Commander Jorge Risquet Valdes' Speech At CONFERENCE ON THE 103RD ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF DR. KWAME NKRUMAH
Commander Jorge Risquet Valdes' Speech At CONFERENCE ON THE 103RD ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF DR. KWAME NKRUMAH
Commander Jorge Risquet Valdes' Speech At CONFERENCE ON THE 103RD ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF DR. KWAME NKRUMAH
By Sela Amandla on Monday, September 24, 2012 at 1:15 PM
CONFERENCE ON THE 103RD ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF DR. KWAME NKRUMAH.
Mr. President, my dear Ghanaian friends:
It is with great pleasure that we have accepted the gracious invitation extended to us by the Socialist Forum of Ghana (SFG) and have made this long journey from our Caribbean island to the ancestral land of Africa, to pay our humble and glowing tribute to Founding Father Kwame Nkrumah, on the occasion of the 103rd anniversary of his birth, rightly declared Founder's Day.
Before offering my modest contribution to this significant and timely International Symposium, permit me to reiterate my heartfelt condolences for the recent and untimely death of President John Evans Atta Mills.
In making this statement I would like to express my appreciation of the many virtues of Professor Atta Mills, among which particular mention must be made of his integrity, his intelligence and his dedication to the cause of enforcing the stability of his Motherland and the prosperity of its people.
Ghana was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from the mother country, Britain, the mightiest colonizing empire on the five continents.
This historic event has a unique name, Kwame Nkrumah. It has a collective actor, the Ghanaian people.
Was Nkrumah born with a silver spoon in his mouth? No, he was born to a modest family, the son of a humble retailer and goldsmith.
But he had an exceptional talent and a strong willpower, attributes that accounted for his ability to organize, unite, and lead the fight to achieve the noble objectives he intended to pursue in later years.
Both qualities allowed him to excel in the mission school where he undertook his primary education. He became what may be referred to as assistant instructor, a universally accepted distinction reserved for the most advantaged and responsible students.
He attends secondary school in public institutions in Accra. As a young graduate teacher, he teaches at various schools up to 1935.
He decides to travel to the U.S. to pursue higher education.
The trip is sponsored by his family, but once in the U.S., in order to keep body and soul together, he finds himself working as a laborer in soap factory and in a shipyard, as a ship waiter, as a retail salesperson, and engaging in other honest ways of earning a living. While studying Economics and Sociology at the University of Lincoln, he teaches political science at the same university. He also obtains degrees in Education and Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.
We are talking about a solid thirty-or-so-year-old intellectual who is simultaneously the President of the African Students Union in America and Canada as well as a young leader still in his formative years in politics, when the idea of Pan-Africanism is conceived in the United States, the citadel of the most brutal form of racial discrimination and of the Ku Klux Klan.
William Du Bois’ popular pioneering work and Marcus Garvey’s philosophy of "Africa for Africans" together with his movement for the return to the ancestral continent, all contribute to intensifying Nkrumah’s yearning for uplifting to a dignified life, his brothers in blood and suffering.
Ten years have since passed. In 1945, he decides to move to London to study law and write his thesis. He gets ready for the extraordinary combats.
There, he is elected Vice-President of the West African Student Union.
The 5th Pan-African Congress is held in the metropolis, in Manchester, where plans are conceived to fight for the independence of Africa, following the crushing of nazism-fascism in Europe by the forces of freedom and democracy.
Nkrumah is one of the deputy secretaries of this exciting event. It is here that he makes a final decision on the object of his struggle and his life.
It is Nkrumah who drafts the historic declaration of 5th Pan-African Congress of Manchester, addressed to "The Colonial Peoples of the World".
The declaration is so brilliant and so moving, I can not resist the temptation to read it out to you, although I am not unaware that you probably have it at the tip of your tongues, but please do share with me the nostalgic excitement that it brings:
Declaration of the 5th Pan African Congress "To the Colonial Peoples of the World", Manchester, 1945.
