Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tanzania: Reminiscences of Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution - Tanzanian Dr Salim Ahmed Salim Honored
Che Guevara in Ghana during Nkrumah's time in 1965.
By Makwaia Wa Kuhenga
Tanzania Daily News

"When mercenaries, organized and backed by the United States invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in the Southern Coast of Cuba, Tanzanian Comrade Salim Ahmed Salim just 21 years old then, coming to terms with this invasion, voluntarily appeared at the headquarters of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with Peoples to ask for a gun.

He also wanted to fight to defend Cuba." Cuban Ambassador Jorge Luis Lopez Tormo at a special function on the birthday of deceased Argentina-born Cuban Revolutionary, Ernesto Che Guevara in Dar es Salaam, Tuesday this week.

Dar es Salaam had quite a unique day Tuesday this week. The Cuban embassy, one of the oldest embassies in the country decided to remember Che Guevara, the globally renowned revolutionary, by celebrating his 88th birthday had he been around. But the Cubans had more reasons to celebrate the life of Che Guevara more than just remembering the day he was born.

Very few Tanzanians, more especially those of the new generation are aware that the renowned Cuban revolutionary, in his internationalist combat forays, had passed through and stayed in Dar es Salaam in the early sixties, four years after this country's independence. Equally, not many Tanzanians know of the contributions of their fellow countrymen in the defence of nobler causes elsewhere in this shared globe.

So this week, Tuesday the 14th ultimo, they were informed how one of their leaders, once a Prime Minister of this country and Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) now African Union, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim is recognized by other people elsewhere.

As the quotation above from the speech of the Cuban Ambassador here, this information on one of them is buoying and heartening that this country has produced revolutionaries who were even ready to die for the liberty of others elsewhere.

When Dr Salim volunteered to take up an assault rifle to be among those who would defend Cuba against American backed mercenaries at the Bay of Pigs, he was Deputy Chief of Representative of the Zanzibar office based in Havana (1961-1962).

In honouring Dr Salim Ahmed Salim with the 'Medal of Friendship' granted by the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba at the behest of President Raul Castro, the Cuban ambassador told scores of invited guests at the Cuban embassy in Dar es Salaam: "This is our dear friend and Comrade, Salim Ahmed Salim, a man characterized by courage, modesty and humility."

Reading the profile of Dr Salim, ranging from 1970 when he was Ambassador to Cuba while serving as Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the United Nations and later Chairman of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, and later President of the United Nations Security Council and subsequently General Assembly before he was appointed Secretary-General of the OAU, the Cuban envoy said: "He could have been Secretary-General of the United Nations."

He went on: "His candidacy was supported by many friendly countries, but the imperialists, concerned about a man so deeply identified with the cause of the Third World in that position manoeuvred to block him.

But what they didn't succeed to block is Dr Salim's integrity and fidelity". Indeed, this is what most Tanzanians know and respect in their fellow countryman, a man of considerable humility and integrity. In the words of Comandante Che Guevara: "Always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world.

This is the most beautiful quality in a revolutionary." Indeed Dr Salim Ahmed Salim represents in his person, these qualities. It was a befitting occasion indeed to honour one of our fellow countrymen here with this equally humble and less pompous 'Medal of Friendship' with the people of Cuba on the anniversary of the birthday of Ernesto Che Guevara which fell on 14th June 2016 as he was born on the same date in 1928. This occasion has also served to reflect on the past of this country, which was the bastion and rear base of all liberation movements.

At that time in the heat of the liberation struggle against colonialism, minority rule and apartheid, Tanzania became an effective rear base, a sanctuary for freedom fighters in southern African countries such as Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and others.

Naturally this country attracted the eye of Che Guevara who made a visit to these countries and others such as Algeria, Mali, Congo (Brazzaville) Guinea, Ghana, Benin and Egypt which countries he visited in 1964.

Narrated the Cuban ambassador this week: "In Tanzania, Che arrived and was received by Mwalimu Nyerere and met with leaders of liberation movements based in Dar es Salaam. During his stay he travelled to Zanzibar and met with President Abeid Karume and members of the Revolutionary Council."

"On April 11, 1965 he came under a false identity and camouflaged in Dar es Salaam where he organized support to Congolese rebels providing supplies and training. His presence was secret.

After arriving in Tanzania, Che's name was "Tatu"," revealed Cuban Ambassador Tormo to his guests at the embassy to celebrate Che's 88th birthday. He went on: "President Nyerere had given his nod to Cuban participation and the use of Tanzanian territory for transportation of fighters and supplies.

"On April 20, 1965 the first group of 14 Cubans including Che left Dar es Salaam to Kigoma and on April 24th left for the Congo where he remained until 20 November, 1965.

"Following his departure from the Congo, Che hid in one of the apartments of this embassy, where he wrote his memoirs of his visit to that country, a work that was concluded in January 1966 and published in 1999 titled: 'Passages of Revolutionary War: Congo'."

It was indeed a very exciting moment when Cuban Ambassador Tormo invited his guests to the secret apartment, which Che Guevara stayed during his stay in Tanzania, decorated with the guerrilla fighter's pictures.

I was among the invited guests into Che's secret apartment, including his bedroom. How hilarious it was to walk into history, revolutionary history of an internationalist combatant, Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara.

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