Amílcar Cabral

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Amílcar Cabral
Cabral 2.png
Cabral wearing a traditional skullcap known as a sumbia during the 1964 Cassacá Congress, a gathering of PAIGC cadres.
Personal details
Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral

(1924-09-12)12 September 1924
Bafatá, Portuguese Guinea
Died20 January 1973(1973-01-20) (aged 48)
Conakry, Guinea
Cause of deathAssassination
Resting placeAmílcar Cabral's Maussoleum
Political partyAfrican Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde;
People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola

Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral (Portuguese: [ɐˈmilkaɾ ˈlɔpɨʃ kɐˈbɾal]; (1924-09-12)12 September 1924 – (1973-01-20)20 January 1973) was a Bissau-Guinean and Cape Verdean agricultural engineer, pan-africanist, intellectual, poet, theoretician, revolutionary, political organizer, nationalist and diplomat.[1] He was one of Africa's foremost anti-colonial leaders.[2][3]

Also known by the 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. He was deeply influenced by Marxism, and became an inspiration to revolutionary socialists and national independence movements worldwide.

Early years[edit]

Portrait of Amilcar Cabral in 1948, aged 23.

Cabral was born on 12 September 1924 in Bafatá, Guinea-Bissau, to Cape Verdean parents, Juvenal Antònio Lopes da Costa Cabral and Iva Pinhel Évora, both from Santiago, Cape Verde. His father came from a wealthy land-owning family. His mother was a shop owner and hotel worker in order to support her family, especially after she separated from Amílcar's father by 1929. Her family was not well off, so he was unable to pursue higher education.

Amílcar 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 independence for 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. Cabral was an asset of the Czechoslovak State Security (StB), and under the codename "Secretary" provided intelligence information to the StB.[4]

War for independence[edit]

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.[5] Cabral trained his lieutenants through various techniques, including mock conversations to provide them with effective communication skills to aid their efforts to mobilize Guinean tribal chiefs to support the PAIGC. Cabral realized 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 tilled and plowed 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 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, together with another member of PAIGC, shot and killed him on 20 January 1973 in Conakry.[6] The possible plan was to arrest Cabral (possibly to judge him summarily, later), but facing the peaceful resistance[dubious ] of Cabral, they immediately killed him.

According to some theories, Portuguese PIDE agents, whose alleged plan eventually went awry, wanted to influence Cabral's rivals through agents operating within the PAIGC, in hope of arresting Cabral and placing him under the custody of Portuguese authorities. Another theory claims that Ahmed Sékou Touré, jealous of Cabral's greater international prestige, among other motives, orchestrated the conspiracy[7][citation needed]; both theories remain unproven and controversial.

After the assassination, about one hundred officers and guerrilla soldiers of the PAIGC, accused of involvement in the conspiracy that resulted in the murder of Amílcar Cabral and the attempt to seize power in the movement, were summarily executed. His half-brother, Luís Cabral, became the leader of the Guinea-Bissau branch of the party and eventually became President of Guinea-Bissau.

Less than a month after the assassination, the United States concluded that then-colonial power Portugal was not directly involved in his death, according to official documents made public in 2006. Even so, the US State Department's Information and Investigation Services also concluded that "Lisbon's complicity" in the assassination of the leader of the struggle for Cape Verde's and Guinea-Bissau's independence "cannot be ruled out."[8][9]

Later on 25 April 1974, the Carnation Revolution coup was carried out in Portugal, which was followed by a cease-fire in the various battle fronts and eventually by the independence of all of Portugal's former colonies in Africa.[9] Cabral was assassinated prior to the independence of the Portuguese colonies in Africa, and therefore died before he could see his homelands of Cabo Verde and Guinea Bissau gain independence from Portugal.

Guinean President Ahmed Sekou Touré has been accused of ordering his death, as he died in Guinea under his presidency.[citation needed]


Mural on the wall of the Amílcar Cabral Foundation offices in Praia, Cape Verde. 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.

Cabral is considered a "revolutionary theoretician as significant as Frantz Fanon and Che Guevara",[10] one "whose influence reverberated far beyond the African continent."[11] Amílcar Cabral International Airport, Cape Verde's principal international airport at Sal, is named in his honor. There is also a football competition, the Amílcar Cabral Cup, in zone 2, named as a tribute to him. In addition, the only privately owned university in Guinea-Bissau – Amílcar Cabral University, in Bissau – is named after him. Jorge Peixinho composed an elegy to Cabral in 1973.

