Africa’s Love For Fidel Castro

By Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Amilcar Cabral, one of Africa's foremost anti-colonial thinkers, with Fidel Castro. (Photo: Invent the Future/
Amilcar Cabral, one of Africa’s foremost anti-colonial thinkers, with Fidel Castro. (Photo: Invent the Future/

HAVANA TIMES — In the next couple of years, I suspect that there will be books and other intellectual productions by African scholars, writers, artists, activists, commentators and chroniclers detailing their “love and respect” for Fidel Castro. It is likely to be so in much of the Global South — an area that was once characterized by colonialism, and by western domination and exploitation.

Africans have a long history of idolization and idealization of populists, revolutionaries, political-gadflies and intellectuals. Frankly, they love trouble-makers. They love agitators. Africans love men and women who can stand up to government and other constituted authority.

In Nigeria, for instance, many of the men and women who commanded popular love and respect were those who were seen to be challenging government; and who devoted much of their lives to fighting for just and noble causes. It is why, several years after their passing, many Nigerians still think fondly of men like AyodeleAwojobi, Tai Solarin, and GaniFawehinmi.

You cannot be an educated African between the ages of 25 and 105 – and not know who Thomas Sankara, FelaKuti, and Patrice Lumumba were. You cannot be an African and claim never to have heard of Amilcar Cabral and AgostinhoNeto. The Gold Coast gave us Kwame Nkrumah; Ghana gave us Jerry Rawlings.

And you couldn’t have graduated from an African university and not know the role and place of Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez. It is impossible. Well, almost impossible! Millions of Africans think of Latin America and the Caribbean as part of their world. In any case, millions of educated Africans are like that: they think globally.

They know what is right and just. They know and appreciate their defenders. At this very moment, I cannot think of a non-African, in the last fifty years, who has come to the aid and defense of Africa as genuinely and intensely as Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz – known around the world as Fidel Castro. He was many things rolled into one: a justice-seeker; an intellectual; a revolutionary; and anti-elitist who was always for the oppressed, and always against the oppressors.

For us Africans, we admired his courage, his simplicity, his stubbornness, his sense of self, his measured arrogance, his humanity and his willingness to put his people and country first. He was not a traitor, not a hypocrite, not a demagogue; and certainly, not a xenophobe or a fraud. He was one of us. He was one of us! And was a revolutionary of the original intent.

Decolonization, especially in the southern and eastern region of the continent, would have taken much longer, but for Comrade Fidel Castro. He stood by Africans. He fought for Africa. But for the courage and kindness of Fidel Castro and his countrymen, Apartheid-South Africa and their western and non-western collaborators and supporters would have dominated and oppressed and exploited and wounded and raped and killed for many more years.

He wasn’t without his fair share of political mistakes. We recognize that fact. But he got so many things right. He was right and righteous in so many ways. In 2050, or at any point in history, he will be considered a statesman and a great man that he truly was. History and posterity will be very kind to him.

And no historian, writing about Africa or the Global South, will omit his name and his good deeds. Apartheid-loving and injustice-embracing politicians and commentators may tell you otherwise; don’t listen. Don’t believe it. Fidel Castro was one of the truly greats. We’ll miss him. The world will miss him.

We Africans appreciate him. And we also appreciate the good people of Cuba who stood by us, who fought for us; and who sacrificed a great deal so millions of Africans can have their countries and their dignity back. Thank you!

  • Sabella Abidde is an associate professor of political science at Alabama State University. He can be reached at: [email protected]


25 thoughts on “Africa’s Love For Fidel Castro

  • December 19, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Just another correction Nick. The last Queen of England died in 1603. So I imagine that you are referring to the Queen of the United Kingdom?
    I agree that I tend to speak from personal knowledge and experience rather than referring to the opinions of others.
    To me Nick, commentary about Cuba and the people of Cuba is not a game. My views and opinions reflect concern for the people of Cuba including my wife, step-daughter, extended family, God-daughter, friends and local community. To me the discussions are not about scoring points, but about addressing reality in pursuit of the hope that one day Cubans will have the degree of freedom that we others are privileged to enjoy.
    However, you will be relieved to know that as the festive season is fast approaching that I shall soon become incommunicado due to being unable to access the Internet from my home.

