Africa is mourning the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro who is best remembered for providing military and medical support to the continent during its transition to independence. Castro’s death was announced Friday by incumbent President and brother Raul Castro.
The late-Castro, who was Cuba’s 15th president, was revered for embracing Communism, which put him at odds with the American government.
As a result, the U.S. government imposed a trade ban on Cuba in 1962; President Barack Obama hinted this year that the ban may be lifted.
According to the 2015 book, entitled “Cubans in Angola,” Castro acknowledged the link between Cuba and Africa, which stretched back to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) notes that between the 15th and 19th centuries, millions of Africans were uprooted from the continent and transported over the Atlantic Ocean to work as slaves in America, the Caribbean, and Europe.
As a Caribbean nation, Cuba was host to 1 million African slaves.
With this background, Castro did not hesitate to assist Africa with military and medical support when it sought his help during the 1960s and 1970s for independence.
A Hand for Africa
For instance, through military assistance, Castro helped Algeria to reclaim its independence from its French colonizers in 1962, according to the book “The Cuban Military Under Castro,” which was published in 1989.
A year later, when a fragile Algeria required medical attention to recuperate from its war for independence, Castro provided it with health personnel.
And in Guinea-Bissau, Castro deployed his troops to defeat the Portuguese in the 1960s. According to the “Encyclopedia of African History,” between July 1977 and March 1978, Castro joined the Soviet Union in defeating Somalia, whose goal was to occupy the Ogaden region in Ethiopia.
Consequently, Castro was deeply respected in Africa. The 1988 book “Opportunities and Dangers of Soviet-Cuban Expansion” argues that while Cuba followed the Communist ideology, Castro’s foreign policy in Africa was different from that of the Soviet Union and keen on helping Africa attain its independence.
The 1960s and 1970s were a period when the continent was willing to forego ethnic biases and instead strive for sovereignty against the tight grips of the British, French, Italian, and Portuguese. Castro helped the continent to attain its goal; yet, he was wise enough to stay out of African affairs.
Indeed, this track record is what earns Castro the title of “Cuban Pan-Africanist.”