"We believe in freedom and the right of all peoples to govern themselves. We affirm the right of all colonial peoples to control their own destiny. All colonies must be free from foreign imperialist control, be it political or economic. The peoples of the colonies must have the right to choose their rulers, to elect a government without restrictions imposed by a foreign power. We say to all peoples of the colonies that they must fight with all means at their disposal for this purpose. The aim of the imperialists is to exploit you. By ensuring the right of the colonial peoples to self government, we are defeating the imperialist objectives. Thus, the struggle for political power by the colonized people is the first step and a prerequisite for achieving complete social, economic and political emancipation.
The 5th Pan African Congress calls on all workers and peasants of the colonies to organize themselves. Colonial workers must be in the frontline in the battle against imperialism.
The 5th Pan African Congress calls on all the intellectuals and the professionals of the colonies to take on their responsibilities. The long night is coming to an end. By fighting for union rights, the right to form cooperatives, press freedom, freedom of assembly, freedom to demonstrate or to go on strike, freedom to print and read the literature necessary for the education of the masses, you are simply using the appropriate means to win and maintain your freedom. At present there is only one road to effective action: organizing the masses.
"COLONIAL & SUPRESSED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD, UNITE!"
Nkrumah assumes the position of General Secretary of the Working Committee established after the Manchester Conference, and editor of the New African, the mouthpiece for the struggle to liberate the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa and to unite them into a large multinational and multiethnic force, occupying a sovereign place among the several blocks that made up the world of mid-twentieth century.
I am probably going too far in talking extensively about events already known to you, but I was only trying to exphasize the importance of this formative period of the leader of a nation and of a continent.
His return to Ghana in November 1947, after some twelve years of absence, could not have happened at a more appropriate time: the battle must be fought on the ground, first for the independence of Ghana and, thereafter, for liberation from colonialism as well as the unity of all nations of the Continent.
That will constitute the focal point of his activities and actions on African soil, the goal of his life, the passion of his daily struggle, total commitment to the sacred cause.
It would be pretentious to recount the impact of that decade of struggle by Nkrumah, the fighting hero: strong, intelligent, with a burning desire to sensitize, motivate, mobilize and assemble the masses, toward the achievement of total independence.
However, I want to emphasize how in the eyes of Nkrumah, the attainment of independence for his native country (which he named Ghana, an original national indigenous community before it was christened the Gold Coast by the colonialists to depict its wealth, which they were to appropriate to themselves) this national independence, was only the beginning, the first step of his great dream and his great cause: the independence and unity of the Continent.
Let us remember his own words, words that are thrilling to read, words that we consider valid today even as we speak.
"I have never regarded the struggles for the independence of the Gold Coast, as an isolated objective, but always as a part of a general world historical pattern. Africans of all the territories of this vast continent shall wake up and nothing shall stand in the way of their fight for freedom.
"It is our duty, since we constitute the vanguard, to give all possible assistance to those currently waging battles that we have put on the right track; our task is not done and our safety is not secured until the last vestiges of colonialism are eliminated from the African continent."
I have been asked to reflect on "The contribution of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to the struggle against imperialism."
In keeping with that, I wish to stop delving extensively into the activities of the singular, intelligent and passionate struggle waged by Nkrumah on his return to Ghana, how he went about bringing patriots together, founding organizations, gaining ground, snatching from the colonial masters concession after concession.
He is aware of the complexity of the long battle.
I quote the words of Nkrumah:
"We have shown that the imperialist powers will never abandon their political and economic dominance over their colonies until they are forced to do so."
From this absolutely justified conviction, Nkrumah drafts his famous three fundamental hypotheses, which demonstrate:
How the domination of financial capital of the metropolis incites intellectuals and the working class in the colonies to protest against imperialism.
How the transformation of capitalism into a global system has led to the subjection to colonial oppression and exploitation of the vast majority of the world population by a group of so-called civilized nations.
And how disagreements between the imperialist powers can be exacerbated, which can then be exploited to establish links between the working classes of the capitalist countries and the exploited masses of the colonies, with a view to achieving colonial emancipation.
The findings of these three hypotheses are defined by NKrumah in the final chapter of his book "Towards Colonial Freedom", a chapter titled The Way Forward, similar to the title used by Lenin in his famous thesis on the Russian Revolution.
I quote Nkrumah:
A) The intensification of the crisis within the colonial powers in their colonies.
