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The Last of Africa's Cold War Conflicts (Hardback)

Portuguese Guinea and its Guerilla Insurgency

Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Cold War

By Al J Venter
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 40 black and white
ISBN: 9781526772985
Published: 10th June 2020



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Portugal was the first European country to colonise Africa. It was also the last to leave, almost five centuries later. During the course of what Lisbon called its “civilizing mission in Africa” the Portuguese weathered numerous insurrections, but none as severe as the guerrilla war first launched in Angola in 1961 and two years later in Portuguese Guinea. While Angola had a solid economic infrastructure, that did not hold for the tiny West African enclave that was to become Guine-Bissau. Both Soviets and Cubans believed that because that tiny colony- roughly the size of Belgium - had no resources and a small population, that Lisbon would soon capitulate. They were wrong, because hostilities lasted more than a decade and the 11-year struggle turned into the most intense of Lisbon's three African colonies.

It was a classic African guerrilla campaign that kicked off in January 1963, but nobody noticed because what was taking place in Vietnam grabbed all the headlines. The Soviet-led guerrilla campaign in Portuguese Guinea was to go on and set the scene for the wars that followed in Rhodesia and present-day Namibia.

"Venter was one of the few journalists who had the opportunity to visit the Portuguese areas affected by the conflict and report on the events there without restriction."


This is well-researched, clearly written and highly-recommended.

The Historian

This volume's numerous insights about the components of effective counterinsurgency also apply to the current management of counterinsurgencies in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International

One of the least known surrogate hot wars of the Cold War. The first European power to establish colonies in Africa was Portugal and this book provides an insightful review of the last insurrection in what had been the Portuguese Empire – Highly Recommended

Read the full review here


This is fascinating and well-written account of a war that few remember. Anyone interested in Africa’s wars against European powers will want to read this book, while modern warfare students will glean much from it too. The Last of Africa’s Cold War Conflicts is one of the better books on war that I have read in 2020.

Beating Tsundoku

About Al J Venter

Al J. Venter is a specialist military writer and has had 50 books published. He started his career with Geneva’s Interavia Group, then owners of International Defence Review, to cover military developments in the Middle East and Africa. Venter has been writing on these and related issues such as guerrilla warfare, insurgency, the Middle East and conflict in general for half a century. He was involved with Jane’s Information Group for more than 30 years and was a stringer for the BBC, NBC News (New York) as well as London’s Daily Express and Sunday Express. He branched into television work in the early 1980s and produced more than 100 documentaries, many of which were internationally flighted. His one-hour film, Africa’s Killing Fields (on the Ugandan civil war), was shown nationwide in the United States on the PBS network. Other films include an hour-long programme on the fifth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as well as AIDS: The African Connection, nominated for China’s Pink Magnolia Award.

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