Great Warrior Queen and Builder of Nubia: Amanitore

Amanitore
Amanitore at Wad ban Naqa

How many of you know that two great African queens have been cited in the Bible? Most people know about the Queen of Sheba who was the queen of a kingdom in modern-day Ethiopia, and gave birth to a son to the Great King Solomon (Solomon was taken by her beauty). The second queen, who most people ignore or forget, is the Candace, or queen, of Nubia, Amanitore. She is mentioned in the Bible, Acts 8:26–40, or should we say her finance minister is, and so by ramification she is cited. So who was Amanitore, this African queen who was cited in the Bible?

Candace (queen) Amanitore is the daughter of the Nubian warrior queen Amanishakheto and grand-daughter to another warrior queen, Amanirenas. She descends from a long line of kings and queens who ruled over the ancient Kushitic Kingdom of Meroë, which also is referred to as Nubia in many ancient sources. In Egyptian hieroglyphics the throne name of Amanitore reads as Merkare. Like all her predecessors, she was a warrior queen who led forces to battle. Her rule extended over the area between the Nile and the Atbara rivers.

Amanitores pyramid in Meroe
Amanitore’s pyramid in Meroe (Wikipedia)

Kandace Amanitore is often mentioned as co-regent with Natakamani although the evidence does not show whether she was his wife or his mother. Many believe that she might have been his mother. Images, on pyramids, of Natakamani frequently include an image of Amanitore. Her royal palace was at Gebel Barkal in modern-day Sudan, which is now a UNESCO heritage site.

Amanitore is mentioned in a number of texts as a ruler. These include the temple at the Nubian capital of Napata in present-day Sudan, in a temple in Meroë near Shendi, again in Sudan, and at the Naqa Lion Temple.

She was part of the Meroitic historical period and her reign began in 1 BC. The rule of her successor, Amanitaraqide, was complete by 50 AD. She is buried in her own pyramid in Meroë. The tomb is approximately 6 m square at its base, and not a pyramid in the mathematical sense.

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Nubian pyramids at Meroe (Wikipedia)

Amanitore was among the last great Kush builders. She, and Natakamani, were involved in restoring the large temple of Amun at Meroë and the Amun temple at Napata after it was demolished by the Romans. Reservoirs for the retention of water also were constructed at Meroë during her reign. The two rulers also built Amun temples at Naqa and Amara. At Naqa, the great centre of the steppe-country south of Meroe: the frontal approach to the temple of Amun became a pylon whose decoration combines Egyptian influences and purely Meroitic features, while the most famous building is the Naqa lion temple whose reliefs are among the most representative examples of Meroitic art.

The quantity of buildings that was completed during the middle part of the first century indicates that she led the most prosperous time in Meroitic history. More than two hundred Nubian pyramids were built, most plundered in ancient times.

She led a wealthy country, with large resources of gold, and exported jewelry, exotic animals, and textiles.

Nubia_Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe_Sculpted gantry
Sculpted palace? on the facade of the temple in the background, a king and queen – could this be King Natakamani and Queen Amanitore? (Wikipedia – UNESCO)

The pyramids of the king, the queen and the princes have been identified at Meroë. The king and queen liked to be portrayed with one of the royal princes, ArikankharorArikakhatani or Sherkaror, varying according to the monument; perhaps the princes were viceroys of the provinces in whose principal temples they were pictured. Sherkaror seems to have ascended the throne in succession to his parents shortly after the opening of the Christian era; a rock carving at Gebel Qeili in the south of Butana shows him triumphing over innumerable enemies under the protection of a solar deity.

To learn more, please check out, the UNESCO funded book General History of Africa Vol.2, Ancient Civilizations of Africa, P. 307-30850 Greatest Africans — Pharaoh Natakamani and Queen Amanitore & Ngola Ann Nzinga , The Kingdom of Kush by László Török, P. 198 and 461, ISBN 90-04-10448-8.

African Hair Sculpture?

