African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde

African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde
African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde
Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde
Leader Carlos Gomes Júnior
Founded 1956
Headquarters Bissau, Bissau Region, Guinea-Bissau
Ideology Socialism,
International affiliation Socialist International[1]
Politics of Guinea-Bissau
Political parties

The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Portuguese: Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde) or PAIGC is a political party that governed Guinea-Bissau from the independence of the then Portuguese Guinea in 1974, until the late 1990s, and from 2004 to 2005. Currently it is the party with the largest number of seats in the National People's Assembly. It became part of a governing coalition in 2007, with PAIGC member Martinho Ndafa Kabi serving as Prime Minister, until withdrawing in 2008.


National revolutionary struggle

A PAIGC soldier with an AK-47

Amílcar Cabral founded the party with his brother Luís in then-Portuguese Guinea in 1956, advocating the independence of Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea from Portugal.[1]

In the 1950s Portuguese Guinea was the poorest and least developed Portuguese colony in Africa, though it was prized for its strategic position, as it acted as a stepping stone from Portugal to her colonies of Portuguese Mozambique and Portuguese Angola.

In 1959 the Pijiguiti Massacre took place, when Portuguese soldiers opened fire on protesting dockworkers, killing 50. This massacre caused a large segment of the population to swing towards the PAIGC's push for independence. Portugal, however, still considered the PAIGC to be irrelevant, and took no serious action in trying to suppress it.

In 1961 the FRELIMO in Mozambique, the MPLA of Angola and the PAIGC formed the Conferência das Organizações Nacionalistas das Colónias Portuguesas (Portuguese: Conference of Nationalist Organisations of the Portuguese Colonies), a common party to coordinate the struggles for independence of Portuguese colonies across Africa. The three groups were often represented at international events by the CONCP.

The PAIGC was originally a peaceful movement, their first strategy being requests for the Portuguese to peacefully withdraw from their Guinea colony. As this failed, however, the PAIGC turned to more violent measures to achieve independence.

Armed struggle against the Portuguese began in March 1962 with an abortive attack by PAIGC guerrillas on Praia. Guerrilla warfare was largely concentrated to the mainland Guinea, however, as logistical reasons prevented an armed struggle on the Cape Verde islands. On the Cape Verde islands PAIGC worked in a clandestine manner. After being nearly crippled militarily, Amílcar Cabral ordered that sabotage be the PAIGC's main weapon until military strength could be regained.

In January 1963 Cabral declared full scale war against the Portuguese, and on January 23, the Portuguese fortress at Tite came under heavy gunfire from PAIGC guerrillas. Frequent attacks in the north also took place. In that same month, attacks on police stations in Fulacunda and Buba were carried out not only by the PAIGC but also by the FLING.

In the context of the ongoing Cold War, PAIGC guerrillas received Kalashnikovs from the USSR, bazookas from Cuba and recoilless rifles from the People's Republic of China. Guerrillas were also trained in these countries.

The first party congress took place at liberated Cassaca in February 1964, in which both the political and military arms of the PAIGC were assessed and reorganized, with a regular army (Revolutionary Armed Forces of the People, FARP) to supplement the guerrilla forces (The People's Guerrillas).

Como Island was the site of a major battle between PAIGC and Portuguese forces, in which the PAIGC took control of the island and resisted fierce counterattacks by the Portuguese, including airstrikes by FAP (Portuguese: Força Aérea Portuguesa; Portuguese Air Force) F-86 Sabres.

Throughout the war the Portuguese handled themselves poorly. It took them a long time to finally take the PAIGC seriously, diverting aircraft and troops based in Guinea to the conflicts in Mozambique and Angola, and by the time that the Portuguese government began to realise that the PAIGC was a significant threat to their continued rule over Guinea, it was too late. Very little was done to curtail the guerrilla operations; the Portuguese didn't try to sever the link between the populace and the PAIGC until very late in the war, and as a result, it became very dangerous for Portuguese troops to operate far from their fortresses.

Following the loss of Como Island, the Portuguese army, navy and the air force (FAP) began the Operation Tridente, a combined arms operation to retake the island. The PAIGC fought fiercely, and the Portuguese took heavy casualties and gained ground slowly.

Finally, after 71 days of fighting and 851 FAP combat sorties, the island was taken back by the Portuguese. However, less than two months later, the PAIGC would retake the island, as the Portuguese operation to capture it had depleted much of their invasion force, leaving the island vulnerable.

Como Island ceased to be of strategic importance to Portugal following establishment of new PAIGC positions in the south, especially on the Cantanhez and Quitafine Peninsulas. Large numbers of Portuguese troops on these peninsulas were encircled and besieged by guerrillas.

