28 November 2016

Africa: Fidel's Death, Africa's Loss

Mni — Yours comradely joins President Muhammadu Buhari and in particular the progressive and peace loving peoples of the world to condole the government and finest people of Cuba over the death of comrade Fidel Castro Ruz, the iconic Cuban Revolutionary leader. Fidel presided over the great Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008. He died on Friday November 25, 2016 in Havana, Cuba at the age of 90, coming shortly after the global progressive forces marked his birthday.

A day after his death, the Western media had posthumously distorted history and presented Fidel as "a rebel and strong man" who with iron hands muzzled the people of Cuban island. The received image of Fidel in Africa, (no thanks to CNN!) is that of a defiant anti-American strong who had survived countless assassination attempts by God-knows-Who. Scandalously too, Western media audaciously carried the picture of "jubilating" Cuban residents in Florida and Miami.

Africans must be weary of received images and pictures from the Western media. At least in Africa, there is something left of our humanity; we don't celebrate the death of anybody including our ideological enemy! As president Buhari rightly observed in his tribute the late Fidel was "a genuine African friend and countries in the global South and the Non-Aligned Movement." The late Nelson Mandela observed rightly that. "The Cuban people (under Fidel leadership) hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom, and justice unparalleled for its principled and selfless character."

Its time African leaders appreciated their histography. President Ronald Regan was the 40th President of the United States who died in 1989. African leaders out smarted each other to mourn the man who was not only Africa-blind but 'visited' the continent through the bombing of Tripoli and who together with Thatcher fueled apartheid South Africa (declared a crime regime against humanity by UN), through the notorious policy of constructive engagement. The point cannot be overstated ; the real and original first "African-American President" was Fidel Castro and NOT President Barack Obama. As far back as 1975 Fidel Catsro declared "We are a Latin-African nation... .African blood flows through our veins".

Che Guevara, Fidel's comrade in revolution was in the Congo fighting with Patrice Lumumba for the liberation of Congo. In 1961, Cubans sent troops to back Algerian freedom fighters led by Ahmed Ben Bella. Cuba courageously sent as many as 30,000 Cuban volunteer troops to repel racist South African soldiers who were bent on undermining Angolan independence in 1976. In January 1975, the dying Portuguese colonial power was compelled to sign an agreement granting independence in November of that year following the struggle of People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Desperate to stem the tide of change, given that Mozambique under Frelimo also got independence same year, the racist South Africa invaded Angola from Namibia.

No independent African state was in the position to come to the rescue of Angola. Fidel's Cuba rose to the challenge and South African troops were beaten to a retreat. That singular historic Cuban resistance against South African aggression paved the way for Angolan independence in 1976! Cuba was the only frontline non-African country in the league of Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria which felt the heat and sacrifices of liberation struggle. Cuba after Nigeria led by dynamic late General Murtala Muhammed, was among the first countries to recognize MPLA. It was the country that pushed for its UN membership which was ironically vetoed by United States of Africa. Africans would also recall the historic battle of Ciuto Cuanavale in South eastern Angola in 1987 with Cuban involvement.

That historic battle against racist troops led to series of events that eventually led to Namibian independence. The value-chain of Cuban solidarity goes beyond the military. During a visit to Angola in 1977, the then Cuban defence minister, Raul Castro now Cuban president invited Angola to send 2,000 children to attend schools and universities in Cuba. Cuban doctors and nurses have served (and are still serving) in virtually all African countries as part of comprehensive development cooperation. Today Cuba is a medical super power, which stood shoulder to shoulders with Africans to confront the scourge of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone at a time America deployed soldiers as if bullets would halt Ebola virus!

Former President Shehu Shagari administration proudly hailed the Cuban doctors for their courage and sacrifices to serve in rural Nigeria scorned by Nigeria's doctors. In 2000, as many as 10,000 Cuban doctors, (one third of its total doctors!) were serving in Africa. The same solidarity applied to education. A conference sponsored by the UN Special Committee against Apartheid held in Havana in May 1976, a Cuban leader Armando Hart called racism the "ideology of the exploiters". That was at a time Britain and America were bursting sanctions against the outlaw regime and were even in bed with the hated apartheid regime through the notorious "constructive engagement" with the racists. Indeed the death of Fidel is a loss to Africans as much as the Cubans.

The real take away for President Buhari from Fidel's legacy is patriotism, selflessness and self-reliance. Buhari must heed Fidel's advice on the danger of indiscriminate loans and credits. Fidel Castro had long promoted in his decade-long battle of developmental ideas self-reliance. He once compared the debt burden "to that torment in Greek mythology in which a man is doomed to push a large stone uphill for all eternity, a stone that always rolls down again before reaching the top." Debtors, he maintained "don't need new loans". Fidel has since been proven right that most debts were "unpayable and uncollectible". We must credit the series of debt cancellation of the last two decades which Nigeria benefited during the Obasanjo administration to the audacious alternative views of Fidel Castro, and NOT the astuteness of "negotiators" who also profited from a relief!

Happily before his death, the world has wisely shifted to Cuban development paradigm after the scandalous market collapse of 2007 without acknowledging Fidel and Cubans who promoted the role the state and governance in development. Fidel's Cuba has the lowest HIV prevalent rate, thanks to education and non-commercialization of the battle against the scourge. Cuba ranks high on UN development index, much to its nurtured human capital through quality literacy and good health. In fact Cuba shows that the real "resource control" should start with human capital. Fidel is dead, long live Cuba!

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