B) The intensification of the crisis in the colonies and the growth of liberation movements against local colonial governments on the colonial front.
C) Under conditions of imperialism, it may not be possible to plot a war, but collaboration between proletarian movements in capitalist countries and liberation movements in the colonies against the imperialist front of the world is inevitable.
Nkrumah has, nevertheless, become not only a profound theoretist on the colonial problem, but a man of action who shows the way, who mobilizes the masses, and who advances on the path of liberation.
He asks himself: "how do I achieve it?" He answers himself:
"First, and foremost, through the organization of the colonial masses."
He dedicates his mission to the practical achievement of this mobilization drive.
He defines the goal of national liberation movements with precision. He speaks in the plural, for he does not make reference to Ghana only but to all African peoples:
"it is the attainment of a complete and unconditional independence, and the building of communities in which true development of each person is a condition for the development of others."
The last sentence in the anthologies on the history of the African peoples is worth putting in upper case:
"COLONIAL PEOPLES, UNITE: workers the world over are with you."
It is on March 6, 1957 that the then Gold Coast becomes an independent state and Nkrumah as leader of the Convention People's Party (CPP) becomes president of Ghana.
In April 1958, Nkrumah convenes a conference of independent African states and in December he plays host to representatives from all corners of Africa in Accra, who expound their views on the ways and the means the struggle against colonial discrimination will assume.
That great conclave witnesses the participation of Patrice Lumumba, who declares:
"This historical conference, which puts us in contact with experienced political figures from all the African countries, reveals one thing to us: despite the boundaries that separate us, despite our ethnic differences, we have the same awareness, the same soul plunged day and night in anguish, the same anxious desire to make this African continent a free and happy continent that has rid itself of unrest and of fear and of any sort of colonialist domination. Down with colonialism and tribalism. " End of quote.
In the same year, when Guinea, led by Sekou Toure, cuts ties with France, the Ghanaian leader supports his political decision and, following economic reprisals by the excolonial power, Nkrumah provides financial assistance to meet their most pressing needs.
In 1960, he takes the same measure in solidarity with Modibo Keita’s Mali, which had to grapple with serious economic difficulties on attaining independence.
He founds the Union of African States, comprising Ghana, Guinea and Mali, which was to serve as a basis for the formation of broader regional groupings on the continent in subsequent years.
The Ghanaian President is indefatigable in his mission to unite African nations. In 1961, the so-called White House Conference is held: Ghana, Guinea, Mali, United Arab Republic, Libya and the provisional government of the Algerian Republic. A decision is made to support the National Liberation Front of Algeria and the Lumumba forces in the Congo, in addition to the adoption of the African Charter condemning colonialism.
In March 1961, he attends the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference and threatens to withdraw if apartheid South Africa’s membership is allowed to continue.
The Prime Minister of Pretoria is forced to withdraw his application for readmission to the Commonwealth.
Nkrumah is one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity, he takes the first steps towards creating OSPAAAL and he is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement.
In other words, the struggle for the unity of the newly liberated nations and the assistance given to countries that were still fighting for independence was a permanent feature in the life of your and our dear Nkrumah.
We want to make reference to the relations between our two countries, Ghana and Cuba.
As is known, with the arrival of the Granma yacht off the coast of Cuba on December 2, 1956, the Cuban Revolution began, which after 25 months of bloody and heroic struggle, freed our country forever from neocolonialism, enabling her to achieve true national independence, a cause for which she had fought for nearly a century.
This means that on March 6, 1957, on that happy day of independence for the Ghanaian people, we Cubans were busy at war against pro-Yankee tyranny.
Our revolution triumphed precisely on the First of January, 1959, exactly sixty years from the day on which the infamous Navy Yankee invaded Cuba and subjected her to military occupation for over three years, up to 1902, when we emerged as neocolonial republic.
In 1959, the first year of our revolution in power, Cuba performed three major activities with respect to Africa:
1st) She established diplomatic relations with Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser.
2nd) She established relations with Nkrumah’s Ghana, then the only independent country south of the Sahara.
3ro) It sent a shipment of arms to the Algerian Liberation Army which was engaged in a war against colonial France.
