Guinea-Bissau: From Memory to the Future ı Guiné-Bissau: da Memória ao Futuro ı FULL FILM


Thank you. Welcome, all of you. I want to dedicate this September 24 to all the National Freedom Fighters, with no exception. Today you all deserve to be praised since you gave us a country,
a flag, and an anthem. I don’t want to forget our brothers
in Cape Verde. We were together on the battlefield, we won battles together. This fight concerns all of us. This triumph belongs to all of us. Long live Guinea-Bissau! Long live Amílcar Cabral! GUINEA-BISSAU:
FROM MEMORY TO THE FUTURE The filmmaker Flora Gomes
will never forget the eve of the unilateral declaration
of independence of Guinea-Bissau, on the 24th of September, 1973. On the evening of the 23rd of September,
1973 I presented in Madina do Boé my film “The Second Congress of the PAIGC”. The idea I had at the time… I knew it was the beginning
of a long journey, but I had a lot of hope. Former journalist, President of the party Union for Change, and Minister of the Parliamentary Affairs
in the government of Aristides Gomes, Agnelo Regalla doesn’t forget
the legacy of the struggle for liberation and the ideas of Amílcar Cabral. The fight led by Amílcar Cabral
was an example for all of Africa and to the whole world. Today, in all universities, we study the ideas of Amílcar Cabral and the fight for the liberation of Guinea. Also in Bissau, in the former Officers’
mess of the Portuguese army, now turned into a hotel, academics from Brazil, Cape Verde,
United States, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, and Portugal discuss,
in September 2018, the memory and legacy
of the liberation struggle. It falls on me to welcome all of you, especially our colleagues
who came from abroad, and there are many of them here,
who came to share the discussions that we want to carry out
during these three days. We want, throughout these three days,
to understand how the colonial war and
the liberation struggles configure a past that helps us understand the present. We shall talk about the history
of the struggle in all its different aspects, but we are interested, above all, in
understanding how this great historical event has been remembered, forgotten,
appropriated, resignified in different contexts, from individual memories
to different social memories, to the memories produced by the State, but also in different scales:
local, national, transnational. The legacy of the struggle means, to me, the
restitution of dignity to the Guinean people, the restitution of “Guineaness”,
of the culture of Guinea-Bissau, to its own people. This is our great collective success, and this is of uttermost importance,
especially in the construction of our self-esteem, and in the creation
of a shared collective identity. Land of Amílcar Cabral
ex-colony of Portugal Where 80% of the population
lives miserably Neighbour of Conacri and Senegal,
on the Western Coast, hidden in the yard Land of Pansau Na Isna
Tchico Té, Osvaldo Vieira Domingos Ramos, Luís Cabral
Lino Correia Land of our heroine, mama Titina Silá People who fought to get rid o’
António Spínola When the independence was conquered
The damages started The people live miserable
So that a small group lives well The boss killed income
The people started suffocatin’ We emerged from a clean
To a dirtier country The political trajectory of Guinea-Bissau is very far from what had been conceived
by Amílcar Cabral. We consider that our independence will
allow for the development of our culture, for our own development, and that of our country, freeing the people from misery and suffering, from ignorance. How did we manage to,
right in the middle of the struggle, in the eve of our independence, murder Cabral? I was with Titina Silá,
we were sleeping. We had a radio given to us
by the Party. He rang me and said
“Ana, it seems that Amílcar is dead”. No one else slept that night. In the morning,
the people invaded the field. They wanted to know if it was true,
if Cabral had been killed. Ana Maria Gomes Soares
was a political commissary in the Northern Front when she was awoken by the news
of the murder of Cabral, on the 20th of January 1973. In the Southern Front, Teodora Inácia Gomes
would only hear in the morning about the demise of the
General Secretary of the PAIGC. The night of Amilcar’s death I dreamt
about him. In the morning, I said: “Comrades, I didn’t sleep last night,
I kept dreaming about Amílcar.” And they said: “We have to tell you.” Tell what? Cabral died yesterday.