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Laetitia Ky, with one of her creations, on her head

I would like to share with you the work of Laetitia Ky, an Ivorian artist who makes hair sculptures with her own hair, on her head. What do I mean? Well, just watch the video below. Laetitia has always loved hair braiding and began working with hair from a young age. She started doing hair sculptures last year, and has a big following on Instagram. She uses coat hangers, wires, needles, pins, and threads to make her creations. I knew our hair was special, with the Mathematics of CornrowsAfro Hair: Crown Jewel of African Women and Men, but my goodness, she makes it amazing! The original is on BBC (I updated it on 12/11/2019 with the video from The Art Insider instead). Enjoy creativity at his best!

Africa’s Forbidden Pyramids: Meroe, Nubia, and Sudan

Nubia_Pyramids of Meroe
Pyramids at Meroe (Wikipedia)

As I already told you about Nubia, and the Meroitic civilization which dominated Egypt for over 3 centuries, I also have to add that there are more pyramids in Nubia, modern-day Sudan, than in the whole of Egypt. Remember the great queen Amanishakheto and King Taharqa who ruled over Egypt.

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Sphinx of King Taharqa (Wikipedia)

Enjoy the video below, made by a BBC journalist to get acquainted with Sudan’s rich history and pyramids!

Why the Name: Khartoum?

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Aerial view of Khartoum in 1936

What comes to mind as you say the name of the capital of Sudan, Khartoum? Well, for me, I imagine the great Nubian Empire with its queen Amanishakheto or King Taharqa; I imagine big sand dunes, and of course history… so much history, the history of one of the greatest African kingdoms, one which dominated ancient Egypt for centuries. So how far am I from the real meaning of the name Khartoum?

The origin of the word, “Khartoum“, is uncertain. There are many interpretations. One of them states that the name khartoum is derived from the Arabic khurṭūm (tuskstrunk or hose) for elephant tusks, or it could be referring to the narrow strip of land extending between the Blue and White Niles [not sure how trunk or hose could be thought to be a strip of land].

Pyramids of Nubia
Pyramids of Nubia (Wikipedia)

Captain J.A. Grant, who reached Khartoum in 1863 with Captain Speke‘s expedition, thought the name was most probably from the Arabic qurtum (قرطم safflower, i.e., Carthamus tinctorius), which was cultivated extensively in Egypt for its oil to be used as fuel [not sure why a city in Sudan will be named for a plant which is cultivated in its neighbor’s country]. Some scholars speculate that the word may be derived from the Nubian word, Agartum (“the abode of Atum“), the Nubian and Egyptian god of creation. Other Beja scholars suggest “Khartoum” is derived from the Beja word, Hartoom (“meeting“). Additionally, the dream interpreting magicians in Genesis 41:8 are referred to as חַרְטֻמֵּ֥י (Khartoumei) [as you can see Black Africans are in the Bible everywhere].

So, which one of these interpretations is the most accurate?

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Khartoum, today (Source:Wikipedia)

The city as it is known today was established in 1821, 24 kilometers north of the ancient city of Soba, by Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Egypt‘s ruler, Muhammad Ali Pasha, who had just incorporated Sudan into his realm. Originally, Khartoum served as an outpost for the Egyptian Army, but the settlement quickly grew into a regional center of trade. It also became a focal point for the slave trade. Later, it became the administrative center of Sudan and official capital.

Black Pharaohs of Nubia
Black Pharaohs of Nubia

Khartoum is located in the middle of the populated areas in Sudan, and is part of the tri-cities composed of Khartoum proper, and linked by bridges to Khartoum North and Omdurman to the west, with an overall population of 5 million inhabitants. Khartoum and Sudan as whole, were the home of several ancient flourishing civilizations, such as Nubia, the Kingdom of Kush, Kerma, Nobatia, Alodia, Makuria, Meroë and others, most of which flourished along the Nile. During the pre-dynastic period Nubia and Nagadan Upper Egypt were identical, simultaneously evolved systems of Pharaonic kingship by 3300 BC. Khartoum is home to amazing museums, including the largest museum of Sudan,  the National Museum of Sudan, where one can be immersed in the rich culture of Sudan and the different eras of its history. Among the exhibits are two Egyptian temples of Buhen and Semna, originally built by Queen Hatshepsut and Pharaoh Tuthmosis III, respectively, but relocated to Khartoum upon the flooding of Lake Nasser.

