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.
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.
17 September marks National Heroes’ Day in Angola, in memory of its first president Agostinho Neto‘s whose birthday was on that day in Kaxicane. To join in the celebration, I publish here one of his poems, ‘Western Civilization‘. Sad how these words still ring true to factory workers, plantation workers, miners, sweatshop workers, etc, around the world to this day. Enjoy ‘Civilização Ocidental‘ by Agostinho Neto!
Latas pregadas em paus fixados na terra fazem a casa
Os farrapos completam a paisagem íntima
O sol atravessando as frestas acorda o seu habitante
Depois as doze horas de trabalho Escravo
Britar pedra acarretar pedra britar pedra acarretar pedra ao sol à chuva britar pedra acarretar pedra
A velhice vem cedo Uma esteira nas noites escuras
basta para ele morrer grato e de fome.
Sheets of tin nailed to posts driven in the ground make up the house.
Some rags complete the intimate landscape.
The sun slanting through cracks welcomes the owner
after twelve hours of slave labour.
breaking rock shifting rock breaking rock shifting rock fair weather wet weather breaking rock shifting rock
« ¡ Las ideas no se matan ! » « Ideas cannot be killed ! »
This is the sentence shouted out to the killing squad which was about to execute Fidel Castro on 26 July 1953, and this saved him. Indeed, El Commandante stood for ideas and above all for love: love of humanity, and planet earth. He understood that imperialism was nullifying the human being, and crushing people under its hands. He worked for the freedom of mankind. Fidel showed us that the size of a country or its people does not matter when fighting for great ideas and principles. Cuba is a small country, but its actions, its help, has been immense to Africa for the past 50 years. Even to this day, doctors across Africa are trained in Cuba, and Cuban doctors have vastly supported the health-care services of many countries including Ghana.
Nelson Mandela wrote from Robben Island, about Cuba: “It was the first time that a country had come from another continent not to take something away, but to help Africans to achieve their freedom.” Indeed, Cuba’s help to Africa has been selfless, and loving, and that oftrue brotherhood.
As a towering figure who stayed true to his Marxist-Leninist ideology even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro has empowered countless Africans. The struggle for liberation from colonial powers by Africans benefited vastly from help from this little country in the western hemisphere.
When Africa cried, Cuba was there. When Portuguese were killing, subjugating, imprisoning Angolans, Bissau-Guineans, Cape Verdians, Mozambicans, Cuba was there. When Apartheid and the South African regime was oppressing (with support of the Western world) Black South Africans cried, and Fidel heed their calls. When Lumumba was killed, and Congo at lost, they called and Fidel answered. When Namibia was crushed, Fidel and Cuba helped free them from the Apartheid regime. When Ethiopians needed help, Fidel provided troops and expertise. When France was perpetrating a genocide in Algeria, Cuba helped free them.
Castro’s support for Africa’s liberation led him to meet with some of the continent’s leaders including Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Responding to calls for help from the Angolan leader Agostinho Neto who was trying to liberate his country from the Portuguese, Castro sent troops to Angola. Today, Angola is free of civil war thanks to the unfailing support of Fidel. Cuban soldiers are documented to have fought alongside Namibians and South Africans to prevent the apartheid regime from spreading all over southern Africa. They have also helped in Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau & Cape Verde supporting Amilcar Cabral. Between 1966 and 1974 a small Cuban force proved pivotal in the Guineans’ victory over the Portuguese. This time Cuba’s involvement also stretched to medical support (Cuban doctors) and technical know-how. Ultimately, Cuba’s successful battle against South Africa in Angola also hastened the Apartheid regime’s withdrawal from Namibia after 70 years of occupation, and led to that country’s subsequent independence.
Cuban troops have since the 1960s, served in Algeria, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone and Libya. Cuba was a thorn for the imperialists in Africa, France in Algeria, Portugal, Great Britain, South Africa, etc.
In a 1998 speech, Fidel Castro told the South African Parliament (it was his first visit to the country) that by the end of the Cold War at least 381,432 Cuban soldiers and officers had been on duty or “fought hand-in-hand with African soldiers and officers in this continent for national independence or against foreign aggression.”
