Amilcar Cabral

The development of the struggle

First Published:1969
Source: Amilcar Cabral, Revolution in Guinea, stage 1, London, 1974, pp91-102
Translated: Richard Handyside
Transcription/Markup: Steve Palmer
Copyleft: Copyright stage 1 .

Extracts from a declaration made to the OSPAAAL General Secretariat in December 1968

1. Synthesis of the situation

The main characteristic of the present phase of our liberation struggle is the progressive reversal of the relative positions of the two forces. While the Portuguese colonialist forces are falling back more and more on the defensive, our patriotic forces are developing the offensive both against the fortified enemy camps still remaining in the liberated areas and against the colonial troops in the other regions. While our action is increasingly assuming the character of a mobile partisan war and we are reinforcing the capacity of co-ordination of our activities on the different fronts, the enemy's actions are becoming infrequent, being mainly restricted to acts of reprisal, terrorism and plunder, with increasingly frequent aerial bombing and machine-gunning. Meanwhile, having succeeded in consolidating the areas liberated and controlled by our armed forces under the auspices of the Party's governing bodies, we are making fruitful efforts there towards improving the production of foodstuffs, education and health facilities-developing the new bases of our political, economic, administrative, judicial, social and cultural life.

Apart from in the Cabo Verde and Bissagos Islands, and in the main urban areas (Bissao, Bafata and Gabo-Sara), where our action is still restricted to a purely political level, the enemy is having to face the initiatives of our armed forces on every side.

Also, having succeeded in constantly frustrating the political manoeuvres of the Portuguese colonialists, aimed at creating divisions within the patriotic forces and mystifying national and international opinion, our armed and political actions have put a halt to the collaborationist activities of certain traditional chiefs who were traitors to the nation, thus neutralising the harmful effects of their attitude on certain sections of the population.

In the contested or partially liberated areas, we are constantly broadening the fronts of our struggle and, in the flame of patriotism fanned by the fire of our weapons, nursing the future of freedom, peace and progress for which we are fighting.

The Portuguese information services themselves have had to admit, through the voice of Radio Bissao, that "the

bandits no longer want to stay in the bush; they are moving into the villages and drawing closer to the urban centres." This reality is proudly expressed in one of our people's patriotic songs, which runs: "Lala kêmà: kàu di sukundi kâ tê" (The great humid plain has caught fire: they [the colonialists] have nowhere to hide).

2. Situation of the armed struggle

The colonialist forces now number about 25 thousand men (army, navy and air force, police and special armed corps), with the reinforcements newly arrived from Lisbon, especially since last May, to counterbalance the intensification of our action and to replace the heavy losses suffered during the course of this year. For a small underdeveloped country such as ours (15,500 square miles, 800,000 inhabitants, of whom only about 100,000 are capable of usefully assisting our action against the enemy) an army of 25,000 well-equipped men, with the most modern material resources, assumes astronomic proportions, comparable only to those of the disaster which they are doomed to face in our country. And this in spite of huge expenditure on material of all sorts, and particularly American B26 bombers and German jet fighters (Fiat 91).

Portuguese actions, the frequency of which has dropped significantly in recent months, are characterised mainly by:

a) aerial bombing and intensive machine-gunning of the villages in the liberated areas and of places believed to conceal our bases;

b) a few vain attempts to land troops and set up camps in our liberated areas (particularly in the South of the country) with massive air support;

c) increasingly rare incursions into certain liberated areas close to the fortified camps, with the aim of terrorising the population, ruining the villages and destroying our crops and cattle;

d) desperate attempts to bring supplies into certain fortified camps by river and by air, rarely by land;

e) a few larger-scale operations in contested areas.

The bombing and machine-gunning of villages and of our positions by their planes is the main action at present carried out by the enemy, this being in certain areas, and for long periods, the only manifestation of their presence. Several villages have been destroyed in recent months, notably in the North and Central-South of the country. This is understandable if one bears in mind the weakness of our means of anti-aircraft defence and our forces' lack of experience in this field. The civil defence measures which we have nevertheless taken have successfully prevented extensive loss of life among our peoples, frustrating the genocidal intentions of the Portuguese colonialists.