Well, if you visit Khartoum, don’t forget to visit the National Museum of Sudan, and learn of the great African civilizations that flourish there, reclaim your history, African history, and above all enjoy the warmth and hospitality of the people of Khartoum!

 

 

Thomas Sankara in His Own Words

Sankara_We are heirs of the worlds revolution
“We are heirs of the revolution” by Thomas Sankara

If you take a walk around Ouagadougou and make a list of the mansions you see, you will note that they belong to just a minority. How many of you who have been assigned to Ouagadougou from the farthest corners of the country have had to move every night because you’ve been thrown out of the house you have rented? To those who have acquired houses and land through corruption we say: start to tremble. If you have stolen, tremble, because we will come after you”. March 26, 1983 

Aid to Burkina Faso must serve to strengthen not undermine, our sovereignty.” August 1984

Any African Head of State who comes to New York must first pass through Harlem. This is why we consider that our White House is in Black Harlem.” October 2, 1984

Our ancestors in Africa were actively committed to a certain form of development. We do not want these great African wisemen to be assassinated. 2 octobre 1984 à Harlem

We propose that the structures of the UN be changed to put an end to the scandal surrounding the right to vetoOctober 4, 1984

The greatest difficulty we have faced is the neocolonial spirit that exists in this country. We were colonized by a country, France that left us with certain habits. For us, being successful in life, being happy, meant trying to live as they do in France, like the richest of the French.” March 17, 1985

Sankara_Women's liberationWe have to work at decolonizing our mentality and achieving happiness within the limits of sacrifice we should be willing to make. We have to recondition our people to accept themselves as they are, to not be ashamed of their real situation, to be satisfied with it, to glory in it, even.1985

We need the new school and the new teaching to concur with the birth of patriots and not stateless people. Putting a child in school should stop being conceived as a simple accounting investment, if indeed the ongoing transformation of societies which fall on successive generations has quantifiable elements and non-quantifiable. 17 october 1986 Appel de Gaoua on the quality of education.

We too are actors in the international arena, and we have the right to choose a political and economic system true to our aspirations. We have the duty to fight for a more just and more peaceful world, regardless of the fact that we have neither large industrial cartels nor nuclear weapons”. August 27, 1987

It is always at the side of a woman that we become men again, and every man is a child for every woman.” March 8, 1987

There are no true social revolution until the woman is liberated. May my eyes never see a society where half of the people is maintained under silence. I hear the racket of this silence of women, I suspect the roar of their storm, I feel the fury of their revolt. I wait and hope for the fertile irruption of the revolution for which they will translate the force and rigorous righteousness coming from their oppressed bowels. 8 mars 1987, Ouagadougou

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

“The people’s democratic revolution needs a people that is confident and not defeated, a people of conviction and not a subjected people who suffer their fate.” 4 août 1987

I have told myself, either I’ll finish up an old man somewhere in a library reading books, or I’ll meet with a violent end, since we have so many enemies. Once you’ve accepted that reality, it’s just a question of time. It will happen today or tomorrow.October 8th, 1987

One week after Thomas Sankara made this last remark, he was murdered.

Homeland or death, we will triumph!

These quotes can be found in the book “Thomas Sankara speaks” by Pathfinder Press (1988).

