Regardless of what some Western leaders say, and despite the flashy – but repulsive – street celebrations in Miami, the fallen Cuban leader Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was and will forever remain a friend of Africa.
In the 1960s when the developed world was shirking Africa and siding with imperialists, Castro’s Cuba was in Algeria giving military and medical support to the people there in their struggle for independence from France.
Cubans were present when South African insurgents entered Angola in 1975. Together with the Soviet Union, Cuba deployed thousands of combat troops, advisers, tanks and fighter planes, and fought on the side of the Mozambique Peoples’ Liberation Army (MPLA) until the South Africans withdrew in 1988, opening the way for Namibia’s independence and the demise of apartheid.
Without Cuban assistance, says one media source, the apartheid army would have easily cruised into Luanda, crushed MPLA and installed a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime.
After those countries were liberated, Havana sent in doctors, teachers, and military advisers to help them achieve their goals of development.
Even now Cuban doctors still visit Ghana and Tanzania from time to time to offer medical services.
Over the years, the island nation has also given thousands of scholarships to African students to study in Cuba.
The heavily-bearded revolutionary was a true friend of Africa and formed long-lasting relationships with the continent’s most iconic leaders including Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere; Angola’s Agostinho Neto; Namibia’s Sam Nujoma; and Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, among others.
When Nelson Mandela was released from jail after 27 years in a South African jail, one of the first leaders he met was the towering Marxist-Leninist ideologist.
Perhaps Cuba’s most controversial military action in Africa was in 1977. Castro sent 15,000 troops to support the Ethiopian dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, in a territorial dispute with Somalia. Mohamed Siad Barre‘s troops were forced to retreat after incurring heavy casualties. Up to his death, Addis Ababa considered the Cuban leader a great friend and a liberator while Mogadishu saw him as an evil interventionist.
In total, Cuba sacrificed 4,300 troops in battles in Algeria, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone and Libya.
No wonder the African Union was quick to come out and condole the fallen leader. “Africa,” said the deputy chairman of the African Union Commission, “owes a lot to Cuba and its late leader Fidel Castro.”
Castro’s name remains his biggest legacy in the continent. Many children, including the eldest son of Kenya’s Opposition leader Raila Odinga are named after him.
However, appreciating Castro is not condoning acts of human rights abuses inside Cuba during his term in office. Extra-judicial killings and illegal imprisonments of innocent people must be condemned in the strongest terms regardless of where they occur and who commits them.
But to jubilate over the death of a leader who brought freedom and kindness to so many oppressed people in the world is disdainful.
I believe all human beings deserve respect and dignity in death.
Even Castro’s estranged sister, Juanita Castro, who had not spoken to his brother for 52 years because she objected to his rule, and who now lives among those who are celebrating his death, is disgusted. “Logically that reaction hurts,” the 83-year old woman told the New York Times.
This is what Castro said at the beginning of the Cuban revolution in 1953.”You can condemn me, but it doesn’t matter. History will acquit me.” Yes, indeed it will.
Kwaheri ya Kuonana Fidel! (Fare thee well, Fidel).
And that is my say.
Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of ‘Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator‘, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.
The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.
Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’ is also now on sale.
Joe’s latest book is ‘The Wretched Africans: A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements‘ which has recently been published and is now available to purchase.