The announcement of the death of Cuba’s revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro has been received with mixed reactions especially by Cubans both home and in the diaspora.
But as a towering figure who stayed true to his Marxist-Leninist ideology even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is quite clear why even in death, Castro could still get people divided.
If there was one region however that benefited or so it seemed, from the rise of Fidel Castro as leader of Cuba, it was Africa.
Quite apart from his contribution to the liberation struggles on the African continent in the past, some countries on the continent, including Ghana, still benefit from the health-care services provided by Cuban doctors who visit the country on rotational basis.
Back to the 1950s when Castro and his cohorts including Ernesto Che Guverra and his brother Raul were plotting to free Cuba from the right-wing dictator, Fulgencio Batista, extending his liberation struggle beyond the Americas was probably not in the plan.
Fast forward to the rise of the Black Power movements in the 1960s as well as the pan African movements of the 1970s and you would notice that the struggle for liberation from colonial powers by Africans got a little help from the western hemisphere.
Fidel Castro joined two major battles on the African continent – in Angola and Ethiopia at the height of the cold war – as he was convinced that the global stage for the world revolution was happening in Africa.
Responding to calls for help from the Angolan Marxist guerrilla leader Agostinho Neto who had seized Luanda during a bloody war from the Portuguese, Castro sent troops to Angola.
Cuba’s involvement in battles far away from home however came at a cost. Some 4,300 Cubans are believed to have died in conflicts in Africa, half of them in Angola alone. Experts however say the numbers have been sharply underestimated.
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, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Cuban soldiers are documented to have fought alongside Nambians and South Africans to prevent the apartheid regime from spreading all over southern Africa.
Cuban troops have since the 1960s, served in Algeria, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone and Libya.