• Short Summary

    Five years ago, Portugal began to disband its African empire. On September ???th 1974, it?

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    Five years ago, Portugal began to disband its African empire. On September ???th 1974, it formally grated independence to Portuguese Guinea -- which became the Republic of Guinea Bissau. In little more than a year, it had completed the process by withdrawing from Mozambique, the Cape Verde Islands and finally Angola.

    SYNOPSIS: The Portuguese had been in Guinea since the fifteenth century. Its position on the extreme west coast of Africa gave roving Portuguese sailors and traders a convenient staging post on their way south to the Cape and west of Brazil. But it was the port of Bissau that they needed. They never really developed the colony.

    Throughout the 1960s, guerrillas movements, fighting for independence, had tied down the Portuguese army in all Portugal's major African colonies. In Guinea, the guerrillas claimed to control nearly half the country by 1965.

    They fought under the banner of the Partido Africano da Independenoia da Guine e do Cabo Verde (PAIGC). It was led by Amilcar Cabral until he was assassinated in 1973 in Conakry, the capital of the neighbouring Republic of Guinea, where he had won support and set up his headquarters.

    Within about six weeks of formal independence, some 20-thousand Portuguese troops had left for home. By then, Portugal itself had a revolution. Its new President, General Antonio de Spinola, was a former Governor of Guinea, who believed that Portugal could never hold its colonies by force.

    In fact, the PAIGC had declared independence unilaterally a year earlier -- and was celebrating in its own capital, Madina do Boe. Luis Cabral had taken over the leadership from his murdered elder brother. After formal independence, he became state President, and was re-elected in 1977,
    After independence the government's main task was to develop the country and feed the people. Guerrilla warfare had left the economy in ruins. The government has given absolute priority to re-establishing agriculture It has been making an all-out attack on the high rate of illiteracy that prevailed in colonial days. But the school year is organised to allow young people to work in the fields at seed-time and harvest.

    Thousands of refugees returned from Gambia, Senegal and Guinea once the war was over. They needed homes. The Portuguese had largely ignored the interior, It needed roads. A massive building programme was put in hand.

    President Cabral has remained on good terms with Portugal, which he visited in 1978. The two countries had some disagreement about liability for debts dating from the colonial era. It was eventually settled in Guinea Bissau's favour.

    The country has looked for economic aid wherever it was available. Early this year, President Cabral was in Algiers meeting the new President, Chadli Benjedid. Algeria has supplied Guinea Bissau with technicians for its development programme, and is training its students in Algiers.

    Herr Erich Honecker, the Head of State of East Germany, also promised President Cabral more co-operation when they me??? in East Berlin last June. Internationally, President Cabral's policy is 'positive neutrality'. good relations with any friendly country, and an absolute, and an absolute refusal to accept foreign bases.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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