Namibian President Hage Geingob left here for France Sunday for an official visit which is being cut short so that he can be in Cuba on Tuesday to attend a memorial service for former Cuban president Fidel Castro who died Friday.

Geingob had been invited to France and Britain for official visits which were scheduled from Nov 28 to Dec 2. "I will meet with French President Francois Hollande on Monday before I leave for Cuba on Tuesday," Geingob told journalists before his departure from Windhoek Sunday.

He added that only the programme for France haD been affected as the official visit to Britain would remains as scheduled. He is expected to meet with Queen Elizabeth II and will deliver an address at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatman House.

Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein, Mines and Energy Minister Obeth Kandjoze, International Relations and Co-operation Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and some of his advisers are accompanying the President.

President Geingob will also be accompanied to Cuba by former Namibian presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba, and the Secretary-General of the ruling SWAPO party, Nangolo Mbumba, all people who formerly studied in Cuba and were former People's Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) fighters.

Castro ordered rescue operation during the attack on the Namibian refugee camp in Cassinga, Angola, by South African troops in 1978, and the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale are some of his memorable contributions to Namibia's liberation struggle.

After the Cassinga attacks in 1978 the group of survivors went to Cuba in 1979. Most of them grew up in Cuba where they continued with their studies. Today, many of them are doctors, nurses and teachers.

Under Castro's leadership, Cuba not only contributed to the lives of Namibians, but also Africa at large. Between 1987 and 1988, Cuban troops aided Angolan troops as they countered South African forces along Namibia's borders, which eventually led to Namibia's independence.