Ghana was therefore the first country south of the Sahara to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1959 at a time when the United States President Eisenhower had decided to break the Cuban revolution and start the economic embargo and preparations to what would become the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which was crushed in April 1961, the first major defeat suffered by America’s imperialism. Nkrumah’s move was a major challenge to the United States and a bold political decision.
The stronger the friendship, solidarity and fraternity between Ghana and Cuba, the closer the diplomatic ties between both countries which was sealed in September 1960 with a tight embrace between the Commander in Chief, Fidel Castro and President Kwame Nkrumah.
The meeting between the leader of the first independent subsaharan African country and the leader of the first truly free Latin American country took place in the modest Hotel Theresa in the black suburd of Harlem, in New York, where our Prime Minister was lodging during his participation in the United Nations General Assembly, also attended by the Ghanaian leader.
Nkrumah gave a speech in the morning of 23rd September. It was a powerful speech.
“ For years, Africa has been the victim of colonialism and imperialism, exploitation and degradation”.
“But we do not seek revenge. We are asking for freedom in Africa: this is a simple request, but is a sign for who do not want to see it”.
“…the creation of a seat for Africa in the United Nations Security Council whenever the United Nations Charter is revised and modified.”
Nkrumah condemned the negative role played by UN Forces in Congo Leopoldville, and suggested that contingents of African forces be given a common mandate and the withdrawal of all non African forces, including the identification and elimination of Belgian troops.
Nkrumah also spoke about the military and nuclear arms bases in Africa.
In his speech, the Cuban Prime Minister, Fidel Castro fully supported this proposal and reiterated its fairness with concrete examples.
Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot help stating these to you:
“There is also a proposal from the leader of the Ghanaian delegation, which we would like to support. It is a call for all military bases and, for that matter nuclear arm bases, to leave African soil. It is a call for an Africa free from the dangers of an atomic war. This has already happened in the Antarctic.
Why do we make progress in disarmament, but cannot make progress in liberating certain parts of the world that are faced with the threat of a nuclear war? If Africa, experiences a renaissance, that Africa that we are all learning to know, not the Africa we know on maps, not the Africa we are made to believe in Hollywood films and novels, not that Africa with a half-naked tribesman, armed with a bow, ready to run at the first sight of the white hero, and the white hero, whose heroism only grew as he plundered the natural wealth of Africa That Africa that stands here with leaders like Nkrumah and Sekou Toure, or that African-Arab world under Nasser, the real Africa, the oppressed and exploited continent, the continent from which came millions of slaves, that Africa that has so much pain in its history, that Africa to whom we owe a duty to protect from the danger of destruction, let do something for the remaining population, for all that Africa has suffered, let’s protect it from the threat of atomic war, by declaring Africa an area free of this threat, and not set up atomic bases, and at least allow the continent, while we cannot do otherwise, to be a place where human life can be protected (LONG APPLAUSE) Let us warmly support this proposal”.
The second high level meeting between Cuba and Ghana took place in Belgrade in September 1961.
The President of Cuba, Osvaldo Dorticós, represented our country at the First Summit of the Non Aligned Movement, one of whose promoters was President Nkrumah, together with leaders like Tito, Nasser, Sukarno and Nerhu.
Cuba is the only Latin American country to have joined the Movement since its creation.
The opening of the respective diplomatic missions required more time.
For Cuba, it was necessary to “hurriedly” create a diplomatic mission, because our country was part of a neo-colonial North America until the overthrow of tyranny on the First of January 1959. There were career diplomats but were diplomatic stooges to the new politics in Washington.
It was not until December 1963, that our diplomatic mission would be established in Accra with the status of an Embassy. It was Comrade Armando Entralgo who, although 26 years of age, possessed the political firmness required for such a delicate role in one of the African countries Cuba considered important, in addition to Egypt, Algeria, Guinea, Mali and Tanzania.
Armando Entralgo (now deceased) received lots of support from Nkrumah and his government, including the establishment of a correspondence with our Prensa Latina Agency and, as we shall see much later, the transport of cuban fighters with their weapons in suitcases, heading for Congo Brazzaville.
Ernesto Che Guevara visited Ghana in the third week of January 1965.
