Thursday, 1 December 2016

Fidel's African legacy

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 lib√©ration 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 brutal regime.

No comments: