Amilcar Cabral

On freeing captured Portuguese soldiers - 2

First Published:1969
Source: Amilcar Cabral, Revolution in Guinea, stage 1, London, 1974, pp106-107
Translated: Richard Handyside
Transcription/Markup: Steve Palmer
Copyleft: Copyright stage 1 .

Declaration made in Dakar, Senegal, on December 19 1968

When we freed three Portuguese prisoners-of-war last March, we emphasised the normality and necessity of our gesture in the framework of the political and humanitarian principles guiding our struggle. By repeating this gesture today and freeing another three prisoners-of-war we risk falling into a routine. However this cannot alter the essentially political character of our initiative.

This action is taking place after the political death of Salazar who, unable to live out his time, carries on his moribund shoulders the chief responsibility for the crimes committed against our people, against other African peoples and against his own people. While the political death of the Portuguese dictator has not given rise to illusions among us-since our people and our combatants are aware of the fact that we are fighting Portuguese colonialism, which we have never confused with the policy of a single man-certain changes are nevertheless possible in Portuguese internal politics, particularly with regard to the style of government and repression. These changes could become accentuated in the long term, both as a result of the growing pressure of new phenomena which have arisen and will arise within Portuguese political life (which is conditioned and traumatised by the colonial wars) and through the need for the new President of the Council to progressively affirm his own personality. In this connection some people think that Mr Marcelo Caetano, being younger than his predecessor but more permeable to the historical realities of our times, will come to understand the irreversible character of our struggle for national liberation and the inevitability of the accession of our African people to national independence, which is the only possible outcome to the war imposed on us by Portuguese colonialism.

In his speech to the Portuguese National Assembly on November 27th, the new President of the Council gave special emphasis to the desperate situation of the colonial war in our country. In doing this he not only rendered indirect homage to our people and our Party, whose prestige was thereby increased on an international level, but also showed an acute awareness of reality. His use of Salazarist jargon and of certain patriotic mystification, and his dramatic evocation of the scarecrow of communist subversion do not significantly limit the importance of his speech, and can be explained by the pressing need to appease the ultras and to moderate the action of those Portuguese of all levels, above all young people and students, who are daring to proclaim their hostility to the colonial war. While declaring his deter­mination to keep our people under the colonial yoke "at any price" the head of the Portuguese government knows very well that quite apart from the enormous and irrecoverable losses in Portuguese lives and equipment the worst price of all will be that of seeing our people sweep from our country every sort of Portuguese presence, which is becoming too heavily stained by the crimes of the colonial war and the attempted genocide of our people. The best price would be to be realistic, to bravely face up to the hawks of the colonial war and to obey the demands of history: to negotiate with our Party our peoples accession to indepen­dence (since we already control more than two thirds of our national territory) and in this way to preserve the pos­sibilities of co-operation which would be useful to both countries.

At a time when we are intensifying our struggle on all fronts, inflicting new and more crushing defeats on the colonial troops, the freeing of these three prisoners-of-war is yet another proof (if proof is needed) of our sovereignty and independence of thought and action. The Portuguese govern­ment and its allies on whom the continuation of the criminal war against our people is crucially dependent, must be aware that if we decided to fight and accept every sort of sacrifice for the independence of our country-of which we are the leaders and legitimate representatives-it was certainly not in order to hand over our country and islands to other foreign powers.

It being only a few days to the great universal festival of the family, some will see in our gesture an act of Christian charity. Those same people, together with history, should conclude that our people, made up of animists, Islamised and Christian peoples, has no need of the Portuguese colonial presence in order to prove its civilisation and aware­ness of its responsibilities.

These young Portuguese being returned to their families at this year's end, when humanity is still anxiously wondering about the imperialist threats to peace and international security, are witnesses to our confidence in the future and bearers of our wishes for freedom for the people of Portugal, for progress and happiness for all peoples.

The three prisoners: