The liberation of all southern African countries from the oppression of colonialism was celebrated at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola for the first time.
Dr. Hage Geingob, the President of Namibia, attended the celebrations that will henceforth be dedicated to the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, fought in the Angolan province of Cuando Cubango in 1988, between the Angolan Army, aided by Cuban forces, and the invading troops of the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
During the 38th Southern African Development Community Summit in August 2018 in Windhoek, it was unanimously decided that 23 March will henceforth be celebrated as Southern Africa Liberation Day.
Dr. Geingob in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC addressed delegates at the celebration ceremony and said the battle of Cuito Cuanavale was the most pivotal moment in the battle against oppression of African people.
“It was a battle to end all battles; this was a moment when camaraderie overcame Apartheid hatred, when guile overcame brute force and when justice avenged the victims of racial aggression.”
Dr. Geingob thanked the different heads of state for unanimously deciding to celebrate the region’s shared history that consolidates unity.
“By officially commemorating our liberation, we can look towards a shared future.”
Dr. Geingob’s full speech at the first ever celebration of Southern Africa Liberation Day reads as follows:
Without the sacrifice of those who dare to enter the arena of battle, there is no freedom. Without the pain of those who dare endure the bitterness of struggle, there is no liberation. Without the blood of the revolutionary sons and daughters who faced the brutality of imperial aggression; there is no justice.
For over a century, the people of Africa have fought, bled and died for their sovereignty. Many landmarks and monuments across the continent, tell the story of valour, courage and patriotism.
In every war, there is a defining moment, a pivotal battle, where the courageous feats of soldiers transcend the potency of the mechanisms of warfare; where the indomitable spirit of those who fight on the side of justice and truth, triumphs over those who fight on the side of injustice and tyranny.
The battle of Cuito Cuanavale is one such defining moment. A battle to end all battles; this was a moment when camaraderie overcame Apartheid hatred, when guile overcame brute force and when justice avenged the victims of racial aggression. The Father of the Cuban Revolution, Commandante Fidel Castro, once said, “It does not matter how small you are, if you have faith and a plan of action.”
The brave men and women of the Cuban Revolutionary Forces, The People’s Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) and People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), formed a tripartite coalition, fuelled by bravery, driven by faith and motivated by a clear plan of action. Together, they achieved a victory which was the harbinger of the liberation of our region. Together, they opened the door to unity, liberty and justice.
In remembrance and recognition of the legendary feats of these peerless warriors; these gallant sons and daughters, who paid the ultimate price for the liberation of our soil, who fought for preservation of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Angola, who fought for the liberation and independence of Namibia and ultimately – who fought for the freedom of Southern Africa. They lived, fought and died by the motto, Patria O Muerte, Venceremos – Fatherland or Death, We will win.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the leaders of the Southern African Development Community for collectively taking a Summit Decision to declare March 23 as the Southern Africa Liberation Day. That decision affirms our shared history and consolidates our unity. By officially commemorating our liberation, we can look towards a shared future.
The battle of Cuito Cuanavale represents the climax of the protracted and bitter struggle for sovereignty and independence, where the armed forces of Angola, Cuba and the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia, defeated the Apartheid regime of South Africa. In this regard, I am pleased to be accompanied by a cohort of former People’s Liberation Army of Namibia combatants and commanders, who participated in this legendary and decisive battle. At this juncture, I wish to pay tribute to the immortal memory of Dr. Antonio Agostinho Neto, first President of Angola, whose astute leadership, made it possible for SWAPO to establish a reliable rear base on the Angolan territory, from which we waged the effective war for our liberation. For him, Angola and its sons and daughters, were the vanguard against the last bastion of illegal occupation and racial aggression in Southern Africa. It is for this reason he said, “Angola shall be on its own will, a revolutionary trench in Africa to Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa in the continuation of our struggle”. These poignant words, will echo in the minds of our future generations. I wish to pay tribute to the memory of Comandate Fidel Castro Ruz, former President of Cuba and the Father of the Cuban Revolution, who upon the request of the legitimate government of Angola did not hesitate to dispatch the Cuban Internationalist Forces to defend the young independence of Angola against the invading South African Apartheid forces.