Altogether fitting was Cuban President Raul Castro’s address at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013. In Johannesburg, Raul reminded his audience: “We shall never forget Mandela’s moving homage to our common struggle when on the occasion of his visit to our country on July 26, 1991, he said, and I quote, ‘the Cuban people have a special place in the hearts of the peoples of Africa’.”
Upon arrival in Havana, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe said, “Fidel was not just your leader. He was our leader and the leader of all revolutionaries.”
So in essence, many countries in Africa became independent thanks to Cuba and Fidel Castro, thanks to his ideals and his love of freedom. I am not sure that there is a single African country which has not benefited in some way shape or form from Cuba. We all owe Fidel our love, our lives, our freedom, and we salute him: So long El Commandante, thanks to you, we are free! Thanks to you, we fought a long battle and won! thanks to you, we started new chapters and became ‘free’ countries! Africa owes you so much!
Today is Angola’s National Heroes’ Day commemorating Angolan heroes, and is a celebration of the life of one of their heroes, President Agostinho Neto who was born on this special day. To mark this day, and to celebrate in style, I propose yet another poem from Angola’s greatest poet, President Neto himself. Enjoy! (I translated from Portuguese to English so it might not be the greatest… if you have a better translation, feel free to share).
Noite by Agostinho Neto – Translation by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com
Eu vivo nos bairros escuros do mundo sem luz nem vida.
Vou pelas ruas às apalpadelas encostado aos meus informes sonhos tropeçando na escravidão ao meu desejo de ser.
São bairros de escravos mundos de miséria bairros escuros.
Onde as vontades se diluíram e os homens se confundiram com as coisas.
Ando aos trambolhões pelas ruas sem luz desconhecidas pejadas de mística e terror de braço dado com fantasmas.
Também a noite é escura.
I live in the dark quarters of the world without light and life.
I fumbled through the streets leaning on my dreams stumbling on slavery to my desire to be.
Slave quarters worlds of misery dark quarters.
Where the wills were diluted and the men were confused with things.
I walk in unknown streets without tripping Streets soaked in with mystical light and the terror arm of ghosts.
Angolans are marking this Monday the National Heroes’ Day, in homage to the country’s first president, the late Dr. Agostinho Neto, who was born on 17 September 1922 in Kaxicane locality. Celebrate with me Angola’s National Heroes’ Day by enjoying a poem by Angola’s greatest poet, and its first president.
Criar criar criar no espírito criar no músculo
criar no nervo criar no homem criar na massa criar criar com os olhos secos Criar criar sobre a profanação da floresta sobre a floresta impúdica do chicote criar sobre o perfume dos troncos serrados criar criar com os olhos secos Criar criar gargalhadas sobre o escárneo da palmatória coragem nas pontas das botas do roceiro força no esfrangalhado das portas violentadas firmeza no vermelho sangue da insegurança criar criar com os olhos secos
Criar criar estrelas sobre o camartelo guerreiro paz sobre o choro das crianças paz sobre o suor sobre a lágrima do contrato paz sobre o ódio criar criar paz com os olhos secos Criar criar criar liberdade nas estradas escravas algemas de amor nos caminhos paganizados do amor sons festivos sobre o balanceio dos corpos em forcas simuladas criar criar amor com os olhos secos.
Create create create in mind create in muscle
create in nerve create in man create in the masses create create with dry eyes Create create over the profanation of the forest over the shameless fortress of the whip create over the scent of sawn trunks
create create with dry eyes Create create laughter over the scorn of the palmatoria courage in the tips of the planter’s boots strength in the splintering of battered-in doors firmness in the red blood of insecurity create create with dry eyes Create create stars over the warrior’s sledge-hammer peace over children’s weeping peace over the sweat the tears of forced labour peace over hatred create create peace with dry eyes
Create create create freedom on slave highways manacles of love on the paganised
paths of love festive sounds over bodies swinging on simulated gallows create create love with dry eyes.