Declaration of Mrs. Mariam SANKARA for the 30th Anniversary of Thomas Sankara’s Assassination

Thomas Sankara family
Thomas and Mariam Sankara with their children (Source: MyAfricanow.com)

I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Mrs. Mariam Sankara to write this letter, and for her family as well; but to think of the joy they must have felt when Compaoré was booted out of power brings satisfaction, and not tears; to think of the joy they must have felt to know that the Burkinabe people are now rising up, and that a light might now be shed about their husband, father, son, and brother’s assassination to bring them closure. I raise my hat to them, and I thank Mariam Sankara and her entire family, for having lent us  Thomas Sankara, for our enlightenment. They made so much sacrifice while he was alive, and now that he is gone, the least we can do, is to express our profound gratitude and support: THANK YOU, and AFRICA will always be with you, and cherish the memory of one of his greatest sons, Thomas Sankara.

Below is the declaration made by Mariam Sankara on the 15 October 1987, this is from ThomasSankara.net. Enjoy!
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Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

Mesdames, Mesdemoiselles, Messieurs, Chers amis,

L’assassinat du Président Sankara et de ses compagnons, le 15 Octobre 1987, a interrompu une expérience de développement originale et prometteuse de l’histoire de l’Afrique contemporaine.

Je tiens à vous remercier pour votre soutien à toute la famille Sankara et à moi-même  ainsi que pour votre fidélité à la mémoire du Président Thomas Sankara.

A travers sa politique, Thomas a défendu, en donnant lui-même l’exemple, les valeurs essentielles telles que l’intégrité, l’honnêteté, l’humilité, le courage, la volonté, le respect et la justice.  En mobilisant les différentes composantes de la société, il s’est battu, de façon acharnée, contre la dette, pour le bien être de tous les burkinabè, la promotion du patrimoine culturel burkinabè et l’émancipation de la femme. Il a incité ses concitoyens à se prendre en charge pour vivre dignement. Bref, il a refusé  la soumission au diktat des plus puissants de ce monde, a pris la défense des plus faibles et des plus défavorisés.

Imprégnés de ces valeurs et de ces idées, vous avez, à travers l’insurrection populaire des 30 et 31 octobre 2014, mis fin au régime dictatorial de Compaoré. Cette insurrection a permis au peuple de reprendre la parole pour exiger, entre autres, la fin de l’impunité, la réouverture du dossier de justice sur l’assassinat de Thomas Sankara et ses compagnons, celui de Norbert Zongo et tant d’autres.

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Flag of Burkina Faso

La décision prise au Burkina Faso par les autorités de la transition de rendre enfin justice à Thomas Sankara a suscité un immense espoir au Burkina, en Afrique en général et dans le monde. Mais on est toujours dans l’attente de la justice.

La requête de la société civile et des familles est claire. Nous voulons connaître au plus vite les commanditaires et les exécutants de cet assassinat et ceux des autres crimes.

Retarder la quête de vérité, c’est jouer le jeu des assassins de Thomas Sankara et de ses compagnons. Ne pas rendre justice, c’est refuser une sépulture digne pour Thomas Sankara et ses compagnons, c’est empêcher les familles de faire leur deuil.

C’est la raison pour laquelle, le peuple burkinabè et ses amis doivent rester mobilisés et relancer la campagne pour que trente ans après, justice soit enfin rendue à Thomas Sankara et à ses compagnons.

Chers compatriotes, notre famille salue votre initiative visant à ériger un mémorial à la mémoire de Thomas Sankara.

Thomas Sankara and Mariam
Thomas and Mariam Sankara on their wedding day (Source: Africanglobe.net)

Nous sommes attachés, comme nombre de nos compatriotes,  à la défense et à la sauvegarde de la mémoire de Thomas Sankara. Je tiens à saluer cette initiative de la société civile, conduite par l’association CIMTS (Comité International pour le Mémorial Thomas Sankara). Ce projet de Mémorial bénéficie du soutien populaire. Une démarche consensuelle et inclusive devrait permettre de réaliser un ouvrage de qualité qui témoignera de la vitalité des idées de Thomas et de ses fidèles compagnons de la révolution du 4 Août 1983. Toutefois, la famille tient à ce que ce mémorial ne soit pas construit dans l’enceinte du Conseil de l’Entente qui rappelle de douloureux souvenirs en raison des assassinats et des tortures qui ont marqué ce lieu.