With news of his impending visit, Nkrumah called Ambassador Entraglo, expressing his excitement for the visit and requesting that El Che spend a few more days in Ghana to interact with many more people.
El Che met with Nkrumah on the second day of his visit: a third embrace from Fidel’s Cuba but this time with a man who would become a universal symbol for the fight for full independence and for Socialism in Third World countries. This was a rare display of internationalism, heroism, selflessness and sacrifice for the wellbeing of the people.
Che’s delegation arrived late on the night of 14th January but held discussions the next day with the Foreign Minister, Mr. Botsio.
In the early hours of Saturday 16th, Nkrumah received Commandant Guevara. They held discussions on the situation in Cuba, Latin America and in Africa most especially in the former Belgian colony of Congo.
During his week-long stay, el Che met with the press, Liberation Movements in Accra, party leaders, unionists, youth movements and women’s movements and also visited the Akosombo Dam and other growing sectors.
On the 20th, the eve of this departure, Che held a final meeting with the President which lasted more than two hours.
Che Guevara’s visit to Ghana was part of a tour of various countries including Algeria, Egypt, Guinea, Tanzania, Congo Brazzaville and Benin.
Why such an extensive tour of Africa and why those countries?
The tour by el Che, together with Fidel and Raul was among the main trips the revolutionary leaders embarked on to strengthen relations with the most progressive countries and liberation movements across the continent and to offer the support of Revolutionary Cuba as was being done in Latin America.
In his 1960 speech to the UN on Africa, Fidel advocated support for Nkrumah’s proposal to make the continent one free of atomic weapons, “because we could not do otherwise”.
In 1965, Cuba “could do other things”, and was in the position to offer significant support to its ancestral continent.
This contribution was based on four pillars:
1) Technical collaboration through the provision of medical and other professionals as well as scholarships to African youth to study in Cuba.
2)Military support to Independent countries whose territorial integrity was under threat.
3) Military support for countries under colonial oppression.
4) Full support in the fight against Apartheid in South Africa as well as in Namibia and Zimbabwe.
During his tour, El Che received various requests for collaboration which were sent to Cuba for consideration.
Most important among these included:
Collaboration through supplies and military support for Amilcar Cabral’s PAIGC in Guinea Bissau
Military support for Agostinho Neto’s MPLA in the Cabinda province, along the Congo Brazzaville border.
Military collaboration with Congo Brazzaville under Massemba Debat when it faced invasion by the government of Mobuto and his thousands of White mercenaries
Collaboration with Kabila’s guerrilla movement in the east of Congo Leopoldville
The Cuban leadership agreed to offer this request support to its African brothers.
The first group of instructors joined PAIGC forces as they entered Bissau through the Guinea border with the full support of President Sekou Toure.
On April 23, 1965, three months after Che met Nkrumah in Accra, this heroic warrior with three Cuban fighters, crossed Lake Tanganika in two small boats as they left Kigoma, Tanzania for Congolese soil, where they fought alongside lumumba’s guerrilla fighters.
About 130 Cuban fighters used this same route in the following weeks as they joined what became known as Che’s Column One. These fighters arrived in Tanzania and crossed the Lake with the full support of President Nyerere.
I was put in charge of Column Two which we named the Patrice Lumumba Battalion.
The Commander-in-Chief thus spelt out our task, in his response to Ignacio Ramonet, Writer and author of the recent book “One hundred hours with Fidel”.
“In July of that year, barely three months after Che’s arrival in Congo, we sent a contingent of about 250 men under the leadership of Comrade Jorge Risquet. These fighters arrived in Brazzaville…and were sent to defend the nationalist government of Massemba Debat and, from there, provide support to Che who found himself pushed back in the east of the other Congo.
While in Brazzaville, Risquet and his men began training other guerrilla fighters. They particularly trained MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) fighters and within a short time had prepared enough men to create three columns who, from Brazzaville, joined Angolan guerilla fighters” End of quote.
How did the 250 fighters arrive in Brazzaville?
Very simple: The first 50 men, travelled by air in small groups: Havana-Moscow in a soviet aircraft which flew that route. Then Moscow-Accra, also by Aeroflot.
