Home Africa MUST READ: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Fidel Castro’s Relationship With Africa

MUST READ: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Fidel Castro’s Relationship With Africa


Photo: sabc.co.za/Reuters

Fidel Castro was a revolutionary leader and president of Cuba from January 1959 to February 2008 when he formally ceded power to his younger brother, Raul Castro, due to his ailing health.

During his stay in power, Castro enjoyed good relations with African leaders and liberation activists such as the late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Augustinho Neto of Angola.

He died on November 25, 2016, aged 90 years.

Below are ten things to know about Fidel Castro’s relationship with Africa.

Cuban Army (Photo: commondreams.org)

Cuban Army

Military Intervention in Angola

In November 1975, Castro sent about 36,000 troops to Angola, to support the country fight off a military invasion by its neighbor, South Africa. South Africa had attacked the country after MPLA allowed South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO), to set up a base near its border with Namibia. SWAPO was a liberation movement in the region, fighting for the Namibia’s independence, with support from Angola.

Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela.

Inspired Mandela

While serving his 27-year jail-term on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela drew inspiration from revolutionary books written by Castro. After his release in 1990, Mandela said, “We have come here today recognizing our great debt to the Cuban people. What other country has such a history of selfless behavior as Cuba has shown for the people of Africa.”

Photo: nazret.com

He sent 1000 soldiers to support Ethiopia against Somalia

In February 1977, Castro sent 1000 soldiers to help Ethiopia in its bid to annex the Ogaden region from Somalia. After the successful annexation, Haile Mariam who led the military incursion was photographed celebrating alongside Castro.

Newly trained al-Shabab fighters, Lafofe area, 2011. Photo: Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

Newly trained al-Shabab fighters, Lafofe area, 2011.

Hated by Somalis

Many Somalis blame Castro for the loss of lives and destruction of the Greater Somalia in the 1977 war with Ethiopia. Most of them voiced hatred for Castro, following his death on Friday, describing him an imperialist warmonger.

CORD leader Raila Odinga at a protest against the IEBC The-Star.co.ke

CORD leader Raila Odinga at a protest against the IEBC

Kenya’s Opposition firebrand Raila Odinga named his son after Castro

Raila Odinga, the opposition leader in Kenya and one of the nation’s revered democracy fighters, named his son after the Cuban leader. In his autobiography, Raila Odinga; An Enigma in Kenyan Politics, the leader tells how Castro inspired him to name his first born ‘Fidel’ in 1973.


Medical Support

The Cuban leader initiated medical support partnerships with several countries. In 1963, Castro sent doctors to help treat Algerian combatants injured during the independence war against former colonial master, France. Currently, there are more than 1,500 Cuban medical practitioners serving in the North African nation. Several other countries including Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau have also benefited from the medical assistance. Cuban medical team was key during the fight of Ebola in West Africa

thomas sankara and fidel castro (Photo: Louis Allday ‏@Louis_Allday/Twitter)

thomas sankara and fidel castro

Liberation in Southern Africa

Castro provided military and ideological support to liberation movements, mainly in Southern Africa. Cuba provided training to libration fighters from countries like South Sudan, which had very little links to the Latin America country.  The links are still alive decades later and security and intelligence officers from Angola go for training in Cuba.

MTHATHA, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 14: A man poses in a free t-shirt which was one of many given away to the crowds, as he waits for the funeral cortege of former South African President Nelson Mandela to pass by on its way to his family's rural home December 14, 2013 in Mthatha, South Africa. Mandela's body will remain in his home town of Qunu, Eastern Cape, overnight and be buried Sunday. Mr. Mandela passed away on the evening of December 5, 2013 at his home in Houghton at the age of 95. Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in jail for his activism against apartheid in a racially-divided South Africa. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Love for South Africa

Castro had strong ties to the fight against the nation’s apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela, the first black president of independent South Africa drew inspiration from Castro and the Cuban Revolution, when he started the fights against racial oppression. During Mandela’s visit to Cuba in 1991, Castro said, “I have not visited my homeland South Africa, but I love it as if it were my homeland.” When Castro visited the country to attend Mandela’s inauguration in 1994, he addressed an assembly by the founding party, African National Congress (ANC).

Fidel Castro and Tanzania's first President Julius Nyerere (Photo: tanzaniasafariszanzibartravel.org)

Hunting expedition in Tanzania

Castro flew to the East African nation for a hunting expedition and sight-seeing tour in 1974. The trip was also part of his desire to strengthen socialist and Marxist governments on the continent.


He slammed NATO’s attack on Libya

Castro criticized North-Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO)-led military offensive in Libya in October 2011. He also expressed disappointment on the in-dignified treatment of fallen strongman, Muammar Gaddafi’s body after rebels killed him. He said Gaddafi’s body was kidnapped and exhibited like a trophy of war, an act that was religiously demeaning.

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