The principled stance of Fidel Castro led him to risk the future of the Cuban Revolution to assist in saving and securing the futures, not only of the people of Angola and Namibia, but of Southern Africa as a whole. It was not a decision made for economic gain, but only to gain in conscience. The principled stance against imperial oppression, shared by the sons and daughters of the Cuban revolution, led by this iconic luminary, drove them to fight until their final breath on these grounds of Cuito Cuanavale. Even the imposing size of the great Atlantic Ocean could not separate us from our Cuban allies, for as Fidel said, “The fact is, when men carry the same ideals in their hearts, nothing can isolate them.” The flame of the revolutionary spirit of Fidel, will continue to illuminate the path and the destiny of our future generations.
I wish to pay tribute to Comrade Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma, Founding President and Father of the Namibian Revolution, who is also the former President of SWAPO and Commander-In-Chief of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN). This icon, through his extraordinary leadership and his unyielding commitment to the freedom and independence of Namibia, provided the motivation and driving force for thousands of brave Namibians to sacrifice their lives in the name of freedom. Under his exemplary leadership, the people of Namibia were able to unshackle themselves from the chains of bondage. As he so eloquently put it, “We worked strategically, purposefully and intelligently with one solid aim in mind, that of liberating our countries and our people from the yoke of colonial oppression.” Indeed, we did. And the indomitable spirit of Comrade Nujoma will continue to inspire our future generations.
I shall be remiss, if I did not express our heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation to the government and people of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, for the all-round political, military and material support and assistance rendered throughout our struggle for national liberation.
Furthermore, I wish to pay tribute to the leaders of the Frontline States and Nigeria, as well as the Scandinavian countries and many other friendly nations for their steadfast political, diplomatic and material support they readily and generously provided to the Government of Angola and the liberation movements. We thank you for your sacrifices and solidarity during our days of the liberation struggle. To the brave veterans, Angolans, Cubans and Namibians, who participated in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, I want to say thank you for your selfless service and your unwavering commitment to the most fundamental of all human rights: the right to be free and independent.
I wish to extend our appreciation to the invaluable support we received from Angola and all our friends and our allies during the dark days of our liberation struggle and more so during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. I should emphasize that this is the battle, which forced the Apartheid regime of South Africa and their allies to accept a negotiated solution based on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 435 (1978), subsequently leading to the independence of Namibia. This battle, which also ushered in positive talks in South Africa, led to the release from Robben Island of the late Comrade Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected President of South Africa. It is this battle that led to majority rule and freedom in South Africa and marked the end of Apartheid.
It is this battle which brought peace and security in the SADC region whereby countries in the region no longer experienced attacks and threats from a murderous regime. The support we received from the Government and people of Angola cannot be quantified; we owe them a debt we can never repay. We were received with wide open arms and warmly welcomed in your homes, until we achieved our independence and returned home. We shall forever be grateful for the resolute support we received from Angola.
There have been failed attempts by bitter losers who have been trying to undermine our victory, distort the history and downplay the significance of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. Let me assure you that SADC will continue to celebrate this battle, promote its historic significance and defend the honour of our veterans, whose gallantry defines this great battle.
Today, SADC nations are enhancing regional integration because of the blood that was shed to pave the way for the independence and freedom in our region. We now owe it to our heroes and heroines to make sustainable development and prosperity for our people, a reality.
In conclusion, I wish to quote the great Argentine revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who said, “We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.” For the fallen heroes and heroines of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, freedom, independence and sovereignty were worth dying for and they sacrificed their lives so that today, across the SADC region, we can live as free, independent and sovereign nations. Let us honour the memory of these selfless sons and daughters, and pray that their souls rest in eternal peace.
Long Live the Republic of Angola Long Live the Republic of Cuba Long Live the Republic of Namibia Long Live SADC Aluta Continua, Victoria Ascerta!