We Remember the Cuban Five

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With their highly celebrated and most welcome visit to Namibia last week, the Cuban Five left some of us feeling they were conquerors of our souls, imaginations, and indeed, with our common revolutionary salutations we heartily reciprocated with all Cubans, and with the five in particular, as our honoured guests.

They were deserving heroes, celebrated and brave defenders of the Cuban Revolution in the noble tradition of Jose Marti, Fidel Castro Ruz, Ernesto Ché Guevara, Camilo Cienfuego, who waged a true war of liberation from the Sierra Maestra Mountains to overthrow the American-protected, fascist regime of the dictator, Fulgencio Batista, who was being manipulated by the CIA.

The Cuban Five stood for a legitimate cause of international solidarity and mutual support, in all ways necessary until the total victory is won and the oppressed and exploited peoples of the world are all free at last! Vitória é certa!

My own groundbreaking link to the Cuban revolutionaries came in the mid-1950s in my railway hometown, Usakos.

This is how it happened: in 1956, the Soviet Union sent into the space the famous Sputnik spacecraft as one of their highly-acclaimed space exploration inventions.

The capitalist West, the U.S. in particular, was utterly confused by that overwhelming achievement. I actually learned about all this when I first reached the USA in 1963. J.F Kennedy had just become the President of the USA, but more about that later…

A caveat was later added to that story, which was that the Soviets were actually using the Sputnik to establish practical and workable ways from up there beyond the reach of the American spy planes to determine the best ways and means to give military assistance to the Cuban Combatants held up in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.

I have tried, during so many decades of high-level contacts in Moscow and Washington D.C., in particular, to verify this story, either as a fact or fiction, but to no avail.

We see changes happening and feel encouraged that for quite some time now, the Presidents, Barack Obama of the USA and Raul Castro of Cuba, have reached ongoing rapprochement towards normalising relations between the two neighbouring countries and indeed their respective citizens themselves.

We applaud them and urge them to stay the course in all respects. In this context, there is some good news in that the two countries have moved forward towards restoring full diplomatic relations and exchanging full ambassadors.

To that end, it is speculated that the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry will soon be arriving in Havana to wrap up the details. Let us welcome and encourage all that. Even then, the crucial matter of the Guantanamo dragnet should also enjoy the urgent attention of the two sides.

By the way, the Cuban Five will be returning to Namibia, sooner than some of you thought, as special guests of the government, but this time they were invited by our President Dr. Hage G. Geingob, as it was his idea! The occasion will be the commemoration of our annual Heroes Day and in recognition of the history and struggle of the Namibian People.

I left Namibia in 1962 as a 24-year old teacher and reached Tanzania that same year, where I celebrated the full Independence of that wonderful country, as well as the swearing-in of Dr Julius Kambarage Nyerere as the first President of the Republic of Tanzania. That was during the period of the so-called ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’.

The Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation’s historic conference in Tanzania that same year is where I met a huge Cuban delegation prompted by the “Cuban Missile Crisis” issue that consumed the greater part of that conference’s agenda. But for me it was an object lesson in world affairs and multilateralism that would in the fullness of time become second nature to me.

When I left for the USA in June 1963, I found President John F. Kennedy in the White House. The ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ and then the ‘Bay of Pigs’ issue, and later the Vietnam War, were the burning public policy issues for me at the time, in Washington, D.C., and at the United Nations.

I had left Namibia in September in 1962 and returned in July 1989. That’s that!

Let it be said that we shall do what is necessary to safeguard the Republic of Namibia, the People, the Constitution, and our nationhood for the benefit of the children of the land and all posterity.

Long Live the Republic of Namibia! A luta Continua!

Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab is a former Speaker of the National Assembly.

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