The Cape Verde Islands were uninhabited prior to the advent of Europeans. The islands of the Cape Verde archipelago were discovered in 1456 by Genoese and Portuguese navigators. According to official Portuguese records, the initial discoveries were made by António de Noli, a Genoa native who was later named governor of Cape Verde by Portuguese King Afonso V. Diogo Gomes (who was with António de Noli and claimed to be the first to arrive on and name Santiago island), Diogo Dias, Diogo Afonso, and the Italian (Venice-born) Alvise Cadamosto are among the other navigators cited as having contributed to discoveries in the Cape Verde archipelago.
In 1462, Portuguese immigrants came in Santiago and established Ribeira Grande (today known as Cidade Velha to prevent confusion with the town of Ribeira Grande on the Santo Anto island). The first permanent European settlement in the tropics was Ribeira Grande.
The Atlantic slave trade flourished the archipelago in the 16th century. Pirates would sometimes assault Portuguese villages. Sir Francis Drake, an English corsair privateering under an English crown-granted letter of marque, sacked the (then) capital Ribeira Grande twice in 1585, while it was a member of the Iberian Union. Following a French invasion in 1712, the town’s significance decreased in comparison to neighboring Praia, which became the capital in 1770.
The decline of the slave trade in the nineteenth century caused an economic catastrophe. Cape Verde’s early wealth faded over time. The islands’ location astride mid-Atlantic trade routes, on the other hand, gave Cape Verde an excellent site for ship resupply. Mindelo (on the island of So Vicente) became a significant economic center throughout the nineteenth century due to its superb harbor. In 1832, diplomat Edmund Roberts paid a visit to Cape Verde.
With limited natural resources and little long-term investment from the Portuguese, the people became more dissatisfied with the colonial rulers, who refused to give the local government greater authority. In an effort to temper rising nationalism, Portugal altered Cape Verde’s status from colony to overseas province in 1951. In 1956, Amlcar Cabral and a handful of fellow Cape Verdeans and Guineans formed the clandestine African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (in Portuguese Guinea) (PAIGC).
It called for better economic, social, and political circumstances in Cape Verde and Portuguese Guinea, and it served as the foundation for the two countries’ independence movements. In 1961, the PAIGC launched an armed revolt against Portugal after relocating its headquarters to Conakry, Guinea. Acts of sabotage ultimately escalated into a war in Portuguese Guinea, pitting 10,000 PAIGC fighters backed by the Soviet Bloc against 35,000 Portuguese and African troops.
Despite the presence of Portuguese soldiers, the PAIGC controlled most of Portuguese Guinea by 1972, but the group made no effort to undermine Portuguese authority in Cape Verde. Portuguese Guinea gained de jure independence in 1974 after declaring independence in 1973. A nascent independence campaign, headed by Amlcar Cabral, who was murdered in 1973, was handed over to his half-brother Lus Cabral, and resulted in the archipelago’s independence in 1975.
Following the revolution in Portugal in April 1974, the PAIGC became an active political organization in Cape Verde. The PAIGC and Portugal reached an agreement in December 1974 that established a transitional administration comprised of Portuguese and Cape Verdeans. Cape Verdeans elected a National Assembly on June 30, 1975, which received the instruments of independence from Portugal on July 5, 1975. Most African nations banned South African Airways from conducting overflights in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but Cape Verde permitted them and became a hub for the airline’s flights to Europe and the United States.
Relations between Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau deteriorated immediately after the November 1980 coup in Guinea-Bissau. Cape Verde abandoned its hopes for unification with Guinea-Bissau and established the African Party for Cape Verdean Independence (PAICV). Since then, the problems have been addressed, and the nations’ ties have improved. From independence until 1990, the PAICV and its predecessor created a one-party system and governed Cape Verde.
In response to mounting calls for pluralistic democracy, the PAICV convened an emergency congress in February 1990 to debate proposed constitutional amendments to eliminate one-party control. In April 1990, opposition organizations in Praia formed the Movement for Democracy (MPD). They campaigned together for the opportunity to run in the December 1990 presidential election.
On September 28, 1990, the one-party state was dissolved, and the first multi-party elections were conducted in January 1991. The MPD gained a majority of seats in the National Assembly, while António Mascarenhas Monteiro, the MPD’s presidential candidate, beat the PAICV’s nominee with 73.5 percent of the vote. Legislative elections in December 1995 strengthened the MPD’s National Assembly majority. The party gained 50 of the 72 seats in the National Assembly.
President Monteiro was re-elected in a presidential election held in February 1996. Legislative elections in January 2001 restored the PAICV to power, with the PAICV having 40 of the National Assembly seats, the MPD 30, and the Party for Democratic Convergence (PCD) and Labour and Solidarity Party (PTS) each holding one. Pedro Pires, a PAICV-backed presidential candidate, beat former MPD leader Carlos Veiga by just 13 votes in February 2001.