In 1966 Amílcar Cabral attended the Conferencia Tricontinental Enero in Havana and made a great impression on Fidel Castro. As a result of this, Cuba agreed to supply artillery experts, doctors and technicians to assist in the independence struggle. The head of the Cuban Military Mission was Victor Dreke.[2]

By 1967 the PAIGC had carried out 147 attacks on Portuguese barracks and army encampments, and effectively controlled 2/3 of Portuguese Guinea. The following year, Portugal began a new campaign against the guerrillas with the arrival of the new governor of the colony, António de Spínola. Spínola began a massive construction campaign, building schools, hospitals, new housing and improving telecommunications and the road system, in an attempt to gain public favour in Guinea. PAIGC was the first African party to establish a comprehensive cooperative program with Sweden.[3]

However, in 1970 the FAP began to use similar weapons to those the US was using in the Vietnam War: napalm and defoliants, the former to destroy guerrillas when they could find them, the latter to decrease the number of ambushes that occurred when they could not.

Spínola's tenure as governor marked a turning point in the war: Portugal began to win battles, and in a daring raid on Conakry, in the neighbouring Republic of Guinea, 400 amphibious troops attacked the city and freed 26 Portuguese prisoners of war kept there by the PAIGC.

The USSR and Cuba began to send more weapons to Portuguese Guinea via Nigeria, notably several Ilyushin Il-14 aircraft to use as bombers.

Though the Portuguese army in the Guinea colony began to start winning battles more frequently, the government in Lisbon was on the verge of bankruptcy, and in 1974, following a military coup d'état, the Portuguese government began to negotiate with the PAIGC, and on September 10, independence was granted. Luís Cabral, brother of Amílcar, became the country's first president.

In January 1973, a crushing blow was dealt to the PAIGC: its leader, Amílcar Cabral, was assassinated, not by the Portuguese, but rather by a disgruntled former associate[citation needed]. Independence was unilaterally declared on September 24, 1973 and was recognized by a 93–7 UN General Assembly vote in November,[4] unprecedented as it denounced illegal Portuguese aggression and occupation and was prior to Portuguese recognition.

1,875 Portuguese soldiers (out of 35,000 stationed in Portuguese Guinea) and some 6,000 (out of 10,000) PAIGC troops were killed by the end of the 11 year war.

Post-independence history


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After achieving independence, PAIGC was instituted as the sole legal political party of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Luís Cabral became the president of Guinea-Bissau. PAIGC strove for a union between Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, but in 1980 the union finally broke down, following the military take-over by João Bernardo "Nino" Vieira against Cabral, who was of Capeverdean origin. The Cape Verdean branch of PAIGC was converted into a separate party, the African Independence Party of Cape Verde (PAICV).

The youth wing of PAIGC is called African Youth Amilcar Cabral (Juventude Africana Amilcar Cabral) and the women's wing is called Democratic Union of the Women of Guinea (União Democrática das Mulheres da Guiné).

Under Vieira, the party continued to govern the country in the 1980s and 1990s. Vieira was re-elected as PAIGC Secretary-General at the party's fourth congress in November 1986. Following the introduction of multiparty politics in 1991, the first multiparty elections were held in 1994.[5] Vieira won the 1994 presidential election against opposition candidate Kumba Yala of the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), while the PAIGC won 62 out of 100 parliamentary seats, with 46% of the vote.[6]

Vieira was re-elected for another four-year term as President of PAIGC in mid-May 1998[7] at PAIGC's sixth congress,[5] with 438 votes in favor, eight opposed, and four abstaining;[7] the post of Secretary-General was abolished at this congress.[5] An outbreak of civil war in June 1998 eventually led to the ouster of Vieira in May 1999.[8] A few days afterward, former Prime Minister Manuel Saturnino da Costa was named acting President of PAIGC on May 12, 1999, replacing Vieira.[9] Vieira was expelled from PAIGC at a party congress in September 1999 for "treasonable offences, support and incitement to warfare, and practices incompatible with the statutes of the party". Francisco Benante, the leader of reformists within the party and the only civilian in the transitional military junta, was elected as the President of PAIGC at the end of this congress,[10] on September 9, 1999.[10][11] Benante's candidacy was supported by the junta, and he received 174 votes against 133 votes for the only opposing candidate.[11] The PAIGC won the third highest number of seats in the November 1999 parliamentary election, and its presidential candidate, Malam Bacai Sanhá, was defeated by Yala.[8]