  • December 18, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Mr Macduff,
    Contrary to you poorly put presumption, I am highly critical of certain actions taken by my own country.
    I remember only too well the arguments regarding apartheid South Africa. Mrs Thatcher’s stance was a disgrace.
    Apparently even The Queen of England told her thus.

    However the reason I often refer to the USA in my comments is that the USA and it”s foreign policy is quite obviously infinitely more relevant to Cuba than any of the great many flaws of my own country.
    As I have said in other comments, I have spent much time in Cuba over the past couple of decades.
    I have also mentioned that I have had the good luck and privilege of visiting the USA on various occasions.
    I find that both countries have their fascinations and their flaws.
    So don,t go jumping to conclusions Mr MacDuff regarding my opinions or incorrectly asserting that I am somehow anti USA.
    I will continue to point out to US contributors here who criticise Cuba that they should have a look at their own country’s failings first.

    You mention Wikipedia. I do indeed look at thIs website. As do many.
    But my opinions do not spring from there.
    By contrast I would suggest that you pause to verify some of your points prior to uploading. Whether the verification comes from Wikipedia or other source, some verification would be good.

    With a bit more verification, a it more subjectivity (and perhaps less mention of irrelevant right wing British politicians), you could significantly up your game Mr MacDuff.

  • December 16, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Thatcher and Reagan very reluctantly “joined the concept” (of imposing an embargo on South Africa) and did so ONLY more that nine months after PW Botha had offered Mandela conditional release (in 1985) and a decade after Thatcher became party leader.

    Despite a growing international movement to topple apartheid in the 1980s, Reagan maintained a close alliance with a South African government that was showing no signs of serious reform. And the Reagan administration demonized opponents of apartheid, most notably the African National Congress, as dangerous and pro-communist. Reagan EVEN VETOED A BILL TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS on South Africa, only to be overruled by Congress.

    On a trip to the United States after winning the Nobel Prize in 1984, Bishop Desmond Tutu memorably declared that Reagan’s policy was ”immoral, evil and totally un-Christian.”

    Thatcher resolutely opposed sanctions and disinvestment. Even when Britain was forced to follow the minimalist Commonwealth sanctions programme, she stressed that she had warded off a more stringent stance.

  • December 16, 2016 at 7:41 am

    George Washington had nearly 150 enslaved people and started moving them in and out of Pennsylvania when, in 1780, a law (the Gradual Abolition Act) passed that freed enslaved people after they turned 28 and that automatically freed any slave who moved to the state and lived there for more than six months. Washington did all he could to get around the new law.

    South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, himself, credited Cuba’s defeat of the South African army for being a major factor in ending apartheid in his country!

  • December 15, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    Lol….that was the 1700’s. We are now in a diferent would, in another age. Wake up!

  • December 15, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Hey Ray Laforest, have you anything to comment about Cuba? Those of us who are not from the US find the diatribes about your internal problems irrelevant and boring! Wrong place, wrong time, wrong subject!
    Please if you have anything to say about racism in Cuba then provide it. For example, was there slavery at Biran? We don’t want to ask Mrs, Washington.

  • December 15, 2016 at 6:15 am

    George Washington owed nearly 150 slaves. When he was “elected” president, Washington, D.C., was not yet the nation’s capital and the new president lived first New York and then in Pennsylvania.

    Unfortunately for him, in 1780, Pennsylvania passed the Gradual Abolition Act, a law that freed people after they turned 28 and that automatically freed any slave who moved to the state and lived there for more than six months. Washington did all he could to get around the new law. Let met allow Erica Armstrong Dunbar, New York Times contributor tell you how he went about it:
    “Washington developed a canny strategy that would protect his property and allow him to avoid public scrutiny. Every six months, the president’s slaves would travel back to Mount Vernon or would journey with Mrs. Washington outside the boundaries of the state. In essence, the Washingtons reset the clock. The president was secretive when writing to his personal secretary Tobias Lear in 1791: “I request that these Sentiments and this advise may be known to none but yourself & Mrs. Washington.”

    Read more:

  • December 15, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Even though the United States had defeated British troop and had declared its independence in 1776, because the British were still in Canada, the election you are talking about, the first presidential election in the US did not take place until 13 years later, in 1789. Also, no woman, native person, black could participate in the vote, Even White men without property were excluded!

