With the evidence of the strong bonds of friendship, Angola and Cuba recently decided to further raise their bilateral relations, in search of a balance between the different levels of co-operation.
By Manuel Jerónimo, ANGOP journalist
As announced during the recently concluded state visit to Angola by Cuban President Miguel Mário Diaz-Canel Bermúdez, the two countries now want to put the citizen and the private sector at the centre of attention.
The two governments expressed their determination to continue deepening historical ties, with a new focus on raising the scope of socio-economic relations to the same level as "excellent political relations".
Ensuring the generational transmission of the legacy of genuine brotherhood and solidarity between these two geographically distant peoples is another facet of the new paradigm proposed for the future of relations.
Bermúdez had been in Angola from 20 to 22 August this year on his first state visit to the country and the third by a Cuban leader, following those of his predecessors in March 1977 (Fidel Castro Ruz) and February 2009 (Raúl Castro Ruz) respectively.
In one of his speeches, Miguel Bermúdez, who has been in charge of Cuba since April 2018, said that the current political leaders of both countries have a responsibility to continue and strengthen the historic bonds of friendship that unite the two peoples.
According to the statesman, the talks he held in Luanda with his Angolan counterpart, João Lourenço, concluded that everything must be done to ensure that the new generations perpetuate the feeling of deep friendship already rooted in the current representatives of the two nations.
To this end, he said, the members of the current generation must ensure that the new generations "are born, grow, develop and also multiply this feeling of friendship, so that it really is indestructible, as everyone aspires to and as it has been until now".
He said that the continued deepening of the historic ties between the two countries involves raising the scope of economic, commercial and financial relations to the same level as their "excellent political relations".
Still, João Lourenço revived the recent past in which Angolans and Cubans together wrote "indelible pages in the history of Africa, particularly southern Africa", merging in a common endeavour.
According to João Lourenço, both peoples poured their sweat, blood and tears into guaranteeing Angola's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, liberating the African continent from the Apartheid regime and restoring freedom and dignity to the peoples of the region.
At the most difficult moments in the history of the Angolan people, he recalled, Cuba was willing to take in and train young Angolans in different areas of knowledge.
As a result, he said, Angola today has "very well prepared" national staff, trained in Cuban schools, universities and military academies, or in the country by Cuban instructors and teachers.
In the view of the Angolan Head of State, the time is now to introduce a new model of bilateral cooperation adjusted to the new national and world realities and in which the private sector and citizens play a dynamic role within the framework of free enterprise.
According to João Lourenço, it is a question of giving bilateral cooperation a new paradigm aimed at high-level specialised exchange in critical areas of knowledge, through complementary practical mechanisms.
The Angolan statesman recognised that Cuba has been ingenious in its fight against the economic blockade to which for decades has been subject to.
Despite this blockade, he said, Cuba has shown "an impressive level of resilience" and the ability to find solutions for the survival of its people and the preservation of independence and national sovereignty.
First ambassador to Angola
Co-operation between the two countries dates back to the Cold War period, even before Angola's independence.
After the proclamation of Independence on November 11, 1975, Cuba was the first country to send its diplomatic representative with full powers to the Angolan capital, Luanda, in the person of Ambassador Oscar Oramas.
Four days later (15 November 1975), Ambassador Oscar Oramas signed the agreement with José Eduardo dos Santos, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
This was followed a year later by the signing of the General Cooperation Agreement in February 1976, the year of the first state visit to Cuba by Angola's first President, António Agostinho Neto, thus formalising the technical and military collaboration between the two countries.
Prior to this, Angola had already received the first Cuban military instructors to help it cope with the foreign invasion that was threatening the achievement of national sovereignty in competition with the dispute for power among the three liberation movements at the time (MPLA, FNLA, UNITA).
The first Cuban specialists arrived in Angola in October 1975. It is estimated that at least 450,000 Cubans, including military personnel, doctors, teachers, engineers and other professionals spent 16 years in the country.
In other words, in the midst of the struggle for independence and the post-independence war against invasion by foreign forces, Cuba was already showing the first signs of rapprochement and solidarity for the defence and maintenance of Angolan sovereignty.
This was in the framework of the so-called "Operation Carlota", which ended in 1991 with the departure of the last Cuban soldier, under the 1988 New York Accords, which led to Namibia's independence in 1990 and the end of Apartheid in South Africa four years later (1994).
With the easing of military tension in the country, the cooperation model was reconfigured, focusing on the education and health sectors, before also encompassing the fields of energy, defence, security and industry.
In the field of diplomacy, the two countries have exchanged state visits on several occasions in both directions, since Agostinho Neto's first trip to Cuba in 1976.
This was followed by trips by José Eduardo dos Santos in 2007 and 2014, and João Lourenço in 2019.
The first visit by a Cuban head of state to Angola was made by Fidel Castro Ruz in March 1977 and the second by Raúl Castro in February 2009.
Angolan teacher training
The training of Angolan teachers in Cuba dates back to the 1980s, with the first 845 professionals travelling to various levels and educational institutions.
Data from 2020 shows that of the 2,556 Angolan scholarship holders in training in Cuba, 77 are studying teaching at university level in various specialised establishments.
Until 2017, according to official information, Cuba received an average of 40 Angolan students for training in the areas of exact sciences and pedagogy at specialised centres in Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.
Currently, there are 1,105 Cuban professionals in various locations around the country.
Over the decades, Cuba has also welcomed hundreds of Angolans, either individually or through government scholarships, in search of scientific knowledge in that Central American country.
Currently, of the 2,556 Angolan scholarship holders training in Cuba, 700 are being trained in medical sciences, including 50 in cardiology, heart surgery, internal medicine and general surgery.
Angolan government figures indicate that in 2018, 133 staff trained in Cuba returned to the country, in the specialities of medicine, computer engineering, electronics, biology, pedagogy, electronic telecommunications, law and others.
Under the General Cooperation Agreement, it is estimated that more than 40,000 Angolans have been trained in Cuba, in agriculture, health, construction, media, education, military, defence and security, transport and political science, music and theatre.
The National Health System has 2,644 health units, including 15 national hospitals, 25 provincial hospitals, 45 general hospitals, 170 municipal hospitals, 442 health centres, 67 maternal and child centres, 1,880 medical posts and 37 other facilities.
It is staffed by 69,816 workers, of whom 6,400 are doctors, 35,458 nurses and therapist technicians, 11,329 hospital support workers and 11,576 administrative staff
Source: Angola Press News Agency