BY: Peter Lokarlo Ngrimwa (PhD), Australia, DEC/05/2016, SSN;
Fidel Castro emerged on the political scene by toppling the US-backed totalitarian regime of President Fulgencio Batista in January 1959 in Havana. In what plainly amounted to an act of desperation for the change of guard in Havana, the US yet mounted a military assault on Cuba, supported by significant numbers of CIA operatives including 1,400 Cuban exiles led by a certain José Miró Cardona.
The ultimate goal was the overthrow of Castro and the establishment of a non-communist government subservient to Washington, but the invasion was botched, in reality it was a total fiasco, as the invaders were trounced by the determined Cuban defenders much to the consternation of President John F. Kennedy and former President Eisenhower who had earlier approved the bloody program back in March 1960. Six (6) B-26s war planes were shot down by the Cuban defenders, thus ending the Washington’s sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion.
The Cuban government began its support for liberation movements in Africa very soon after Fidel Castro assumed power – in 1960, the country sent aid to the Algerian National Liberation Front (known by their French initials FLN) in the form of military and medical supplies during the latter’s struggle under French rule and struggle for independence. Cuba also aided Kwame Nkrumah’s government in Ghana in the early 1960s, but the Ghanaian military backed by the CIA toppled Kwame Nkrumah. The CIA-backed coup was part of the Cold War conflict of the time as President Nkrumah was seen as an ally of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
In early 1965, a major figure of the Cuban Revolution, Cuban-Argentinian Ernesto “Che” Guevara travelled to the Congo to offer his support as a guerilla in the Congo conflict, along with a 12-man core group and with approximately 100 Afro-Cubans. “Che” Guevara was sent by Castro to establish rapport with the Simba rebels who were resisting the CIA-Belgian recruited white mercenary forces supporting the marionette regime of Joseph Desire Mobutu in Kinshasa.
When Africa became a combat zone in the 1960s between the Cold War powers, Cuba surfaced as a friend of the liberation movements on the continent. Cuba’s commitment in Africa went beyond the ideological standoff between right and left to a real helping hand of the Biblical Samaritan.
Without the massive exertion and assistance from the late Cuban leader, Namibia (SWAPO) might certainly not have attained political independence from the Pretoria white racist regime and Apartheid might have remained intact in South African.
During the apartheid regime in South Africa, Cuba supported the African National Congress (ANC) in their armed struggle, providing both military and technical support; it also supported liberation movement of SWAPO in Namibia. From the 1960s-80s, smaller military operations were active in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Benin.
Fidel Castro extended a helping hand to ZAPU (Zimbabwe African National Union) of Southern Rhodesia (now the ruling Party in Zimbabwe) which was under the draconian rule of Ian Smith. Without Fidel Castro Angola would have been recolonized by South Africa after its liberation from the Portuguese colonial rule in 1975, courtesy to the USA monumental sustained support for both South African marauding forces of doom and the loathsome UNITA rebels led by Jonas Savimbi whose annual budget was passed by the US Congress.
Fidel Castro had sent 36,000 combat troops supported by Tanks, MiG fighters, MI-24 attack helicopters and considerable number of 40-barreled Multiple-rocket launchers (Stalin Organ) to Angola that finally dislodged and decimated the South Africans occupation troops in Angola and compelled the USA administration to hastily arrange for peace accommodation between the MPLA government of Agostino Neto in Luanda and the Pretoria regime. Samora Michel of Mozambique had obtained support from Fidel Castro for the liberation of his country.
From 1977 to 1978, Cuba had stationed 15,000 soldiers in Ethiopia to help drive away the US-backed Somali troops that had invaded Ethiopia in the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia.
In the mid- 1980s in the wake of the interlocking wars in the Sudan between the government and the SPLA insurgents, hundreds of children were airlifted from refugee camps to Cuba for education. Even a number of SPLA military personnel were sent for training in Cuba.
In this context I see little or no reason for South Sudan not to honour Fidel Castro.
Hence, Castro’s support for Africa’s liberation led him to meet with some of the continent’s leaders including Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia, Samora Michel of Mozambique, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Arguably, Fidel Castro has secured an indelible mark on the dossier of the continent.
Peter Lokarlo Ngrimwa (PhD)