Mwandawiro Mghanga’s Statement At Cuban Symposium In Kenya

CUBAN SOCIALIST INTERNATIONALISM: A Challenge to African Revolutionaries. Statement by Mwandawiro Mghanga Made at a Symposium
“20 years after the battle of Cuito Cuanavale: Implications for Africa and South – South Solidarity”: Thursday 20th March, 2008, 5.00-7.00pm At Charter Hall, City Hall Way Nairobi, Kenya.

CUBAN SOCIALIST INTERNATIONALISM: A Challenge to African Revolutionaries

On behalf of the Kenya – Friendship Society (KCFS), I take this opportunity to thank our guest speakers, Ambassadors of Cuba, South Africa and Angola for accepting the invitation to address the friends of Cuba and Pan – Africans gathered here today. Special thanks to the diplomat from the land of Agostino Neto who has traveled all the way from Tanzania to Kenya to honour and colour the event. Thanks also to Oxfam for collaborating with KCFS to organise the forum and for extending material support. May I also thank all of you for participating in the important discussion which is part and parcel of defending revolutionary history of Africa and the world from distortion by imperialists and their stooges.

I particularly want to congratulate all the speakers this evening for giving an in sight of Cuba’s revolutionary solidarity with Africa in general and the significance of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the liberation of Southern Africa from colonialism and apartheid in particular. The truth about the liberation struggle of Southern Africa and its friends must be told to present and future generation. This is because imperialist countries that were consistently then on the side of colonialism and apartheid politically, economically, militarily and diplomatically are today rewriting the history to claim that they were friends of the national liberation of Southern African countries and that it is they who ultimately contributed to the end of classical colonialism and apartheid.

The truth about the role played by Cuba and the then socialist countries of the world in the name of socialist revolutionary internationalism to African liberation movements must be told. Yet, who can say it better than those Africans who are still in the struggle for socialism? For true African history cannot be written by turncoats who portrayed themselves as revolutionaries only about three decades ago but today have become capitalists and imperialist’s puppets amassing wealth and priviges for themselves, friends and families at the expense of the masses of African people. 

May I also take this opportunity to point out that despite being under successive regimes that embraced capitalism and imperialism and even apartheid at the time of the battle of Cuito Cuanavalle and during the struggle of the liberation of Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa from apartheid and colonialism, the Kenyan popular masses were generally in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Southern Africa and identified with their struggles. I remember that, for example, as a student leader at University of Nairobi in the early 1980s, we organised many meetings and demonstrations together with members of ANC, PAC, SWAPO and SWANU in Nairobi in support of the struggle for the liberation of Southern Africa. In the then International Union of Students’ meetings at Dar-es-saalam, Moscow, Prague and Sofia we were in the forefront in the movement of articulating revolutionary support to the liberation of Southern Africa and for peace, socialism and anti- imperialist solidarity.

The struggle for the release of Cuban revolutionary heroes imprisoned by US imperialism is one of the most important agendas of KCFS today. The Cuban five – Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, Ramon Labanino Salazar, Rene Gonzalez Sehwerert, Fernando Gonzalez Llort and Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez – are Cuban patriots and heroes and are among the most famous people in the world today. They were arrested on September 12, 1998, and falsely and unjustly convicted before a Miami jury in June 2001 on espionage – conspiracy and related charges.  They are serving sentences of between ten and two life imprisonments for entering Miami to execute a noble mission of monitoring terrorist groups that operate in Florida and informing the Cuban government against planned attacks against their country, and, thus avoiding more terrorist actions. Today, we are proud to announce that the Cuban five also participated in Cuban revolutionary struggles in Africa.

From 1987 to 1989, Fernando Gonzalez was part of the Cuban forces supporting Angola against the South African apartheid regime while in 1989 Gerardo Hernandez was part of the Cuban forces fighting on the side of Angola against the invading South African apartheid regime. Rene Gonzalez too served in Angola as part of the Cuban forces, from 1977 to 1979.

In December 2006 I attended a similar symposium organised by The Guayasamin Foundation in Havana, Cuba. The symposium was part of the celebrations of the 80th birthday anniversary of Commander Fidel. At the symposium at Karl Marx Theatre international friends and comrades of Fidel and the Cuban revolution assembled together to contemplate on Cuba’s history of revolutionary internationalism.

