Beware That Not All That Glitter Is Gold
“The cancer of betrayal, which we must uproot from Africa..”
Culled and Adapted from Aziz Salmone Fall
The coup that toppled Nkrumah is a tortuous conspiracy with deep roots.
In 1969, the Portuguese seemingly freed Aristides Barbosa and Momo Touré, two former captured PAIGC fighters and smuggled them out to Conakry. They became part of a grab-bag of fake “deserters” from the colonial army as well as various other corrupt individuals who would go into liberated zones pretending to repent, to have become reconverted nationalists or to be new recruits. Their task was to sow dissension within the ranks of their former comrades while collaborating with a branch of the PIDE-DGS, International State Defense Police controlled by the Portuguese Security Services, quite likely operating in conjunction with Germans, Italians and the French.
These agent provocateurs spread discord, vilifying Cape Verdian officers who were disproportionately represented in the upper echelons of the PAIGC, exacerbating differences and exploiting the superiority and inferiority complexes that pitted the so-called “Mulattoes” and “Assimilados” from “Ethnic” local Africans such as (Balantes, Foulas, Mandinkas, Mandjacques … etc.). Despite the popularity of the PAIGC, which reached right down to the tiny Tabancas – those small grassroots cells in the liberated zones, the virus of treachery continued on its insidious journey. Perfidy works by design, functioning as a series of pernicious steps.
The Portuguese had already attacked Guinea Conakry on November 22nd 1970. Operation Mar Verde, Green Sea, was launched on Spinola’s orders. Around 400 assailants, one-third Portuguese and the rest a gang of European mercenaries with their African counterparts, including Guineans opposed to Sekou Touré, attacked Conakry. They quickly took up positions around strategic targets so they could free pro-Portuguese prisoners and take down the PAIGC. They also tried to kill Cabral as well as Sekou Touré and to free conspirators against the regime who by that time had already spent more than a year behind bars. Some Guineans were set free, the presidential palace came under attack and Sekou Touré was reported missing. Although the Guineans mounted a spirited defense, the PAIGC camp was destroyed. Cabral, who was visiting Roumania at the time, was unperturbed. Indeed, many of the Portuguese men involved boarded their boats home convinced that the operation had been successful and their African partners had seized the capital. Touré’s people rescued him after answering his call to arms, which he issued from a secret hideout.
In March 1972, Cabral denounced the PIDE and DGS for making new attempts to assassinate him. He said, “If I am ever murdered it will be from within our own ranks. No one from outside can destroy the PAIGC, it will take one of our own to do it.”
In November 1972, another attack aimed at several high-ranking PAIGC officers also failed. Cabral suffered no casualties.
On January 8, 1973 after elections in all the liberated zones, Amilcar issued a call to convene a national people’s assembly. He saw it as the institution that would preside over independence. However, to the Portuguese, that became the signal to get rid of him, since his stated intention to declare independence terrified Lisbon. They were already backed into a corner since their troops were becoming increasingly disgusted with conducting its dirty war. Once again, General Spinola and Marcelo Caetano targeted Cabral for elimination. A certain Néné, in charge of PDG communications, conveyed the message to the killer commando, while Amilcar was meeting with members of FRELIMO on a visit to Conakry. Amilcar continued on to a reception at the Polish embassy in Conakry and later on that fateful night, January 20th 1973, he returned home with his wife, Maria Helena Rodriguez. With access to Cabral’s personal schedule, given to them by Nabonia, someone close to him, some individuals were able to set up a roadblock on the route he was travelling was travelling on his way home. He got out of his car and appeared to recognize the individuals at the roadblock. However, the attackers seemed determined to kidnap him. He reasoned with them for a moment until the blast of machine-gun sounded in the night and tore a hole in his gut. He had had just enough time to start arguing with those who finished him off. At long last treason had met reason face to face.
The most commonly held theory was that Bissau Guineans had made a deal with the Portuguese that left the Cape Verdeans out. There was also a persistent proof that said the plotters also had local co-conspirators, including Guinean Ruling PDG Militants pointing fingers at the Portuguese and their allies who had corrupted the members of the PAIGC.
Cabral’s killers had earlier on pretended to have deserted as escapees from the Portuguese Army Prisons to join the PAIGC Ranks. They were wrongly acclaimed as Heroes and accorded ranks in the PAIGC only to turn out as Portuguese Spies.
Does this remind us of the many otherwise “enablers” now so-called deserters being they in USA, Sweden, Senegal and elsewhere in Europe?
President Ahmed Sekou Touré’s secret service rounded up the conspirators Innocent Camil (Inociencio Cani), Momo Mamadou Touré, Coda Nabonia, Carlos Pereira, (Valentino Mangana, Aristides Barboza, Jaoa Tomaz, Soares de Gama and Momo who had been expelled from the party a few months earlier for anti revolutionary activities), Lasana Bangura, Ansoumane Camara, Aleino Egora, Raphael Barbosa – ex-president of the party had become a spy for the PIDE. In his confession Valentino Mangana gave a detailed account of the plot: eliminate the PAIGC and its leader, heir to the party and independence; preserve Cape Verde as a strategic outpost for Portugal and rid Guinea Bissau of its influential Metis leadership.
Another of the plotters, Isidor Lima, who was later surprisingly absolved and then banned following investigation by a different dispensation, returned home from exile in Sierra Leone years later.
A huge witch-hunt tore the party apart even as Camil confessed his sins to Guinean authorities. Otelo Saraiva, a PIDE operative, later admitted, at the end of his overseas posting, that the operation had been a total failure since the objective had been to bring back Cabral alive and the PIDE men had overplayed their hand.
During that period there was constant discontent in Sekou Touré’s PDG camp with fratricidal conflicts breaking out between Guineans from Bissau and Cape-Verdeans who refused to take responsibility for the treachery.
Their inter-communal turmoil remained unresolved and, directly or indirectly, continued to poison the atmosphere at the highest levels of the state in Guinea Bissau. The presence of “Metis” Cape Verdeans who were disproportionately represented within the higher echelons of Guinea Bissau aroused resentment within the ranks of “Bissau African Populations”. Very quickly everything fell into place for the state to become the prey of a criminal cabal and a comprador mentality.
This was what probably provoked the backlash which eventually culminated in Nino Viera’s coup d’Etat against Luis Cabral, Amilcar Cbral’s half-brother, and down the line resulted in Nino’s own assassination.
It is in this context that we can understand how Cabral’s death infringe and continue to infringe and hunt the African Liberation Struggles to the foreseeable future as there is no doubt that continued destabilization and presently troubled Angola, Mozambique, The Guineas (Conakry and Bissau) amongst others find roots in the premeditated and premature killing of Cabral.
Nkrumah died from the cancer of betrayal, which we must uproot from Africa if we are serious about eliminating Neo-Colonialist Militarist Regimes, their lackeys and Spy Enablers (The Fifth Columnists) like Ousman Sonko, Gano….. and company now posing as deserters, escapees, former enablers….runaways…..
Thank you so much for an eye opening brief Poltical history of Africa. Actually one needs to be cautious about them within our ranks.