They killed Cabral. We had to go out, to all the liberated
areas, to meet with the military. They were happy. Amílcar would always say
we couldn’t waste all our ammunition, because there were populations
with the Portuguese in the barracks. Since Amílcar was gone,
they could use everything, everything that they had been told not to waste. Nothing, no criminal action or divisive manoeuvre of the Portuguese colonialists will prevent
our African people, master of their own destiny
and aware of their rights and duties, from taking this transcendental
and decisive step into the realisation
of the main goal of our struggle: the conquest of national independence and the construction of its renewed
peace and unity, of its true progress, under the exclusive direction
of its own children and the glorious flag of our Party. The murderer of Cabral didn’t break off the fighting
momentum of the PAIGC. A few months later, the Party launches
the Operation Amílcar Cabral against several Portuguese barracks. Guidage, in the North, and Guileje, in the South, were the main targets of the offensive. Subjected to intense bombings,
the Portuguese abandoned Guileje on the 18th of May 1973. The General Watna na Laie
took part in the attack. I am the Major General
of the Army Watna na Laie. I got involved in the struggle in 1962, due to what the colonialists
were doing to us. That’s the reason for my discontent. Nino called us. From the last bombardier
all the way up to me. We all went to the command at the front. He explained the reason for calling. The time came to attack Guileje. Guileje can’t stand like that. And he started by saying “the name
of this mission is ‘Amílcar Cabral'”. After this mission there would be no trials. Whoever failed, wouldn’t be tried. If you had failed, you’d go straight to execution. On the 24th of September, that year,
the PAIGC had declared, unilaterally, the independence of Guinea-Bissau. After this text was unanimously approved, the first National Assembly of our History, expressing the sovereign will of our people, solemnly proclaims
the State of Guinea-Bissau. We have just lived a transcendent period
of our History. The proclamation
of our sovereign state of Guinea, which opens new perspectives
to our struggle, both in the internal spheres, and in the reaffirming of our
personality in the international sphere. When Guinea-Bissau becomes independent, with the unilateral
declaration of independence, it is automatically recognised
by a significant group of countries, and, as it turns out, by more countries
than those with which Portugal held diplomatic relationships at the time, since Portugal was rather isolated
at the international level. On the 25th of April 1974,
a military coup brings down, in Lisbon,
the government of Marcelo Caetano. Decolonisation is part of the program
of the Armed Forced Movement (MFA). When still no one used the V for Victory, victory was already reflected
in everyone’s face. And the numbers were growing,
here in Largo do Carmo, the stage of the operations, the great stage of Portugal, on this 25th of April, 1974. While in Guinea, the Portuguese troops
and the PAIGC fraternise, official contacts begin
for the recognition, by Portugal, of the young Republic of Guinea-Bissau. In May, the last Portuguese Governor
of Guinea-Bissau is named, the Brigadier Carlos Fabião. When affirming that the recognition
of independence was going to happen, we sought that it would not be unilateral,
but by common agreement between the two states and within the kind of cooperation
we are interested in keeping with the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. In that sense, contacts between
the Governments must start soon, and these contacts will establish the date
on which the actual recognition will take place, and the manner
and location where it will happen. When I arrived in Bissau,
after the 25th of April, I would eat in the Palace
with the last governor, Fabião. There was a Guinean delegation sent
by the PAIGC, but I was the only person
eating at the Palace. There was a man stationed
as my body-guard. One day a group of women came
looking for me, and he said: “Doctor, it must be a mistake.” I asked why it would be so
and he said they were half-naked, barefooted, breasts in the air,
with a loincloth, and they had come to see that man
arrived from the bush they had heard about,
because we had some sort of connection. They were my aunts, my cousins. He said there was a mistake.
