When Portugal’s secret service, PIDE, assassinated Amilcar Cabral in January 1973, it is not likely that their long term plan was to turn Guinea Bissau into a transit dot on Africa for cocaine destined for nostrils all across Europe; and distribution across West Africa. Their wrath was most likely fuelled by a desperate wish to avenge his achieving international legitimacy for his liberation struggle by addressing the United Nations General Assembly as if he was a head of state; thereby signalling their impending failure to suppress wars for independence in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique.
That short-sighted crime took away the glue that united Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. It denied Africa the services of a brilliant military strategist and an inventive mind for engineering nation-building. Guinea Bissau a fatal blunder was the slaughter of thousands of Guineans who had fought in the colonial army against the liberation struggle. This was a dastardly departure from the strategy of treating captured Portuguese soldier most humanely to oil classes for their political education. The strategy shattered the morale of Portuguese troops; increased desertions and swelled ranks of those in Portugal campaigning against her colonial wars in Guinea-Bissau & Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique.
The dent in moral legitimacy combined with the poverty dramatized by the destruction of the economy and administrative equipment by fleeing Portuguese colonial administrators and traders, made leaders vulnerable to destabilization; and Cabral’s doctrine of the military being submissive to political leaders collapsed. Ethnicity spread among soldiers. The majority Balante troops resented leadership by mulato party leadership. A series of military coups attracted cocaine barons in Columbia and Peru avoiding American policing. By 2005 they openly funded the lush election campaign of Joao Vieira. By 2011, the Chief or Army Staff, General Antonio Indjai traded moves to arrest the other with the head of the navy, Rear Admiral Jose Na Tchuto. Their struggle was over guaranteeing drug barons safe landing for small aircrafts carrying cocaine across the Atlantic Ocean along “parallel 10”: the shortest route to Africa.
According to “Africa Economic Development Institute”, in 2014 as much as “1.2 tons of pure cocaine was found in a fishing boat near the town of M’Bour”. The UN’s anti-drug agency reported that after the military coup of 2012 a total of “twenty transatlantic flights of small aircrafts carrying cocaine landed in Guinea Bissau” in the following six months.
Amilcar Cabral preached the importance of Africa producing the technology imports; and processing raw agricultural products exported. The would yield locally diverse industrial goods inherent in them. Guinea Bissau’s export of cashew nuts, groundnuts and fish would have become potential inputs for local inventors to turn into products for markets across ECOWAS and beyond. Cross border trade in Africa would have been his priority frontier; rather than parasitic reliance on cocaine or heroin trade.
Cabral gave primacy to training the intellect of illiterate peasants; and restless urban youths, and artisans to create fighters for liberation. PAIGC trained nurses to support doctors serving in mobile clinics hidden under forests. In free Guinea-Bissau he would, almost certainly, have chosen Cuba’s model of building top quality universities to train experts for export to other African countries. Thousand of Cape Verdean professional have brain drained to the United States. The desperate scarcity of trained black professionals in post-apartheid South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Angola and Mozambique would have been his revolutionary frontier to serve.
America’s trade embargo against Cuba forced local scientists to become very creative in exploring potentialities of local resources. Fear of their inventions seizing markets in Europe, Asia and American with herbal medicines; novel community-based medical care, and pharmaceutical products, drove American governments into harsher global embargos. Cabral would have regarded Guinea-Bissau’s lack of natural resources as an ’embargo’ to be innovatively overcome. Japan and South Korea were models of intensive educational training for their people fuelling industrial miracles.
Tragically, however, Guinea-Bissau is a station for cocaine and heroin to roll across ECOWAS and beyond. A 727 plane was reported torched in northern Mali after its ten tons of cocaine was repacked onto backs of camels to reach Morocco. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that in 2013 officials intercepted 760 kilograms of cocaine in West Africa; while in 2012 Nigeria arrested 8,000 drug couriers moving 200 kg of cocaine. In Ghana, officials enable intercepted narcotics to vanish into thin invisibility. In Guinea Conakry the Supreme Court temporarily seized over 24 highbrow houses from resident drug “kingpins”. Abuja has real estate unofficially linked to cocaine traffickers; while “godfathers” who sponsor winning candidates in elections are suspect.
ECOWAS must honour Amilcar Cabral with an ‘Investment Trust Fund for Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde”; and end a fatal narcotic prostitution.