In the 2004 legislative elections, held on 28 and 30 March 2004, the PAIGC was the largest single political party, winning 31.45 % of the popular vote and 45 out of 100 seats.[8] It formed a government in May 2004, with the party's leader, Carlos Gomes Júnior, becoming Prime Minister. In the 2005 presidential election, PAIGC candidate Malam Bacai Sanhá won 35.45 % in the first round. He was defeated in the second round by João Bernardo Vieira, who had returned from exile and ran as an independent. Sanhá won 46.65 % of the vote, while Vieira won 52.35 %. A few weeks after taking office, Vieira dismissed Carlos Gomes Júnior as Prime Minister on 28 October 2005, and on 2 November he appointed Aristides Gomes, who had formerly been a high ranking member of PAIGC but split with the party to support Vieira, in his place.

In March 2007, the PAIGC formed a three-party alliance with the PRS and the United Social Democratic Party, and the three parties sought to form a new government.[12] This led to a successful no-confidence vote against Aristides Gomes and his resignation late in the month; on 9 April, the choice of the three parties for the position of prime minister, Martinho Ndafa Kabi, was appointed as prime minister by Vieira,[13] and on 17 April a new government was named, composed of ministers from the three parties.[14] Kabi is a leading member of PAIGC; he was elected as the party's Third Vice-President in 2002.[15]

PAIGC withdrew its backing for Kabi on February 29, 2008, saying that this was done "to avoid acts of indiscipline threatening cohesion and unity in the party".[16]

PAIGC's Seventh Ordinary Congress, held in Gabu, began on June 26, 2008;[17] 1,050 delegates participated. Malam Bacai Sanhá, the party's presidential candidate in 2000 and 2005, challenged Gomes for the party leadership, but Gomes was re-elected for a five-year term as President of PAIGC on July 1–July 2, receiving 578 votes against 355 for Sanhá.[18] Kabi, Cipriano Cassama (considered a dissident within the party and associated with Aristides Gomes), and Baciro Dia[17] also contested the leadership election, but attracted comparatively little support.[18]

After Kabi dismissed the directors of customs, taxes and the treasury on July 25, 2008 without notifying the party, PAIGC decided to withdraw from the three-party stability pact that was signed in March 2007.[19][20] Vieira then dismissed Kabi and appointed Carlos Correia as Prime Minister on August 5.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Brockman, Norbert C. An African Biographical Dictionary, 1994, p. 73.
  2. ^ Jihan El Tahri (2007). Cuba! Africa! Revolution!. BBC Television. Event occurs at 50:00-60:00. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  3. ^ Sellström, Tor. Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1999. p. 71
  4. ^ UN Resolution, PDF
  5. ^ a b c Donald F. Busky, Communism in History and Theory: Asia, Africa, and the Americas (2002), Greenwood Publishing Group, pages 106–7.
  6. ^ IPU PARLINE page for 1994 parliamentary election.
  7. ^ a b "Guinea-Bissau: President Vieira cleared to run for re-election", AFP (, 14 May 1998.
  8. ^ a b c IPU PARLINE page for 1999 parliamentary election.
  9. ^ "Guinea-Bissau ex-president replaced as party leader", RTP Internacional TV (, May 12, 1999.
  10. ^ a b "GUINEA-BISSAU: PAIGC chooses new chairman, expels Vieira", IRIN, September 10, 1999.
  11. ^ a b "Guinea-Bissau party elects chairman, expels ex-president", AFP (, September 9, 1999.
  12. ^ "Vieira rejects calls to dissolve government", AFP (IOL), March 14, 2007.
  13. ^ "Guinea-Bissau appoints consensus premier", Reuters (IOL), April 10, 2007.
  14. ^ Alberto Dabo, "Guinea-Bissau's new government named", Reuters (IOL), April 18, 2007.
  15. ^ Profile on PAIGC website (in Portuguese).
  16. ^ Alberto Dabo, "Guinea-Bissau opposition withdraws support for PM", Reuters, March 1, 2008.
  17. ^ a b "7ème congrès du PAIGC à 200 km à l’est de Bissau", African Press Agency, June 26, 2008 (French).
  18. ^ a b "L’ancien Premier ministre bissau guinéen Carlos Gomis, réélu président du PAIGC", African Press Agency, July 2, 2008 (French).
  19. ^ "PAIGC retira-se de Pacto de Estabilidade Política Nacional", Panapress, July 27, 2008 (Portuguese).
  20. ^ "GUINEA-BISSAU: Elections fears as unity government splits", IRIN, July 31, 2008.
  21. ^ "GUINEA-BISSAU: Uncertain future as President dissolves government", IRIN, August 6, 2008.

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