And I said: “No, they’re my family!” In Guinea-Bissau, during independence,
There were about 13 senior educated cadres . There was never, during colonialism,
any investment in the formation and education of the Guinean people. Keeping us in the darkness
was a way to better dominate us. Less than a year after
the unilateral declaration of independence by the PAIGC, Portugal recognised
the State of Guinea-Bissau. We weren’t planning any special
ceremony for tomorrow. We intend to host all the ceremonies
on the 24th of September, when we commemorate the
1st anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, the anniversary of our party, and the 50th anniversary
of Comrade Amílcar Cabral. That doesn’t mean we don’t give
true meaning, true worth to what the recognition
of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau by the Portuguese State means. We consider this an important act, so important, that we’re here. And we consider it
even more important, because it allows us to exercise
our sovereignty in all the territory of Guinea-Bissau, and that leads to the end
of foreign presence in our land. Declaration about the independence
of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. In the name of the Portuguese Republic,
and in the terms of Article 3 of the law no. 7/74 of 27th July, 1974, and after having approved
the protocol signed in Argel, on the 26th of August, 1974, and having heard
the National Salvation Junta, the Council of State,
and the Provisional Government, we declare that Portugal
solemnly recognises the independence
of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. Imprimatur.
Presidency of the Republic, 10th of September, 1974,
the President of the Republic. In this precise moment, another
independent nation is born. A Portuguese speaking nation, with a long Portuguese cultural tradition and, with which, Portugal will certainly
keep close ties of friendship and cooperation. As you can see in the image, the President of the Portuguese Republic
exchanges informal words with Major Pedro Pires, accompanied
by the Prime Minister Vasco Gonçalves. The “tuga” thought of bringing down
the government Long live the fighters of the PAIGC During the first years of independence, those coming from the struggle
had a huge privilege, those who had fought with weapons
in their hands. That’s also something Cabral
always fought against: the struggle is not only done
by those with weapons. Here in Guinea-Bissau, those roles of the clandestine fight,
the participation of women, not only on the battlefront,
but also in the rear, as cooks, washers, etc,
gave them automatically the right to demand the status
of National Freedom Fighter. In that sense, even though
these roles are still made invisible in the large narratives of the struggle, these people could claim this status
and were, therefore, recognised as someone who helped take the territory towards freedom
and, in fact, build the nation. The struggle was a nurse, a teacher… Cabral would say that maybe the teacher
had greater responsibility than someone with a weapon to kill. Comrades, I tell you frankly,
I am very glad we meet this year in Boé. Comrade Teachers, maybe some of you may think you are not contributing
to the liberation of our land. Those who think that way
have yet to understand our struggle, our life, our Party. It’s not with weapons
that we free a country. It’s not only through the army and
political work that we free a country. The biggest battle we have to fight
is against ignorance. Yesterday, we studied the word “unity”
and what it represents to the people. Unity allows for our unification to solve ethnic problems. Tomorrow, as we study
the word “progress”, we shall understand it much better. Today, we’ll study the word “fight”. The truth is that Cabral
was extremely educated and he created a machine of war that allowed him to face an empire, the Portuguese colonial-fascism, but that which was brilliant
during the struggle revealed itself nefarious
in the aftermath. The sentiment, the violence which,
during the struggle was revolutionary, against a powerful enemy, was transposed to the period
of post-independence and it was patent that,
while people were prepared to fight, they were not prepared to govern. If you’re ahead on the struggle Take the lead Lay the first brick of the house we are willing to build If you’re ahead on the struggle Wait for no one If you deviate from your path
or if you get distracted The people will leave you behind
And no one can avoid that If you’re ahead on the struggle Don’t stop even to rest Take your katana and clear the weeds Take your plough and till the soil Guinea-Bissau is a country
where we have little consensus regarding figures, personalities. But the figures we have managed
to obtain a consensus about what they mean to our country, are exactly the figures that were connected
to all this process of independence. There are two transversal cases: Amílcar Cabral. It is beyond questioning
the role of Amílcar Cabral in the struggle for liberation, as the father of the independence
of Guinea-Bissau. Another important figure
is José Carlos Schwartz, as someone who took this utopia
and turned it into music, he brought a modern style to the cultural
identity that is the gumbé music, and everyone recognises in him
a pioneer of the music from Guinea, of liberation music, of resistance music. These figures for the new generations
are still the paragon of the struggle
