in the fight against imperialism. 

He had strong ties to Cuba, Ghana, Tanzania, Algeria, Libya, Angola, and Mozambique.

Today, we draw on Cabral’s legacy as a theorist, military strategist, and internationalist. Cabral lives in all who champion the values he espoused and practiced. 

Cabral lives in all who continue to struggle for a world free of economic exploitation and all forms of oppression. Cabral lives in the hearts and minds of our young comrades organizing and mobilizing in the various countries for the right to live in peace, free from conflict caused by the greedy forces who loot it. 

Cabral lives in Africa where comrades were facilitating grassroots literacy classes and political education. 

Cabral lives in all who struggle towards building an internationalism that strengthens and unites the struggles of the masses against capitalism and imperialism. Cabral lives in us.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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