  • December 14, 2016 at 12:56 am

    It is because I live in the real world and daily observe the consequences of a repressive communist dictatorship that I am able to fully explain the reality of Cuba.

    Did the UK census question the colour of peoples skins in the last census – yes or no? Are you aware that following obvious manipulation, the Castro regime now claims that less than 10% of Cubans are black?

    You Nick continuosly prate from afar about the faults of the US without mention of those of the UK. My advice is not to throw stones so willingly at others when living in a glass greenhouse.

    i do not as you obviously do, glean my facts from Wikipedia – which is I understand far from accurate upon many subjects.

    John Carlisle was I believe the M.P. for Luton North and a member of the Monday Club. Many of his constituents worked at Vauxhall Motors and re-elected him at least twice.

    The relevance of mentioning Carlisle is that he was an illustration of the unwillingness of the UK to support the endeavors of other countries, led by PM Brian Mulroney of Canada to impose an embargo upon South Africa. Both the UK and the US joined in the concept eventually – Thatcher and Reagan.

  • December 13, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Mr MacDuff,

    Do you actually think Cuba is the only country in the world to have an ethnicity or skin colour question on a census form?
    I live in the uk.
    We fill in census forms once per decade.
    Now if you have a look at UK on Wikipedia, there will be a section on demographic including religious and racial breakdowns.
    This comes from information provided by the populace every ten years when they fill in the census.
    That’s just normal stuff Mr MacDuff.
    Very normal stuff.

    And John Carlisle (very right wing pro apartheid British politician from a few decades ago). Don’t know why on earth you want to throw him into your comment.
    I strongly suspect it’s his first and last mention on Havana Times comments pages!

    It’s always good to have an opinion Mr MacDuff.
    But do try to keep at least one foot in the real world.

  • December 13, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    There are indeed non parallels.
    And there are also parallells.
    If you choose not to see the parallels, that’s up to you.
    It’s perhaps a case of how subjective a viewpoint you have?

  • December 12, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Well who instructs the State Police to harass couples of mixed race on the streets of Havana Nick? Who wrote question 6 on the census forms in 2012?

    6. What is the colour of your skin?
    What was the purpose of that question Nick?

    Although slavery was banned in the UK (Great Britain at the time), the Bishop of Bristol owned 82 slaves. How many did George Washington have Nick?

    Your admiration for Fidel Castro’ s supposed outlawing of racial discrimination doesn’t match the reality. It is similar to stating in the same Constitution that Cubans could enter hotels! Balderdash – if they did they were evicted. It is only four years ago that Raul gave permission for them to do so (if they could save enough from their average earnings of $20.68 per month).

    As for South Africa, it was the embargo that eventually ended apartheid in South Africa – who started that Nick? Back in the UK, John Carlisle M.P. was trying to get the English Rugby team to go and play the Springboks in South Africa – remember?

  • December 11, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Okay. ….Parallels; “a person or thing that is similar or analogous to another.” I belive the adjective does not apply. Uf anything there are more obvious and glaring non-parallels. His famous gathering of his closest officers and associates, to announce his retirement to private life after the war comes to mind. ….something Castro never did, much less thought of doing.

    Being an enthusiasts of the revolutionary war era, I see, if anything, that non-parallels abound!

  • December 11, 2016 at 5:16 am

    Did you just wake up?

  • December 11, 2016 at 5:15 am

    How in the world do you speak of “today’s monstrous Police brutality,” and then ask Moses “to make an honest, fair, balanced assessment of” Castro.
    You have a double standard. You have already condemned the Police for their brutality, yet you ask that Moses not condemn Castro for his. !!!!!!!!!!! REALLY?

  • December 11, 2016 at 2:48 am

    Mr Consent,
    I think perhaps there is a misunderstanding regarding the word parallels.
    If someone suggests that there are parallels between two people, that doesn’t mean that they are stating that the two people are the same.
    It means that there the two people have certain things in common.
    Quite clearly, there are certain things in common between Fidel Castro and George Washington.
    Therefore there are parallels.
    For further definitions please consult your nearest dictionary.

