Aristides Pereira

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Aristides Pereira, who died on 22 September at the age of 87, fought Portugal's colonial rule in the Cape Verde Islands and became the West African country's first post-independence president. He became head of state after Cape Verde won independence in 1975, ruling until 1991, when he lost the country's first democratic elections.

Born in November 1923, he was a co-founder of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, or PAIGC, in 1956. The PAIGC operated in secret in Guinea-Bissau and in Cape Verde, an archipelago 360 miles off the African coast. Pereira said he was a reluctant activist but was inspired to take up arms by the injustice of rule from Europe. "What led me into politics was the humiliation and exploitation of the Cape Verdean people and the injustices of the colonial system," he once said.

After independence in 1975 the PAIGC ruled as a Marxist one-party state, with most people living on subsistence agriculture. Economic decline and droughts worsened by overgrazing and deforestation brought a wave of emigration, especially to the US and Europe.