for independence and freedom. Zé Carlos had warned the politicians. Had they heard him at the time,
maybe we wouldn’t be in this deadlock. He warned that one should not
turn his back to a comrade of arms. We should take the reins of our decisions and of the destiny of our country. We should unite around a vaster agenda: the programme of the reconstruction
of our homeland, to develop our country. Regarding our collective memory, there are aspects that we don’t
want to bring out, from the beginning of the struggle, where the guerrilla fighters
went to the tabankas and perpetrated atrocities. These atrocities weren’t silenced, they reached the ears of Cabral, and it was decided
in the first congress, the memorable Congress of Cassacá. From then on things changed. But no one has ever fought
without committing mistakes. The PAIGC didn’t lead a brilliant
and mistake-free struggle. Of course there were mistakes. Then why did they do
the Congress of Cassacá? To end with the errors
that were being committed. Some wanted to become chiefs,
others, “little kings”, Cabral said that wouldn’t work. They had to organise the fight
in a given manner. There were people being punished
in the Congress of Cassacá. But they recovered through work,
until they reached their goals again. The issue of the death of Cabral, followed immediately by the summary
trials that lead to the death of many people, generated revolts and hatred
that remained latent, but were carried on to the period
of the post-independence. All these aspects ended up
conditioning the evolution of the State and of Guinean society. If Cabral were alive, things
would have been treated differently. When I heard Cabral talking about
the post-independence period in our country, I never heard him say
we were going to kill anyone, to use violence against people
for being on the other side. There wasn’t a responsible management: neither Portugal assumed completely
the African commandos, nor did the new authorities assume
an attitude of clemency or create a basis of confidence for that. Some were murdered,
executed in public acts, others fled to Portugal,
Senegal, and Guinea-Conacry, and a kind of political police
regime was created. I know that, when the PAIGC
arrived in Bissau, there were contacts with the African
Command to stop what they were doing. Others weren’t happy, which is normal. Had I been here, I might have been
in the Portuguese military, that would have been the natural thing. Had I arrived old enough
for the military service, I’d have had to do it, right? When the leaders of the PAIGC arrived,
especially Umaru Djaló, who was the Chief of the Military Staff they invited everyone
working at the intendancy and accounting, and they asked them to integrate
the Ministry of the Armed Forces. Some were agents of the PIDE. When the party reached Bissau,
they were arrested and sent to the liberated zones. They were even where I was,
but nothing happened to them. Only those considered heroes
of the colonial war, who also committed atrocities
against the population, or the members of the PAIGC
were prosecuted. The collaborators of PIDE too. They had everyone on file, everyone’s biography, their function… The military, those who came
out of the war, were saying: “All those who collaborated
with the Portuguese will see!” Who were the collaborators? The military within the commandos? The cipaios, the chiefs
who worked with the Portuguese, and the women who dated
men in the military. Worse even for those who had children
with the Portuguese. Fernando Hedgar da Silva
is one of those children. About his father, he only knows
that he was Portuguese, lance sergeant, and that he was stationed
in the barracks of Canchungo. When they executed the chief
of Canchungo, Joaquim Baticã Ferreira, who was executed here,
with three other people, I was present. It was after the execution that they took me to Senegal. I don’t know if it was because
of the persecution, but they took me to Senegal. But my mother never told me. I never heard of any mother
– I talked to a few – who had been persecuted. There are women who
tell their children, “Your father was a soldier,
I washed or ironed clothes, or we fell in love, or he took advantage of me
and you were born. If you want, search for him.” Many did search. There were cases where the fathers
didn’t want to meet them, and those are frustrated people,
who ask themselves, “What did I do to deserve
being born this way?” Why didn’t the Portuguese
come back for us? Did they see us as doomed children? Because they raped our mothers? But no one said that. But if they didn’t come back
it’s because that was going on. In November 1980,
a coup led by Nino Vieira overthrew the first president
of Guinea-Bissau, Luís Cabral, the brother of Amílcar Cabral, and brought up again the issue
of the murder of the collaborators of the Portuguese troops. On the 14th of November,
Nino used that to say that in the time of Luís Cabral
there were mass graves. I think there were mistakes,
Luís Cabral made mistakes, Nino Vieira made mistakes, all of them were part of the struggle
for liberation, all of them leaders of the PAIGC, all of them committed mistakes. That’s my opinion. The fact that the political elite of the time
was of Cape Verdean ascent, and given that the regime adopted
a constitution only valid in Guinea, and not in Cape Verde, with death penalty in Guinea-Bissau
and not in Cape Verde, precipitated the political change
in 1980, the year I was born, known as the “Readjustment Movement”,
