Guinea-Bissau: On the Road to Freedom

I am not going to lie. I was not really looking forward to reading a book from Guinea-Bissau. I could only find one book, and it looked like the most boring book, and the title did not help. However, Return To The Source: Selected Speeches Of Amilcar Cabral by Amilcar Cabral, turned out to be a lot more than I expected. I majored in political science, which might explain part of why I liked the book.

I was not familiar with Amilcar Cabral and his life, but I learned a lot about him and his cause from his speeches. He was the son of Cape Verdean parents, and while studying in Portugal he started fighting against Portuguese rule in both Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. He founded PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) after he returned to Africa. Cabral was the leader of PAIGC’s guerrilla movement for ten years, up until his assassination in 1973. Sadly he never saw his countries gaining independence from Portugal.

He is considered one of the greatest African leaders, and is seen as great a revolutionary theoretician as Che Guevara. Politically the most important task for him was to rid the two African countries from colonialism and imperialism. His task at hand was not easy since Guinea-Bissau’s population was 99 per cent illiteral, and they believed that pretty much everything that happened was due to the spirits of the jungle.

Cabral was the only Agronomist in the country, and basically everyone was a peasant, and there were not any labourers to speak of. He traveled around the country teaching people and learning their different languages. He was definitely a gifted speechwriter, and if you happen to be interested in colonialism in Africa this book is definitely a pick.

I did learn a lot about Guinea-Bissau from these selected speeches. In comparison to many other countries it was not easy to be part of the guerilla, because for example there are no mountains to use as a hiding place. The country was extremely poor in the days of Portuguese rule, and Cabral often referred to Portugal being useless in many ways, because Portugal was poor as well, with a weak state. Sadly Cabral did not live long enough to witness the independence of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau.

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