We acknowledge and applauded with pride Cuba’s revolutionary solidarity with DRC Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Algeria, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, and Guinea Bissau. We paid tribute to the thousand Cuban socialist revolutionaries that shed their blood in Africa in order that Africa is free from colonialism, apartheid and imperialism. In the same meeting were heores who lived to tell about the liberation war in which Cuban troops played the decisive role that made the apartheid regime to surrender both at the war front and the negotiation table, were present.

Cuban revolutionary internationalism is an example of socialist globalisation that is driven by the desire to make the world more peaceful, just, free, conducive to life and progressive than it is to day. It is globalisation deriven by values of humanity, friendship and solidarity between peoples embodied in socialism. Cuban internationalism countinues to offer the world this globalisation as shown by thousands of students from all over the world studying in Cuba free of charge and also thousands of Cuban medical, teaching and other personel working voluntarily in many parts of the world, especially in developing countries.

The globalisation represented by Cuba’s internationalism exposes the reactionary neo-liberal globalisation that is aimed at maintaining and expanding the status quo of capitalism and imperialism and that is ultimately responsible for the escalation of poverty, injustice, conflicts, erosion of cultures and the environment and increasing gap between the rich and the poor within and between nations.

But while in Havana contemplating about the socialist  globalisation exemplified by Cuba, I could not stop the temptation to ask the questions which even today I cannot also stop myself from asking. The questions are in fact a challenge to African socialist revolutionaries.

What have we Africans done with the solidarity of the Cuban people to our continent? Did Cuban people shed their blood in Angola, Namibia, Congo, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia so that they can bring to power dictatorial, capitalist and pro-imperialist regimes? Was the battle of Cuito Cuanavalle about helping comprador regimes composed of yesterdays ‘revolutionaries’ now turned millionaires of collaborating with foreign capital to sell their oil, minerals and other natural recourses to benefit mainly of the class of the rich elite controling state and political power?

Where are the revolutionaries of yesterday and what happened to socialist oriented political programmes and manifestoes held by the then liberation movements in Southern Africa and Portuguese colonies? How comes revolutionaries of yesterday are today millionaire businessmen singing the praises of capitalism and neo-liberal globalisation? How comes what used to be progressive and revolutionary political parties and movements during the liberation war in Angola, Guinnea Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa today while in power are happily implementing capitalist oriented neo-liberal economic and social policies that escalate the alienation of the masses from the resources, economic and political power of their nations?

Where is the legacy of Kwameh Nkuruma, Madibo Keita, Patrice Lumumba, Agostino Neto, Amilicar Cabral, Julius Nyerere, Abdel Nasser, Abdulrahman Mohamed Babu, Samora Machel, Dedan Kimathi, Govan Mbeki, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo and hundreds of communists revolutionaries produced by the struggle of South Africa?

Even now, Africa continues to benefit from Cuba’s solidarity in scholarship for students studying in Cuba, doctors, teachers and whatever solidarity Cuba is able to offer. But what does Africa give in return? While we praise Cuba’s success in safeguarding its revolution and national sovereignity, in health, education and provision of social services and the production of a better human being, what prevents us from learning from Cuba? Why instead do we prefer to keep on emulating the West and related countries by implementing neo-liberal economic, social and political policies while chanting about democracy, human rights, transparency, accountability, good governance, poverty alleviation, equality, gender, conservation of the environment, etc., without the wish and will to take concrete political and economic measures to make them a reality to the majority of our people. Yet the truth is that under condition of capitalism and imperialism these words are a sham as they are not meant to change the lives of the majority African people who are poor but are used to help maintain the status quo of the system of exploitation and oppression of person by person?

In other words, the challenge of the present generation of African revolutionaries is to move beyond nostalgia, which many a time is a camouflage of the hypocricy of the reactionary forces in power today, and debate about concrete issues aimed at justifying the sacrifices made by African and Cuban heroes in the first liberation of African countries. Cuba has payed its debt to Africa and it continues to do so. We also have a debt to Cuba which we shall pay by struggling for socialism in our countries and in Africa.

Mwandawiro Mghanga,
Chairman Social Democratic Party (SDP)
Chairman Kenya – Cuba Friendship Society (KCFS)