Amílcar Cabral, also known as Abel Djassi, was a leader in the struggle
for independence in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Cabral was a writer,
agronomic engineer, and Marxist nationalist. He was born on September
12, 1924 in Bafata, Portuguese Guinea. His father, Juvenal Cabral was
Cape Verdean and his mother Iva Pinhel Évora were Guinean. In 1932 his
family moved to Cabo Verde, and in 1944 he began work at the National
Printing Office. In 1945, at the age of 21, he received a scholarship
to study at the Agronomic Institute in Lisbon, graduating in 1950.
During his time in Lisbon, he founded student organizations centered on
African nationalism, including a Center for African Studies and married a
Portuguese woman named Marie Helena Rodrigues.
In 1952 Cabral returned to Bissau to work for the Agricultural and
Forestry Services of Portuguese Guinea. The next year he was
commissioned to conduct a government-sanctioned agricultural survey of
the colony. After a year of traveling through rural Guinea, Amílcar
Cabral became convinced that independence would be possible only through
military engagement. Due to Cabral’s anti-colonialist activities, in
1955 the Governor of Guinea-Bissau insisted he leave the colony, and
Cabral moved to Angola to join the Movement for the Liberation of Angola
(MPLA). On September 19, 1956 during a clandestine visit to Ghana,
Amílcar Cabral, along with his half-brother Luís Cabral, Júlio de
Almeira, Fernando Fortes, and Elisée Turpin, founded the African Party
for the Independence of Cape Verde and Guinea (PAIGC).
In 1960, with permission from President Kwame Nkrumah, Cabral
established military training camps in Ghana for PAIGC guerilla forces.
Cabral and PAIGC members emphasized pan-Africanism and the importance
of building a rural nationalist movement that could give rise to a
stable, independent State. By 1962 PAIGC was involved in guerilla
attacks on the Portuguese government. Open war was declared on January
23, 1963. Cabral married his second wife Ana Maria Cabral in 1966.
Cabral was also an outspoken advocate for Guinean independence in the
international arena. His speeches and writings were widely published in
his lifetime, with printings in England and the Soviet Union, among
other countries. In 1970 Cabral and a PAIGC delegation were granted an
audience with Pope Paul VI to garner support for the revolution. In
1972 Cabral spoke at the 163rd session of the Security Council of the
United Nations, asking for an observation delegation to assess the
conflict between Portugal and PAIGC forces.
By 1966 the PAIGC claimed control of over sixty percent of
Guinea-Bissau. After significant military victories in 1972 Cabral
began formal preparations for an independent Guinea. On January 20,
1973, however, he was assassinated by PAIGC navel commander Inocêncio
Kani and Portuguese agents at the PAIGC headquarters in Conakry.
Cabral’s assassination was part of a broader attempt to establish a
PAIGC leadership more conciliatory towards the Portuguese. The
liberation movement continued, with PAIGC leadership taking office in
October of 1974 after democratic elections delivered PAIGC 90% of the
popular vote. Amílcar’s half-brother Luís Cabral became the first
President of Guinea-Bissau.