Sankara_We are heirs of the worlds revolution
“We are heirs of the revolution” by Thomas Sankara

Avec toutes ces volontés de valorisation de la mémoire de Thomas observées à travers le monde, on se rend compte avec le temps que Thomas Sankara était un visionnaire. Conscient des actions des détracteurs de la révolution, il savait qu’il était incompris parce qu’il était en avance sur son temps. Il dira alors : « tuez Sankara, des milliers de Sankara naîtront ». Ceci est devenu une réalité. On constate aujourd’hui que la jeunesse s’imprègne de ses idées progressistes pour transformer la société.

Trente après sa disparition, la pensée de Thomas reste vivante et d’actualité.

Encore une fois, je vous félicite pour votre mobilisation et pour votre fidélité à la mémoire du Président Thomas Sankara.

30 ans de résistance !

30 ans d’impunité !

Rendez enfin justice à Thomas Sankara et ses compagnons ainsi qu’à toutes les victimes des crimes impunis !

La patrie ou la mort, nous vaincrons !

Je vous remercie.

Mariam Sankara

Montpellier le 15 octobre 2017

Thomas Sankara: 30-year Anniversary

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

Today marks the 30-year anniversary of the death of Thomas Sankara, our African Che.  The first article I ever wrote on this blog was on Thomas Sankara, Thomas Sankara, The African Che. To me, Thomas Sankara is one of the most charismatic, selfless, dedicated, and beautiful African leaders of all times. And I love his sense of humor, and humility. He may not have had a perfect time in power, but what I am certain of, is the deep love he had for his country, his people, and for the whole of Africa. Imagine, someone who renames his country and people to empower them, from Haute Volta to Burkina Faso, the land of the upright man. I would also like to thank the people running the website entirely dedicated to his memory, thomassankara.net; I raise my hat to them, and their tireless work throughout the years.

Here is a summary of Thomas Sankara‘s actions in his 4 years of power. These are taken from thomassankara.net. For the full article, check out Full facts about Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso . Enjoy the video below!

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Guerrillero Heroico
Picture taken by Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960, at the La Coubre memorial service

After renaming his country Burkina Faso, here are Thomas Sankara’s accomplishments, [after] ONLY 4 YEARS in power (198387).

Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (21 December 194915 October 1987) was a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionary, pan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. Viewed by supporters as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, he is commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara.

– He vaccinated 2.5 million children against meningitis, yellow fever and measles in a matter of weeks.
– He initiated a nation-wide literacy campaign, increasing the literacy rate from 13% in 1983 to 73% in 1987.
– He planted over 10 million trees to prevent desertification
He built roads and a railway to tie the nation together, without foreign aid
– He appointed females to high governmental positions, encouraged them to work, recruited them into the military, and granted pregnancy leave during education.
– He outlawed female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy in support of Women’s rights

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Flag of Burkina Faso

– He sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of the ministers.
– He reduced the salaries of all public servants, including his own, and forbade the use of government chauffeurs and 1st class airline tickets.
– He redistributed land from the feudal landlords and gave it directly to the peasants. Wheat production rose in three years from 1700 kg per hectare to 3800 kg per hectare, making the country food self-sufficient.
He opposed foreign aid, saying that “he who feeds you, controls you.”

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara

– He spoke in forums like the Organization of African Unity [Thomas Sankara Speech on Debt and Unityagainst continued neo-colonialist penetration of Africa through Western trade and finance. • He called for a united front of African nations to repudiate their foreign debt. He argued that the poor and exploited did not have an obligation to repay money to the rich and exploiting.[Thomas Sankara’s Speech at the United Nations / Discours de Thomas Sankara aux Nations Unies]
– In Ouagadougou, Sankara converted the army’s provisioning store into a state-owned supermarket open to everyone (the first supermarket in the country).
He forced civil servants to pay one month’s salary to public projects.
– He refused to use the air conditioning in his office on the grounds that such luxury was not available to anyone but a handful of Burkinabes.

Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso

– As President, he lowered his salary to $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer.
– A motorcyclist himself, he formed an all-women motorcycle personal guard.
– He required public servants to wear a traditional tunic (the Faso Dan Fani), woven from Burkinabe cotton and sewn by Burkinabe craftsmen. (The reason being to rely upon local industry and identity rather than foreign industry and identity)
– When asked why he didn’t want his portrait hung in public places, as was the norm for other African leaders, Sankara replied “There are seven million Thomas Sankaras.”
– An accomplished guitarist, he wrote the new national anthem himself.

Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Cuba in the Independence of African Countries

Amilcar Cabral
Amilcar Cabral

To continue with our theme of the week, I will leave you here with a video showing Cuba’s African victory, first with Amilcar Cabral and the people of Guinea Bissau, and then with Agostinho Neto in Angola, leading to the independence of both countries through long struggles against imperialism. This later also led to the liberation of Nelson Mandela, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and the independence of Namibia! There was a ripple effect! Countless other African countries benefited in some other ways, as well: medical training from Cuba, soldiers’ training, and much more.

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Ernesto Che Guevara

Enjoy! Bear in mind, as I said earlier, that Ernesto Che Guevara’s failed Congo expedition had been decisive in making these Cuban and African victories realities.

Ernesto Che Guevara’s Letter to Fidel Castro about Congo

Guevara_1
Guerrillero Heroico
Picture taken by Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960 at the La Coubre memorial service

Here are excerpts from the letter of Che Guevara to Fidel Castro about his time and recommendations for Congo. For the full letter and more information, visit The Guardian, and read the book The African Dream: The Diaries of the Revolutionary War in the Congo by Ernesto Guevara and Aleida Guevara.

Che Guevara’s words, “we can’t liberate by ourselves a country that does not want to fight; you’ve got to create a fighting spirit and look for soldiers with the torch of Diogenes and the patience of Job, ” still ring true today. We’ve got to create a fighting spirit. My question to you readers is, HOW? How do you instill in people a ‘fighting spirit’?

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Congo, 5/10/65

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Fidel Castro

Dear Fidel

I received your letter, which has aroused contradictory feelings in me – for in the name of proletarian internationalism, we are committing mistakes that may prove very costly. I am also personally worried that, either because I have failed to write with sufficient seriousness or because you do not fully understand me, I may be thought to be suffering from the terrible disease of groundless pessimism.

When your Greek gift [Emilio Aragonés, a member of the Cuban central committee] arrived here, he told me that one of my letters had given the impression of a condemned gladiator, and the [Cuban health] minister [José Ramón Machado Ventura], in passing on your optimistic message, confirmed the opinion that you were forming.

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Map of the Congo in 1964. The territory affected by the Simba rebellion is in red and the Kwilu rebellion in yellow. (Wikipedia)

You will be able to speak at length with the bearer of this letter who will tell you his firsthand impressions after visiting much of the front; for this reason I will dispense with anecdotes. I will just say to you that, according to people close to me here, I have lost my reputation for objectivity by maintaining a groundless optimism in the face of the actual situation. I can assure you that were it not for me, this fine dream would have collapsed with catastrophe all around.

In my previous letters, I asked to be sent not many people but cadres; there is no real lack of arms here (except for special weapons) – indeed there are too many armed men; what is lacking are soldiers. I especially warned that no more money should be given out unless it was with a dropper and after many requests. None of what I said has been heeded, and fantastic plans have been made which threaten to discredit us internationally and may land me in a very difficult position.

I shall now explain to you.

Soumialot [Gaston Soumialot, president of the Supreme Council of the Revolution] and his comrades have been leading you all right up the garden path. It would be tedious to list the huge number of lies they have spun.