Most of our men carried their rifles and ammunitions in their luggages because it was believed that it would provide needed security before the shipment of two hundred men who would for the bulk of the Battalion and the heavy arms, live ammunition and supplies for the troops.
Entralgo, our Ambassador, coordinated with the Ghanaian authorities who ensured that cubans who arrived in Ghana via this route were not subjected to checks at the airport. Such orders could only have been given at the highest levels of the Government.
I would like to take this opportunity, after almost half a century of success, to express appreciation for Ghana’s show of solidarity which ensured that the vanguard of our “Patrice Lumumba Battalion” arrived quickly and safety at its destination, Brazzaville.
A squadron of the Patrice Lumumba Battalion moved to the Congo’s borde area with Cabina to advise MPLA guerrillas as President Agostinho Neto had requested of Che in their January meeting in Brazzaville.
While there, the Cubans were met with a pleasant surprise; a Captain in the Ghanaian Army was sharing his experience with the Angolan fighters. Nkrumah had assigned him this internationalist mission given his previous experience in Leopoldville, with the outstanding performance of Ghanaian forces with the UN.
Ghanaian soldiers, as is well known, tried to protect Patrice Lumumba in the week of his tragic overthrow as Prime Minister by President Kasabuvu.
Kasavubu, Tshombe and Mobutu plotted to physically eliminate Lumumba.
The decision to assassinate came from President Eisenhower of the United States.
Eisenhower had publicly declared that “Lumumba is another Fidel Castro”,. The CIA received the criminal order to try and eliminate him.
The presence of Ghanaian, Guinean and other African troops in Leopoldville, as part of the UN contingent, prevented the execution of this criminal plot.
As is widely known, Lumumba left Leopoldville for Stanleyville where Gizenga, his compatriot, had set up a resistance to the American-Belgian conspiracy, with support from the Congolese trio, mentioned above, and the UN Secretary General Dag Hammaskjóld.
Lumumba was captured on his way to Stanleyville, put in prison and later handed over to Tshombe in Katanga where this despicable assassination took place.
This Ghanaian Lieutenant, one of the supporters of Lumumba in 1960, was now the instructor of the MPLA’s guerrilla in Cabinda, with the Rank of Captain.
His name? Kojo Tsikata
The relation between us and Tsikata was wonderful.
24th February saw the cunning overthrow of President Nkrumah. You know better than me that it sounded like the hand of imperialism was involved.
Tsikata left Angola. Those of us who know him were sure that he had sought ways of entering Ghana and joining in to fight the spurious government in place.
The pro-imperialist coup d’etat which overthrew Nkrumah produced deep indignation among our people.
Entralgo, our Ambassador, gave all the protection he could to our friends whose lives were in danger, his wife Mary Flores, current Cuban Ambassador to the UNESCO and journalist in the Prensa Latina, Lázara Rodriguez Aleman (deceased) who met the Ambassador in a show of solidarity with our persecuted Ghanaian friends.
Ambassador Entralgo was expelled by the Junta that overthrew the government.
When in June 1979, the civil-military movement led by Flt. Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings took over power, Cuba immediately appointed an Ambassador and sought approval.
The VI Summit of Non Aligned Movement was held in early September.
To our utmost surprise and joy, the Ghanaian delegation attended the Summit led by Flt. Lt. Rawlings, Chairman of the Provisional Government, accompanied by our old Comrade, Kojo Tsikata.
It was during this same month of September 1979 that the Cuban Embassy in Accra was reopened. Comrade Niel Ruiz was appointed Ambassador for more than four years.
Ghana and Cuba restarted collaborations particularly in 1982 when Rawlings assumed leadership of the country.
Over the last thirty years of Ghana-Cuba cooperation there have been about 900 Cubans have served in Ghana, particularly in the health sector. Currently there are 200 of our compatriots working in Ghana.
During this same period, about 1200 ghanaian students have been offered Cuban scholarships to study at the secondary and tertiary levels in various fields of study. Currently 250 students are pursuing courses in medicine in Cuba and 50 Ghanaian doctors are taking various specialisation courses.
Under the current economic conditions in Ghana and Cuba, this collaboration is mutually beneficial to both countries
Political ties between our countries, over these 30 years, have seen regular visits by leaders of both countries.