In remembrance of Agostinho Neto (Sept. 17 1922 – Sept. 10th 1979), great leader and first president of Angola, I will leave you with a poem written by the great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe in honor of Agostinho Neto. Enjoy!!!
Agostinho, were you no more
Than the middle one favored by fortune
In children’s riddle; Kwame
Striding ahead to accost
Demons; behind you a laggard third
As yet unnamed, of twisted fingers?
No! Your secure strides
Were hard earned. Your feet
Learned their fierce balance
In violent slopes of humiliation;
Your delicate hands, patiently
Groomed for finest incisions,
Were commandeered brusquely to kill,
Your gentle voice to battle-cry.
Perhaps your family and friends
Knew a merry flash cracking the gloom
We see in pictures but I prefer
And will keep that sorrowful legend.
For I have seen how
Half a millennium of alien rape
And murder can stamp a smile
On the vacant face of the fool,
The sinister grin of Africa’s idiot-kings
Who oversee in obscene palaces of gold
The butchery of their own people.
Neto, I sing your passing, I,
Timid requisitioner of your vast
Armory’s most congenial supply.
What shall I sing? A dirge answering
The gloom? No, I will sing tearful songs
Of joy; I will celebrate
The man who rode a trinity
Of awesome fates to the cause
Of our trampled race!
Thou Healer, Soldier and Poet!
Agostinho Neto was the first president of Angola, and served from 1975 to his death in 1979. He was born in a Methodist family (his father was a Methodist pastor), attended high school in Luanda, and studied medicine in Lisbon (specializing in gynecology). In Lisbon, he befriended future political leaders such as Amilcar Cabral (Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde) and Marcelino dos Santos (Mozambique). He combined his academic life with covert political activities.
In 1948 he published his first volume of poetry and was arrested for the first time. There followed a series of arrests and detention, which interrupted his studies. He joined the Movimento Popular da Libertação de Angola (MPLA, People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) when it formed in 1956. He was released from detention and allowed to complete his studies in 1958, retuning shortly afterwards to Angola (1959), where he set up a private medical practice.
Flag of Angola
On 6 June 1960, Agostinho Neto was arrested at his practice as a result of his campaigning against the Portuguese colonial administration of Angola. When patients, friends, and supporters marched in demonstration for his release, the police opened fire and 30 were killed, 200 more injured. This became known as the Massacre de Icolo e Bengo (his birthplace). Neto was exiled to and held in captivity initially in Cape Verde and then in Portugal, where he wrote his second volume of poetry. After international pressures, the Portuguese government put him under house arrest, where he escaped to Morocco and later to Zaire (Congo).
He became president of the MPLA in 1962, and looked for support in the American government against Portugal, but was turned down. He received the support of Cuba and the Soviet Union for the fight for the freedom of the people of Angola from Portuguese imperialism.
After the Revolução dos Cravos (Carnation Revolution) in 1974 in Portugal, which took down the government by a military coup, Portugal’s foreign policy changed in its African colonies. On 11 November 1975, Angola became independent, and Neto was proclaimed president on that day. The country was effectively held under the rule of three independence movements, with the MPLA holding the central section and the capital.
Agostinho Neto & Jose Eduardo dos Santos
Neto’s rule was marked by armed conflict with Holden Roberto’s FNLA (supported by Mobutu of Zaire, and the US) and Jonas Savimbi‘s UNITA which had military support from South Africa. While Neto enjoyed the help and support of the Soviet Union and Cuba, he still encouraged Western investment in the country – especially in oil production. He died of cancer on September 10th, 1979 in Moscow. After his death, the civil war in Angola lasted for over a quarter of a century opposing Jose Eduardo dos Santos (his successor) and Jonas Savimbi.
Agostinho Neto was not only Angola’s first president, he was also a medical doctor, and a poet; he is actually one of Angola’s most acclaimed writer and poet. Please check out the website of the Fundação António Agostinho Neto, which has done a brilliant work in presenting Neto’s writings, debates, and comments by other leaders on Neto. Now I leave you with his great saying: “A luta Continua … A Vitória é certa!”