with readjustments regarding the natives. Amílcar died, Luís took his place,
up to the coup d’état of the 14th of November, a coup that put an end to everything
that was the bedrock of our fight, together with the Cape Verdeans,
for the independence of our countries. There has always been a tension,
dissipated by Cabral, around the idea of the Cape Verdean
as a representation of the colonialist, since many Cape Verdeans had
administrative functions, and Guinea was, for a while,
“Guinea of Cape Verde”, almost a colony of a colony. And these phantasms had their role
during the coup. Cape Verdeans are (like) Guineans. Amilcar was a scientist, we can’t measure his stature. A great leader, he came with unity
And started educating people. Amílcar Cabral would say: “One day, I shall get on a plane
piloted by Yacuba Indjai, taking me to Cape Verde.” That explains it all. A pilot was the best thing we could have,
the person in the front, taking us. When he said that, he was talking
about a new kind of man, who didn’t question unity, whether he was Cape Verdean or Guinean, he spoke of a man
freed from all those complexes. We went from a regime
of political police to a regime grounded
on military power. The war strategists were replaced
by war operators. And the military regime didn’t change the essence
of the country’s economy, of the relations between classes. The political power
became more bourgeois, they even stayed at the houses
where the colonialists lived, used the same prisons,
the same methods. Today, the headquarters
of a human rights association, the police station where militants
pro-independence had been tortured, became a prison again, this time for the opposition
to the new regime. Welcome to the House of Rights, a house that was once a prison. One of the most violent prisons
of the colonial and post-colonial times. The space below was the prison. In this tunnel, whenever the waters
of the river Geba went up, the prisoners spent a long time
in the water, until it went down again. The drawings were made
by young people at a workshop. They attended a session and,
after listening, they were to transpose it into pictures. Here you have a locket,
symbol of the history of the prison. Were people imprisoned and tortured
here in the post-independence times? There was this kind of treatment,
which was far from acceptable , since we fight to end violence and, with this degrading treatment, we can’t do the same we fought against. It’s a fight for bread, for land,
but in freedom. It’s a fight for schools, so that children
don’t suffer, to have hospitals. This is our fight. It is also a fight to show the world
that we are people with dignity. Amílcar Cabral In the first 10 years after independence, we got over 200 people
with post-secondary education, thanks to international solidarity. But the basis of economic growth
and equitable distribution didn’t take place; therefore, and facing the devaluation
of the currency, in 1984 we suffered what is today known
as “troika”: the program of structural readjustment. IMF, World Bank, organisations
such as the Washington Club, or the Paris Club, led a policy
of cutting down the capacity of the State, which they called “Less State, for a Better State,” and we ended up having
less State and a worse State. Guinea-Bissau has a moment
of political and economic liberalisation, which could have been seen
as relatively successful. There is the transition
to the multi-party system, and the first phase
of the structural adjustment shows a relevant economic growth, but afterwards this economic and political
liberalisation begins showing problems. The international community
chooses to consider these problems strictly endogenous, when Guinea-Bissau was signalling the same
problems of several other southern countries, that the revenues from the international
community had many problems. One of the issues we must tackle
when we consider the legacy of colonialism is how, at the level of
representation and values, a hierarchy is established for the colonised individual. The colonised suffers from a kind
of hurt self-esteem: we, black people, colonised subjects,
are not able to govern ourselves. The issue is that racism and
colonialism are, in a certain way, a self-fulfilling prophecy, since it creates conditions
of impossibility, which means that countries
who suffered from colonialism and processes of dismantlement, economic
and often of their ethnic relations. Starting with the idea that
the postcolonial state Is an European construction. Guinea only exists because there was
a Portuguese Guinea before. Memory is very important in Guinea,
who knew a struggle for liberation had the challenge to build a nation
with multiple ethnicities, in which each ethnicity has its soil. Even though there was no nation
before independence, people like Amílcar Cabral projected
a struggle with the nation as its goal. And this nation to be built needed memory,
or memories in the plural, I should say. The operation room theatre, is called
“Comandante André Pedro Gomes”, a commander Amílcar Cabral trusted, who led special operations. On the 19th of February, 1968,
he attacked Bissalanca Airport, now Osvaldo Vieira Airport. It’s in the name of this necessity
to preserve memory that the restoration
of the Amura fortress begun. We have this picture of decay
and we are undertaking big efforts to rehabilitate the headquarters. This was the car of our comrade,
the general secretary of the party, Amílcar Cabral.
