Find a Security Clearance Job!


African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC - Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde)

Amilcar Cabral's PAIGC fought for the independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde from Portuguese colonialism. In 1959, Amílcar Cabral, along with Aristides Pereira, Luís Cabral and others, founded the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC - Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde) and on 23 January 1963, began the armed struggle for independence.

Its leadership was made up primarily of Cape Verdean mulattoes and its fighting ranks were filled largely by black Afri­ cans-mostly of the large Balanta tribe. Occasionally the blacks expressed resentment over their having to bear a greater share of the fighting, but this did not seem to have adversely affected their overall combat capability.

Headquarters of PAIGC were in Conakry, Guinea, which was one of the party's staunchest backers. The PAIGC proved itself to be a serious, well-organized political and military movement. Aided by a steady stream of armaments, mainly from the Soviet Union, and financial as well as moral support from most African countries through the Organization of African Unity, the PAIGC forced the Portuguese to concede much of the countryside and withdraw to the more easily defended urban centers. Even these did not remain immune from attack, however. Twice during 1971 the island capital of Bissau and another of the province's larger towns were subjected to rocket attacks.

Under Cabral's direction since 1956, the PAIGC developed into the most successful insurgent force facing the Portuguese. Initially the PAIGC had hesitated to attack the larger towns for a variety of reasons, but in mid-1971 it did attack urban centers and, in general, exhibited greater audacity and confidence in its overall combat ability. Cabral depended heavily on Soviet and Cuban military assistance, but remained politically moderate, and had been receiving increasing economic and political assistance from the Scandinavian countries and a number of international philanthropic organizations.

Portugal estimated in 1972 that the PAIGC had between 5,000 and 6,000 effectives and another 5,000 in a reserve or militia role. The USSR provided sufficient weapons and ammunition to permit the PAIGC to sustain its protracted campaign. The Soviet Union maintained significant bilateral relations with the movements of Portuguese Africa. These groups were the most viable of the African liberation movements and are the beneficiaries of the most Soviet attention. Largely through Soviet efforts, these organizations were grouped into the Conference of Nationalist Parties of the Portuguese Colonies (CONCP). The members of CONCP were PAIGC (Portuguese Guinea), MPLA (Angola), and FRELIMO (Mozambique).

Portuguese Guinea has never had a Communist party. The Portuguese asserted, however, that the PAIGC is actually an ex­ tension of world communism and that it had made a deal with the Soviets to provide them with bases once Portugal is ousted. PAIGC leader Cabral vigorously denied being a Communist and asserted his ideological independence, claiming to be an African nationalist who sought only independence for his people. Cabral denounced NATO and said that the US, France, and West Germany especially continued to give financial and military support to Portugal through their NATO affiliation. He considered the continuation of such aid indispensable to Portugal's sustaining its African operations.

Amílcar Cabral (12 September 1924 - 20 January 1973) was a politician of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Born in Portuguese Guinea, he moved to Cape Verde as a child, where he completed his high school course in 1943. In 1945, a scholarship allowed him to enter the Higher Institute of Agronomy in Lisbon, where he graduated in 1950, having worked for two years at the Agronomic Station of Santarém.

Hired by the Ministry of the Overseas as Deputy of the Agricultural and Forest Services of Guiné, he returned to Bissau in 1952. In this capacity he ran a large part of the country, gaining a thorough knowledge of the social reality. Nevertheless, his political activities, begun already in Portugal, reserved to him the dislike of governor Melo e Alvim, who forced to him to go to Angola.

In 1962 the Soviets described the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) as a progressive nationalist organization. They claimed that PAIGC guerrilla fighters obtained their weapons by taking them away from the Portuguese, indicating the Soviets were not supplying arms at this time or at least were not publicizing it. By the end of the year it was reported that the PAIGC had secured significant international support in Africa and, more important, from the Soviet Union. According to more recent reports, not only have the Soviets provided material assistance, training facilities, and diplomatic support but this contribution has constituted the largest single amount of aid given to the PAIGC.