Attempts to land troops in our liberated areas with the aim of creating bridgeheads there have ended in failure. Except in very rare cases (using helicopter-borne troops) when the enemy has been able to destroy crops and cattle. their terrorist operations have generally ended in considerable losses for them in lives and material. Getting supplies to the fortified camps which are completely cut off by us is one of the major problems facing the enemy. With the support of aircraft which bomb and strafe the river banks, the enemy does still manage to supply certain camps by river.

In the contested areas, joint operations (called 'mopping-up operations') are generally just a waste of energy, as our forces take advantage of these opportunities to wreak havoc on the men and equipment of the enemy forces in ambushes and surprise attacks. This is proved by the fact that in spite of the numerous operations of this type carried out in the regions of Canchungo, S. Domingos and Bafata, we have made considerable progress there, liberating new areas and controlling certain roads.

The adoption of the technique of strategic hamlets has not produced the expected results. Created mainly in areas under the influence of certain traditional chiefs, particularly in Gabu, these hamlets have been subjected to violent attacks by our troops and several of them have been destroyed. The populations, more realistic than the chiefs, are now fleeing from the hamlets, preferring to take refuge in neighbouring countries, or moving into the liberated areas or the urban centres. In addition, information from colonialist sources indicates that the morale of the Portuguese troops is getting progressively lower. Conflicts inside the barracks and the fortified camps are becoming more frequent. After the attempted armed rebellion within the air force in April 1965, which led to the arrest of over 100 military, including a senior officer sentenced to 28 years in prison, several other conflicts, generally severely repressed, have taken place in the course of the past year.

More than 7,000 young men, drafted into the army and destined mainly for our country, have been able to desert and hide in the countryside, or get abroad, especially to France.

Our own actions have been characterised mainly by the following activities:

a) attacks on barracks and fortified camps, particularly on those remaining in our liberated areas. These attacks have been made with mortars, artillery and bazookas. In the case of the weaker camps they have been followed by assaults using light weapons:

b) increasing the isolation of enemy positions by using heavy weapons against river transports, and by installing antiaircraft weapons; destruction of the strategic hamlets;

c) ambushes and surprise attacks against enemy forces moving in contested or partially liberated areas; control of the main roads in these areas;

d) raids against the barracks in the areas that have not yet been liberated, aimed at increasing the insecurity of the enemy forces and of the individuals supporting them;

e) active defence and reinforcement of vigilance in our liberated areas.

The increasing use of aircraft and helicopters reflects the difficulties experienced by the colonial authorities in supplying their troops. In fact, given the impossibility of using almost all passable roads, including those in contested areas, and faced with the intensification of our action against river transports, the enemy is forced to use air transport to keep the troops supplied. Although we have sunk or seriously damaged several boats on the Farim, Cumbidjà and Geba rivers, our action in this field, as in the field of anti-aircraft defence (3 planes shot down and several others damaged) still shows serious deficiencies, particularly in cases where the river transports are escorted by aircraft.

Increasing the isolation of the enemy forces, which also demands the urgent development of effective anti-aircraft measures, is proving to be an indispensable measure for accelerating the total defeat of these forces. This isolation leads to physical and moral degeneration among the troops, and facilitates our actions against the fortified camps.

It is in ambushes and surprise attacks carried out mainly in the contested areas that we are inflicting the heaviest loss of life and destruction of equipment on the enemy forces. In fact, as the colonialist troops venture only very rarely into our liberated areas, it is elsewhere that we are really able to fully develop our military action, in the field of guerilla warfare. We can now state firmly that any attempt by the enemy to reoccupy the liberated areas will end in defeat, or will cost them an even higher price, in lives and equipment, than they paid at the time of the invasion of the island of Como in 1964.

