Amilcar Cabral

On freeing captured Portuguese soldiers - 1

First Published:1969
Source: Amilcar Cabral, Revolution in Guinea, stage 1, London, 1974, pp103-105
Translated: Richard Handyside
Transcription/Markup: Steve Palmer
Copyleft: Copyright stage 1 .

Declaration made in Dakar, Senegal, on March 3 1968

Mr President of the Senegalese Red Cross, gentlemen of the Press, dear friends:

In the framework of our struggle for national independence, peace and progress for our people in Guinea and the Cabo Verde Islands, the freeing of Portuguese soldiers captured by our armed forces was both necessary and predictable. This humanitarian gesture, whose political significance will escape nobody, is the corollary of a fundamental principle of our party and of our struggle. We are not fighting against the Portuguese people, against Portuguese individuals or families. Without ever confusing the Portuguese people with colonialism, we have had to take up arms to wipe out from our homeland the shameful domination of Portuguese colonialism. Being thus only a further proof of fidelity to the principles of our party, this action needs no commentary.

However, bearing in mind the present circumstances, and given the fact that this is the first time that, with the fraternal help of the Senegalese Red Cross, we are making this gesture and handing over to the International Red Cross three Portuguese prisoners-of-war so that they can rejoin their families and cease risking an inglorious death in our country, we wish to make the following declaration.

At this very moment, after five years of colonial war, the Portuguese colonialists are continuing to perpetrate bar­barous crimes against our people, scorning the most element­ary principles of morality and of present-day international law.

Hundreds of Guinean and Cabo-Verdian patriots are suffering in the inhuman conditions of the colonial political prisons and the concentration camps of the Isle of Galinhas (Guinea) and of Tarrafal (Cabo Verde). These patriots are tortured by the PIDE and several others have been brutally assassinated.

Members of our armed forces captured by the colonial troops are generally given a summary execution. Others are tortured and forced to make declarations which the colonial authorities use in their propaganda. In their vain but none­theless criminal attempt at genocide, the Portuguese colonial­ists carry out daily acts of terrorism against the peaceful inhabitants of our liberated areas, particularly against women, children and old people; they bomb and machine-gun our people, reducing our villages to ashes and destroying our crops, using bombs of every type, and in particular fragmentation bombs, napalm and white phosphor bombs.

In freeing these Portuguese prisoners-of-war who, like their colleagues still in prison, have enjoyed all the prerogatives laid down by international regulations, we once again call the attention of world opinion to the crimes perpetrated in our country by the Portuguese colonialists, which they would not be able to carry out if they did not continue to receive political and material aid from their allies.

After five years of armed struggle in particularly difficult conditions, with more experience and more effective methods of action, our armed forces are stronger than ever. On the basis of the political and military progress made in our struggle, we have just inflicted a crushing failure on the Portuguese propaganda attempt which took the form of a visit to Guinea by the President of the Portuguese Republic. Both during this lightning visit, during which he travelled only by air, and in the weeks following, we attacked almost all the bases and camps of the colonial troops, inflicting considerable losses in life and equipment. Opening a new phase of our struggle, our forces have succeeded in attacking, with remarkable success, the international airport of Bissablanca, the main Portuguese airbase situated on the Isle of Bissao 10 kilometers from the capital. Elsewhere we are developing and intensifying our actions in the contested areas.

The freeing of these Portuguese prisoners-of-war, by proving our strength and the high level reached in our struggle, reaffirms our unshakable certainty of victory.

Portuguese public opinion, particularly among the popular masses and in intellectual circles, is becoming more aware each day of the necessity of acting by every available means against the colonial war. In the very heart of the Portuguese government a realist tendency is showing itself, making its voice more widely heard and seeking adequate means of making the extremists understand that the colonial war is not only useless but irremediably lost in our country. In addition, the number of Portuguese military men who want to abandon the war is growing every day, as is confirmed by information from reliable sources and from the declara­tions of recent deserters.

The freeing of these three prisoners-of-war is a stimulus to the Portuguese people in its struggle against the colonial war, to the realists within the Portuguese government itself, and to those elements among the colonial troops who want to free themselves from the nightmare of a war which is against the interests of their own people.

The major aim of our struggle is to gain national independ­ence for our people. This is why our struggle is fundament­ally a political one, and as we have always stated, we are ready at any time to cease hostilities in order to find a political solution to the conflict which opposes our people to the government of Portugal. Our only condition is the unequivocal recognition by that government of our inalienable right to independence.

Some will interpret this freeing of prisoners-of-war as a token of goodwill on our part. But not the Portuguese government, which continues to claim 'the right and the duty' to defend Western and Christian civilisation on our continent, in collaboration with the racist regimes of South­ern Africa and by using torture, terrorism, napalm and the most revolting crimes against the peoples of Africa.

Our humanitarian gesture, which will surely be understood by all men who love peace, freedom and progress, does not diminish in any way our determination to go on fighting until Portuguese colonialism has been totally eliminated in our country. In doing this, we are conscious of serving the interests of our people and of Africa.

The three prisoners: