January 20 – National Heroes' Day in Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau

Posted on January 20, 2016

On this date in 1973, a hero to two nations was assassinated.

Amílcar Lopes da Costa Cabral was born in Guinea-Bissau, but his parents were from Cape Verde. 

Both of these places were African colonies ruled by Portugal.

While Cabral was going to college in Lisbon, Portugal, he started student movements dedicated to opposing Portugal's colonial rule in Africa. He believed fervently that the colonies should be liberated, independent.

Cabral returned to Africa in the 1950s, when he was in his early 30s, and he became an important figure in the struggle for independence in both Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. He led a guerrilla movement against the Portuguese. Guerrilla warfare is an “irregular” sort of warfare with small bands of armed civilians or other not-quite-military personnel doing ambushes, sabotage, raids, hit-and-run attacks in order to fight a large, powerful enemy. Guerrilla tactics are common in order to attack a colonizing or occupying force.

Cabral's movement is considered one of the most successful wars of independence in modern African history. This is because:
  • Cabral set up training that included effective communication skills, and he emphasized getting Guinean tribal chiefs to support the independence movement.
  • Cabral had studied agriculture (to be specific, agronomy), and he was able to teach his troops better farming techniques that they in turn could teach to people. That way, the soldiers could not only grow their own food and live off the land, allowing them to last a long time, they could help the non-soldiers and win their support for the movement.
  • Cabral set up a trade-and-barter system that made staple goods (the most important things that people need, such as flour, yams, and eggs) available to people at lower cost than those goods were sold in Portuguese-owned stores.
  • Cabral also set up roaming hospitals and triage stations to give medical care to his troops, but ALSO to the people whose support he wanted and needed.
The flag of Guinea-Bissau (above)
and Cape Verde (below).

Cabral has been influential among other freedom fighters, particularly Africans. Unfortunately, he was killed in 1973, eight months before Guinea Bissau declared independence, and before Cape Verde's 1975 independence. Some people think that Cabral was assassinated by feuding ethnic groups but possibly with “Lisbon's complicity.” That means that Portuguese rulers may have known about a plot against Cabral but didn't do anything to stop it.

What do you know about these nations?

Decide if each item below tells about Cape Verde or Guinea-Bissau.

  1. Made up of 10 volcanic island in the Atlantic Ocean.
  2. Located in West Africa, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
  3. A very poor nation, depending mostly on agriculture.
  4. One of the most developed countries in Africa, with an economy based on services and tourism.
  5. Noted for being politically unstable, with no elected president yet serving a full five-year term!
  6. A stable representative democracy, one of the most democratic nations in Africa.
  7. Features an active volcano, extensive salt flats, and ocean cliffs formed by “catastrophic debris landslides.”
  8. Covered by mangrove swamps.
  9. Capital is Bissau.
  10. Capital is Praia.

Here are some pictures of the two nations:


ANSWERS: 1- Cape Verde; 2 - Guinea-Bissau; 3 - Guinea-Bissau; 4 - Cape Verde; 5 - Guinea-Bissau; 6 - Cape Verde; 7- Cape Verde; 8 - Guinea-Bissau; 9 - Guinea-Bissau; 10 - Cape Verde; 11 - Guinea-Bissau; 12 - Cape Verde; 13 - Cape Verde; 14 - Guinea-Bissau.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the U.S. patent for the first successful roller coaster

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