The funeral of Fidel Castro on 4 December is stirring up fiercely partisan reactions. But in Africa there is almost universal praise for the Cuban leader, especially his support for anti-colonial struggles and his despatch of some 50,000 doctors across the continent. Castro told the South African Parliament in 1998 that at least 380,000 Cuban troops had fought 'hand-in-hand with African soldiers for national independence and against foreign aggression'. Cuba’s casualty rate in its Africa wars was proportionately much higher than that of United States forces in Vietnam.
The difference was that Cuba's intervention worked in Angola.
After Cuban troops helped their Angolan counterparts win the battle of
Cuito Cuanavale in 1987-88 against Jonas
Savimbi's rebels and South
African special forces, the apartheid regime pulled back from its
regional military ambitions almost immediately. Angola negotiated a
peace deal, Namibia secured
Independence and South Africa started
negotiations for free elections.
Cuba's backing for the national liberation struggles in Cape
Verde and Guinea Bissau
in the 1970s is also celebrated, as is its
support for Algeria's Front de libération nationale against France. It
was in its interventions in the Horn of Africa that Cuba's policy went
badly wrong. In Ethiopia and Somalia, Cuba was seen as the Soviet catspaw changing sides in the war between those two countries on
Moscow's orders and then unsuccessfully trying to prop up Mengistu's