Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990. In the 1988 battle of Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola the apartheid army was defeated by the combined forces of Cuban internationalists, Namibian freedom fighters and Angolan soldiers. This defeat paved the way for the dismantling of South Africa’s white-supremacist regime, independence for Namibia, and Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.
Namibian President Hage Geingob, the country’s founding President Sam Nujoma, and other leaders spoke at a rally of thousands to honor Fidel Castro in the country’s capital Windhoek Dec. 6. Geingob also spoke at the mass rally for Castro in Havana Nov. 29.
[T]he solidarity forged in the trenches of the battlefields of southern Angola by Cuban internationalists is a solidarity for which Namibia shall always be indebted. We recognize that there is no Cuban family who has not been touched by the war for Namibia’s independence, who was not impacted by the sacrifice required and who did not lose at least one family member or friend.
Namibia suffered under the same apartheid horrors as our brothers and sisters across the border in South Africa. A daily reality imposed with the additional whip of colonialism. Many Namibians fled and took refuge in neighboring Angola. On May 4, 1978, an attack took place on a refugee camp in Cassinga in Angola, two days after the United Nations Security Council had discussed the situation there. This aggression resulted not only in the deaths of over 1,000 Namibians that day, but also of Cuban soldiers who were en route to assist the camp.
This incident resulted in an immediate response by only one country, the Republic of Cuba. And by only one world leader in the person of Fidel Castro. He ordered that the children who had survived would be brought to Cuba where schools would be set up for them. Other Namibian children later joined them. So it was that two schools were set up on the Island of Youth in Cuba for Namibian children to study.
This story is told and retold in our country. Many of these children have gone on to be leaders in Namibia, from doctors and geologists to economists and teachers.
We further remember the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, in which Cuban soldiers also gave their lives and which led to the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 435 and the successful elections and independence of which Namibia is so proud.
Friend or foe, one must acknowledge that Fidel Castro was an extraordinary person. For who but Fidel Castro could imagine taking on the Batista army with 13 armed men, only to go on to put in place the Cuban Revolution. Fidel was motivated by service to the oppressed and self-determination of the Americas and Africa.
From him we learned that one can compromise on anything except one’s principles. We know this because the Cuban soldiers returned to their home country without benefiting economically from the African countries in which they fought.
These were the principles we witnessed as Namibians, which gave us hope and resilience. The Cuban people continued to stand tall in the face of the Soviet withdrawal from their country and subsequent near starvation of the population due to the blockade of the country by the United States of America.
Having been among those who opened the Namibian Mission in Cuba at that time I can attest to the great difficulties that the people faced.
As we gather here in honor of this life well lived we stand as sovereign nations in gratitude to a man whose footprint on this planet remains in the lives of Namibian children who are born free.
Cuban solidarity has been ‘extraordinary’
Namibian envoy speaks on Fidel Castro at UN
Cuban Revolution was ‘guide to a lifetime of action’
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