We have made progress in co-ordinating the actions of our armed forces within each sector, and we are trying to effectively co-ordinate our forces on the regional and national level.

In the Cabo Verde Islands our Party, which has consolidated its bases and made major progress in mobilising the popular masses, has decided to move on to armed action as soon as possible, in order to answer the criminal violence of the colonialist agents. Despite the difficulties inherent in this, we must develop the struggle by every possible means in this part of our territory, and we will do so.

The situation on the level of the armed struggle is therefore generally favourable. The enemy is on the defensive, and we hold the initiative on all fronts. We must not lose sight of the fact, however, that the enemy, economically much stronger than us, has considerable human resources and efficient material means available with which to continue the war against us. They are still firmly established in certain urban areas, particularly in the main towns, and can still count on the money, arms, aircraft and other equipment which their allies are supplying.

3. The political situation

The political conditions in our country before the beginning of our struggle-nationwide oppression, absence of even the most elementary freedoms, police and military repression

-determined our actions, forcing us to start the armed liberation struggle. Now it is the latter-as the expression of our determination to free ourselves from the colonial yoke, and thus of our fundamental political choice-which is determining the enemy's political behaviour.

Swept out for good from our liberated areas, which cover more than half our national territory (about 60%) and in which 50% of our people live, Portuguese 'sovereignty' is now limited to the urban areas. In fact Portuguese political domination, which generally took the form of more or less forced collection of taxes of every sort, has ceased to be possible even in the contested or partially liberated areas. In general the inhabitants of these areas refuse to pay taxes. The colonial authorities have to tolerate this refusal, fearing that the use of force would produce a mass exodus of the inhabitants towards the liberated areas or neighbouring countries. Even in the urban centres, including the main towns, effective political control has become practically impossible, in the face of the growing influx of refugees from the combat zones and of the pressure maintained on these centres by our armed forces.

Having counted on the treachery of certain traditional chiefs who had promised the loyalty of the populations under their control, the Portuguese authorities now have to recognise their failure on this level, and have even stripped of their rank or arrested some of these chiefs. Progressively abandoned by the populations which they had controlled, the traditional chiefs who have betrayed their nation are today the object of suspicion from the colonial authorities and cannot hide their fear and their doubts when faced with the progress of our struggle.

The political manoeuvres of the Portuguese colonialists aimed at demobilising patriots and deceiving African and world opinion by promulgating false administrative 'reforms' and hinting at so-called internal autonomy, distant and undefined, have also met with failure.

A large part of the sector of the African petty bourgeoisie which had placed itself at the service of the colonialists, now has to face an agonising situation, prey to a double fear- that of the colonialist-fascist repression, and that of the justice of the patriotic forces. Some of these petty-bourgeois elements have been moved, or have asked to be moved (to Angola, Mozambique or Portugal), others have been arrested, and the majority hope to be able to go on deceiving the colonial authorities and managing to convince us of their nationalist feelings.

The dominant factor in the political sphere is the backlash of police repression, which is now striking not only patriots but also people who were considered favourable to the colonial regime. The President of our Party, Rafael Barbosa (Zaim Lopez) who was living under house arrest, has again been secretly moved to Bissao prison. The patriots Fernando Fortes, Quintino Nosolini and others, who had already suffered three years' imprisonment, have been imprisoned again. The concentration camp on the island of Galinhas is being filled with patriots suspected of being members or sympathisers of our Party. About 80 patriots, among them some Party cadres, are still being detained in inhuman conditions in the infamous concentration camp of Tarrafal (Cabo Verde Islands). In addition certain people in the service of Portuguese colonialism have been arrested, and others, including Duarte Vieira and Godofredo de Souza, have died under interrogation. The lawyer Augusto Silva and the important businessman Severino de Pina, General Secretary of the Municipality of Bissao, have been arrested and transferred to the prison of Caxias, near Lisbon. These recent events demonstrate the confusion of the colonial authorities, under the local direction of 'governor' Arnaldo Schultz, trained by the Nazis and formerly Salazar's Minister of the Interior.