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Mulele (third from the right) with the Lumumba Government, 1960

There are two zones where something of an organised revolution exists – the one where we ourselves are, and part of Kasai province (the great unknown quantity) where Mulele [Pierre Mulele, former minister under Patrice Lumumba and the first leader to take up arms] is based.

In the rest of the country there are bands living in the forest, not connected to one another; they lost everything without a fight, as they lost Stanleyville without a fight. More serious than this, however, is the way in which the groups in this area (the only one with contacts to the outside) relate to one another.

The dissensions between  Kabila [then second vice-president of the Supreme Council of the Revolution and head of the eastern front where Guevara was] and Soumialot are becoming more serious all the time, and are used as a pretext to keep handing towns over without a fight. I know Kabila well enough not to have any illusions about him. I cannot say the same about Soumialot, but I have some indications such as the string of lies he has been feeding you, the fact that he does not deign to come to these godforsaken parts, his frequent bouts of drunkenness in Dar es Salaam, where he lives in the best hotels, and the kind of people he has as allies here against the other group.

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Laurent-Desire Kabila

Recently a group from the Tshombist [pro-government] army landed, in the Baraka area (where a major-general loyal to Soumialot has no fewer than a thousand armed men) and captured this strategically important place almost without a fight. Now they are arguing about who was to blame – those who did not put up a fight, or those at the lake who did not send enough ammunition. The fact is that they shamelessly ran away, ditching in the open a 75mm recoilless gun and two 82 mortars; all the men assigned to these weapons have disappeared, and now they are asking me for Cubans to get them back from wherever they are (no one quite knows where) and to use them in battle.

Nor are they doing anything to defend Fizi, 36km from here; they don’t want to dig trenches on the only access road through the mountains. This will give you a faint idea of the situation. As for the need to choose men well rather than send me large numbers, you and the commissar assure me that the men here are good; I’m sure most of them are – otherwise they’d have quit long ago. But that’s not the point. You have to be really well tempered to put up with the things that happen here. It’s not good men but supermen that are needed…

And there are still my 200; believe me, they would do more harm than good at the present time – unless we decide once and for all to fight alone, in which case we’ll need a division and we’ll have to see how many the enemy put up against us. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration; maybe a battalion would be enough to get back to the frontiers we had when we arrived here and to threaten Albertville.

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37-year-old Guevara, holding a Congolese baby and standing with a fellow Afro-Cuban soldier in the Congo Crisis, 1965

But numbers are not what matters; we can’t liberate by ourselves a country that does not want to fight; you’ve got to create a fighting spirit and look for soldiers with the torch of Diogenes and the patience of Job – a task that becomes more difficult, the more shits there are doing things along the way.

The business with the money is what hurts me most, after all the warnings I gave. At the height of my “spending spree” and only after they had kicked up a lot of fuss, I undertook to supply one front (the most important one) on condition that I would direct the struggle and form a special mixed column under my direct command, in accordance with the strategy that I outlined and communicated to you.

With a very heavy heart, I calculated that it would require $5,000 a month. Now I learn that a sum 20 times higher is given to people who pass through just once, so that they can live well in all the capitals of the African world, with no allowance for the fact that they receive free board and lodging and often their travel costs from the main progressive countries. Not a cent will reach a wretched front where the peasants suffer every misery you can imagine, including the rapaciousness of their own protectors; nor will anything get through to the poor devils stuck In Sudan. (Whisky and women are not on the list of expenses covered by friendly governments, and they cost a lot if you want quality.)

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Listening to a Zenith Trans-Oceanicshortwave radio receiver are (seated from the left) Rogelio Oliva, José María Martínez Tamayo (known as “Mbili” in the Congo and “Ricardo” in Bolivia), and Guevara. Standing behind them is Roberto Sánchez (“Lawton” in Cuba and “Changa” in the Congo), 1965.

