First President of SALCUBA Jere W. Thomas making a statement whilst Cuba charge' de affairs Leonel Lazo Montalvo looks on
The Cuban Embassy in Sierra Leone Saturday celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Sierra Leone-Cuba Friendship Association (SALCUBA) at their embassy grounds on Sir Samuel Lewis Road, Aberdeen, west of Freetown.
Speaking during the celebration, President of SALCUBA Dr. Patric Don-Davis said the association has been in existence for long, even before Sierra Leone established bilateral relationship with Cuba.
He said Sierra Leone and Cuba have been enjoying friendship since the days of Siaka Stevens' All Peoples Congress (APC) government, recalling that it was in Cuba that some members of the present security, then referred to as Special Security Unit (SSU), acquired professional training.
"Sierra Leone was the first African country to have been in a relationship with Cuba in terms of friendship and has been for over 50 years. We are trying to strengthen it so that it will not die," he said, adding that Cuba has been a very good friend to Sierra Leone in diverse ways.
The SALCUBA president further narrated that during the Ebola outbreak, Cuba sent medical doctors and that during their stayone of them died and was subsequently buried in the country.
He noted that Cuba has greatly impacted the development of Sierra Leone.
"Cuba sent in lots of doctors, over 100 during the Ebola to assist. Also, they have a collaborative effort with south-south cooperation and have been sending in doctors to help our health system," he said.
He called on the government of Sierra Leone to establish an embassy in Havana, noting that there was dire need for that since Cuba has positively impacted agriculture, health and the military in Sierra Leone.
On his part, Charge' d'Affairs of the Cuban Embassy in Freetown, Leonel Lazo Montalvo, said the month of October was very special to them.
He said long ago, they started fighting against the Spanish empire, coupled with the now empire of the United States, adding that this October 31st Cuba would present a document to end the blockade with the USA.
The Cuban Charge' d'Affairs further said that on October 6th 1976, their country experienced one of the greatest terrorist acts in humanity - the crime of Barbados.
He added that over 50 years ago, young people gathered to form a friendship called SALCUBA, thus promising that his country would continue to uphold the bilateral relationship.
First President of SALCUBA, Jere W. Thomas, whilst giving the historical background of the association, said they formed the association whilst they were at Fourah Bay College in mid-1960s.
He stated that during their leisure time at the students' Union building, they read newspapers, among them GRANMA newspaper and VERDE OLIVO magazine that were sent to the union from the Cuban Embassy in Guinea.
"Reading those publications, some of us learnt about Cuba and how it was contending with the hostility of the United States of America after the overthrow of the oppressive regime of President Fulgencio Batista by the revolutionaries led by the charismatic Fidel Castro in 1969," he narrated, adding that on October 10th 1968 they formally launched the Sierra Leone Cuba Friendship Society at FBC.
The first president of SALCUBA added that after the formal launch of the association, they continued exchanging correspondences with the Cuba friendship society and in 1974 the Cuban Institute of Friendship invited two members of SALCUBA to go on a study tour.
He said that he was appointed to lead the delegation, an experience he described as a life time one.
"We are happy that Cuba has re-opened their embassy in Sierra Leone. I hope that our younger friends now leading the society will use this opportunity to revitalise the society and strengthen the fraternal bonds between our two nations."