Adios, Fidel

African Independent - - OPINION -

THAT Fidel Castro is one of Africa’s favourite “sons” there is no doubt. Our brother from an­other con­ti­nent has cham­pi­oned many African causes, and in­spired rev­o­lu­tions at the peak of his pow­ers. His­tory speaks for it­self, and although his in­flu­ence has waned in the past 15 years, his death has re­vived de­bates around his legacy and in­flu­ence on the con­ti­nent. An­golans, Mozam­bi­cans, Ethiopi­ans and South Africans re­vere him as a hero who helped them fight im­pe­ri­al­ist mi­nor­ity rule, but to So­ma­lis, he was a gun for hire, who med­dled and in the end turned on them. Castro saw war and con­flict as an op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote his brand of in­ter­na­tional sol­i­dar­ity, but he did it with more than guns and am­mu­ni­tion. Af­ter the sol­diers came aid in the form of highly trained medics and teach­ers. He sought to win the hearts and minds of the peo­ple he wanted to free. Some say that what he achieved in An­gola ir­re­versibly changed the course of his­tory in Africa, and south­ern Africa in par­tic­u­lar. He de­stroyed the buf­fer cre­ated by colo­nial forces in Rhode­sia, Mozam­bique and An­gola – leav­ing the South African apartheid govern­ment vul­ner­a­ble. Castro was not a fair leader though, and his bru­tal crack­down on dis­sent back home and free­dom of ex­pres­sion ru­ined his im­age abroad. Castro fought for the poor and the marginalised, but he never aban­doned cor­ner­stones like ed­u­ca­tion and health. Per­haps that is the legacy we should de­mand of our cur­rent lead­er­ship in Africa as we face eco­nomic strife and en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phes. Per­haps we should de­mand more of our own sons of the soil – some of whom are reach­ing the end with lit­tle or no legacy.

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