Former President Rawlings has been decorated with the Order of Jose Marti and Playa Giron. Captain Tsikata, on the other hand, was awarded the Order of Militant Fraternity, solidarity division and the Order of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes.
During his recent visit to Cuba, President John Dramani Mahama, then Vice President was awarded the Medal of Friendship, in recognition of his solidarity towards our country in its fight against the blockade and freedom of the Five Antiterrorist Heroes who have been wrongfully held in the United States for the past 14 years.
You may wonder why Cuba maintains such close ties with the people of Africa.
This is why.
Remember that about four centuries ago, between 1521 and 1873, 300 million Africans and Africa slaves arrived on our shores and thrown into barracks on our fields to work for 16 to 18 hours, with very little food and suffered cruel punishments, to produce wealth for their masters.
Such were the terrible conditions and, though they were mostly young men and women, annual mortality rates reached eight 8 percent which meant that average life expectancy for a slave in Cuba was 12 and a half years.
People from different ethnic groups were brought to Cuba: Congos, Lucumies, Yorubas, Karabalies, Ashantis, Fantis, Ewes, Mandinga, Araras, Bantús. In fact, I could name more than 60 ethnic groups.
The abolition of aborigines, perpetrated by first century colonizers, turned Cuba into the most cost-effective place to send black slaves, especially when our island became a major sugar producing country.
Cuba’s current population is, to use the words of Fernando Ortiz, an ajiaco (a hearty chicken and potato stew)- a mix of aboriginal, Spanish, black African and even Chinese blood, because some 150 thousand coolies (Chinese Cubans) were brought in the middle of the XIX century from the Port of Canton.
Cuba is an Africa-Latin American country, as Fidel defined it. Indeed Bolivar too has our unique identity which – from the Rio Bravo to the Patagonia- differentiates us from the other Anglo-Saxon America.
Far and heroic was the fight by Latin American people as they sought freedom.
Cuba was the last colony to be free, and we fought three wars in the last three decades of the XIX century.
Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, the initiator of the first Ten-year war, is the founding Father of our Homeland.
Mariana Grajales de Maceo, of mixed African and European descent, who served in the battle with her husband and thirteen sons and daughters is seen as the “Mother of Cuba”.
Martí, Maceo and Gómez led the last battle from 1895 to 1898. During this battle, we lost 26% of our population but we succeeded in breaking the yoke of Spain.
When we help the people of Africa we are only paying our due to humanity which is what Fidel calls “Internationalism and Solidarity” among peoples.
This was the understanding with which Cuban fighters went to ancestral Africa to fight side by side with the people against colonialism and the oppressive Apartheid regime.
For 26 years, 381 thousand Cuban soldiers and officers fought alongside African populations; between April 24, 1965, when Ernest Che Guevara and his men crossed Lake Tanganika, and May 25, 1991 when the remaining 500 Cuban fighters returned home triumphant.
Among these internationalists were three of the Five Antiterrorist Heroes currently held in the Imperialist’s prison.
2, 400 cuban internationalist fighters lost their lives on African soil.
Today we no more send soldiers. Now, we send doctors, teachers, builders, specialists in various fields.
Between 1963 when the first group of 55 Cubans, Doctors and technicians arrived in Algeria, and the first quarter of 2010, 120,000 civilians have provided services, giving their bit towards the well being of Africans.
This means that half a million Cubans in almost half a century have collaborated with the people of Africa.
There are currently a few thousand Cubans working in 26 countries in Africa. This cooperation will never cease. This is what we were taught by the leaders of our revolution; Fidel, el Che, Raul. It is the doctrine of the Communist Party of Cuba
I will not dwell much on this. But I will like to mention the symbolic display of respect and admiration of our people for the pioneers in the fight for Africa’s independence.
At a square in the City of Havana stand busts of Patrice Lumumba, Gamel Abdel Nasser, Sekou Toure, Amilcar Cabral, Agostinho Neto, Samora Machel, Laurent Kabila and other pioneers of Africa’s Independence struggle. Kwame Nkrumah’s bust chairs this Park of Nationalist African Heroes.
Honour and glory to Kwame Nkrumah; an iconic figure in the Fight for Independence and the wellbeing of his people!