Ethiopians celebrate Castro, Somalis fume at him over 1977 Ogaden war

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Revolutionary Fidel Castro. Photo credit: Africanews

The military exploits of Fidel Castro-led Cuba continues to divide opinions between Ethiopians and Somalis on the day Castro died in Havana, aged 90.

In February 1977, Castro okayed the deployment of 1000s of soldiers under the leadership of one General Arnaldo Ochoa to help Ethiopia in a war against neighboring Somalia. The troops went to support the regime under Mengistu Haile Mariam to annex the Ogaden region.

Haile Mariam, who was the leader of the Communist military junta, was later shown in a famous photo with Castro after Cuban troops successfully defeated the Somali Army.


“Many Somalis blame Fidel Castro and the 15,000 Cuban soldiers he sent to reinforce Ethiopian troops during the War for Ogaden in 1977 for being the catalyst that destroyed the hope for “Somali-weyn” or Greater Somalia.”


Somalia at the time, albeit allies of Ethioipia believed they were winning the war but forcefully surrendered the Ogaden plateau to the 17,000 Cuban soldiers.

‘‘Many Somalis blame Fidel Castro and the 15,000 Cuban soldiers he sent to reinforce Ethiopian troops during the War for Ogaden in 1977 for being the catalyst that destroyed the hope for “Somali-weyn” or Greater Somalia.

‘‘Siad Barre, confident with Somalia’s military prowess and emboldened by Mengistu Haile Mariam’s struggle to consolidate power launched an invasion into Ethiopian held Ogaden. After a string of initial victories, the Somali national Army (SNA) occupied almost 90% of the Ogaden.

‘‘Ultimately, the Soviet Union was forced to choose between two allies and abandoned Somalia in favour of Ethiopia. The Soviet’s trained 50,000 Ethiopians, sent military hardware and sent between 15,000-17,000 Cuban soldiers,’‘ the Hiraan news portal stated.

In the wake of his death, Somalia and Ethiopians on social media have been expressing mixed reactions on the death.

The Somali reactions

The Ethiopian reactions