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cuba history .org - History of Cuban Nation

The War in Africa

In the 1970s and 1980s Cuba stepped up its military presence abroad, especially in Africa. It had up to 50,000 men stationed in Angola, 24,000 in Ethiopia and hundreds in other countries. Cuban forces played a key role in the Ogaden War 1977/78 between Ethiopia and Somalia and kept a substantial garrison stationed in Ethiopia. In the Mozambican Civil War beginning in 1977 and in Congo-Brazzaville (today Republic of the Congo) Cubans acted as advisors. Congo-Brazzaville acted as a supply base for the Angola mission.

Cuba's involvement in Angola began in the 1960s when relations were established with the leftist Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The MPLA was one of three organisations struggling to liberate Angola from Portugal, the other two being UNITA and the FNLA. In August and October 1975, South African Defence Forces (SADF) invaded Angola in support of the UNITA and FNLA. On 5 November 1975, without consulting the USSR, the Cuban government opted for an all out intervention with combat troops (Operation Carlota) in support of the MPLA. In 1987-1988, South Africa again sent military forces to Angola to stop an advance of Angolan government forces (FAPLA) against UNITA leading to the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, and again, without consulting the USSR, Cuba stepped in.

Cuba directly participated in the negotiations between Angola and South Africa. On 22 December 1988 Angola, Cuba and South Africa signed the Tripartite Accord in New York arranging for the retreat of South Africa, the withdrawal of Cuban troops within 30 months and the implementation of the 10-year old UN Security Council Resolution 435 for the independence of Namibia. The Cuban intervention, for a short time, turned Cuba into a "global player" in the midst of the Cold War. It ended with the independence of Namibia and sounded the bell for the decline of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. The withdrawal of the Cubans ended 13 years of military presence in Angola. At the same time they removed their troops from Pointe Noire Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia