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Jan van Eden

bio - biography

Stories of our life in the foreign

Nelson Mandela - deeply indebted to the Cuban people


Nelson Mandela considered the FAPLA-Cuban success at Cuito and in Lubango a turning point in the Angolan civil war as well as in the struggle for Namibian independence. The battle at Cuito, raging for 6 months, was the biggest battle on African soil since World War II. The casualties were high, especially on the Angolan side; in its course around 20,000 soldiers were killed.

As Southern Africans, we are deeply indebted to the Cuban people for the selfless contribution they made to the anticolonial and antiapartheid struggle in our region. South Africa president Nelson Mandela addresses Cuba solidarity conference, the Militant, Vol. 59, no. 39, 23 October 1995

"Long live the Cuban Revolution. Long live comrade Fidel Castro... Cuban internationalists have done so much for African independence, freedom, and justice. We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of a vicious imperialist campaign designed to destroy the advances of the Cuban revolution. We too want to control our destiny... There can be no surrender. It is a case of freedom or death. The Cuban revolution has been a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people." - Nelson Mandela


1991-Speaking in Havana at the traditional July 26 celebration, the ANC leader told thousands of cheering Cubans that their efforts, culminating in the unprecedented defeat of South African regular troops in Cuito Cuanavale, Angola, had marked a historic turning point for southern Africa, constituting a victory for Africa as a whole.
"That impressive defeat of the racist army ... gave Angola the possibility of enjoying peace and consolidating its sovereignty", he stated. It gave the people of Namibia their independence, demoralised the white racist regime of Pretoria and inspired the anti-apartheid forces inside South Africa, he added.
"Without the defeat inflicted at Cuito Cuanavale our organisations never would have been legalised", he asserted.
When he concluded, Fidel Castro observed that Mandela's remarks constituted "the greatest and most profound tribute ever paid to our internationalist combatants".

133006  Close friends - Black and White 
Oil and acrylic on cotton 40 x 92 cm










At the 1st of April 1990 Namibia gained its independence after being occupied by South Africa. Nelson Mandela, just liberated, attended the festivities in Namibia and said the following. [this is a transcription of a video of the Cuban television done by Jan van Eden, December 2013 at the occasion of the death of Mandela]

From the point of view of size and numbers of population Cuba is a small country, but it is exercising an impact on the world affairs which similar to that of a superpower and Cuba has shown that it is not just a question of size of a country, but that its policy and the caliber of its leaders is important. We have benefited tremendously from the lessons of the Cuban revolution and from what your country is doing especially in Africa and that we in this part of the continent were tremendously impressed with the role of which Cuba played in the liberation of Angola. The Angolans themselves have done a great deal to win their freedom but it is difficult to accept that they would obtain their freedom at this time that they obtained it if Cuba had not employed its forces to liberate that country. South Africa which occupied part of Angola would still have been in Angola if Cuba had not made the decision of challenging South Africa, the entire world and particularly South Africa will never forget the lessons of Cuito Cuanavale, because that was the turning point in the military situation in this region. We also feel that Namibian independence would have been very difficult to achieve if Cuba had not acted so courageously and decisively in Angola. The South African army would still have been there and it would have been difficult to gain independence for this country. We are therefore indebted to the Cubans. We would like to thank Fidel Castro and the people of Cuba for the support they have given us.



back to 1974 Angola


Visit of Nelson Mandela to Libya.
“We consider ourselves comrades in arms,” Nelson Mandela said in thanks to Gaddafi. After hugging Gaddafi outside his tent, he added, “your readiness to provide us with the facilities of forming an army of liberation indicated your commitment to the fight for peace and human rights in the world.” Taken to see the ruins of Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli, bombed by the U.S. in previous years, Mandela condemned the bombing and insisted on seeing every room in the building (UPI, 1990/5/19). On criticisms of his visit to Libya, Mandela incisively replied: “No country can claim to be the policeman of the world and no state can dictate to another what it should do. Those that yesterday were friends of our enemies have the gall today to tell me not to visit my brother Gaddafi. They are advising us to be ungrateful and forget our friends of the past.”




Recent work of Jan van Eden

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