Finally, 50 doctors will give the liberated area of the Congo an enviable proportion of one per thousand inhabitants – a level surpassed only by the USSR, the United States and two or three of the most advanced countries in the world. But no allowance is made for the fact that here they are distributed according to political preference, without a trace of public health organisation. Instead of such gigantism, it would be better to send a contingent of revolutionary doctors and to increase it as I request, along with highly practical nurses of a similar kind.

As the attached map sums up the military situation, I shall limit myself to a few recommendations that I would ask you all to consider objectively: forget all the men in charge of phantom groups; train up to a hundred cadres (not necessarily all blacks)… As for weapons: the new bazooka, percussion caps with their own power supply, a few R-4s and nothing else for the moment; forget about rifles, which won’t solve anything unless they are electronic. Our mortars must be in Tanzania, and with those plus a new complement of men to operate them we would have more than enough for now. Forget about Burundi and tactfully discuss the question of the launches. (Don’t forget that Tanzania is an independent country and we’ve got to play it fair there, leaving aside the little problem I caused.)

Send the mechanics as soon as possible, as well as someone who can steer across the lake reasonably safely; that has been discussed and Tanzania has agreed. Leave me to handle the problem of the doctors, which I will do by giving some of them to Tanzania. Don’t make the mistake again of dishing out money like that; for they cling to me when they feel hard up and certainly won’t pay me any attention if the money is flowing freely. Trust my judgment a little and don’t go by appearances. Shake the representatives into giving truthful information, because they are not capable of figuring things out and present utopian pictures which have nothing to do with reality.

I have tried to be explicit and objective, synthetic and truthful. Do you believe me?

Warm greetings …

Ernesto Che Guevara’s Contribution to Africa’s Struggles for Independence

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Guerrillero Heroico
Picture taken by Alberto Korda on March 5, 1960 at the La Coubre memorial service

9 October marks the 50th anniversary of Ernesto Che Guevara ‘s assassination. As many in countries around the world celebrate the life of this great man who gave his life selflessly to liberate the masses from imperialism, a look at his impact in Africa is on the order.

Even though Che Guevara’s expedition in Congo (modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)) resulted in failure, what it showed was an example of the solidarity of ‘third-world’ countries against Western imperialism.

The Argentine-born guerilla “spent a while with us in the forest, but he found that our leaders lacked political maturity and he preferred to go,” Shibunda said of Che’s seven-month adventure with the Simba (“Lion” in Swahili) rebels in South Kivu province. Yet he was growing disillusioned, finding that Simba forces lacked revolutionary fervor. As a military mission, the Cuban adventure in eastern Congo was, as Che Guevara himself admitted in his diary, a failure. Their plan had not taken into account the fact that the level of political organization in the Congolese rebellion was extremely weak; that Guevara and his comrades knew almost nothing about the African society they were presuming to mould; or that the pro-Western regime had the help of powerful white mercenaries in the region.

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37-year-old Guevara, holding a Congolese baby and standing with a fellow Afro-Cuban soldier in the Congo Crisis, 1965

I was a simple soldier” in 1965, General Lwendema Dunia, now in his 80s,  says in a hut in South Kivu’s capital Bukavu, recalling how Che “taught us how to make a revolution. He gave us military training and taught us politics.” But “once we started to take from the people and trample on revolutionary ideals… they left,” he said.

By October 1965, Che wrote to Fidel Castro: “It’s not really weapons that are lacking here… Indeed, there are too many armed men and what is lacking are soldiers.”

When Che Guevara left, there was a great battle,” Shibunda adds.

Truth be told, Che’s work in Congo marked a decisive moment in Cuba’s great relationship with Africa. Although the Congo’s mission had been a failure, it marked the turning point for great Cuban victories in Africa, where Cuba helped Amilcar Cabral and Guinea Bissau achieve independence, Angola of Agostino Neto as well, and provided support to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, and independence in Mozambique. So like they say, sometimes, in order to achieve greatness, you have to fall… so sad that Che Guevara never lived to reap the fruits of his hard work in Africa. 

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