In 1970, Amilcar Cabral, accompanied by Agostinho Neto and Marcelino dos Santos, was received by Pope Paul VI in a private audience. On 21 November 1970, the governor of Portuguese Guinea António de Spínola determined the beginning of Operation Mar Verde, which had among other objectives the capture the leaders of the PAIGC , then quartered in Conakry, capital of the neighboring Republic of Guinea. The operation was unsuccessful. Amílcar Cabral was eventually assassinated on 20 January 1973, in Conakry, Guinea by two members of his own party.

The assassination of Amilcar Cabral temporarily set back the African insurgency in Portuguese Guinea. Innocente Camil, the guerrilla naval commander, reportedly confessed to the crime after his effort to escape in a PAIGC patrol boat was thwarted with the help of a Soviet destroyer. While there was no evidence linking the Portuguese Government directly to the assassination, Lisbon's complicity cannot be ruled out. The assailants' motives remain unclear. Most signs pointed to a feud between mulattos from the Cape Verde Islands and mainland Africans, but there were also signs of Portuguese involvement.

The Portuguese called Cabral's murder "a grave and condemnable act" and denied complicity in it. Cabral's assailants, who also kidnapped several other top PAIGC leaders, confessed in recorded depositions that they were working for the Portuguese. According to their elaborate story, Lisbon was to grant independence to a black government in Guinea Bissau on condition that the dissidents kill Cabral and disrupt the PAIGC. Given Guinean President Toure's anti-Portuguese feelings and his penchant for show trials, the evidential value of the confessions was problematical.

The PAIGC was known to have had internal stresses. There had been indications for a number of years of friction between the predominantly mulatto leadership and the largely black cadre. Cabral also faced serious though sporadic opposition from his military commanders, who chafed under his curbs on military activity in Portuguese Guinea and the continuing subordination of military to political aims. But this infighting never seemed to get beyond control until, just before the assassination, a bitter dispute reportedly erupted between black mainlanders supporting Cabral, a Cape Verdian, and mulattos opposed to him.

After the death of Cabral, the armed struggle intensified, and independence was proclaimed unilaterally on 24 September 1973. Cabral's half-brother, Luiz, PAIGC representative in Dakar, was an outside possibility as successor, although he was not as highly regarded as his brother. In fact, his half brother Luis Cabral was named the first president of the young country. [Luís Cabral held the position until 1980, when he was deposed by a military coup. The former accountant died in 2009 of a prolonged illness.]

The PAIGC depended on the Soviets for everything from rocket launchers to pencils. Consequently, the PAIGC duly supported the Soviet line. On the other hand, the Soviets had in the PAIGC their best investment among liberation movements in Africa. The PAIGC was generally regarded [as of 1974] as the most effective movement, with the best chance of ultimate success. The PAIGC was the first African group to receive the Soviet-built SA-7, a portable heat-seeking surface-to-air missile. This weapon was introduced in Southeast Asia in 1972.

Much of the PAIGC's past success can be attributed to Sekou Toure, who gave Cabral a virtually free hand in operating from Guinea. The Guinean president's greater involvement in PAIGC affairs could well change the movement's character. Cabral was able to keep his political distance from Toure, a doctrinaire radical. Toure, who was known to have urged an increase in military activity against the Portuguese, sought to escalate the guerrilla war. The PAIGC increased its military efforts and in September 1973 declared its independence unilaterally.

From 22 to 24 June 2017, PAIGC held its first national convention in Bissau, gathering about 600 delegates. Former Prime Minister Baciro Djá, who held the position of third Vice-President of PAIGC prior to the crisis, participated in the event as an ordinary member of the party. The Convention adopted several recommendations, including the need to: clarify, through constitutional reform, the power and prerogatives vested in the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, while maintaining the semi-presidential system; reform the electoral law and the political parties law; and minimize the recurrence of internal conflicts. The PAIGC convention also recommended that the president of the party have a say in the selection of the party’s candidates for presidential and legislative elections, and reiterated the call for the appointment of Augusto Olivais as the consensus choice as Prime Minister within the framework of the Conakry Agreement.

Join the mailing list