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Jan van Eden

bio - biography

Stories of our life in the foreign

October 1987 - June 1988   Battle of Cuito Cuanavale



October 1987  The Angolan army met the SADF (South African Defense Force) at Jamba, but was shattered by the superior forces. They retreated to Cuito Cuanavale where the 6000 survivors were besieged. For six months the SADF threw everything they had at the town.

December 1987  1500 Cubans joined the defenders.
50.000 Cuban volunteers went to Angola to help the fight.
Angolan and Cuban MIG 23 pilots swept the South African Air Force from Angolan skies. But SADF artillery superiority meant they could still rain 20,000 shells onto Cuito Cuanavale every day.

In major battles in January, February and March of 1988, the South Africans failed to take the town.

In April 1988, 10,000 Cuban, Angolan and SWAPO fighters outflanked the SADF from the west. Cut off 300 miles from their bases in Namibia, now it was the SADF who were besieged.
Quickly, the US organised talks to allow the Apartheid army a way out. But nothing could save Apartheid, anymore.
Following the negotiations, Namibia gained its independence in March 1990, one month after Nelson Mandela walked free from prison and South African liberation movements were unbanned.
Mandela became president via democratic elections in 1994. He calls "Cuito Cuanavale“a turning point for the liberation of our continent and my people”.


Nuclear armaments

Fidel Castro menciona en su biografia a dos voces [Ignacio Ramonet, 2006] que estando Cuba en Angola, Estados Unidos se las arreglo para traspasarle a Sudafrica varias bombas nucleares, la libraron los combatientes cubanos y angolanos contra un ejercito que disponia de ocho armas nucleares, suministradas por Estados Unidos. Frente a aquel ejercito sudafricano poseedor de armas nucleares, tuvimos que adoptar tacticas acordes. Decidimos constituir grupos tacticos no mayores de mil hombres.

South Africa had several nuclear research reactors and was supplied highly enriched uranium by the US, it also cooperated with Israel on the development of nuclear weaponry. It certainly had the capability of making these weapons.These research facilities were based at Pelindaba, which I visited at times in connection with the uranium prospection program of JCI.



Art works done in 2021 in remembrance of our history and care about Angola.


Fidel Castro, 2021, Oil on linen, 40x50 cm

Cuito Cuanavale 1988, 2021, Oil on linen, 40x50 cm

FC embrasing Nelson Mandela, 2021, Oil on linen, 40x50 cm


The end of Apartheid in South Africa

In March 1988, concerning the battle of Cuito Cuanavale (Southern Angola), the U.S. Defence Intelligence agency conceded that the Cubans had “complete air superiority”. The South Africans were losing the war in Angola, which led to the accords signed on 22 December 1988 at the United Nations in New York by the Foreign ministers of Angola, Cuba and the Republic of South Africa. As a consequence South West Africa (Namibia) and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) would gain independence, Mandela was freed and the apartheid in South Africa came to its end. The Cubans had more than 50.000 troops in Angola and retreated in phases in a period of about 4 years.

The ideological military intervention of the Cubans in Angola from 1985 is entirely on Fidel Castro's credit, while the Russians had little interest. Gorbachev in 1987–88 proceeded to initiate deeper reforms of the Soviet economic and political system. Under his new policy of glasnost (“openness”), a major cultural thaw took place in which military intervention in Africa was seen as undesirable.


Our personal (Jan & Pepa's) involvement with Angola started when we lived there, at the time of decolonisation and independence in 1974. Having lost dear friends and all of our personal belongings at the start of this war we have followed developments closely.



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Recent work of Jan van Eden

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