One of the world’s most charismatic figures and leader of Cuba’s Communist Revolution, who governed his country for 47 years, Fidel Castro passed on last Friday, November 25, at the age of 90, leaving his people and the rest of the world to mourn one of its greatest, and equally controversial figures. The world and indeed the Cubans in particular would miss a leader, an enigma who wasa renowned apostle of the Socialist Revolution, and in the cause of advancing the ideals of his ideology brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959, as well as socialism,which was considered repugnant to the Americans, whose leader did all within their power to eliminate him. But the late Cuban leader defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling eleven Americanpresidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of a nuclear war in 1962.Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people. Castro was driven by a strong self-belief that he was the messiah of his fatherland, an indispensable force with authority from above , to control Cuba and its people. As a result, he wielded enormous power, controlling every aspect of the island’s existence. He was Cuba’s “MáximoLider.” But for many analysts, it was more than repression and fear that kept him and his totalitarian government in power for so long. He had both admirers and detractors in Cuba and around the world. While some saw him as a ruthless despot who trampled rights and freedoms; many others hailed him , as a revolutionary hero for the ages. They have many reasons to eulogise him. Under Fidel Castro’s rule, literacy grew dramatically, racism was eliminated, public health care was repaired and enhanced, the electric grid was expanded to the countryside, full employment was provided, and new medical facilities and schools were constructed; and the country came to have the best health care system in the world. Under Castro’s leadership, the ownership of land was limited to 993 acres per owner and it was made illegal for foreigners to buy land. Soon after, Castro halved rents paid by poor people, opened more classrooms to improve education, introduced a work-study programme where students spent half their time studying and half working; opened rural health centers with free medical aid and created mandatory universal child vaccination. Castroalso invested heavily in sports, making Cuba a top contender in international sports. Under his leadership, Cuba became a formidable force in international sports, especially
boxing, which the country has been a front runner in Olympics. In 1995, he diversified the economy into tourism and biotechnology. Castro’s acceptance of environmentalism led Cuba to become the first nation in the world to meet sustainable development according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s definition. No matter how the Western press tried to portray him as a dictator and tyrant, he could be considered to be one of Africa’s best friends. In the course of the unfortunate Congo crisis, Fidel Castro had sent one of his close military officers, CheGuevera, to assist Patrice Lumumba for the liberation of central African nation in 1961. In the same year, Cuba sent troops to assist Algeria freedom fighters led by Ahmed Ben Bella,afrredom fighter who later became his country’s leader. But Cuba’s most noteworthy role in Africa came 14 years later during the Angolan crisis. Cuba, under the leadership of Fidel Castro had sent no fewer than 40,000 soldiers to repel racist South African soldiers , who were bent on undermining Angola’s independence spearheaded by the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA , under the leadership of , Augustine Neto. A front in Angola, National Union for the total Independence of Angola, UNITA, which enjoyed the support of racist South Africa, had wanted to undermine the country’s independence from Portugal in 1975, by leading an internal rebellion, The eventual triumph recorded by the MPLA was a result of the strong backing of Cuba, and the visionary Nigerian government under the leadership of General Murtala Mohammed, Angola’s independent was concretized . Castro’s unparalleled support for freedom fighters led to the liberation of many southern African states like Namibia and Mozambique. Nigeria also benefited not only from various military cooperation with Cuba, but greatly from its medical care programme. Hundreds of Cuban doctors, had served in various Nigeria’s rural communities, where indigenous doctors had turned down such offers. It is noteworthy that by 2,000, as many as 10,000 Cuban doctors,which represents 30 per-cent of its doctors, were serving in various countries in Africa. No tribute could be more befitting than the one paid to the Cuban leader, by one of Africa’s foremost leaders, the iconic Nelson Mandela. Mandela had said that “the Cuban people, under Fidel Castro’s leadership, hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to Africa’s independence, freedom and justice unpatrolled for its principled and selfless character.” We cannot agree less with the late Africa’s foremost leader. May Castro’s soul rest in peace, amen.


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