Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cuba and Africa: A Legacy of International Solidarity Continues

Cuba and Africa: A Legacy of International Solidarity Continues

President Raul Castro visits Egypt, Algeria, Namibia and Angola

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

In a visit to four African states, Cuban President Raul Castro, continued the decades-long legacy of international solidarity with the peoples of the continent. Castro, who recently stepped-down as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement at its summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, was hailed at the gathering in July for Cuba's contributions to the liberation and development of Africa.

At the NAM Summit, even the pro-western government of Egypt voiced its gratitude and recognition of the Cuban state for its sterling efforts during its leadership of the 118-member organization that represents developing countries largely from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In an article covering the NAM summit, Granma International reported that the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, praised Cuba's commitment to the defense of the organization's principals and political interests of its membership.

"Our aspiration is that Cuba will continue with those efforts in the context of its role as a member of the NAM troika," Gheit said. Egypt will take over the leadership of NAM for the next three years.

After leaving Egypt, President Castro visited the state of Algeria for high-level talks with the government. Algeria and Cuba both have a history of armed struggle against colonialism and international solidarity with fraternal national liberation struggles in Africa.

Cuba, which became a genuinely independent state after the triumph of the revolution in 1959, preceded Algeria, which won its liberation in 1962 from France after a seven year armed struggle against French imperialism between 1954-1961. Algeria lost over a million of its people during the liberation war and has since assisted other independence movements in southern Africa as well as providing an international headquarters for the Black Panther Party during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Cuba and the Liberation of Southern Africa

President Castro also traveled to the southern African nation of Namibia during his tour of the continent. Namibia, which won its national independence in 1990 after a 13-year armed and mass struggle against the racist apartheid settler regime formerly based in South Africa, fought alongside the Cuban internationalist forces in Angola between 1975-1988.

The liberation movement in Namibia, the South-West African Peoples Organization (SWAPO), which is now the ruling party controlling the state, has been a close ally of Cuba since its formation in 1959. The revolutionary government of Cuba provided military and political training to SWAPO cadres for many years and it was this alliance between SWAPO, Cuba, the African National Congress of South Africa and the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) that defeated the racist apartheid military forces that occupied southern Angola for many years.

Cuba provided 250,000 of its own troops to fight for the total liberation of Angola and Namibia between 1975-1988. In 1975, MPLA leader and Angola's first President Agostino Neto, invited the Cuban military to assist in defeating an invasion of the southern region of the country by the racist South African Defence Forces who entered Angola to prop-up the reactionary UNITA bandits who sought to maintain the country under imperialist influence even after it became an independent government.

In early 1976, the SADF was routed and UNITA was contained to limited areas inside the country. However, the United States-supported racist apartheid regime continued to invade and occupy areas in Angola requiring the ongoing presence of the Cuban internationalists for many years. After the disastrous defeat of the SADF by the joint military forces of Angola, Cuba, SWAPO and the ANC in 1987-88, the conditions were created for a negotiated settlement leading to the withdrawal of SADF forces from Angola and the realization of the independence of Namibia.

With the independence process in Namibia, the apartheid regime in South Africa realized that it had no choice but to relinquish power. The release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners in South Africa in early 1990 resulted in the negotiations that brought about the demise of apartheid and the ascendancy of the ANC to power where they have remained over the last 15 years.

The Legacy of Solidarity Continues

President Castro made a two-day official state visit to Namibia on July 19-20. He was commended for Cuba's contribution to the fight against settler-colonialism and imperialism in the region. Also Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba condemned the United States for its continuing economic blockade of Cuba.

At a state banquet honoring Castro, President Pohamba encouraged the international community to denounce the sanctions against Cuba, pointing out that these measures are hampering the development of the Caribbean island-nation. Pohamba also called for the release of the Cuban Five who are being held by the United States for their efforts to prevent further attacks on the people of the island.

Pohamba said during the state banquet that "The people of Cuba have weathered many storms and challenges despite externally imposed hardships." He praised Cuba for welcoming in solidarity thousands of exiled Namibians to study in Cuban educational institutions during the liberation struggle.

"These Namibians are today making tremendous contributions to our nation building and the development of our society. The sacrifice and commitment of the Cuban internationalist forces in Africa to help their brothers and sisters in their just cause for freedom and sovereignty will always be remembered by the present and future generations," Pohamba declared.

During his visit, Castro also held discussions with former Namibian president and SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma. In addition, he toured Heroes' Acre where a wreath was laid in honor of the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the independence of the country.

Prior to leaving Namibia, the two governments issued a joint statement pledging continued cooperation and solidarity.

Some aspects of the joint communique state that: "Both presidents confirmed with pleasure the excellent state of bilateral relations between the two countries. At the same time, they reaffirmed their full commitment to establish and expand economic and commercial links to the benefit of both countries and expressed their satisfaction at the positive progress of cooperation between Cuba and Namibia, particularly in the fields of health and education."

In regard to the international situation, the joint Cuban-Namibian communique states that: "Both presidents agreed, moreover, to undertake joint efforts to contribute to the construction of a world of peace, justice and solidarity and to further increase mutual aid and cooperation in multinational forums, in particular via the United Nations, the G77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, within the framework of South-South cooperation." (Granma International, July 20)

After leaving Namibia, President Castro traveled to neighboring Angola where he had a working visit with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Both countries signed an accord for greater coooperation in the telecommunications field.

The Angolan minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, Jose Rocha, said that "We are aware of the large developments in the research fields carried out by that Latin American country, mainly in the computing domain." (Granma International, July 21)

Minister Rocha said that the two governments are planning to "share experience and outline a program that permits the training of Angolan personnel, with a view to meeting the problems in the area. Angola and Cuba last February 2009 in Luanda signed four legal accords aimed at strengthening and widening bilateral cooperation in the areas of Geology, Mining, Industry and Education." (Granma International, July 21)

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