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#GetToKnowCapeVerde

Cape Verde is a former Portuguese colony comprising of 10 islands and 5 islets. The archipelago (group of islands) lies around 500 km off the west coast of Africa. Uninhabited on their discovery in 1456, the Cape Verde islands became part of the Portuguese empire in 1495. A majority of today’s inhabitants are of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry.

Positioned on the great trade routes between Africa, Europe, and the New World, the islands became a prosperous center for the slave trade but suffered economic decline after the slave trade was abolished in 1876. In the 20th century, Cape Verde served as a shipping port.

In 1951, Cape Verde’s status changed from a Portuguese colony to an overseas province, and in 1961 the inhabitants became full Portuguese citizens. An independence movement led by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau (another former Portuguese colony) and Cape Verde (PAIGC) was founded in 1956. Following the 1974 coup in Portugal, after which Portugal began abandoning its colonial empire, the islands became independent (July 5, 1975)[1].

After achieving independence in 1975, Cape Verde was governed for 16 years as a Marxist, one-party state under the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, later renamed the African Party for Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV).  The establishment of the opposition Movement for Democracy (MPD) in 1990 helped to bring one-party rule to an end, and in 1991 the country became the first former Portuguese colony in Africa to abandon Marxist political and economic systems and hold democratic elections.

On January 13, 1991, the first multiparty elections since independence resulted in the ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) losing its majority to the Movement for Democracy Party (MPD). The MPD candidate, Antonio Monteiro, won the subsequent presidential election, and was easily re-elected in 1996. In 2001, the presidential election was more competitive, with PAICV candidate Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires narrowly defeating Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga of the MPD in the second round. The January 2006 legislative elections had a similar outcome, with the PAICV taking 41 of the 72 seats, and the MPD placing second with 29. Pires won a new five-year mandate in the February presidential election.

In August 2011 presidential election, former foreign minister Jose Carlos Fonseca of the MPD defeated Manuel Sousa of the PAICV, claiming 54 percent of the vote in a second-round runoff. International observers declared both elections to be free and fair [2].

Cape Verde enjoys a stable democratic system and elections have been considered free and fair. There is a free press, and the rule of law is respected by the State. The country is among the most democratic nations in the world, ranking 31st position in the world, according to the 2014 Democracy Index [3]. Despite the country being prone to drought, lack in natural resources and little arable land, the Cape Verde islands have won a reputation for achieving political and economic stability.

 

Independence year 5 July 1975
President Jorge Carlos Fonseca
Government Republic
Capital City Praia
GDP (2013) $2.222 billion
Population (2015) 521 000
Religion Christianity
Major Languages Portuguese, Crioulo (a mixture of archaic Portuguese and African words)
Currency Cabo Verdean escudo
Life Expectancy 71 years (men), 78 years (women)[4]

[1] Freedom House Index. Freedom in the World Index 2015: Cape Verde. Available at: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/cape-verde. (Accessed on: 2 July 2016).

[2] n 1

[3]  Democracy index. 2012. The Economist. Economist Intelligence Unit. 2013. p. 4. Available at: http://pages.eiu.com/rs/eiu2/images/Democracy-Index-2012.pdf. (Accessed on: 2 July 2016)

[4] BBC News. 2015. Cabo Verde country profile. Available at:  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13148486.

 (Accessed on: 2 July 2016).