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Guinea-Bissau: 40 Years on Independence from Portugal

Guinea-Bissau celebrates its 40th anniversary of Independence from Portuguese colonialism.


Portuguese Guinea (as well as the nearby Cape Verde archipelago) had been claimed by Portugal since 1446 and was a major trading post for commodities and African slaves during the 18th century, before the former had been outlawed by the Portuguese authorities. The interior was however not fully controlled by the Portuguese until the latter half of 19th century. Sporadic fighting continued during the early 20th century and the Bijagós Islands were not pacified under Portuguese rule until 1936. In 1952 by a constitutional amendment Guinea-Bissau became an overseas province.

While there had always been local resistance it was not until 1956 the first liberation movement was founded by Amílcar Cabral and Rafael Barbosa, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

The first major actitive of the PAIGC was a strike by dock-workers in Bissau on August 3, 1959. The colonial police violently repressed the strike and more than 50 people died, the incident became known as the Pijiguiti Massacre. The massacre led to a major upswing of popular support for the PAIGC.

By 1960, it was decided to move headquarters to Conakry in neighboring Guinea in order to prepare for an armed struggle. On April 18, 1961 PAIGC together with FRELIMO of Mozambique, MPLA of Angola and MLSTP of São Tomé and Príncipe formed Conference of Nationalist Organizations of the Portuguese Colonies (CONCP) during a conference in Morocco. The main goal of the organization was cooperation of the different national liberation movement in Portuguese colonies.


As part of the efforts to undermine the organizational structure of PAIGC, Portugal had tried to capture Amílcar Cabral for several years. After the failure of capturing him in 1970 the Portuguese started using agents within the PAIGC to remove Cabral. Together with a disgruntled former associate, agents assassinated Amílcar Cabral on January 20, 1973 in Conakry, Guinea. The assassination happened less than 15 months before end of hostilities.

PAIGC guerillas raise the new flag of Guinea-Bissau in 1974
On April 25, 1974 the Carnation Revolution, a left-wing military led revolution, broke out in Portugal ending the authoritarian dictatorship of Estado Novo. The new regime quickly ordered cease-fire and began negotiating with leaders of the PAIGC.

Hastear_da_bandeira_da_Guine_Bissau_apos_o_arrear_da_de_PortugalOn 26 August 1974, after a series of diplomatic meetings, Portugal and the PAIGC signed an accord in Algiers, Algeria in which Portugal agreed to remove all troops by the end of October and to officially recognize the Republic of Guinea-Bissau government controlled by the PAIGC.[17]

Portugal granted full independence to Guinea-Bissau on September 10, 1974, after eleven-and-a-half years of armed conflict. With the coming of independence, the PAIGC moved swiftly to extend its control throughout the country. The PAIGC had already unilaterally proclaimed the country’s independence a year before in the village of Madina do Boé, an event that had been recognized by many socialist and non-aligned member states of the United Nations. A one-party state controlled by the PAIGC and headed by Luís Cabral, half-brother of Amílcar Cabral was established.[18]

Being given the choice of either to go back home with their families and belongings, and full payment till the end of December that year, or to join the PAIGC military, a total of 7,447 black African soldiers who had served in Portuguese native commando units, security forces, and the armed militia decided not to join the new ruling party and were summarily executed by the PAIGC after Portuguese forces ceased hostilities.[17][19][20]


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