Definitely, one of Africa’s greatest sons was born in Bafatá, Portuguese Guinea on the 12th of September, 1924. Amílcar was born to a Guinean mother and Cape Verdean father. Amílcar had his early education at a licéu in Cape Verde. He was later sent to Lisbon, Portugal to study Agronomy at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia.
On getting to Portugal, Amílcar discovered that a number of the African students with him where all experiencing the same trauma which was affecting his people. The trauma of colonization, the carting away of his nation’s resources to build foreign lands by the then colonial powers.
Amílcar began his movements in Portugal which included fellow Africans all for the same course. The idea of the movements was to educate fellow young African students and prepare them for the work ahead in their respective lands.
Amílcar finished his studies and returned to Africa in the 1950’s where he later founded the PAIGC (Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde) in 1956 and later the MPLA (Movimento Popular Libertação de Angola). On one rare occasion he was opportune to meet another of Africa’s all time greats Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana who shared similar views of African Liberation.
Amílcar temporarily relocated to Ghana where with the aid of Kwame Nkrumah was able to train his lieutenants. Training was done in two phases. The first involved teaching his lieutenants communication skills. The men were sent back home with the aim of convincing tribal heads on the importance of a united front and also to shift allegiance to his PAIGC. It was believed by Amílcar that such a union would later give birth to self rule in both Guinea and Cape Verde. The second phase involved the teaching of military weapons and tactics, which enabled Amílcar to start up his guerilla warfare, which later made the de facto leader of a large portion of Guinea-Bissau.
Things did not go well for the Portugal’s reputation in the region and the Portuguese retaliated full force and tried to strangle Amílcar by cutting his link to food supplies. Amílcar, who was a trained agronomic engineer and well conversant in many methods of farming , taught his lieutenants various methods of farming (quite advance for his time) and also gave instructions to his troops to go out and teach the locals such methods in order to combat the Portuguese plan. This called for double effort on the side of his soldiers since at dawn they would return to the fields to farm with local farmers, a task in which Amílcar himself was rumored to have actively partaking in. What was meant to result in drastic food shortage resulted in an abundance of food for all. Amílcar set up stations to sell food at a cost way cheaper than that of the Portuguese merchants. Initially these were stationed in particular areas but later had to become mobile units. The Portuguese forces, badly hit by Amílcar’s guerrilla warfare coupled with low cost of food which their merchants could not compete with at the time, began attacking and destroying the stations.
With the help of other African leaders from Ghana, Nigeria’s and Libya, Amílcar was able to meet with the Russians and the Swedes and was later given drugs and health supplies, which Amílcar would later use to set up hospitals and triage stations run by African doctors, secretly supplied by the then Nigerian Government.
Portugal had suffered severe setbacks. Her economy was now turning to a mess and revolts were also beginning in other colonies such as Mozambique. To prop up her pretence of Imperial rule, Portugal was spending 48% of her annual budget. It became glaring that the African wars were becoming unwinnable. Cabral for sure shook Portugal and as a result, there was mass exodus of able youths to other countries as they feared they would soon be drafted as conscripts into the already battered army. It was estimated that Portugal lost almost half her workforce and was now less able to exploit the resources of her own African colonies. At home, inflation soared to 25-30% and beyond. There was thus fear of a coup in Portugal as the ruling class was finally beginning to lose their grip on power.
On the 22nd of May, 1972 General Spinola, the then Commander-in-Chief of the Portuguese forces in Guinea (who later became president on 25th April 1974) was compelled to make a visit to France soliciting French support as Amílcar could no longer be curtailed. He met in Paris with the representatives of SDECE (French intelligence). At this period, African countries were experiencing an economic boom and hence other movements such as the ANC of South Africa were heavily funded by African countries mainly Nigeria, Ghana and Libya. The initial strategy by the French and Portuguese was to launch a disinformation campaign by SDECE among the Guinean militants, discrediting Amílcar by enabling his followers to see him from the perspective of a foreigner as his dad was from Cape Verde. A tactic which the French believed would work well as Africa has always found it hard to harmonize her vast ethnic diversity. This did not work as expected and it was later concluded that Amílcar must be taken out of the way for the colonialist to have effective control of the region.
At 10:30pm on the night of January 20, 1973, Inocencio Kani, a fellow Guinean and an ex guerilla was used as tool by the French and Portuguese. Amílcar was shot by Inocencio in front of the PAIGC office as he was about returning home with his wife. According to his wife who witnessed the conversation between Amílcar and Inocencio, the plot was to have Amílcar taken by a boat to a Portuguese naval vessel waiting in international waters. Amílcar resisted and was trying to talk Inocencio into changing his mind when Inocencio pulled the trigger and shot him dead.
The Amílcar Cabral International Airport in Sal, Cape Verde as well as the Amílcar Cabral University in Guinea Bissau are named in his honour. There is also the football competition, the Amílcar Cabral Cup held in his honour.