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Sisters' & Brothers' Keeper: Cuba and Southern Africa Liberation

7pm, Tuesday, February 27

Room 1014

Rowe Management Building

6100 University Avenue

Dalhousie University

Sponsored by: Black Students Advising Centre and the Transition Year Program, both at Dalhousie University, and the Nova Scotia Cuba Association

SISTERS' & BROTHERS' KEEPER documents Cuba's decisive role in the struggle to end racist rule in South Africa and in achieving the independence of Namibia. It has been shown in the United States (New York, Detroit & Oakland), Britain (London & Sheffield) and South Africa (Cape Town).

The film includes, among others, footage of Nelson Mandela's visit to Cuba and his moving speech in praise of the island's invaluable contribution to the liberation struggles of Africa; the critical 1988 Battle of Cuito Cuanavale and Fidel Castro's commentary, and interviews with soldiers and families from Cuba and South Africa. SISTERS' & BROTHERS' KEEPER is produced by Isaac Saney and Mark Rushton.


Cuba's crucial role in ending racist rule in South Africa is little known in the West. In 1975, Cuba - at the explicit request of the government of the then newly-independent Angola - deployed 36, 000 troops to repulse a large-scale invasion by the racist South African state. Cuban troops remained for more than 15 years to defend Angola from South African aggression. During this period more than 300, 000 Cubans served in Angola: not only as soldiers but also as doctors, teachers, and engineers. More than 2, 000 Cubans died in defense of Angolan independence and right of self-determination.

In 2007-2008, the South African armed forces were decisively defeated by combined Cuban, Angolan and Namibian troops at Cuito Cuanavale in south-eastern Angola. The battle is often referred to as the African Stalingrad of apartheid regime in South Africa. Cuba's contribution was vital as it provided the essential reinforcements, material and planning.

The defeat at Cuito Cuanavale of the South African armed forces led to the immediate independence of Namibia and accelerated the dismantling of apartheid. Thus, the battle of Cuito Cuanavale ended Pretoria's dream of establishing hegemony in the Southern Africa region as a means by which to extend the life of the racist regime.

In 1991, Nelson Mandela poignantly stated "the Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice unparalleled for its principled and selfless character."

In 1998, Mandela further declared: "If today all South Africans enjoy the rights of democracy; if they are able at last to address the grinding poverty of a system that denied them even the most basic amenities of life, it is also because of Cuba's selfless support for the struggle to free all of South Africa's people and the countries of our region from the inhumane and destructive system of apartheid. For that, we thank the Cuban people from the bottom of our heart."

Indeed, Cuba is often described as the only foreign country to have gone to Africa and gone away with nothing but the coffins of its sons and daughters who died in the struggles to liberate Africa.

In outlining the significance of Cuba's assistance to African liberation struggles, Amilcar Cabral the celebrated leader of the anti-colonial and national liberation struggle in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, stated: "I don't believe in life after death, but if there is, we can be sure that the souls of our forefathers who were taken away to America to be slaves are rejoicing today to see their children reunited and working together to help us be independent and free."

Thenjiwe Mtintso, South Africa's ambassador to Cuba affirms: "No country has given as much to the world as Cuba. No country has received so little materially from the world as Cuba."

Cuba's internationalism is unique in the annals of history. The island's example is a profound challenge to those who believe and argue that only real politick, national self-interest and the pursuit of power and wealth are - and can be - the only guides, determinants and sources of foreign policy.

Cuba's role in Angola illustrates the division between those who fight for the cause of freedom, liberation and justice, to repel invaders and colonialists, and those who fight against just causes, those who wage war to occupy, colonize and oppress.

Cuba demonstrates that the vision of international relations based on sisterhood& brotherhood is not a fanciful dream. Cuba shows that another and better world is possible.



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