His official car. This is the radio-liberation station. Amílcar considered it a powerful weapon, more powerful than a cannon. A cannon shoots once in a while
and stops there. The national radio reached
many more people and penetrated the hearts of the people. Listening to the radio reading a newspaper touched us inside. Major Quintino doesn’t hide his pride
in the legacy of the struggle, but how do the new generations
face this legacy? I can name three fundamental legacies. First, self-determination, the fact that I can claim
my identity as Guinean. The second is turning suffering into union, building a feeling of belonging. The third legacy starts reaching the generations who didn’t live the fight for liberation. The question of the process of the struggle
for national liberation is not limited to the armed struggle. The several resistances and
the clandestine struggles are a national heritage. And not only a heritage of a
group of recognized fighters who were responsible for the
advent of independency. They gave their lives for independency but as a collective heritage,
recognised by all. It is interesting to notice how in Guinea-
Bissau even the political parties who are not the heirs of the struggle
for national liberation claim it as being part of their memory. They claim it, not only to legitimise
their actions, but to legitimise the exercise
of power, and even the fight for power. The History of Guinea-Bissau’s
post-independence is a history of fights for power, a ferocious fight,
with coups, countercoups, long cycles of instability. If we look at the process
of the building of the nation, we see it went through several phases, with several protagonists
that would reveal themselves and come up with a speech
to give legitimacy to the building of the nation in the way
they were doing it. According to the interests arising
from the social dynamics in each phase, memory was being shaped. At times it even seemed necessary
to forget Amílcar Cabral, as Flora Gomes tells us,
about the film showing the arrival to Guinea of the mortal remains
of the first General Secretary of the PAIGC. That film was a work
for my colleague Sana. The film had a huge impact, at the time of Luís Cabral
was still in Guinea. But after the 14th of November,
it was never shown again, it seemed that it was irritating and many of the leaders in the film
were no longer alive. When I see that movie
I understand the disgrace that befell this country. Of the great decision-makers of the time, I believe that no more than 20 remain. We are witnessing, and this is related
to the thought of Cabral, what I called a crisis in leadership. We had a first crisis in the leadership
at the time of the Congress of Cassacá. Another crisis came after, in 1980, A dispute of leadership between Luís Cabral and the nucleus
that would be led by Nino Vieira. The third crisis is the one
that led up to the war of the 7th of June. The 7th of June complicated the situation Cannon balls killed out the population Then died Ansumane, Veríssimo,
Tagmé na Waie Nino was beaten up, and we know
nothing about it up to this day The 7th of June, 1998 was decisive in the weakening
of the capacity of the State. We destroyed the Armed Forces, which was one of the structures
more respected in the country, together with the Catholic Church, we destroyed the few infrastructures
the State had, and we did something we can’t
measure up to today: we made the population
come out massively for the first time. Up to ’98, no one would speak
of a Guinean diaspora. Today, Guinea-Bissau has
immigrants in all continents, in large numbers, that is the result of the political
and military conflict in which it lost critical mass,
work force, and the possibility of consolidating a democratic
State of law. From 1994, the first elections,
to 2018, we had five elections: 1994, 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2012.
We had ten coups d’état. I dedicated my life to the jungle.
I faced many difficulties. I joined the fight without asking
anything from anybody. I fought to be free
and live with dignity. So that we could walk
with our own feet, as elsewhere. Me and you all.
