Castro’s Relevance to Africa

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On the early morning of Saturday, November 26, the world awoke to news of the death of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, whose demise actually occurred on Friday morning, November 25.

Fidel left public life in 2006 due to ill health, leaving power in the hands of his brother, Raul Castro.

Following the news of his death, US President-elect Donald Trump, according to BBC, described Castro as a “brutal dictator who suppressed his own people during his tyrannical regime”, a comment that set off diverse views on the leadership of the late Cuban leader.

The BBC also reported that dissident Cubans in Florida in the United States, upon hearing of Castro’s death burst into joyous celebration, with some expressing regret that he was not prosecuted in a criminal court for his alleged brutal regime.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, quoted by the BBC, however, acknowledged Castro’s leadership in making Cuba one of the most recognized literate societies with a resilient health care system providing universal free health care to its citizens.

Russia and China have expressed remorse over Castro’s demise on grounds that he was a communist and a true revolutionary leader who stood by his decision and principles to defend the communist ideology and his country.

Amid diverse reactions from around the world over the death of Castro, how impactful was his style of leadership on Liberia and other African countries?

During the Ebola crisis in 2014 in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, Cuban doctors were sent to the sub-region to help contain the disease.

According to the Cuban Embassy near Monrovia, over 48 Liberians have benefited from training in medicine in Cuba, which Chargé d’Affaires Yordenis Despaigne Vera says solidifies Liberia-Cuba relations.

Liberia and Cuba have been in mutual diplomatic relations since the 19th century especially when Liberia pleaded for lifting of the economic blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba.

At the continental level, Dr. Stephen Wilkinson, Editor of the International Journal for Cuban Studies, told BBC in his analysis that many African countries benefited from Castro’s regime despite the economic blockade on Cuba.

Dr. Wilkinson said Fidel Castro’s regime identified with liberation movements in Africa and during their struggle for independence on the continent, Castro helped many of them with military aid.

Among countries that received military aid from Cuba are Angola, South Africa, Mozambique, the Congo, Algeria, and Ethiopia.

During the Angolan civil war that was fought between the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) between 1975 and 2002, Castro supported MPLA with military aid against the US backed UNITA rebels.

His regime also condemned the inhumane treatment perpetrated against black South Africans; and since 1996, South Africa benefitted from “Cuba Medical Internationalism.”

During the Mozambican civil war that started on September 25, 1964 and ended with a ceasefire on September 8, 1974, Cuba was among countries, including the defunct Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and China, that supported the Mozambique Liberation Front (otherwise known as the FRELIMO).

In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s crisis during the fight for independence, a Cuban Expedition Unit led by Che Guevara trained Marxist rebels to fight against the weak central government of Joseph Kasa-Vubu along with the forces of Mobutu Sese Seko.

South African President Nelson Mandela visited Cuba after he left office in 1991 and extended gratitude to Castro for standing by the suffering black South Africans.

Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano early Saturday morning expressed his condolences to the people of Cuba for Castro’s passing, remembering the revolutionary role he played during that country’s struggle for independence.

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