How Portugal's Carnation Revolution changed the fate of its colonies in Africa

Portugal this week marked the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution – a pivotal moment in the country's history and its relationship with its African colonies.

On 25 April 1974 – after almost half a century of dictatorship – the military coup opened a new era.

Led by low-ranking officers within the Portuguese army and backed by widespread public support, the so-called Carnation Revolution not only toppled Portugal's authoritarian regime but signalled the end of its colonial wars in Africa.

The dictatorship established by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar had been at war with national movements demanding freedom from the Portuguese empire for more than 10 years.

In the aftermath of the revolution, all five of Portugal's African colonies – Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Angola and Sao Tome and Príncipe – swiftly gained independence.

Those countries' heads of state were in Lisbon this week to join in the 50th anniversary celebrations – tribute to a struggle for freedom that spanned two continents.

Rebellion in Guinea-Bissau

By the spring of 1974, the battle for decolonisation was furthest advanced in Guinea-Bissau.

The country had unilaterally declared independence from Portugal in September 1973 as after 10 years of conflict that helped drive Portugal's own push for freedom.

"Many [officers] had passed through Guinea-Bissau. There were more deaths in Guinea-Bissau than anywhere else," says Mario Cissoko, who was then part of the PAIGC rebel group.

"And even the Portuguese troops – we convinced them through the radio."

Read more on RFI English

Read also:
Portugal marks 50 years of democracy with far right on rise
Kenya celebrates 60th year of independence and the role of Mau Mau rebels
France and Algeria revisit painful past in battle to mend colonial wounds