I want you to answer me, ok. It started with Cabral. They said that Cabral
was Cape Verdean. That’s how the first coup started. Then came Luís Cabral. More Cape Verdean than black people. Coup d’état. Then came Ansumane
and Nino Vieira, and we witnessed another. Coup d’état. Exactly. Then came uncle Kumbá,
with many other people, and said they put the Balanta
in the State apparatus. And what do we see? Coup d’état. Exactly. Then came uncle Carlitos. Yah. Carlitos brought
a bunch of other problems. And then what did we get? Coup d’état! If we look at what was
the exulting memory of the independence,
1975, 1976 and 1977, and if we confront it with
what happened in the 90s and today, we see that those memories are very vulnerable
to the external geo-political circles. It is, therefore, a memory contaminated
by vaster international dynamics, by the logics of structural dependency
to which small states, such as Guinea-Bissau,
are subjected, by the ideological changes happening
in the world, from the mid 80s, reaching to the 90s,
in several African countries. This swing between disenchantment
and hope, which we can find here, is something that can only
be interpreted if we acknowledge not only the liberation struggle
as a historical event, but also the way in which
this same struggle became contaminated, and re-interpreted through
the hard 45 years of post-colonial history
in Guinea-Bissau. The disabled former fighters, who suffered mutilations
and became disabled. These people have their bodies
marked by violence. For these fighters,
the memory of the liberation fight is perennially marked in their lives,
in their existence, on their bodies. This memory takes the shape
of physical suffering, naturally, through the implications
of the disabled, but also at a social and moral level, since our society is not open enough
to talk about this past, which makes these subaltern
and subalternized memories face the suffering coming from
being silenced, and the solitude coming
from that suffering. The great complaints and demands
of the National Freedom Fighters in Guinea-Bissau
are what one would expect: better health conditions, a pension allowing them
to live with dignity… Also because it must be claimed
in Bissau, so everyone out of the city
cannot have access to it, because it’s not worth the long trip
to receive about 29 000 francs. I also think this issue of recognition
is important to them, so that their voices are heard. The motivation that sent us to this war
was what the “Big Man” Amílcar said. He’d talk to us and he’d always say
we were fighting for our land. You, the wounded, don’t think
of yourselves as invalids, as useless. Everyone here fighting
after the war must live with the National
Freedom Fighter status. You shall live with the
National Freedom Fighter status, learn new professions,
your work will be good for the people. It was thanks to our sacrifice
that we made our Republic. It’s about time you pay attention to us, those who lost everything
in the liberation of Guinea. We are not valued, for good or for bad,
we are not valued at all. On the 2nd of November 1996,
we created the Association of the Disabled of the National
Liberation Struggle, with the goal of creating the conditions
for the people disabled in the war to be able to do something
other than waiting for the State’s help. Some have the mental and physical
conditions to work in commerce, and other branches, rather than waiting, every 30 days, for their miserable pension. They consider themselves
tools of the political parties. They are called to be present
in campaigns, on stage, and immediately forgotten
straight after the elections. But I was told that,
in the first years of independence, during the presidency of Luís Cabral
and up to Nino’s coup, the situation was completely different. The breaking point they identify
in their status as former fighters was in 1980. After the 14th of November
there’s a great unbalance. The great fighters,
the really great fighters… These men deserved respect. They were already getting old,
time goes by. Those people didn’t have the means
after spending 11 years in the bush and weren’t able to learn a profession. They should have been treated
with all possible esteem, but they were forgotten. And I spoke about this in my film
“The Blue Eyes of Yonta”. Vicente! Don’t you know who I am? Sometimes I don’t know
who I am, myself. Nando? Come in. Make yourself at home. Is this your hut now? Yes. Mine and yours,
as when we were in the bush. Sit, make yourself comfortable. What would you like to drink? What do you do, down South? It’s like before the war. Nothing has changed. Nando, independence is here,
in Bissau. You must come fetch it. Bissau? I only come here
for my pension. But this time, you’ll stay and get your share
of independence You won’t find in
your old tabanka that for which we fought
