Cuba al­lies join thou­sands to hon­our Cas­tro in Ha­vana

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

HUN­DREDS of thou­sands of Cubans ral­lied for late com­mu­nist leader Fidel Cas­tro with Latin Amer­i­can and African lead­ers in Ha­vana the night be­fore his ashes are to be taken across the coun­try.

They chanted “long live the rev­o­lu­tion!” and “Fidel! Fidel!” on Tues­day at a packed Rev­o­lu­tion Square, the vast es­planade where he gave so many of his leg­endary, marathon speeches.

A gi­ant pic­ture of a young, bearded Cas­tro in his guer­rilla uni­form and ri­fle hung on the Na­tional Li­brary as his brother and suc­ces­sor, Raul Cas­tro, waved at the crowd.

“There are thou­sands of peo­ple in the square,” Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, re­port­ing from the rally in Ha­vana, said.

“The cer­e­mony be­gan with the na­tional an­them, be­fore that we saw some of the dig­ni­taries, like Evo Mo­rales of Bo­livia and Ja­cob Zuma of South Africa, take their seats on the podium. They were cheered, ap­plauded by ev­ery­one in the crowd.”

Leftist pres­i­dents Ni­co­las Maduro of Venezuela, Ecuador’s Pres­i­dent Rafael Cor­rea and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua were also among for­eign dig­ni­taries to pay trib­ute to Cas­tro.

Cor­rea praised Cas­tro’s ide­ol­ogy, telling the crowd: “We will keep fight­ing for th­ese ideas. We swear!”

South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma hailed Cas­tro as “one of the great he­roes of the 20th cen­tury,” cit­ing his op­po­si­tion to apartheid and his de­ploy­ment of Cuban troops to back An­gola’s gov­ern­ment against rebels in 1975.

Mex­ico’s En­rique Pena Ni­eto also flew in, but Colom­bian Juan Manuel San­tos, whose gov­ern­ment ne­go­ti­ated a peace deal with the Marx­ist FARC rebels in Ha­vana, did not come as ex­pected.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sup­port­ers of rev­o­lu­tion­ary groups from around the world also at­tended the cer­e­mony in Ha­vana.

“In the crowd I have seen flags from the Bask coun­try in Spain also a Sinn Fein flag from Ire­land . . . groups that would have gained sup­port of Fidel for their so-called rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideals were also present,” said Al Jazeera’s Fisher.

Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras was the only Euro­pean leader at the rally.

The lead­ers of Bri­tain, Ger­many, France, Spain and Canada all sent oth­ers to rep­re­sent them.

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who along with Raul Cas­tro ended decades of en­mity to re­store diplo­matic re­la­tions, did not at­tend. Obama’s se­nior ad­vi­sor Ben Rhodes and the top US diplo­mat in Cuba, Jef­frey DeLau­ren­tis, rep­re­sented Wash­ing­ton, but with­out the sta­tus of a “pres­i­den­tial del­e­ga­tion.”

“We con­tinue to have some sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns about the way the Cuban gov­ern­ment cur­rently op­er­ates, par­tic­u­larly with re­gard to pro­tect­ing the ba­sic hu­man rights of the Cuban peo­ple,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Sev­eral other world lead­ers also shunned the trib­ute, high­light­ing the di­vi­sive legacy of the ma­jor Cold War player. Even the pres­i­dents of friendly na­tions such as Rus­sia, China and Iran sent deputies in­stead of at­tend­ing them­selves.

China sent Vice Pres­i­dent Li Yuan­chao, while Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping vis­ited the Cuban em­bassy in Bei­jing to pay his con­do­lences, the coun­try’s for­eign min­istry said.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin skipped the cer­e­mony but de­scribed Cas­tro as a “true friend of Rus­sia.”

The Krem­lin said he held a dif­fer­ent view on his legacy to that of US pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, who has called the Cuban leader “a bru­tal dic­ta­tor.”

“Cubans are very aware that the likes of Ja­cob Zuma have made the ef­fort to come here,” said Al Jazeera’s Fisher.

“But Amer­i­cans have sent a na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor and their newly-minted am­bas­sador as their del­e­ga­tion. The Bri­tish have sent a ju­nior for­eign min­is­ter to the event. But the peo­ple in Cuba aren’t that both­ered, what re­ally mat­ters to them is that they them­selves mark the life of Fidel Cas­tro.”

The Cuban gov­ern­ment, still es­sen­tially ded­i­cated to Cas­tro’s po­lit­i­cal vi­sion de­spite some eco­nomic re­forms un­der Raul Cas­tro, has de­clared nine days of mourn­ing. That in­cluded a two-day com­mem­o­ra­tion in Ha­vana, where tens of thou­sands of Cubans have waited in long lines to pay their re­spects in Rev­o­lu­tion Square.

Cas­tro — who ruled from 1959 un­til an ill­ness forced him to hand power to his brother Raul in 2006 — died on Fri­day at age 90. The cause of death has not been an­nounced.

“Fidel would be proud to see the square over­flow­ing like this, es­pe­cially with young peo­ple,” said 46-yearold teacher Ta­tiana Gon­za­lez.