The main characteristics of our political action are the work of consolidating our national organisation and adapting its structure and its leadership to the new demands of the struggle. In the liberated areas we have strengthened the leadership organisation of the Party (inter-regional committee) by permanently establishing two members of the Political Bureau in each inter-region. The sector committees are developing their action among the population and a large number of village committees (section committees) have been created or renewed. The Party is making efforts to guarantee the normal and effective functioning of the base organisations, in the framework of a wide democracy under centralised leadership. In the contested or partially liberated areas political work is carried out mainly by the armed forces.

In the urban centres, in spite of the police and military repression, our militants are continuing to develop their underground work and maintain contact with the leadership. Our organisation has been consolidated in Bissao, Bolama and Bafata, the main towns.

The higher Party organs are functioning normally and are dedicating themselves to the improvement of political work at all levels and to solving the various problems posed by the rapid development of our struggle. There have been four conferences of cadres this year, two for each inter-region. The work of these conferences, which have concentrated on the problems of organisation of the struggle and development of the liberated areas (production, security, education and health), has constituted a basis for elaborating general and specific directives for leaders at all levels. These conferences of cadres also gave attention to the study of the deficiencies and mistakes committed in our political and armed actions. Measures have been taken to progressively eliminate deficiencies and rule out mistakes.

4. Economic situation

For some time now we have been able to eliminate the system of colonialist exploitation of our people in most of the national territory. This year we struck a severe blow against the remains of the economy of exploitation in the Eastern (Gabu-Bafata) and Western (Canchungo-S. Domingos) regions.

Most wholesale and retail businesses in the secondary urban centres have had to close down, as the merchants and employees have fled from these centres to the capital. To get some idea of the catastrophic situation of the colonial economy, it is enough to recall that the Companhia Uniao Fabril (CUF), the main commercial enterprise in Guinea, has been in deficit for almost three years, and has had to draw on its reserves to survive. In addition the colonial authorities, in a country which produces more rice than is needed for local consumption, have had to import large quantities of this cereal (10,000 tons from Brazil alone) to feed the troops and the urban populations.

Other economic activities have been practically paralysed. Apart from works of a military nature, public works and building are non-existent.

In the liberated areas we are continuing to give every attention to economic development, particularly with regard to increasing the production of crops. New areas of land were planted with rice and other crops during the last rainy season. Other products (leather, rubber from the forests, crocodile and other animal skins, and coconuts) have been shipped and sold abroad, although only in small quantities.

We are also trying to develop artisan work and small local industries. Because of technical difficulties (lack of means of transport and spare parts) we have had to postpone the reopening of the sawmills previously belonging to settlers in the forest of Dio. We are currently examining the possibility of starting up in the North a small rudimentary factory to produce ordinary soap, using palm oil.

To supply the basic needs of the population, two new people's stores have been created in the North of the country and in the Boe region. However we are facing grave difficulties in this, through lack of merchandise, in spite of the help given by friendly countries. Supplying the basic necessities of the inhabitants of the liberated areas is proving to be a major factor in the consolidation of these areas, giving encouragement in the struggle and demoralising the enemy.

The colonialists are making efforts to compete with our people's stores by greatly reducing the prices of goods in the areas which have not yet been liberated. We must successfully counter this competition. Every effort and sacrifice made with this aim will have favourable repercussions on the evolution of the struggle.

5. Social and cultural situation

In order to counter the success of our struggle, the enemy has made efforts to improve certain social conditions, particularly in the urban centres, and even has extensive propaganda, mainly on the radio, aimed at convincing the population that it should repudiate our Party, claiming that life will be a 'bed of roses' if the 'Portuguese presence' is maintained in our country.

The flooding of thousands of people towards the main towns has created serious problems of overpopulation there, with effects on food supplies and on common crime. Unemployment is constantly growing. The hospitals and even the schools are occupied by troops, because of the lack of military installations. In Bissao, where the population has trebled in the last two years, theft, prostitution and general moral degeneracy are rife. Even within the ranks of the colonial troops increased medical facilities have not succeeded in improving the situation, with a large proportion of the military suffering from malaria or intestinal illnesses.