  • December 11, 2016 at 2:39 am

    I do indeed acknowledge the differences.
    Let’s go back to the theme touched on in.
    Shortly after coming to power Fidel outlawed racial discrimination.
    (It is one thing to pass a law, but it is taking time to remove racism from the Cuban psychh).
    At the time the USA still had an apartheid system that had been in place since George Washington’s era.
    Furthermore, The Cuban intervention stopped the US backed apartheid South African Army’s advance as alluded to in the article.

    By contrast, George Washington was an owner of black slaves.

    There are parallels and also differences between these two giants.

    But Tyrannical?

    Surely by being a big player in the slave ownership business, Washington takes the tyranny award??

  • December 8, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    “Unfounded” hatred? Are you kidding? Fidel Castro was a tyrannical dictator. His crimes againat humanity have been well-documented. Castro is hardly the example for anyone to follow; black, brown, yellow or polka-dotted. Cuban writers who lived under Castro’s tyranny are lining up to get tell-all books published. I am angry that Fidel waisted so long to expire. But bitter? Never that.

  • December 8, 2016 at 10:34 am

    The parallels are there to see if you are a fan of tyrannical dictatorships. That is to say, George Washington reportedly expressly rejected being called or treated like a king. At the end of his term of office, he refused to accept the offer to continue in office. He understood his limitations as a man and is said to have encouraged a former rival, John Adams, to run for President to replace him. Likewise, Nick, I would be most surprised if you do see/acknowledge the differences.

  • December 8, 2016 at 10:27 am

    I agree. Your point?

  • December 8, 2016 at 9:27 am

    see the parallels? …hmmmmm, no. Castro is unelected., and the Cuban people have never had that right. He held power through fear, He confiscated properties.

    And, what made Washington truly special, was that after two terms, he volontairly stepped down, setting a precedent for all future presidents in limiting their terms. Castro, and now his brother, have ruled by force for almost 60 years!! ….So no, there are no parallels.

  • December 7, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    The revolution was not for the rich Batistanos.

  • December 7, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Dear Moses, you could be a more dignified, rational, part of the victims of hundreds of years of slavery, marginalization, Jim Crow, Lynching and today’s monstrous Police brutality and not as a mouthpiece of our oppressors, if you could just cleanse your heart and minds from an unfounded hatred against Fidel Castro.

    You and others, do not need to like, hate or be indifferent to Fidel Castro, just try to make an honest, fair, balanced assessment of such a unique, courageous, giving individual, who has left a hugefootprint in a large swat of the world.

    Think for a moment, where would millions of black, brown, yellow and poor people be today, without his example, values, principles and solidarity

    I would love to believe you are right, your assumptions were valid, your conclusions are right, but there are hundreds of proven world leaders including the most important Black leaders in Africa, Caribbean, United States, that make it impossible for a blind, deaf and fool to believe what you propose, as oppose to Malcolm X, Agosthino Neto, Maurice Bishop, Nelson Mandela, Nkrumah, Nehru, Bouteiflika, Lumumba, Caamaño, Michael Manley, just to name a few?

    I have solid reason to be as bitter as your are, but that would be selfish of me and not caring for others. Still time to change!!

  • December 7, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    You may be right Mr Patterson.
    I can tell that you would really like to be right.

    But then again……..
    As the years, decades and centuries go by it’s entirely possible that Fidel Castro will be put in the same bracket as Simon Bolivar and George Washington.

    Remember George Washington?
    Great Man.
    Establishment fella during colonial era.
    (Never quite made it as a British Army Officer.)
    Then he went all anti colonialist.
    Rejected the establishment.
    Opted out of just settling for an easy moneyed life.
    Led an independence war.
    Became the first President of the newly independent USA.
    Elected not by one man one vote but by delegates from the different states?

    See the parallels?
    Maybe you don’t?
    I would be most surprised if you do see/acknowledge the parallels Mr Patterson.
    But the parallels are there nonetheless.

    Let’s see how it goes huh?

  • December 7, 2016 at 9:43 am

    I disagree that Fidel Castro will become more popular than he was at the time of his death. In fact, as time goes on, and as more books are written of him, more details of his tyranny, of his hidden ill-gotten wealth and other suppressed details of his personal life come out, his star will shine less brightly.

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