The rally fol­lowed two days dur­ing which Cubans, en­cour­aged by the gov­ern­ment, streamed past a pic­ture of Cas­tro in­side the square’s tow­er­ing mon­u­ment to in­de­pen­dence hero Jose Marti.

They were also urged to sign an oath of loy­alty to Cas­tro’s rev­o­lu­tion in books placed at schools and other pub­lic build­ings.

After Tues­day’s cer­e­mony, the urn hold­ing Cas­tro’s ashes will be taken on a “car­a­van of free­dom” across the coun­try, re­trac­ing the route his guer­rilla move­ment took to cel­e­brate the top­pling of dic­ta­tor Ful­gen­cio Batista in 1959.

The com­mem­o­ra­tions end Sun­day, when the urn will be laid to rest in the eastern city of San­ti­ago de Cuba, where 19th cen­tury in­de­pen­dence hero Marti is buried. — Al Jazeera. KAMPALA — Ugan­dan pros­e­cu­tors charged a tribal king with mur­der on Tues­day, ac­cus­ing him of back­ing a sep­a­ratist mili­tia in his king­dom where weekend fight­ing be­tween his guards and se­cu­rity forces left at least 87 peo­ple dead.

The Rwen­zu­ruru King Charles Wes­ley Mum­bere is ac­cused of com­mand­ing a mili­tia from his palace with the aim of cre­at­ing an in­de­pen­dent state strad­dling Uganda and the neigh­bour­ing Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

“Court sat this af­ter­noon. He has been charged with mur­der,” Uganda’s ju­di­ciary spokesman Solomon Muyita said, with­out giv­ing fur­ther de­tails.

Po­lice and army of­fi­cers stormed Mum­bere’s palace in the west­ern town of Kas­ese on Sun­day in a hail of gun­fire and explosions, drag­ging him out and plac­ing him un­der ar­rest after he failed to ac­cept an ul­ti­ma­tum to dis­band his royal guards, the au­thor­i­ties have said.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, fight­ing first broke out on Satur­day when a joint pa­trol of po­lice and troops was at­tacked by the royal guards and quickly spread to sur­round­ing towns.

Kas­ese dis­trict po­lice com­man­der Sam Odong said an­other 25 bod­ies had been found on Mon­day in towns out­side Kas­ese, how­ever it was not clear whether they were civil­ians or royal guards.

Po­lice had ear­lier re­ported that 16 po­lice of­fi­cers and 46 guards were killed in the weekend un­rest, bring­ing the to­tal death toll to 87. An­other 139 guards have been ar­rested. Amnesty In­ter­na­tional on Mon­day ex­pressed alarm at what “ap­pears to be shock­ing ex­am­ples of un­law­ful killings and a com­plete dis­re­gard for hu­man rights dur­ing the ar­rests”.

The Rwen­zu­ruru king­dom, of the Bakonzo tribe, is a modern one.

It be­gan as a sep­a­ratist move­ment of the same name when the Bakonzo — tired of be­ing sub­jected to the rule of an­other tribe given pref­er­ence un­der Bri­tish rule — de­clared its own king­dom in 1962.

The move led to years of blood­shed un­til a set­tle­ment was reached in 1982 in which the move­ment laid down arms in re­turn for a de­gree of lo­cal au­ton­omy.

Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni of­fi­cially recog­nised the king­dom in 2009.

How­ever, many in the re­gion still feel marginalised by the gov­ern­ment and want to cre­ate their own state known as the Yi­ira Repub­lic, unit­ing the Bakonzo and its sis­ter tribe, the Banande, in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

Uganda’s In­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Gen­eral Jeje Odongo told a press con­fer­ence that “claims and counter-claims over land rights be­tween the Bakonzo and other com­mu­ni­ties is al­leged to be one other cause of the con­flict” in the re­gion. He said a wave of at­tacks was car­ried out in 2014, leav­ing nearly 100 peo­ple dead — mostly at­tack­ers from a group known as “Youth of the King­dom”.

“In the re­cent wave of vi­o­lence the at­tack­ers have grad­u­ated into a mili­tia which is trained, uni­formed, armed, camped, and un­der a com­mand and con­trol struc­ture. This new struc­ture is com­posed of “Kil­hu­mi­raMu­tima” (the strong­hearted and keep­ers of a se­cret),” he said.

He said re­gional se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties met on Novem­ber 21 to de­cide to dis­man­tle camps set up by the mili­tia, spurring a surge of at­tacks on po­lice sta­tions and posts in the re­gion by the fight­ers who re­treated into the palace.

Odongo said ma­chine guns, pis­tols, ma­chetes, spears and petrol bombs had been found in the palace.

The king­dom has de­nied any links to the al­leged mili­tia. “At the mo­ment the in­sti­tu­tion is not ready to give a state­ment,” said palace spokesman Clarence Bwambale.

“We can’t have the fig­ures of our peo­ple killed be­cause we have been de­nied ac­cess to the palace... but def­i­nitely we lost many peo­ple.”

Kas­ese dis­trict com­mis­sioner James Mwe­si­gye on Tues­day of­fered amnesty to mem­bers of the royal guards and al­leged mili­tia who turned them­selves in, say­ing they would “be han­dled as chil­dren who went astray and have re­turned to the fold”. — AFP

King Charles Wes­ley Mum­bere

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