so long in the bush. Nice roads, electricity, nice houses. Our land are our ideals, what we dream for it, progress… Nando, the dreams are over. This is reality. It’s not for everyone,
but it’s progress. In the jungle we thought
it had to be for everyone. But it isn’t. What can I do? Guinea-Bissau joined the gallery
of third world peoples who dared to fight
and win over colonialism, but it completely lost direction
right afterwards. It’s a kind of punishment
for those who fought, a kind of despising,
from this country’s elite, towards those who made the war. We may be far from it,
this may not be it. Here there’s a dimension which the study of memory
might bring to the surface, which is the resignation facing the abandonment of the values
important during the fight. I am Sumaila Djaló, I’m 27,
I was born in Farim, and I’m in Bissau
as a teacher in this high school,
Dr. Agostinho Neto. I teach Portuguese language. I’ve taught History, too. As a teacher, as a student
I have no words to qualify the absence of historical facts
about our country in our schools. It is shameful to see that in schools
all we know about Amílcar Cabral is his date of birth,where he was born
and when he was murdered. But Cabral is much more
than these two dates, he’s a concept. Unless we know Cabral,
we can’t know who we are. He and his companions fought
for the re-foundation of our society. We had an identity that had been
stolen from us, and Cabral and his comrades
recovered it, so that we could go back to being
Guinean people from Bissau, which we had not been
for many centuries. Those who don’t recognise this history
as the largest part of the Guinean people are lost. At the level of education,
what should be done is to instill in the minds of the youth
the values of independence, of the struggle, and of the State as such,
because, unfortunately, without that common History
being taught in schools, the youth’s behaviour and sentiment
towards their nation is conditioned. Division gained strength
The intrigue reigned For the soul of those that fell
We cry with sadness Conspiracy brought evils Take the soul of a friend Brothers in blood The consequence is one:
Implantation of hatred I’m going to break the unity
So that my family shall reign They invented coups d’état
Women became widows Those orphan children grew
Crooked in the streets There should be a democracy
For the people to have a voice Since we lost sight
Of what brought us to war I want to ask something: when is the fighter going to be valued,
recognised, respected? When? In truth, we’re all fighting
for an honourable exit. But I don’t know for how long
we’ll have veterans, there’s only a few left. Our heirs despise us too.
We didn’t teach them anything. Amílcar Cabral would say
that power doesn’t fall from trees, it is conquered! They all remained on the bench, and then they want power. How come, they want power? There’s no leader, that’s true. I’m old already, can you help me
with my reasoning? It’s hard to hear our grandchildren
say “old folks known nothing!” I take this opportunity to apologise
in the name of the Guinean youth. Even though we’re few, there’s youths
who inherited the sense of your blood. Once again, our sincere apologies
in the name of the Guinean youth. It really is revolting to hear
certain affirmations from certain youth on the bench. We, present here, are doing
enough to pick up again and practice the basic idea of the struggle for the construction
of the Guinean individual, so that we can build Guinea after him. Today a new youth culture
is starting to appear, with rap and all that, a culture of protest, cultural manifestations
of dissatisfaction from the youth, who feel they have to state
their discontent, especially because they feel helpless and see the State being led
to a situation of permanent decay, not only of the living conditions
of the populations, but also, and above all, without offering
an opportunity to the youth, who are the future of our country. This demand, for us, is extremely important. We all fought for our independence. After that, we all know we had to fight
and to organise for progress, which is the last motto, the one brought by the fighters
in the bush, of Guileje, of Boé. But where’s this progress? When we have schools
without programs, hospitals without beds for the sick, roads filled with potholes,
even in Bissau, in the heart of the capital, children dying for lack
of basic medicine, lack of schools in furthermost places, lack of a presence of the authority
of the State in those areas… Sooner or later,
the country will find itself again. There’s a new generation that is active, speaks openly,
states their opinion, and is prepared to take the future
with their own hands. They want to make their own path
and they won’t let themselves be fooled. Tradução: Mariana Vieira Revisão: Tanya Beaton
Inês Nascimento Rodrigues
Vasco Martins

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