Africa's Contemporary Challenges: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral

Africa's Contemporary Challenges: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral

Africa's Contemporary Challenges: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral

Africa's Contemporary Challenges: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral


This book reviews Cabral's intellectual contribution to current debates on race, identity, nation building, democracy, leadership and ethics. The key leader of the national liberation movements of former Portuguese African colonies is considered to be one of their foremost intellectuals the continent has produced. This rare combination of freedom fighter, operational campaigner and astute political scientist justifies the academic interest in his contribution.

Africa's Contemporary Challengesreviews the impact of Amilcar Cabral's thinking, and its relationship with contemporary debates about race, identity, nation building, democracy, leadership or ethics. The complexity of Cabral's vision and hopes for Africa continues to incite curiosity and interest. Cabral's tragic assassination in 1973 has removed the possibility of analysing his impact on post-independent Lusophone Africa, but his thoughts continue to be the most important reference.

This book was published as a special issue of African Identities.


Carlos Lopes

In 2004 Amilcar Cabral, the revolutionary hero for the emancipation of African people, founder and leader of the independence movement in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, would have been 80 years, had he lived. Unfortunately Cabral was assassinated in Conakry 20 January 1973 by some of his own companions who betrayed him, acting on behalf of the Portuguese colonial regime.

Looking back from the distance of more than 30 years of liberated Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, it is inspiring to realize how unique Cabral’s contribution has been, and how contemporary his thinking still is. The world has changed considerably, both in terms of geopolitics as well as the historical and sociological understanding of nationalism, nation-building and democratic values. Yet the key dimensions confronted by globalization — inequality and poverty reduction, sustainability of the planet, power differentials, ethical and religious challenges — so present in the nationalist movement of the 1950s and 1960s remain familiar.

Cabral has been a reference point for many people: from the passionate activists who saw him as a role model, to scholars, thinkers and statesman who admired his vision and capacity to reconcile theory and practice. A great many works have been devoted to his memory and contribution. None of them is too many. However the time has come for a different type of celebration — one that will bring Cabral into our contemporary circle of concerns. Given his personality Cabral most likely would have despised any hagiographic manifestation directed towards him, valuing, certainly, much more, the chance to participate in a debate that confronts today’s realities.

‘Reality’ was a word always present in Cabral’s pedagogic discourse. A celebration of Cabral’s inspiring contribution has, therefore, to be grounded in reality. Cabral used to say that one must remember that people do not fight for ideals or for things on other people’s minds. People fight for practical things: for peace, for better living conditions in peace, and for their children’s future. Liberty, fraternity and equality are empty words for people if they do not mean a real improvement in their lives.

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