In the field of education the situation is also very bad, in spite of the measures hastily taken by the colonial authorities to increase the number of official schools (from 11 to 25) and to give grants for study in Portugal. Almost all the elementary schools of the Catholic missions ceased to function years ago, when the majority of the African teachers joined our ranks. The few schools established in the Un-liberated areas have not even started functioning for lack of teachers, and a large proportion of the pupils have preferred to come to the nearby liberated areas and attend our schools instead. Secondary education (1 high school and I technical school in Bissao) uses teachers without any professional qualifications, notably the wives of officers in the colonial army and other people without any university education.

It would be naive to pretend that the progress achieved in our liberated areas has brought about a radical change in the social situation of the inhabitants. Our people, who have to face a colonial war whose genocidal intentions spare nobody, still live under difficult conditions. Entire populations have seen their villages destroyed and have had to take refuge in the bush. But everybody has enough to eat, nobody is subject to exploitation, and the standard of living is progressively rising. Demonstrating a political consciousness which is heightened every day, the people live and work in harmony, united in standing up to the evils of the war imposed on us. Apart from a few rare cases of lack of discipline, generally motivated by personal interests or understandable misconceptions, the people proudly follow the Party's directives. Four hospitals are now functioning in the interior of the country (2 in the South, 1 in the North and 1 in Boe), with a total of about 200 beds, and the permanent attendance of doctors helped by sufficient nurses and having the equipment necessary for surgical operations. Also dozens of dispensaries established in the various sectors give daily assistance to the combatants and to the people. The hospital at Boe has now been improved and has departments of general medicine, surgery, orthopaedics, radiology, anaesthesia and analysis. In the past year 80 nurses have been trained (30 inside the country and 50 in Europe), and 30 more are being trained at the moment. We are soon going to set up a new rural hospital, exclusively for orthopaedics.

Bearing in mind that we started from nothing, and that the Portuguese colonialists had only three hospitals and a few dispensaries in the whole country, the importance of the results already obtained, with the help of certain friendly countries and organisations, is obvious.

Progress made in the field of education has far surpassed what we thought possible in our conditions. 127 primary schools are now functioning in the liberated areas, attended in 1965/1966 by 13,500 pupils aged 7 to 15. Considering that at the start of our struggle there were in the whole country only 56 primary and elementary schools (11 official and 45 mission schools) with a maximum total of 2,000 pupils, it is easy to understand the enthusiasm of our children and people for the Party's success in this field.

As in other fields, progress in the field of education has brought with it new demands, and here too we are facing difficulties at present. Particular difficulties are those of publishing books in Portuguese for the various classes, of providing educational materials and clothing for the pupils, and of maintaining the pilot school and a few others set up near the frontiers. But the several thousand adults who have already learned to read and write, as well as the young people from the primary schools, are now discovering a new world before them; they understand the reasons for our struggle and our Party's aims better, and make no secret of their enthusiasm and renewed confidence in the future.

7. Our struggle in the international context

Our enemy, the Portuguese colonial government, has suffered shameful defeats on an international level this year. It has been excluded from various international organisations, including certain specialised UN agencies, and has been severely criticised and condemned within other organisations.

Although we greatly appreciate the efforts made by the United Nations and the moral and political value of its resolutions, we have no illusions about their practical effects. In fact we are convinced that given the contradictions which dominate the internal life of that international organisation and its proven inability to resolve the conflicts between colonial peoples and the dominating powers, the United Nations has done everything it can against Portuguese colonialism.

