Guinea-Bissau was the first Portuguese colony in Africa to
gain independence - even before the António Salazar
dictatorship was overthrown. It was the result of the
political and military struggle of the PAIGC (Partido
Africano da Independencia da Guinée Cabo Verde, African
Party of Guinée Cabo Verde Independence). The party was
founded by Amílcar Cabral.
After belonging to the empires of Mali and Songhai (see
Guinea ), the inhabitants of the Geba river valley gained
independence, endangered from the late 15th century by the
Portuguese in the coastal area and in the 16th century by
the Fulanians in Coli Tenguela. In the interior of the
country, the Kingdom of Gabú managed to maintain its
independence until the 19th century (see Senegal ), while
the coastal population was subjected to slave trade and
abduction to the Cape Verde Islands.
Resistance to colonization began as early as the 16th
century, when the Portuguese settled in Guinea ("the land of
the blacks"), which until then had been inhabited by the
Oriundos of the Kingdom of Mali, as well as the groups
of fula and mandinga organized in kingdoms
in the savannah area. In the 17th century, the first
contacts were made between the people of Guinea and the
people of Cape Verde, a mandatory intermediate station for
slave ships to Brazil.
In the small poor country, agriculture and trade lay in
the hands of a private monopoly - Unión Fabril. The
indigenous population was forced to work in export
production, while the acreage for basic agricultural
products was reduced. In the 1950s, child mortality reached
as many as 600 deaths out of 1000 births. The country only
had 11 doctors and only 1% of the rural population was
literate. In the 1960s, only 11% of the population received
7 years of schooling.
It was in these circumstances that Amílcar Cabral in 1954
formed the Association for Sport and Recreation, which two
years later was transformed into PAIGC. Cabral urged the
people of Guinea and Cape Verde to resist the colonial power
- with independence regardless of skin color, race and
religion. After three years of unsuccessful attempts to
negotiate with the Portuguese, PAIGC began guerrilla war in
September 1959. The fighting spread rapidly, and in 1968 the
Portuguese controlled only the capital Bissau and the
coastal area. The areas PAIGC had liberated elected a
National People's Assembly, and on September 24, 1973
proclaimed the establishment of the Democratic,
Anti-imperialist and Anti-colonial Republic of Guinea. It
was immediately recognized by the UN.
By February 1973, Cabral had been assassinated by agents
of the secret Portuguese police in Conakry, the capital of
the Republic of Guinea. He left behind an extensive
production of books and studies on the liberation struggle
of the African people. He was followed by the leadership of
Luiz Cabral, who inserted a government council in the small
village of Madina do Boé in the heart of the liberated area.
Guinea-Bissau's unilateral declaration of independence
and the rapid recognition of the UN had dire consequences
for the Portuguese colonial structure. The
commander-in-chief of the 55,000 soldiers of the colonial
forces in Africa, General Antonio Spinola, presented the
need for political change in Lisbon. In Bissau arose the
Captain Movement, the predecessor of the Armed Forces
Movement responsible for the implementation of the coup in
Portugal on April 25, 1974. Four months later, Portugal
recognized Guinea-Bissau's independence.
The PAIGC government developed and diversified
agriculture, placing the emphasis on the birth of the
population. Foreign trade was nationalized, land reform was
implemented and a popular literacy campaign was initiated.
Foreign policy declared the country alliance freedom, end of
colonialism in Africa and unconditional support in the fight
against apartheid. Furthermore, emphasis was placed
on economic integration with the Cape Verde Islands - with
the merging of the two states as a perspective.