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Cuban Solidarity- a source of inspiration worldwide

By Paul T. Shipale
On Monday, June 10 2013, it was reported that as part of the bilateral agreement between Namibia and Cuba, Twenty five (25) Cuban government medical specialists arrived in Namibia on Thursday June 6.

An additional 45 medical specialists are scheduled to arrive before the end of this month. The arriving medical specialists are to be deployed to referral and intermediate hospitals throughout the country. In addition, 250 medical students are placed in medical schools in Namibia, the SADC Region and the world over as part of the Ministry of Health's strategy to address the acute shortage of specialized medical personnel in the state facilities.

This Friday the 21st of June, Mama Miriam Rodriguez will arrive in Namibia from the Island of Youth in Cuba. Mama Rodriquez, for those who don't know her, is the teacher who took care of the Namibian students in Cuba as her own, especially those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after the horrendous Cassinga Massacre, on the 4th of May 1978.

Lest we forget, this barbaric attack was carried out by about 500 apartheid South African paratroopers in an operation code named "Reindeer" under the overall command of socalled Maj. Gen. Ian Gleeson.

The result of this barbaric military attack on innocent Namibian refugees inside Angola was a massacre of more than 1,000 dead and wounded, many missing, and many others who were taken as prisoners to a concentration camp at KaiGanaxab, 11 km west of Mariental.

On that fateful day, we were helped and consoled by many friends around the world, more specially the revolutionary people of Cuba under the leadership of El Commandanté Fidel Castro Ruz. By his invitation, the children who survived the traumatic experience of the Cassinga massacre were taken to Cuba. Two schools were set up at the Island of Youth where thousands of young Namibians were educated at the Hendrik Witbooi and Hosea Kutako high schools as well as other institutions of high learning in Cuba.

Support and solidarity from Cuba to Namibia and other African countries has a long history. We owe our freedom to the heroic men and women who occupied the trenches and sacrificed their lives in rebuffing the Apartheid machine. Our struggle icon and Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma expressed the following profound revolutionary words regarding the battle of Cuito Cuanavale: "Cuito Cuanavale was the turning point in the struggles for the liberation of the continent and our people from Apartheid colonialism".

Forty thousand Cuban combatants, nine hundred and ninety eight tanks, six hundred armoured transport vehicles, one thousand and six hundred artillery pieces, mortars and anti-aircraft defence deployed by the Cuban revolutionary government at the battle site of Cuito Cuanavale, was an extraordinary act of selfless international solidarity.

The epic event of historic proportions that nourished the brotherhood between the Republic of Cuba and the people of the African continent started immediately after the historic battle of Playa Giron, when the Commander in Chief, Fidel Castro, dispatched a warship that undertook a long courageous journey of humane solidarity to Algeria. The warship the Bay of the Nipel carried weapons to the (FLN) National Liberation Front, to assist the newly born revolutionary Republic of Algeria against the looming expansionist invasion by the Moroccan monarchy.

On its voyage back to the revolutionary Island of Cuba, the Island of the heroic woman of African descent Mariana Grajales, the mother of the Cuban revolution, the mother of the outstanding revolutionary Antonio Maceo, the warship the Bay of Nipel carried back home a precious cargo from the African soil. That precious cargo of a hundred wounded Algerian freedom fighters and war or phans, would as a result of this historic link between Cuba and the African continent, become the first patients and students from our continent to be received by the generous hands of solidarity.

The arrival of the warship the Bay of the Nipel on African shores reverberated with the graveside of the heroic woman of the African continent, Carlotta who was captured and brutally executed by the Spanish, for having demanded the freedom and equality of her brothers and sisters, forcefully exploited and oppressed as slaves. She was tied to several horses that were forced to run in opposing directions, badly tortured, broken and disfigured, and without mercy shot to death.

As a gesture of appreciation for the contributions of this extraordinary slave woman from the African continent, the Commander in Chief coded the massive military operation by the revolutionary forces of Cuba in Angola as Operation Carlotta.

This episode illustrates the most profound historical link between the African continent and the people of Cuba. Since the great historic rare moment of the triumph of the Cuban revolution at the battle of Playa Giron, over three hundred and sixty thousand Cuban internationalists fought side by side with the people of the African continent in the wars of liberation and struggles for independence.

Two thousand of these heroes from the beautiful revolutionary island perished and shed their blood to fertilise our soil for the noble cause of our future. Cuban blood was shed on our soil alongside our own in the Congo, Guinea Bissau, Angola, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. Over thirty-three thousand students from our continent have graduated in Cuba in a variety of disciplines since the revolution led by Fidel.

The Cuban revolution has contributed immensely to building the capacity of our human capital especially in the fields of health, education, agriculture, sports, among others. Currently over fifty-five thousand students from a hundred and six countries of the world are receiving training either in Cuba or in their respective countries. Over twenty-five thousand students from third world countries are currently studying medicine in Cuba. As such, the Cuban revolution remains an exemplary school and an inexhaustible source of inspiration to progressive forces worldwide.

To the Cuban medical personnel in general and to mama Miriam Rodriquez in particular, consistent with the rare and extraordinary tradition of international solidarity, all I can say is to repeat what President Raul Castro said as a symbolic gesture, during a solemn welcome ceremony to the first Cuban international contingents to return back from Angola after the victorious battle of Cuito Cuanavale, when he said: "We placed our trust in you. Welcome back, comrades. The homeland receives you gratefully and we are proud of you".

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper and are not in any way connected to my position but merely reflect my personal opinion as a citizen.


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Windhoek, Katutura