The Portuguese government is isolated internationally (as is proved by the voting at the UN), but this isolation covers only the political and moral field. In the basic fields of economics, finance and arms, which determine and condition the real political and moral behaviour of states, the Portuguese government is able to count more than ever on the effective aid of the NATO allies and others. Anyone familiar with the relations between Portugal and its allies, namely the USA, Federal Germany and other Western powers, can see that this assistance (economic, financial and in war material) is constantly increasing, in the most diverse forms, overt and convert. By skilfully playing on the contingencies of the cold war, in particular on the strategic importance of its own geographical position and that of the Azores islands, by granting military bases to the USA and Federal Germany, by flying high the false banner of the defence of Western and Christian civilisation in Africa. and by further subjecting the natural resources of the colonies and the Portuguese economy itself to the big financial monopolies, the Portuguese government has managed to guarantee for as long as necessary the assistance which it receives from the Western powers and from its racist allies in Southern Africa.

It is our duty to stress the international character of the Portuguese colonial war against Africa and the important. and even decisive role played by the USA and Federal Germany in pursuing this war. If the Portuguese government is still holding out on the three fronts of the war which it is fighting in Africa, it is because it can count on the overt or covert support of the USA, freely use NATO weapons, buy B26 aircraft for the genocide of our people (including from 'private parties'), and obtain whenever it wishes money. jet aircraft and weapons of every sort from Federal Germany where, furthermore, certain war-wounded from the Portuguese colonial army are hospitalised and treated.

It is our armed liberation struggle which will eliminate Portuguese colonialism in Africa, and at the same time put an end to the anti-African complicity of Portugal's allies. This struggle also offers us the advantage, among others, of getting to know in a real way who are the friends and who are the enemies of our people.

Various successes obtained by our delegations at international conferences, the showing of films made in our country, both in Africa (Conakry and Dakar) and in Europe, the growing support which our organisation is finding among the anti-colonialist forces-all these mark considerable progress in our action on an international level during the past year. We also presented to the UN, at the session of the Committee on Decolonialisation held in Algiers in June, some unusual evidence of our situation- that of journalists and film-makers who have visited our country, supported by ample film and photographic documentation. However, we must continue to use every possible means of improving our action on the international level.

8. Perspectives for the struggle

The central perspective for our struggle is the development and intensification of our fight on its three fundamental levels: political action, armed action, and national reconstruction. In order to do this, we must above all:

a) constantly improve and develop political work among the popular masses and the armed forces, and preserve at all costs our national unity;

b) further strengthen organisation, discipline and democracy within our Party, continually adapt it to the evolution of the struggle, correct mistakes and demand from leaders and militants rigorous application of the principles guiding our actions;

c) improve the organisation of the armed forces, intensify our action on all fronts and develop the co-ordination of our military activities;

d) increase the isolation of the enemy forces, subject them to decisive blows and destroy the remnants of tranquillity which they still enjoy in certain urban centres;

e) defend our liberated areas against the enemy's terrorist attacks, guarantee for our people the tranquillity which is indispensable for productive work;

f) study and find the best solutions to the economic, administrative, social and cultural problems of the liberated areas, increase industrial production, however rudimentary, and continually improve health and education facilities;

g) accelerate the training of cadres;

h) fight and eliminate tendencies towards opportunism, parasitism, arrivism and deviation of our action from the general line laid down by our Party, at the service of our people;

i) strengthen and develop our relations with the peoples, states and organisations of Africa, and tighten the fraternal links which join us with the neighbouring countries and with the peoples of the other Portuguese colonies;

j) strengthen our relations of sincere collaboration with the anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist forces, for useful cooperation in the common struggle against colonialism, imperialism and racism.

Within the framework of an armed liberation struggle, whatever the stage of its evolution, no organisation would be so imprudent as to fix in advance a date for independence. We are however convinced that we have covered most of the long road to freedom and gone through the most difficult stages. This much depends essentially on us, on the efforts and sacrifices which we are prepared to make, in the framework of a multiform and necessarily rational action, which takes into account our own experience and that of others. The continuation, the definitive success and the length of our fight must however depend, to a certain extent, on the concrete solidarity which Africa and all the anti-colonialist forces will be able to give to our people.