No other political figure outside of Africa symbolized global solidarity with the aspirations of the people than Comandante President Fidel Castro Ruz of the Republic of Cuba.
Historical, political and cultural ties between the people of Africa and Cuba extend back over five centuries. Cuba was colonized by European empires utilizing the labor of enslaved Africans whose super-exploitation laid the basis for the rise of world capitalism and imperialism.
In a speech delivered by President Castro on April 19, 1976 in Havana commemorating the 15th anniversary of the heroic victory over exiled mercenaries coordinated by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives at Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs), the Cuban leader said: “We are a Latin African people - enemies of colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, apartheid, which Yankee imperialism aids and protects.”
Castro was responding to United States’ propaganda castigating the role of the socialist state which had deployed 55,000 of its own troops beginning in October 1975 at the request of Dr. Agostino Neto, leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the Marxist-led independence front. The MPLA which had done most of the fighting against Portuguese colonialism since 1961 was increasingly being surrounded by the U.S.-backed reactionary forces of the Front for the National Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
Cuba’s 1975-6 intervention proved decisive in the rapid consolidation of the MPLA as the ruling party in the oil-rich state of Angola in Southern Africa. Cuban internationalists would remain in Angola until 1989 after the defeat of the racist South African Defense Forces (SADF) the previous year leading to the independence of neighboring Namibia (South-West Africa) under the occupation of the apartheid regime based in Pretoria.
Africans mourn the passing of Fidel
Numerous African political leaders have expressed their condolences to the Cuban government and people. The nation of Algeria in North Africa declared eight days of official mourning in honor of the revolutionary leader who assisted in the defense of the country during the early years of national independence from France. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said of the late Cuban revolutionary:
"I salute him as an authentic defender of the values of peace, respect and national sovereignty, and of his uncompromising struggle for the rights of people to self-determination. With his passing, I lose personally, a friend and companion of more than half a century. This is also a great loss for the people of Algeria who have a special relationship with El Commandante, made of respect, admiration and mutual affection.” (Xinhua news agency)
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of the Republic of Angola said Castro was "an extraordinary figure of transcendent historical importance." Altogether approximately 350,000 Cuban internationalists served in Angola during the war against the U.S.-supported forces of counter-revolution including the well-armed and brutal SADF.
Others weighing in on the passing of Fidel Castro included Republic of Namibia President Hage Geingob of the South-west Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), the national liberation movement turned ruling political party which has maintained power in the post-apartheid state since independence in March 1990. President Geingob said the struggle in Angola “was the watershed moment in southern African liberation.” SWAPO’s military units of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) fought alongside the Angolan defense forces (FAPLA), Um Khonto we Sizwe (MK), the guerilla army of the African National Congress (ANC), and the Cuban internationalists in the battles for the total independence of Angola.
President Jacob Zuma, the current leader of the ANC ruling party of the Republic of South Africa recounted: “Castro led the Cuban revolution and dedicated his entire life not only to the freedom of the Cuban people and the right of the Cuban state to sovereignty and self-determination, but also the freedom of other oppressed people around the world.” (IOL, Nov. 26) The ANC twitter account messaged that the ruling party “received with sadness the death (on Friday night) of the great and revolutionary.”
South African Minister of Trade Rob Davies emphasized how: “Castro was one of the giants of the revolution in the 20th century. He played a pivotal role in the liberation of Southern Africa, particularly in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale – the Stalingrad of apartheid. Castro showed incredible solidarity and ensured that our fighters prevailed, making the transition in South Africa unstoppable.” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi continued stressing: “Through the Mandela-Castro initiative, Castro sent doctors to South Africa to work in rural hospitals. Cuban doctors are taught to work in primary health care which is what the world needs, and in this way Castro was ahead of his time.” (IOL, Nov. 26)
An article published in the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail quoted President Robert Mugabe who said on numerous occasions that Fidel was a great friend of Zimbabwe and Africa. Cuba and Zimbabwe have shared in the imposition of sanctions by U.S. imperialism for many years. (Nov. 27)
The Sunday Mail also noted how both President Mugabe, First Secretary of the Zimbabwe African National Union, Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Zimbabwe African People’s Union, Patriotic Front (ZAPU-PF) leader Joshua Nkomo, were indebted to the support provided by Cuba in the African revolutionary process. ZAPU-PF’s military wing, the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) enjoyed the support of the Cuban government during the guerilla campaign fought against the Rhodesian and South African armies.
Former ZIPRA cadre Grace Noko told The Sunday Mail: “When we went for training in Cuba, we were well-received and were treated well during the course of our training. We had been dropped in Angola and from there we travelled by ships for about two weeks until we reached Cuba. Castro was a warm man who hated racism and oppression. One thing I remember about him is that he hated people who despised blacks because of their color.”
Noko continued saying: “our leaders, the likes of Dr. Joshua Nkomo, were inspired by Castro. He counseled them along the lines of the right to Independence, economic freedom and the need to fight inequality. The training was well-conducted, tough and of high standard. We were trained not only to fight in the war, but also to economically liberate ourselves afterwards.”
Cuban role was enormous in the response to Ebola
In 2014, Cuban medical personnel were deployed to Liberia and Sierra Leone after the rapid spread of the Ebola pandemic. The outbreak, the worst in history, hit three West African states the hardest being Liberia, Guinea-Conakry and Sierra Leone.
Even the U.S. corporate media and government were forced to acknowledge Cuba’s phenomenal contribution to the efforts to contain and eradicate the disease which left over 11,000 people dead and thousands more gravely ill including health care professionals from these countries.
An article published by this author during the height of the Ebola pandemic on November 4, 2014 was reprinted in August of this year by the Cuban leader’s website FidelCastro.cu. This report began by stressing: “Cuban healthcare workers have played a leading role on the African continent for decades. The revolutionary government views its work in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) as a manifestation of internationalism and solidarity with Africa.”
The same article goes on to reveal that: “In a surprised twist in diplomatic protocol for Washington, the administration of President Barack Obama noted the role of Cuban doctors and nurses in Liberia where they will be working in a facility that is being reconstructed as a treatment center. Cuban healthcare workers have been deployed to Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the three countries that have been at the epicenter of the most recent and widespread EVD outbreak.”
Cuba’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Elio Savon Oliva, summed up the feelings of many Africans in regard to the legacy of Fidel Castro: “As Cubans, we console ourselves, knowing that he was a great man who did and sacrificed a lot for his country and people. He worked hard and dedicated most of his life to the betterment of his people. His death has not only robbed the Cuban people, but Zimbabweans as well. He was also a hero to the African people. President Fidel Castro supported the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe and other African states. His aim and wish was to see Africans liberated and independent. He continued to support Zimbabwe even after Independence by providing training for doctors and teachers. We say may his soul rest in peace.”(Sunday Mail, Nov. 27)
* Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire.
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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