Author António Tomás wrote a biography of Amílcar Cabral, entitled O Fazedor de Utopias: Uma Biografia de Amílcar Cabral, which offers an extensive overview of Amílcar's life in narrative form and features a detailed account of Amílcar's family history in Portuguese.

Patrick Chabal professor of Lusophone African studies at King's College, London, also wrote a book about the life and biography of Amílcar Cabral, entitled Amílcar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership And People's War (1983 and 2003), which tells the story of Amílcar Cabral who, as head of PAIGC, Guinea-Bissau's nationalist movement, became one of Africa's foremost revolutionary leaders.

President William R. Tolbert (Republic of Liberia) commissioned and built a housing estate on the Old Road, Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia, named in honor of Cabral.

There is a block of flats named Amilcar Cabral Court on Porteus Road in west London, situated in the Paddington Green area.

East Germany issued a postage stamp in his honor in 1978.

A square in Veshnyaki District of Moscow was named "Amílcar Cabral Square" (Russian: «Площадь Амилкара Кабрала» "Ploschad Amilcara Cabrala") since 16 January 1974.

He was voted the second greatest leader in the world by a poll conducted by BBC World History Magazine in March 2020.[12][13]

In popular culture[edit]


  • 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,[14] 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.[15]



Amilcar Cabral makes a guest appearance in the novel Eteka: Rise of the Imamba in the Cabral chapter.


  • Cabral, Amilcar. Resistance and Decolonization. Translated by Dan Wood. Rowman & Littlefield International, 2016.
  • Cabral, Amilcar. Return to the Source: Selected Speeches of Amilcar Cabral. Monthly Review Press, 1973.
  • Cabral, Amilcar. Unity and Struggle: Speeches and Writings of Amilcar Cabral. Monthly Review Press, 1979.


  1. ^ Martin, G. (23 December 2012). African Political Thought. Springer. ISBN 9781137062055.
  2. ^ Chilcote, Ronald H. (1991), Amílcar Cabral's Revolutionary Theory and Practice: A Critical Guide, Boulder & London: Lynne Rienner.
  3. ^ Lopes, Rui; Barros, Víctor (19 December 2019). "Amílcar Cabral and the Liberation of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde: International, Transnational, and Global Dimensions". The International History Review. 42 (6): 1230–1237. doi:10.1080/07075332.2019.1703118. hdl:10362/94384. ISSN 0707-5332. S2CID 214034536.
  4. ^ Muehlenbeck, Philip (2016), Czechoslovakia in Africa, 1945–1968, New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, p. 106.
  5. ^ Halter, Marilyn; Johnson, Violet Showers (29 August 2014). African & American: West Africans in Post-Civil Rights America. NYU Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-6058-1.
  7. ^ "African Independence Party for Guinea and Cape Verde | political party, Africa". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  8. ^ "Portuguese Guinea: The PAIGC After Amilcar Cabral", 1 February 1973, as amended 4 May 2006. Declassified US Department of State document.
  9. ^ a b "US declassifies documents on freedom fighter Amílcar Cabral". Afrol News / A Semana. 7 June 2006. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  10. ^ a b Brittain, Victoria (17 January 2011), "Africa: A Continent Drenched in the Blood of Revolutionary Heroes", The Guardian.
  11. ^ Opening text of Cabralista, 2011 documentary film by Valerio Lopes.
  12. ^ "Maharaja Ranjit Singh voted greatest leader of all times". India Today. 5 March 2020. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  13. ^ "Who is the greatest leader in world history?". HistoryExtra. 4 March 2020. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Cabralista – Just another Afryk site". Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  15. ^ "CVIFF 2018". Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  16. ^ Mitter, Siddhartha (15 August 2008). "Orchestra Baobab: Made in Dakar". Retrieved 29 March 2019. ... the lyrics of Made in Dakar are sung in Wolof, French and Portuguese Creole, and the themes include an homage to Amilcar Cabral, a fondly remembered Pan-African revolutionary

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